We don’t call Beyoncé the first lady of music for no reason. For over 20 years, she’s provided the soundtrack to our lives—from breakups (“Single Ladies,”) to moments of empowerment (“Run The World,”) to the personal as the political (“Formation.”) Her sound is synonymous with Black feminine power and her legacy, even as it continues to be built, is one of glory.
To attribute her work to any type of magic does Beyoncé a disservice. Her mathematically precise live performances (the product of hours-long rehearsals) and calculated releases may appear to be beyond human capabilities, but we know she is all effort. It’s apparent even in early clips of the superstar, taken far before her prime, as she dedicated herself to 90’s dance routines and her burgeoning vocals.
Time and time again, Beyoncé has proven that she is not only a skilled performer but a humanitarian with an active political voice as well. She understands that being in entertainment comes with certain social responsibilities and that she must heed the call. In recent years, she’s been more vocal than ever about Black issues, particularly crisis response, police brutality and the need for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She also dedicated her most recent project, ‘Black Is King,’ to the African diaspora, showcasing the importance of understanding the Black experience on a global scale.
In short, Beyoncé is excellence personified. She has become a voice for multiple generations, remaining in touch with the deepest needs of humanity.
In honor of her 40th birthday, we carefully selected 40 rare photos that sum up her legacy as a game changer. See below.