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Why did Destiny’s Child have so many different members?

Destiny’s Child was super successful, but Beyoncé wanted to do something more.

7th Annual Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards
Destiny’s Child
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

The group enjoyed mild success after “Bills, Bills, Bills,” but personal problems came to a boil in late 1999 and January 2000. Roberson and Luckett were reportedly unhappy with the group and tried to split from it in 1999. In a lawsuit filed in 2002, the two alleged that Mathew Knowles, their manager, favored his daughter and Rowland (at the time, Rowland was living in the Knowleses’ house, and Mathew was her legal guardian) and that he was too controlling.

In February 2000, Destiny’s Child premiered the video for “Say My Name,” which was a popular radio hit at the time (and would go on to be one of the group’s most popular songs of all time). But to the surprise of fans — and Luckett and Roberson — the video featured two new women in place of the disgruntled original members:

In the video, brand new members Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin lip-synced the parts belonging to Luckett and Roberson.

”We were supposed to be able to sit down and speak,” Roberson told Kempire radio in an interview from 2012. “Before we knew it, we were looking at the ‘Say My Name’ video on TV. That meeting never happened.”

Only the strong survive

The popularity of “Say My Name” helped Writing achieve platinum certification eight times, as of 2001. Five months after Michelle and Farrah were introduced as part of the group, Farrah left.

The revolving roster of members led to jokes about the group being like the reality show Survivor, with members being voted out left and right. It also led to more rumors that Beyoncé and her parents were controlling the group.

The new iteration of Destiny’s Child — Beyoncé, Kelly, and Michelle — released their first song (one in which Michelle actually sang), “Independent Woman (Part 1),” in the fall of 2000. “Independent” appeared on the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack:

The throbbing beat and its message of empowerment (“The watch I’m wearing, I bought it / The house I live in, I bought it”) resonated with fans. The song dominated Billboard’s charts, hitting No. 1 on the Hot 100. Like “Bills” and “Say My Name,” “Independent” sent the message that Destiny’s Child and Beyoncé made their own rules, were always in control, and brought home the money.

The group’s first album together, Survivor (2001), wrapped itself around the bones of that credo. The album’s title was a blunt response to the jokes about the group’s changing lineup, but also showed that Destiny’s Child could control the conversation surrounding the group’s turmoil. The first single, “Survivor,” addressed the group’s haters and rumormongers head on.

”Thought that I’d be helpless without you / But I’m smarter/ You thought that I’d be stressed without you / But I’m chillin’/ You thought I wouldn’t sell without you /Sold 9 million,” Beyoncé, once again assuming lead vocals, sings.

The #PoorMichelle effect

Survivor went four times platinum. But the group still wasn’t free from the drama or rumors that Beyoncé was being favored over Destiny’s Child’s other members. This MAD TV sketch reflected the pop cultural feeling of the time:

Further, the hashtag #PoorMichelle is a joke that’s gained momentum in recent years. The premise is simple: Beyoncé and Kelly got the better end of the deal, and Michelle would make do with the scraps. This applied to everything from outfits to singing parts. It’s a joke predicated on the perception that Beyoncé, Kelly, and Tina and Mathew Knowles barely tolerated Michelle:

The joke is rooted in some reality, though. Michelle often had to sing weird parts (in “Survivor” she sings about surrounding herself with positive things). And in songs like “Lose My Breath,” her solo was noticeably shorter than Beyoncé’s or Kelly’s:

Michelle has the shortest solo in “Lose My Breath.”