Mathew Knowles and Beyoncé: History of their complicated relationship

Tanya Edwards
Beyonce and father Matthew Knowles attending the UK premiere of Dreamgirls in Leicester Square, London. (Photo by Ian West - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

Mathew Knowles, the 67-year-old music manager father of Beyoncé and Solange, went public with his breast cancer diagnosis on Wednesday’s Good Morning America. “I also am a survivor of breast cancer,” he said at the beginning of the interview, which was timed with Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Knowles said the first calls he made after his diagnosis were “to my kids” — in addition to Beyoncé, 38, and Solange, 33, he also has a son, Nixon, 9, and a daughter, Koi, 9, from other relationships — “and my former wife, Tina [Knowles Lawson]. My wife, Gena, already knew; she went with me to the exam.”

But Beyoncé, who famously controls her image perhaps more than any other pop star in recent history, which is no small feat in today’s era of cell phone videos and detail hungry fans, has a complicated history with her father.

Much like many stars, Beyoncé’s dad was her first supporter and manager. In 1988 he was inspired to mentor Beyoncé after she won the Baby Junior Award at the Sammy Awards and performed at the Sammy Davis Jr.-themed ceremony a year later.

From a young age, Beyoncé was pushed by her father to keep competing in singing competitions, and by age eight she was part of a group called Girls Tyme, which set the stage for Destiny’s Child (Kelly Rowland was also a member). Mathew Knowles, who had been a medical equipment salesperson, quit his job to form a music company and manage the group.

Girls Tyme became Destiny's Child in 1996. At that point, Mathew Knowles devoted his energy to finding a record deal for the girls. After succeeding, he took on the full-time responsibility of managing, developing, and even producing the girl group.

According to the Mirror, Mathew Knowles was an unforgiving manager to the young girls. "Matthew did not mince his words and it can be tough to take that kind of criticism when you are a little girl," LaTavia Roberson, an original member of Destiny’s Child, recalled. "We would try not to let it break us."

In 2002, the group took a “hiatus” with Kelly Rowland telling CNN that "it was [their] manager's idea" for each of them to do their own solo records.

Beyoncé’s first solo album was released in 2003 and her father continued managing her through the release of I Am Sasha Fierce in 2008. However, around that time, the Telegraph reports, Beyoncé ordered an audit through law firm Reed Smith LLP after events promoter Live Nation believed her father has been stealing from her “I Am...” tour. The court ruled in Live Nation's favor.

When Beyoncé was just two-months-old, The Telegraph notes, Knowles left Tina for the first time — but not the last. In 2009, while still married to Tina, he became a father when actress Alexsandra Wright gave birth to a child. Within a year, a paternity suit would establish that Knowles was the father. Tina filed for divorce.

Matthew Knowles and Tina Knowles arrive at the VH1 Save The Music Foundation Summer of Soul Concert in Watermill, N.Y., Friday, July 18, 2008. (AP Photo/Ed Betz)

Matthew Knowles’s impact can be heard in much of Beyoncé’s music, the most obvious being "Daddy Lessons," from the album Lemonade, where the lyrics explain that her dad taught her to be tough and not trust men like him. In the video for the song, there are clips of Matthew playing with Beyoncé's daughter Blue.

Beyoncé officially announced that she was no longer being managed by her father in March 2011, the same year her parents finalized their divorce.

Two years after the divorce, Mathew Knowles was married to former model Gena Charmaine Avery. "Unfortunately, Beyonce and Solange had previous engagements which made it impossible for them to attend," he explained to Us Magazine.

Knowles also committed what many viewed as a gaffe by breaking the news of the birth of Beyoncé’s twin son, Sir, and daughter, Rumi, with husband Jay-Z in 2017 with a very grandfatherly Instagram post.

Since 2014, Knowles has been running courses about making it in the music industry known as “Beyoncé Bootcamp.” A writer for MTV attended the camp and reported that Knowles claimed to have “spoken with God” about Soundcloud, and also included a certificate of completion for everyone who took part.

Two years ago, on his daughter Beyoncé’s birthday, it seemed he hadn’t been able to get in touch with her so he took to social media to send wishes, saying through tears, "I love you with all my heart. I just wanted to tell you happy birthday."

Things seem to be on the mend with his daughters. In April of this year, he told Paper magazine, when asked what his relationship with Beyoncé is like: “I have a great relationship as a father with not just Beyoncé, but people forget I have this talented, gifted kid named Solange, who is a Grammy winner and has had a number one album. People tend to think she does not exist.”

Knowles told GMA on Wednesday morning that he’s been making an effort to take the best care of himself that he can since his diagnosis.

“I stopped drinking. I wanted to just have a clean bill of health. Exercise. Meditate,” he said. “Things that used to be important [are] not important to me now, I just look at the world differently.”

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