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Last Updated: Monday, 9 February, 2004, 08:08 GMT
Beyonce: Independent woman
By Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Beyonce
Beyonce writes and produces much of her material
R&B star Beyonce Knowles, 22, has scooped five Grammy awards for music from her debut solo album.

If you thought Beyonce was just another pretty pop star blessed with more image than talent, the Grammy Awards have sent a message that she is to be taken seriously.

The voters do not usually give five trophies to any passing pop idol - and Beyonce has earned her place among the world's top music acts.

Her bubbly, sexy yet sweet image - which appeals to young fans - combines with her talent as a songwriter, actress, and creative artist who has been involved in some of the most exciting new music of the last few years.

Although she is only 22, she has been performing for 15 years - first in dance classes and church choirs, then forming a group with friend LaTavia Roberson at the age of nine.

Beyonce

Beyonce's cousin Kelly Rowland and another friend, LeToya Luckett, joined soon after and they appeared on TV talent contest Star Search - but lost.

Beyonce's father, Matthew Knowles, quit his job as a hospital equipment salesman to manage the group full-time when his daughter was just 12 and the group honed their skills on the club scene of their native Houston, Texas.

Eventually, they got a record contract in 1997 and their first hit, No No No, came the following year.

More chart success followed with songs Bills, Bills, Bills and Say My Name - but with it came acrimony as Roberson and Luckett accused Matthew Knowles of favouring his daughter and Rowland, and trying to control the group too much.

The duo left and filed lawsuits, which were later settled out of court. Matthew Knowles stayed and drafted in two new band members - Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin.

Destiny's Child
Beyonce was always the central figure in Destiny's Child
But Franklin left just months later amid rumours that she missed a string of shows, and the group continued as a trio.

What could have been fatal instability only sent Destiny's Child soaring to the next level of success - with Independent Women Part 1 and Survivor becoming huge hits.

Beyonce wrote and produced both tracks - the latter attracting another lawsuit from the ex-members, who thought it was about them.

"I thank God for the controversy," she once said. "I'm happy because it helps me sell records."

Sell they did - more than 33 million of them worldwide.

Beyonce
She has also starred in films including The Fighting Temptations
In 2001, Beyonce became the first black woman - and only the second woman - to win the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers ' award for pop songwriter of the year.

The band members wanted to branch out, and the group was put on hold in 2001. Each released solo albums, but Beyonce's has been by far the most successful.

Film roles including Austin Powers and The Fighting Temptations showed she could make the switch to the big screen.

And her personal relationship with rapper Jay-Z has also proved a good musical match, with the pair collaborating on one of the songs of 2003, Crazy In Love.

With Diana Ross as one of her idols, Beyonce has already moved into a very select club of former girl group singers who have made it on their own.




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