Beyoncé and Solange Knowles are, simply put, brilliant.
Most recently, the sisters released two of 2016’s best albums with Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Solange’s A Seat at the Table. More continually, they’ve each crafted their careers in exactly the image they intend. Beyoncé famously grants precious few interviews, the better to tell her story exactly as she wants to, through her music and onstage speeches; Solange took four years to write and produce A Seat at the Table to make sure it matched the vision in her head.
So it’s fitting that one of their most thorough interviews to date came courtesy of themselves, with Beyoncé interviewing Solange for the January 2017 issue of Interview magazine.
More fitting still is that some of the interview’s more impassioned moments dug into why and how the Knowleses seize the opportunity to take complete control of their work and narratives.
BEYONCÉ: You write your own lyrics, you co-produce your own tracks, you write your own treatments for your videos, you stage all of your performances, all of the choreography … Where does the inspiration come from?
SOLANGE: … Growing up in a household with a master class such as yourself definitely didn't hurt. And, as far back as I can remember, our mother always taught us to be in control of our voice and our bodies and our work, and she showed us that through her example. If she conjured up an idea, there was not one element of that idea that she was not going to have her hand in. She was not going to hand that over to someone.
And I think it's been an interesting thing to navigate, especially watching you do the same in all aspects of your work: Society labels that a control freak, an obsessive woman, or someone who has an inability to trust her team or to empower other people to do the work, which is completely untrue. There's no way to succeed without having a team and all of the moving parts that help bring it into life. But I do have—and I'm unafraid to say it—a very distinctive, clear vision of how I want to present myself and my body and my voice and my perspective. And who better to really tell that story than yourself?
The idea of claiming power through meticulous thought is one that Solange is passionate about, as seen throughout A Seat at the Table. (From the opening track, “Rise”: “Walk in your ways so you won’t crumble / walk in your ways so you can sleep at night …”) And crucially, she made sure to add in this interview, there are still many people who view black women as lacking control or poise.
SOLANGE: It was very intentional that I sang as a woman who was very in control, a woman who could have this conversation without yelling and screaming, because I still often feel that when black women try to have these conversations, we are not portrayed as in control, emotionally intact women, capable of having the hard conversations without losing that control.
… I wanted to find a happy medium, feeling like I was being direct and clear, but also knowing that this was a conversation that I was very much in control of—able to have that moment, to exist in it, to live in it and ponder it, not to yell and scream and fight my way through it—I was doing enough of that in my life, so I wanted to make a clear distinction of me controlling that narrative.
And truly, what better way to demonstrate how in command you are of your own narrative, life, and image than to say as much in an interview with your own sister, who’s also spent her entire career making us see exactly what she wants us to see?
You can read the full conversation at Interview.