Behind the Scenes with Beyoncé
If there are two things that I learned about Beyoncé performing at the Barclays Center last night in Brooklyn, it’s that a strategically placed fan always blows her honey-colored waves in the perfect direction and she sings the most beautiful, tear-inducing version of “Happy Birthday” I’ve ever heard (yep, that happened for a lucky 18-year-old girl on the floor). Backstage, however, Bey is at the helm of one very tight ship. It runs with the precision and secrecy of the Pentagon—if her crew knew about the “surprise” album drop, they weren’t at liberty to discuss it, at least according to one of her stylists, Timothy White. But many of them, her band and dancers included, didn’t have a clue. Or if they knew something was in the works, they didn’t know exactly what. The only explanation: Her staff of hundreds drank the Yoncé Kool-Aid and are loyal to the queen, and for good reason. “When you see someone working that hard you start to wonder if there’s a little door in the back where they put the batteries in,” said a member of The Mamas, Bey’s trio of backup vocalists, one of whom has been by her side for a decade. In other words, Mrs. Carter is a machine. Here, other surprising things I discovered behind the scenes:
Blue Ivy can twerk. No really, this baby has moves like Miley—at least according to Bey’s backup dancers. “She comes in our dressing room and does makeup with us,” they said.
Mrs. Carter has changed since becoming a mother. The Mamas, nicknamed that by the queen herself because they were the only women on tour with children, said, “She’s always been caring, but now it’s like, ‘Heeeyy, how’s JJ?’” And the fact that these singers travel the world with Beyoncé is NBD—at least to their kids. “It’s like we work at the 7-Eleven,” one of them quipped.
She keeps a close eye on everything. Not only does Beyoncé watch and critique her performance every night, but she notices the little things: “She’ll send a note [e-mail] saying that she likes your hair like that, so keep it that way,” explained one of her dancers. But everyone has freedom to do their own thing, as they’re all in charge of their own hair and makeup: “I’ve experimented with navy blue [lipstick] and a cat eye, and when we went to Brazil, I had the Brazilian flag [on my lids],” she added. And if you want that look to stay put while breaking it down behind Bey, their advice is to use a primer and a finishing spray.
Beyoncé gets pranked. “During the last tour, we did ‘Bootylicious’ and one of the dancers put a bunch of towels in her bottom so it looked like she had a big booty. We do little things to make her smile, but not mess up the whole show,” said a dancer.
She still has a few fashion tricks up her sleeve. Dsquared², Gucci, Givenchy, and Pucci are part of her regular performance lineup, but measures have to be to taken in order for these pieces to go from catwalk to Mrs. Carter-ready. “It comes in as couture and we have to turn it into a costume,” explained a seamstress. In other words, invisible zippers and dainty finishes are done away with. Plus, Beyoncé has fashion options the world has never seen—”an abundance” just waiting for her to decide when the time is right.
Bey’s a true Texas girl. “The real Beyoncé is humble and down-to-earth. She’s a country girl, she takes her shoes off, stands barefoot on stage, and gets grimy,” said one of her dancers. And then she slips on Giuseppe Zanotti heels just in time for curtain call.
When you’re with Beyoncé, nothing else matters. “We don’t know who won the Super Bowl; Beyoncé won!” said the dancers who performed in her halftime show in February.
So what’s up next for the woman that effectively launched an 14-track, 17-video album sneak attack? Expanding her fragrance empire of course. Beyoncé Rise—a blend of bergamot, apricot, orchid, and cashmere musk—drops February 2014.—Amber Kallor
Photo: Getty Images