The untold truth of Solange Knowles
Solange Knowles was born on June 24, 1986 in Houston, Texas. By the time she was 8 years old, her older sister, Beyoncé, had rocketed into superstardom as a member of Destiny’s Child. For many years, Solange was known mostly as “Beyoncé’s little sister,” but there was always something special about Solange, and nobody knows that better than her own family.
Solange’s father, Matthew Knowles, once called her the family’s “secret weapon” (via Essence). In a 2017 conversation between Solange and Beyoncé for Interview magazine, Bey recalled watching her little sister explore experimental fashion and songwriting from a young age. “I remember thinking, ‘My little sister is going to be something super special,’ because you always seemed to know what you wanted,” Bey told Solange.
Solange now has five albums and EPs under her belt, along with many other projects in film, TV, fashion, performance art, and songwriting. But who is this incomparable star, really? Let’s explore the true story of Solange Knowles, the pop star who changed what it means to be a Knowles.
Solange never wanted to be the next Beyoncé
Born into a legacy of music, Solange Knowles started writing songs at just 9 years old. She was still in braces when she started working as a backup dancer and singer on tour with Destiny’s Child at age 13; later, she would write songs for the band and for Beyoncé (via Biography).
At 16, Solange released a debut album called Solo Star, but it wasn’t until much later that her true artistic vision saw the light. “I was young when I recorded my first record,” Solange told Essence in 2009. “I knew what kind of artist I wanted to be, but I didn’t know how to carry it out. And I wasn’t brave enough to carry it out because I was more concerned with pleasing my label.”
Solange hit her stride with the release of her critically-acclaimed third album, A Seat at the Table, in 2016. While recording the groundbreaking album, she started her own record label, Saint Records. Since then, she’s truly carved out a niche in the music industry; she’s known for incorporating performance art and other experimental elements into her music.
Despite the relentless comparisons to her sister, Solange knew all along that she was never trying to be the next Beyoncé. “People think there should be this great rivalry between us, but there’s never been any competition. There’s a big age gap and we are two very different characters,” she told the Daily Mail in 2008.
Solange Knowles was married with a child by 18
Solange Knowles married her junior high school sweetheart, Daniel Smith Jr., at age 17. Within a year, she gave birth to their son, Daniel Julez Smith Jr. (known as “Julez”) and moved from Texas to Idaho, where Smith was attending college, according to Surface magazine. “Being so nomadic, and the rapid pace in which my life moved from [age] 13 until 17 … I craved repetition in a way that was so radical,” Solange explained to Surface in 2018.
“I yearned to be in one place, to have the opportunity to really ground myself with [Julez],” she told Elle in 2017. “But it was isolating and lonely, and so cold and dark.” Solange and Smith divorced in 2007; though motherhood “was always chill and easy,” Knowles explained to New York Magazine in 2012, “marriage is a whole ‘nother ball game.” The song “Cranes in the Sky” is about Solange’s transition out of that relationship.
In 2014, Solange married Alan Ferguson, a video director. The couple celebrated with a stunning all-white wedding in New Orleans. Later, they collaborated on the visuals for A Seat at the Table, an experience Solange said she would “cherish for the rest of my life” (via Interview magazine). They separated in 2019, after an 11-year partnership. Solange announced the split on Instagram but declined to give details, per USA Today.
About that infamous elevator incident…
Solange Knowles is a famously private individual. Though she sometimes opens up about her life and artistic process in interviews or on Instagram, she typically keeps the details of her personal life under wraps. That’s what made it all the more surprising when she became the center of a huge, dramatic tabloid incident in 2014.
In May 2014, TMZ released security footage that showed Solange fighting with Beyoncé’s husband, Jay-Z, in an elevator at the Standard Hotel in New York City. The video shows Solange kicking and swinging at her brother-in-law; she even hits him with her purse. Fans and media outlets everywhere began to speculate about why Solange was so angry at Jay, and some of the theories were more outlandish than others.
After Bey released Lemonade in 2016, many assumed Jay-Z’s infidelity likely had something to do with the elevator brawl, and several sources confirmed that theory. Both Beyoncé and Jay-Z have referenced the now-famous incident in their lyrics, with Jay-Z practically admitting that he provoked Solange in a track titled “Kill Jay Z.” The rapper spits, “You egged Solange on / Knowin’ all along /All you had to say you was wrong.”
In a joint statement about the elevator debacle, the family said that it had “worked through it” and that Solange and Jay had apologized to each other.
Solange Knowles is battling health problems
In December 2017, Solange Knowles was forced to cancel a New Year’s Eve performance in South Africa, explaining that she’d been diagnosed with an autonomic disorder five months prior. She wrote on Instagram that she’d been “quietly treating” the disorder, but that the journey “hasn’t been easy on me.”
“Sometimes I feel cool, and other times not so cool at all,” Solange wrote in the since-deleted post, per the New York Daily News. “It’s a complicated [diagnosis], and I’m still learning so much myself, but right now my doctors are not clearing me for such an extended lengthy flight, and doing a rigorous show right after.”
According to Newsweek, “autonomic disorder” is an umbrella term for multiple different types of disorders involving the autonomic nervous system. Over one million Americans suffer from some form of autonomic disorder, and symptoms can be wide-ranging, impacting a number of bodily functions. Solange didn’t share specifics about her condition, but it wasn’t the first time she’d had to cancel a show. Over the past year, she’d also canceled two other appearances, citing a “medical condition” as the reason. In July 2017, she referenced being in the hospital just before performing, per Vice.
From a teen marriage to ongoing health problems, Solange has overcome a lot over the years. All of it has helped make her into who she is today, and we can’t wait to experience her next masterpiece!
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