Beyoncé Knowles-Carter is one of the biggest celebrities in the world and one of the tightest-lipped about it. The singer and businesswoman has carefully crafted her public persona and has not given a print interview since 2013. That’s why it became an event on Monday when she finally gave her perspective on careers and motherhood in her own words for an as-told-to article with Clover Hope for the September issue of Vogue.
As someone who has been auditioning for roles since she was eight years old, Beyoncé has had a lifetime to build up career wisdom. Here’s her words of advice we can apply to our own careers
On the unfair pressure to bounce back after motherhood
Even when you’re a successful, rich celebrity like Beyoncé, you are not immune from the outside societal pressure to bounce back from pregnancy and return to work quickly. This is a reality that the singer described: “After the birth of my first child, I believed in the things society said about how my body should look. I put pressure on myself to lose all the baby weight in three months, and scheduled a small tour to assure I would do it. Looking back, that was crazy.”
She said she approached her work differently after the emergency C-section she endured for the birth of her twins. “After the C-section, my core felt different. It had been major surgery. Some of your organs are shifted temporarily, and in rare cases, removed temporarily during delivery. I am not sure everyone understands that. I needed time to heal, to recover,” she said.
Not only do people not understand the pressures new moms face; many governments do not either. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not have paid family leave. Almost one in four working mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth out of financial necessity, a report from In These Times found.
On why mentorship matters
To build a world you want to see, you have to use your position of power to lift up others alongside you. This is why Beyoncé said she mentors others.
“There are so many cultural and societal barriers to entry that I like to do what I can to level the playing field, to present a different point of view for people who may feel like their voices don’t matter,” she said.
“Imagine if someone hadn’t given a chance to the brilliant women who came before me: Josephine Baker, Nina Simone, Eartha Kitt, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, and the list goes on. They opened the doors for me, and I pray that I’m doing all I can to open doors for the next generation of talents,” she said.
On the wisdom of experience
For those of us who have ever felt unsure about our path, it can be comforting to know that with the experience of age and hard experiences, you can grow into your powers, as Beyoncé said she did.
“I have had disappointments in business partnerships as well as personal ones, and they all left me feeling neglected, lost, and vulnerable. Through it all I have learned to laugh and cry and grow,” she said. “I look at the woman I was in my 20s and I see a young lady growing into confidence but intent on pleasing everyone around her. I now feel so much more beautiful, so much sexier, so much more interesting. And so much more powerful.”
On the business advantage of diversity
“Until there is a mosaic of perspectives coming from different ethnicities behind the lens, we will continue to have a narrow approach and view of what the world actually looks like,” she said about why she agreed to work with 23-year old photographer Tyler Mitchell, the first African American photographer to shoot the cover of American Vogue in the magazine’s 126-year-old history. “If people in powerful positions continue to hire and cast only people who look like them, sound like them, come from the same neighborhoods they grew up in, they will never have a greater understanding of experiences different from their own. They will hire the same models, curate the same art, cast the same actors over and over again, and we will all lose.”