“I had just turned 21, and this was my first solo video. I wanted to be a female version of James Dean and wear an iconic white T-shirt and jean shorts. I always think about wearing something a fan could buy and make her own; as a young girl I remember seeing so many artists, and then I’d try to dress like them. I sewed zippers on my jackets to be like Michael Jackson.
I’m wearing red pumps in the video. As a child I trained myself to dance in very high heels. At 13, in Destiny’s Child, we were told to wear heels, but at first we couldn’t walk in them. We couldn’t keep our knees straight. But we learned, and that became the image of Destiny’s Child: so young and so glamorous. Now I have a rule that my dancers have to wear their heels when I’m wearing my heels. They say, ‘Please take your shoes off, Beyoncé.’ At home, I’m always barefoot. And I have a heavy walk without heels. When they hear me thumping through the house, they say, ‘Oh—Beyoncé’s up!’”
“DEjA Vu” (2006)
“We shot this in New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina, and the choreography was almost tribal in my mind. There’s something spiritual about Louisiana, where my family is from, and I thought of Josephine Baker. She had a way of dancing that was almost possessed. I used her as a reference and combined her with Brigitte Bardot. My hair, the bustier: It’s very Bardot. I love to mix things that you wouldn’t put together—like Baker and Bardot. They both had that French influence, which is really strong in Louisiana.”
Sasha Fierce album art (2008)
“I’m wearing a gold-plate breastplate by José Barrera. It was difficult to put my arms down, which is why they are up in the picture. The gold handpiece was made for me—it’s kind of like my futuristic Michael Jackson glove.
Sasha Fierce was born during the ‘Crazy in Love’ video. I’m naturally a shy person, and I was used to performing in a group, where it’s about female camaraderie—we were all going through the same things at the same time. As Sasha Fierce, I was on my own. It was about letting go, about showing my sensuality in a new way: I became Sasha Fierce.”
“Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” (2008)
“My mom made the one-shouldered bodysuits the night before the video. Again, I wanted to wear something that any fan could wear. I’m obsessed with Bob Fosse, and I always saw the look of this video as very simple, very Fosse-inspired. It was one of the hottest days on record in New York, and we didn’t know it at the time, but we were shooting in an old porn studio. I began to get suspicious because every dressing room had a theme. I was in the jungle room, and I realized they had made a porno in there. There was no air-conditioning in the studio and that added to the drama—we were shiny and sweaty.”
“Telephone” (with Lady Gaga) (2010)
“Gaga is my girl! I’m her biggest fan. When I first saw her perform, I actually called her and said, ‘You are great!’ That was before her popularity hit, and we had a natural connection. Later, she asked me to do her video, and I said, ‘I trust you, Gaga. I’ll do whatever you want me to do.’ I played a bad, bad girl. When I put on the Bettie Page wig, I got into the character. I started researching Bettie Page and tried to channel her pinups and poses. The video ended up being very much like Quentin Tarantino’s movies. He gave us his blessing, even loaned us the car with pussy wagon written on the side from Kill Bill. My mom said, ‘Do you have to use that car?’”
“Why Don’t You Love Me” (2010)
“I was still thinking about Bettie Page, and wanted to do something that was inspired by her. This video was a secret: I paid for and codirected it and didn’t tell my label or my management. The clothes and jewelry are from my closet, the wigs are mine, and I did my own makeup. We did eight looks in one day in this great house that belonged to a producer who worked with Dorothy Dandridge. He had pictures of her on the wall, so her spirit is in the video, too. I love Super 8 film and wanted to get those saturated colors. It’s a different drama—the tears and martinis and cigarettes. I wanted to channel the past for the present.”
“Run the World (Girls)” (2011)
“This is the power stand, the next chapter of my life. I do this job because it makes me high and inspires people. In the video, most of all I wanted to show that I’m proud to be a woman. I had read about powerful African men who have hyenas as pets, and I wanted to create a world where women run the world, so in the video I have these hyenas as pets. I’m wearing a Givenchy Couture gown and I’m holding these crazy hyenas. There’s dirt on the dress, but I’m still pure and regal. I wanted to push the theatrics to make a point: Women rule.”