Forbes announced its annual list of the most powerful women in the world. In their estimation, there are only 16 women more powerful than Beyoncé Knowles, three of whom are also African-American, seven of whom are women of color. They are mostly heads-of-state, chief executives of multi-billion dollar corporations and global change makers.
Beyoncé, a bank-busting, pop icon, only bows down to First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Ursula Burns, the chief executive at Xerox, among those African-American women topping the list. She outpaces 83 other women on the Forbes 2013 World’s Most Powerful Women list.
Beyoncé is more powerful than the Queen of England, Anna Wintour, Lady Gaga, and six other women of African descent. Those other Black women include Rosalind Brewer, CEO of Sam’s Club; Joyce Banda, president of Malawi; Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the World Food Programme, United Nations; Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE; Ngozi Okonji-Iweala, Minister of Finance, Nigeria; and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, president of Liberia.
It’s very easy to see that this is Beyoncé’s year. It started with President Barack Obama’s inauguration in January and carried over to the Super Bowl in February that was the silver lining to her $50 million endorsement deal with Pepsi.
On February 16, HBO debuted her documentary, “Life is But a Dream,” which broke the network’s viewership records reaching an audience of 1.8 million, which can also be viewed as wonderfully done advertisement for HBO subscriptions. Time Warner reportedly gained $115 million as compared to earnings last year in subscriptions during the period ending March 31, 2013, revenues generally driven by HBO. By the end of the month, the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour was announced.
In March, Beyoncé announced that she would be the face of H&M for a campaign entitled “Beyoncé as Mrs. Carter in H&M.” H&M’s press release stated that she represented all facets of a woman’s identity: “strong, vulnerable, sensual, maternal, fun, flirtatious.” (An observation that coincided with the star also covering VOGUE that same month.)
The H&M deal came about in the midst of the retailer’s plan to open 350 new stores around the world this year, as well as launch online sales in the United States this summer. While the amount she was paid for the endorsement is undisclosed, H&M made $3 million in sales in the Unites States alone, out of the $33 billion in sales it made worldwide between December 2012 and February 2013. So it is likely that the endorsement may have underwritten the cost of the concert, allowing for ticket prices to start around $60.
If you were not aware that Beyoncé is a brand, her listing on the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women list may just be the media company’s way of correcting that she, like Oprah, doesn’t quite qualify for their competitor’s Fortune 500 listing, but certainly competes along side it. If you look at Beyoncé as a business, she’s the Tumblr/Twitter of human brands.
She’s a booming, debatable asset that is shaping culture. And unlike burgeoning social media companies, she’s had undeniably profitable returns. So it fits that she leaped from last year’s number 32 position to number 17, with the fact of her reported net worth of $40 million not being the half of her power. May makes her third cover for Conde Nast Publications (including the aforementioned March American VOGUE cover and GQ‘s February issue) with British VOGUE in the past five months, which alludes to another business deal for the icon.
Lists are not everything. But they are a metric for self-reflection. Being an amazing entertainer is great, but having the business savvy to know one’s value is what makes Beyoncé powerful…more powerful than Lady Gaga and Shakira (according to Forbes). How does she do it? What can we do to adopt the Beyoncé reign of power? Let’s look at the strategy behind the superstar that can take anyone from intern, to chief executive, to icon.
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