How Beyoncé Built Her One-Woman Empire

Today, it pays to be “Queen Bey.” But the road to superstardom wasn’t always paved with gold.

Beyoncé has spent most of her life building an incredible career, sharpening her craft, and graciously ascending to superstar status. Her consistently hard work continues to pay off by the millions. Just when we think she’s reached the pinnacle of her success, Beyoncé proves she can climb even higher. Looking back, that seems to have been her tried-and-true method since the start. And her unshakable self-faith has proven priceless.

Here’s what to know about Beyoncé’s unstoppable rise to the top, her astounding net worth, and how she views the next stage of her career.

Beyonce on the red carpet
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Early Life

On September 4, 1981, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter was born in Houston, Texas. From an early age, she stood out in dance classes. By seven, she was already wowing audiences. As the legend of young Beyoncé goes, her dance instructor heard Bey humming a song and hitting notes that many trained singers could not hit. Recognizing her raw talent, she pushed for Beyoncé to perform publicly. Her parents, aware they had a star on their hands, soon entered the pitch-perfect prodigy into talent shows. She’d quickly go on to win 30 local competitions with her singing and dancing skills.

With her budding dreams in the forefront, Beyoncé attended the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. She later transferred to Alief Elsik High School but continued to hone her craft in a church choir. Beyoncé formed a singing group with her cousin Kelly Rowland and two classmates, LaTavia Roberson and LeToya Luckett. They’d later become Destiny’s Child, but when they appeared on Star Search in 1992, the “singing and rapping girl group” went by the name Girl’s Tyme. While they didn’t win the big prize, the talented quartet came close. Beyoncé later stated that early rejections only pushed her to work that much harder.

From the start, Beyoncé’s parents had just as much faith in her dreams as she did. Cutting the family’s income in half, her father quit his job and became his daughter’s manager. Her mother became the group’s costume designer. In 1995, Beyoncé’s parents reportedly filed for bankruptcy three times. But later that year, their ongoing faith in Beyoncé’s talents proved well worth it.

Launching Her Career With Destiny’s Child

After countless auditions, rehearsals, and rejections, Destiny’s Child signed with Grass Roots Entertainment (a smaller label under Sony Music). Once again, hard work and natural talent paid off. Prior to the release of their first album, Columbia Records offered Destiny’s Child a glimmering contract. In 1997, their self-titled debut album was released. “No, no, no” became their first global hit–but far from their last. The group released their second album in 1999. The Writing’s on the Wall sold more than 8 million copies worldwide with smash hits like “Bills, Bills, Bills” and “Say My Name,” which secured their first Grammy. By the year’s end, Destiny’s Child was officially a household name all over the globe.

While the band was achieving mega-success, tensions behind the scenes ran high. Conflicts frequently arose about family favoritism from their manager, Matthew Knowles. Roberson and Luckett believed they were treated differently than Knowles and Rowland. They decided to leave the increasingly popular group, but not peacefully. The disgruntled singers filed a lawsuit against Beyoncé, Matthew Knowles, Kelly Rowland, and Sony Music, citing “breach of contract, defamation, libel, and fraud.” It was extremely bad press for Destiny’s Child, but Beyoncé and Kelly kept what happened to themselves–and kept going.

Soon enough, the scandal became a blip on everyone’s radar as Beyoncé’s spotlight brightened.

Becoming a Trio and Branching Out Creatively

Destiny's Child in 2001
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Roberson and Luckett were swiftly replaced by Farrah Franklin and Michelle Williams. Five months later, Franklin would abruptly exit the R&B group, leaving Destiny’s Child to become an even more powerful trio. In 2001, their third studio album, Survivor, would become their biggest hit ever. Many speculated that the group’s inner turmoil had foddered much of their art. The album’s title track debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Collectively, Destiny’s Child would win 14 Grammys–along with worldwide adoration. Today, they’re ranked by Billboard as one of the best female R&B trios of all time, selling more than sixty million records.

While this version of the group was more harmonious, their dynamic was still shifting. As a trio, Beyoncé was positioned front and center, frequently dubbed the frontwoman and gradually, the biggest star of the group. By late 2001, Destiny’s Child announced they were taking a break to pursue solo careers but not technically breaking up. In reality, Beyoncé hadn’t taken a break from her career since she was seven years old.

While Williams and Rowland experienced solo success, Beyoncé was becoming a bonified star. In 2002, she branched out into acting, starring alongside Mike Myers in Austin Powers in Goldmember and then The Fighting Temptations in 2003. Most notably, her debut album was wildly successful–and it dropped one year before Destiny Child’s reunion. The name of their final studio album, Destiny Fulfilled, said it all.

A Solo Star is Born

In 2003, Beyoncé debuted Dangerously in Love and ascended to superstardom. Her first single, “Crazy in Love,” was a critical, commercial, and global success. The masses (and Jay-Z) were falling crazy in love with Beyoncé. The hit track spent eight straight weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. With 11 million copies sold, Dangerously in Love remains Beyoncé’s best-selling album to date.

