— Yvette Noel-Schure, Publicist at Parkwood Entertainment
“I grew up in the Caribbean and as an immigrant child, there’s nothing that’s taught to you with more passion than hard work. Do not feel bad if you’re the last one left there. Get it done. Finish it. Wake up early. Wake up with the sun. I grew up with my grandparents mostly, and the only music in the house was Catholic hymns. Once in a while I heard some calypso on the radio, and I heard reggae—a lot of Bob Marley, and a calypso singer called Mighty Sparrow.
"When I came to this country, I just had just one career path in mind. I wanted to be a writer. I took an internship at Gannett Westchester Newspapers—they were the same company as USA Today—and I realized that summer that I didn’t want to do hard news. Then I got offered to do work for a zine called Black Beat magazine, and I interviewed everybody you can think of. LL Cool J came to the interview with his mother and his grandmother, and I loved every minute of it because he was so, you know, ‘I’m a tough kid from Queens and I got my radio on my shoulder, but here comes grandma with me to the interview.’ At the time he was wearing his sneakers that didn’t have laces, and I literally bent down, and said, ‘You lost your shoelace!’ And he said, ‘No, no, no, that’s the style.’
"Later, I got offered to go to Sony as a very wet-behind-the-ears publicist, and that’s where I met Destiny’s Child. And I saw a very meticulous 14-year-old girl. To be so in-the-know at that age—I remember coming back to Sony and saying, 'This is my project. I’m gonna have the time of my life with these girls.'
"This is what I’m always gonna remember about Beyoncé: She takes you in. She looks you straight in your eyes when she’s talking to you. I said [to myself], That is the trait of an honest person—if you can look someone in the eye, a total stranger. In those days she was, ‘Yes, ma’am, yes, ma’am,’ to me, but she looked me right straight in the eye, does not blink, it seems. She really takes you in. And it takes another honest person to not flinch when someone’s looking your straight in the eye, because that person is reading you, but also revealing to you that, “I’m gonna be straight-up with you, whether you like it or not.” I saw the boldness of her. To this day, when you talk to her, it’s the same thing. And I always say, “Wow you still do that.”
She still does that and I believe it’s a good quality to have as a businesswoman. As much as she’s a creative force, she’s a businesswoman. When you’re doing business with people, you should really look them in the eye and I really think that people feel very empowered when someone completely takes you in. I’ve seen her walk into a room and say, “Hi I’m Beyoncé,” and I’m always thinking, “They know who you are,” in the back of my head. But the respect that she shows everyone—everyone—is important. That’s very, very vivid to me. Another thing that sticks out to me is how quiet she was, even though she looks you in the eye. She was the one that would take in everything and not say anything; and when she did say something, it was something that she had thought about.
Photograph by Ricardo Nelson