On Saturday night, the winter solstice, Beyoncé—in a sheer body con mini dress with a black shattered glass-like design by Tom Ford—greeted 500 fans after a screening of her self-titled visual album to talk about the motivations behind it. "The amount of personal growth that I experienced during this project is unlike anything else I've ever done," she told the crowd at the Theater of the School of Visual Arts in the heart of Chelsea in New York City. "I took all my insecurities, all my doubts and fears and everything I've learned—and motherhood and how it changes your perspective on life—I took all those things and I put them into this record. I've very proud of it. But more than the music, I'm proud of myself for taking a risk."
For several minutes—and between soaring cheers from a crowd whose excitement prevented them from staying in their seats—the star answered fan questions submitted via Instagram. While she touched on many subjects, one of the major takeaways was revealed a few seconds into her talk: "The biggest message for me,” she said, “is owning your imperfections and all the things that make you interesting, because I refuse to allow anyone to put me in a box."
Keep reading to hear what Beyoncé had to say about producing something no one believed in, why she got so personal on this album, and more.
On being nervous before it came out:
"I got off the stage. I had a glass a wine. My cousin Angie was like, 'Girl are you alright?' because I was talking to myself because I was terrified and so scared and I envisioned the worst things: people not liking it, and then me thinking 'Why didn't I say anything?' It's human; I was really nervous and it was a huge risk. And when I landed and I saw it live on iTunes and you are waiting for that first comment, and the next morning I was just [does a little happy dance]! Thank you, lord Jesus!"
On forming her own company and producing the album that no one believed in:
"My father taught me so, so much. When I decided to manage myself I decided not to go with a management company. I wanted to manage myself and follow in footsteps of someone like Madonna, and be a powerhouse and have my own empire; show women that when you get to this point in your career, you don't have to sign with someone else and share your money and your success. You do it yourself. So I found a team and we did not follow the rules. I said to so many people, 'I have an idea to do a visual album,' and everybody was like, 'Uh-huh, yeah.' So not only did we do it, but it's my company. I'm very proud of that."
On the highly personal themes in the songs and videos:
"I've always been very generous. On stage I'd take my pain, my joy, and use it in my performance. I am private and respectful, but it took me no longer being someone's child, once I became a mother, I felt like I could tear down that fourth wall. It was time that I felt I could be completely liberated. I could no longer create art for other people."
"[Producer] The-Dream came up with that. At first I was like, what does that mean? I love it. Beyoncé is Beyoncé, Ms. Carter is Beyoncé, Sasha Fierce is Beyoncé. I'm finally at a place where I don't have to separate them anymore. It's all pieces of me. We are all one. Different elements, personalities of a woman. Because we are complicated."
On looking back on this album years from now:
"This was my first album and of course I wanted people and critics to love it, and I wanted it to be successful but my goal was not to have No. 1 singles. It was putting together a body of work and know that people care about music. I was at a point where it all felt the same and, like I say in ‘Ghost,’ this is boring, and that's how I felt. If I could not challenge myself then it was maybe time to do something else, like develop more artists, which is still something I want to do. But I needed growth, and I just hope I can move forward and challenge myself. As a mother I want my legacy to inspire, and that's the biggest goal, and happiness. I want people to come to my shows so they can escape all of the madness and leave there feeling like there's hope."