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Throwback: Backstage with Destiny's Child in the Summer of 2001

Klaudia//August 15, 2018
Photographer Gillian Laub revisits some outtakes from an emotional day with Beyoncé, Michelle, Kelly, and the Knowles family.

In the summer of 2001, I was commissioned by The New York Times Magazine to photograph Destiny’s Child for a special women’s issue. The theme was women photographing women. It was one of my earliest commissions, and I was over the moon when I got the call. I spent the day backstage as they prepared for that evening’s concert in Albany, New York. I loved what a family affair this was. Beyoncé Knowles was surrounded by her parents, sister, and her cousins. It felt like Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams, and Beyoncé were sisters, too. Before the trio went onstage, they said a prayer that felt so earnest and pure, it almost felt intrusive to photograph. But now, I’m so glad I did.

Seventeen years ago, it was clear that Beyoncé had major star power. She was magnetic, and her beauty radiated inside out. And the group certainly seemed like the dream team to me. Sometimes, public personas unfortunately don’t match how we experience people in real life, but Destiny’s Child—and, indeed, their whole team—seemed like the real deal. They were super-serious about their work, but also genuinely seemed to enjoy each other’s company. There was a lot of laughter. That night, however, Michelle exited the stage crying. I’m not sure, but I think she wasn’t happy with her performance. The other girls didn’t leave her side—they huddled around her and comforted her. It was quite touching to witness.

Even back then, Tina was the grande dame. She was running the show: doing all the hair, costumes—she was on top of every detail. It was impressive and fascinating to watch. I kept thinking how lucky they all were, and I was frankly in awe of the whole dynamic. I was excited to give Tina the photos 17 years later, when I shot her for “Tina Knowles Lawson on Her Black Art Collection, Beyoncé, Solange, and Creativity” in Vanity Fair’s September issue. Solange was just a baby in these photos, and it was before Solange became “Solange.” When Tina saw the photo in which she is doing Beyoncé’s hair, she commented on how tired she looked, and said that she was working around the clock and not sleeping much. I now have an even greater appreciation for her as a mother of these two incredibly impressive, talented, and strong women whom she raised and nurtured. Tina is truly the queen, and she’s even more glamorous than ever. And the whole Knowles project still seems like a family act: the dress and shoes Tina is wearing for this month’s shoot came from Beyoncé’s closet, which Tina said she raided the day before the photograph was taken.