Coinciding with her 25th birthday, Beyoncé released her second album, B-Day, in 2006. It churned out six popular singles and three major hits; “Déjà Vu,” “Check on It,” and “Irreplaceable.” She also began to experiment with her music. The more she trusted her creative instincts, the more of a powerhouse she became. That same year, Beyoncé starred in the award-winning movie musical Dreamgirls. She released I Am… Sasha Fierce in 2008. It sold over eight million copies worldwide and produced some of her most iconic singles, including “Single Ladies,” which won MTV video of the year.

Originally a double album, I Am… Sasha Fierce showcased both sides of her persona: Beyoncé the vulnerable and soft-spoken person, and Sasha Fierce, her larger-than-life alter ego on stage. It received mixed reviews but was another commercial success for the global icon. By the time 4 was released in 2011, Beyoncé wasn’t just a singer with million-dollar pipes and an unmatched presence. She was the executive co-writer and producer of her album. With each success, she took more control over her work, and inevitably, her empire. In 2012, she began collaborating with other top recording artists like Lady Gaga, which only increased her star power.

One of the most beloved performers in the world, her famous voice had a massive platform. Her new music was brimming with powerful messages to young girls and women. Raising the bar once more, her next musical move proved to be a game-changer.

Beyoncé Makes History With A Surprise Album

Beyonce and Jay-Z
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Officially music royalty, “Queen Bey” could do whatever she wanted. And so, she decided to creatively mix things up and made history in the process.

Without warning or promotion, Beyoncé released her self-titled album on December 13, 2013, at 12 AM. At first, it was exclusively released on iTunes. Beyoncé quickly became the star’s fifth consecutive album to reach number one. It was also the fastest-selling album on iTunes. 80,000 copies were sold overnight. Many other artists followed in her footsteps, releasing “surprise” albums, but none made as much of an impact. The artist trend was soon called “pulling a Beyoncé.”

Adding to its unprecedented power, Beyoncé was also a visual album. All 14 tracks were accompanied by a striking video. There were 17 videos in total and appearances by Drake, her husband Jay-Z, and their daughter Blue Ivy Carter. It was loaded with mega-hits like “Flawless” and “Drunk in Love.” The well-crafted body of work was the result of Beyoncé’s sharp artistic vision and professional precision. Using her own album leak as its only form of promotion was deemed creatively and financially brilliant.

Throughout her career, Beyoncé continued laying the groundwork to do things her way. Fully aware of her cultural impact, the global icon released another visual album, Lemonade, in 2016. It was her most politically charged, revealingly intimate, and empowering work yet. Thus far, it is also the most critically acclaimed album of Beyoncé’s entire career. When Adele won the Grammy for Album of the Year, she famously said she couldn’t accept, claiming Beyoncé’s Lemonade was the true winner.

Grammy or no Grammy, Beyoncé was bigger than ever–and so was her massive bank account.

Beyoncé’s Net Worth

In addition to her top-selling albums, sold-out world tours, and award-winning movie roles, Beyoncé’s had some seriously lucrative endorsements, like her $50 million Pepsi contract. She also started her own athletic clothing line, Ivy Park. By 2017, everything the megastar touched turned to gold. Beyoncé wasn’t just a triple threat; she was an endlessly marketable brand.

Her next move was to ink a deal with Netflix worth $60 million. The first of the three Netflix specials was a behind-the-scenes documentary that chronicled her headlining performances at Coachella in 2018. Home Coming: A Film by Beyoncé was also her first live visual album. On social media, many began calling the popular music festival “BeyChella.” Beyoncé Knowles-Carter was credited as an executive producer, writer, and director on Homecoming.

As of 2021, Beyoncé has an estimated net worth of $500 million. When we factor in Jay-Z’s earnings, the power couple’s combined net worth is a jaw-dropping $1.5 billion. Since Beyoncé holds writing and producing credits on the majority of her discography, she receives royalty payments. This makes her one of the few performers whose record sales significantly contribute to their net worth.

Beyoncé’s Thoughts on Success

Beyonce in 2019
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Three key components of Beyoncé’s success are her focus, her foresight, and her family. She stays in touch with who she is, where she’s at, and what comes next in her career. One of the best female vocalists of all time, she’s admitted that work-life balance isn’t easy in the music industry, but it’s necessary for health and long-lasting success.

It’s also worth noting that every major career move Beyoncé makes is strategically planned, polished, and bold. Beyoncé famously once said, “I don’t like to gamble, but if there’s one thing I’m willing to bet on, it’s myself.” It’s that type of self-assured confidence that took her from “Bills, Bills, Bills” in 1997 to $50 million in the bank today.

With her eyes forever fixed on progressing, what it means to succeed has evolved throughout her remarkable career. In a rare interview with Elle, the mega-star explained where she’s at today. Beyoncé revealed, “Being No. 1 is no longer my priority. My true win is creating art and a legacy that will live far beyond me. That’s fulfilling.”

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