A thorough effort from celebrity biographer Taraborrelli (The Hiltons: The True Story of an American Dynasty, 2014, etc.) that’s long on legwork and short on new insight.
In examining the life and career of the famously private Beyoncé Knowles, the author takes great care to give a voice to anyone with a Beyoncé story to tell. From the women who discovered the future superstar to producers, makeup artists, and relatives of each (including the estranged father of a former band mate), Taraborrelli lets everyone with an anecdote tell it here. The chattiest primary source—no one in Beyoncé’s family participated in the book—is Lyndall Locke, Beyoncé’s first boyfriend. His stories of their relationship, spanning Beyoncé’s preteen years through her early 20s, are clearly oft-told. Taraborrelli uses Locke’s testimony liberally and charitably, but no one gets a more understanding treatment than Mathew Knowles, Beyoncé’s father and former manager. While we learn about drug abuse allegations and potential sex addiction, and though he is more than once compared to Joe Jackson, here, Mathew is a tragic character with a fatal flaw: he simply wanted Beyoncé to succeed above all else. In his acknowledgements, Taraborrelli writes that he was excited to tackle a life’s story full of “surprising twists and turns.” The story, ultimately, is Mathew’s, with Beyoncé in a supporting role in the chronicle of her father’s journey from impoverished child to successful businessman to manager of one of the biggest stars of the 21st century—and his fall from that position.
One appreciates the effort taken to set the record straight on matters like the creation of Destiny’s Child and the Beyoncé brand, and it’s admirable that Taraborrelli would make such an effort to give so many people in Beyoncé’s life credit. Unfortunately, meticulous research and interviews with peripheral players don’t offer much that isn’t already known about the superstar who is a shadowy figure.