Sister, Sister

Beyonce, the commercial machine, vs. Solange, the down-to-earth soul sista. Is there a right way to be a pop diva?

A TALE OF 2 DIVAS: The notoriously private Beyonce (right) only shares things designed to enhance her brand; Solange exults in her flaws and has no problem speaking her mind.

We spend most of our adolescent life, mimicking people we admire and then we enter the real world and find out that all along being “us” is actually what we do best. Unfortunately, shortly after that, we find out that our careers demand us to not fully be ourselves. Even the wild career path of celebrity requires an art-directed image. I’m fascinated by the choices that celebrities make to craft their image, not only because their decisions influence the world, but also because their image makes a profound statement on what they (and their fans) think “living” really means.

I consider myself a student of the sociology of fame and I see two very distinct life choices in two celebrity sisters — Beyonce and Solange Knowles — that is reflected in every group of girlfriends I know. They both pack a healthy dose of raunchiness, and I would hesitate suggesting that young girls adopt them as role models. However, their comfort in their own skin as young African American women is worth discussing.

Beyonce’s brand is infallible. This woman does not make mistakes; everything you see from her supports what she wants you to believe. The downside to this is that you rarely, if ever, witness a “human” moment from her; she’s notoriously private about her personal life. Most people that aren’t fans of hers dislike her for this reason. They want a flawed celebrity, not a robot. But that doesn’t stop Bey from tearing down the house every time she hits the stage. Nobody can question her talent; they just want her to be more “real.”

Below, Beyonce talks about opening up after accomplishing her life goals.

I’d like to consider myself to be poised; an individual whose flaws are carefully concealed and behaviors consistently managed but then I’d be Beyonce, and that’s simply not who I am.  Like Solange, I am the proud owner of a personality that is out-spoken, confident, and at times, inescapably rough around the edges.

Below, Solange sets herself apart from Beyonce and discusses her mother’s concern for her blunt interviews.

Solange didn’t have an opportunity to create such a carefully crafted image. She was destined to be in the shadows of her mega-star big sister from the start. And after getting pregnant at only 17, married at 18, and divorced at 19, there was no way she’d ever be a “Beyonce.” But I love Solange. She perhaps exudes self-confidence at a more profound level because she lets the world interpret her flaws and all. She believes living means being true to you at whatever cost and learning from the journey.

The evidence of Beyonce and Solange’s differences is not just in their public persona, it’s also in their music. Beyonce’s soulful voice is often masked by the latest pop sound and, as a result, she tops the mainstream charts.

Watch Beyonce’s ‘Girls Run the World’ video below!

Solange’s gumbo albums include soulful melodies that are obviously challenging for her voice and retro tracks that are equally challenging for album sales. She openly admits that she is not concerned with industry expectations; “everything from my artwork to my video to the music itself has to have a message and not because it’s hot or it looks sexy.”

Watch Solange’s 60’s inspired hit single, ‘I Decided’ below!

I admire Beyonce’s approach. As a businesswoman, she is more focused on the “ends” than the “means.” Whatever it takes for her to accomplish her goals is what she’ll do without divulging too much of her private life. Even Kelly Rowland, the fellow ex-Destiny’s Child member who calls Beyonce a sister, envies Beyonce’s determination. Rowland admitted that her first album flopped because she wasn’t well-prepared and told Stylist Magazine that “(Beyonce) plans everything.”

On the contrary, Solange told an interviewer, “I stopped trying to prove and undo misconceptions a while ago. I’m unexplainable. Most humans are.” In another interview she went deeper; I think confidence is one of the best qualities to have. I’m not making apologies or begging for people to like me. I’m very optimistic that God has plans for me. When you truly find peace with yourself and who you are becoming it’s a beautiful moment.”

I respect both of these approaches to life, but the latter is more “me.” Beyonce is a master at poise and machinelike professionalism, but that’s a hard role to play for a lifetime. Solange may suffer due to her honesty, but I’d argue that her triumphs are more satisfying. What do you think?

About the author, Stephanie Imani LaFlora

Stephanie Imani LaFlora is coordinating producer of UrbanFaith.com and UMI Media. A writer, editor, and social-media whiz, she's a 2009 graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles with a degree in screenwriting.
  1. Beyonce looks real good.

  2. Great post Stephanie! Thanks for introducing me to Solange as something more than Beyonce’s little sister.