Beyonce as marketer, social force, wife and mom

20:54, Jul 25 2013

The astounding reach of Beyonce's cultural impact is illustrated by a Saturday Night Live bit where first lady wanna-be Ann Romney (played by Kate McKinnon), blurts that she'd kill her equestrian-competition horse to meet Beyonce.

"I wouldn't have pictured you as a Beyonce fan," says Weekend Update host Seth Myers. "Everyone is a Beyonce fan, Seth," retorts an adamant Romney.

Like Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and Madonna before her, Beyonce is more than the sum of her songs (or her 17 Grammys). A true global icon, she represents many different things to a broad swath of people, particularly women.

"She comes across as a woman who's living her life on her own terms and realizing her full potential," says Cathy McClelland, who's in charge of her own entrepreneurial training and business development service in Southfield, Mich.

At age 31, Beyonce has become a prism for society's defining discussions. When she's not rocking the Super Bowl or shopping at Target (she was spotted at a Houston location last week), she remains a figure in commercialism, politics, privacy issues and female empowerment. Here's a closer look.

Beyonce the marketer. Beyond being one the most successful recording artists of the new millennium, Beyonce has demonstrated enormous clout as a pitchwoman for American Express, L'Oreal and Pepsi, among others.
Celebrities with such wide appeal are rare and sought after by all sorts of corporations. "You become the go-to person for everything from aspirins to zebras," according to Michael Bernacchi, a University of Detroit Mercy marketing professor.

When she drew criticism recently from health advocates for supporting Michelle Obama's fitness campaign while signing a US$50-million deal with soft drink maker Pepsi, she didn't flinch.

"Pepsi is a brand I've grown up seeing my heroes collaborate with," she said. "The company respects musicians and artistry. I wouldn't encourage any person, especially a child, to live life without balance."

Besides pushing products for others, Beyonce has launched her own perfume lines and fashion label. She is the perfect entrepreneurial role model, says McClelland, who has launched the Propel Project, an initiative to help women entrepreneurs that's a spin-off of the 2012 Urban Rebound Detroit Pitch Competition.

"We tell all entrepreneurs, look for every single opportunity, and she does that."

Beyonce the social force. When she made Time's 100 Most Influential People list, "The Great Gatsby" director Baz Luhrmann wrote, "Right now, she is the heir-apparent diva of the USA _ the reigning national voice."

The singer-songwriter, a friend and supporter of President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, has played a public role at both of Obama's inaugurations. And when Beyonce and her husband, Jay-Z, travelled to Cuba this year, there was a brouhaha among some congressional figures about their trip to a country that's under embargo for ordinary visits by Americans.

But the entertainer doesn't let academics or politicians define her. She speaks loudest through her philanthropy, which includes helping survivors of disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake and being an ambassador for 2012's World Humanitarian Day.

And when she does raise her voice, it's newsworthy. Over the weekend, she called for a moment of silence for Trayvon Martin at her Nashville concert, which started not long after word spread of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the death of the teen.

Beyonce the image controller. As someone who lives under the microscope of celebrity, Beyonce is adamant about being in control of her image.

Earlier this year, she debuted the HBO documentary about her life, "Beyonce: Life Is But a Dream," a candid portrait of herself on and off the stage, but one that she codirected and was able to scrutinize before it aired.

A recent GQ story described in detail the archive that Beyonce has created: "a temperature-controlled digital-storage facility that contains virtually every existing photograph of her, starting with the very first frames taken of Destiny's Child, the '90s girl group she once fronted; every interview she has ever done; every video of every show she has ever performed; every diary entry she has ever recorded while looking into the unblinking eye of her laptop."

It's a remarkable effort from someone determined to be the architect of her professional roles and handle the necessary promotion and public appearances on her own terms.

"I always have gotten the impression that she determines the outcome. It's different from somebody who's told what do to and follows the template. She's made the mold of her template," says Bernacchi.

Beyonce the female empowerment figure. In an interview with UK Vogue, Beyonce said she considers herself "a modern-day feminist," a description other female pop idols have declined.

"Beyonce is part of the 'I'll do it my way' innovators generation. They are so different. They're not afraid of the word 'feminist,'" says Anne Doyle, leadership strategist and author of "Powering Up! How America's Women Achievers Become Leaders."

Doyle sees Beyonce as epitomizing the comfort level and confidence of the generation of young women just hitting 30 and younger. "She's really on the leading edge."

Beyonce created her Sasha Fierce character as an alter ego of assertiveness and put together her all-female band, the Sugar Mamas, who are another symbol of the girl power of her lyrics.

In June, Beyonce performed in London at a concert for Chime for Change, a campaign set up to help empower girls and women around the world.
"To me, she is all about an empowered woman, and not just about her.

She's very willing to use her power to lift girls and women," says Doyle.