Fans are still getting to know Sasha Fierce, Beyoncé's musical alter ego, formally introduced on the singer's 2008 album, "I Am...Sasha Fierce."
Most probably don't know, however, that the singer/songwriter has been friends with Fierce since elementary school.
Manager and father Mathew Knowles will never forget the moment he first met Fierce. A 7-year-old Beyoncé was entered in a talent search open to Houston elementary and middle school students. The song she sang? John Lennon's "Imagine." "Beyoncé was the youngest," Knowles says. "She got up onstage and when she was finished, she received a standing ovation. Her mother [Tina Knowles] and I looked at each other and said, 'That can't be our Beyoncé. She's shy and quiet.' "
Twenty-two years later, that simmering brew of shy, quiet talent peppered with fierce determination and ambition is at a boiling point. The former frontwoman of Destiny's Child has come into her own, enjoying one of the best years of a still-evolving solo career.
On Oct. 2, Beyoncé will add one more honor to her array of accolades when she accepts Billboard's Woman of the Year Award. The presentation will be made at Billboard's Women in Music brunch in New York, recognizing the year's top 30 women in the music business.
"Beyoncé is a multiplatinum artist and a multitalented woman who clearly embodies the qualities of excellence and achievement that the Billboard Woman of the Year Award was created to honor," Billboard editorial director Bill Werde says. "She has not only influenced pop culture with her hit songs and her signature dance moves, but has inspired women everywhere with her unique style, business savvy and dedication to charitable causes."
In the past 12 months alone, Beyoncé has accomplished several career milestones. She not only sang "American the Beautiful" during the opening ceremony of the 2009 presidential inauguration, she also sang the Etta James hit "At Last" as President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama danced their first dance at the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball.
In March Beyoncé launched her worldwide I Am...tour, which has grossed some $53.5 million to date, according to Billboard Boxscore. She's also the star and executive producer of the 2009 film "Obsessed," which opened at No. 1 and has grossed more than $68.3 million in North America, according to Nielsen EDI.
"I Am...Sasha Fierce" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 when it was released by Columbia Records in November. The album, the singer's third solo set, has spun off a string of Billboard Hot 100 hits: "If I Were a Boy," "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," "Halo," "Ego" and "Sweet Dreams."
After accepting MTV's video of the year award for her iconic "Single Ladies" video a few weeks ago, Beyoncé gained a new level of fan and industry respect at the Sept. 13 event when she unselfishly brought Taylor Swift back onstage to complete the acceptance speech cut off by Kanye West's surprise interruption.
Beyoncé also continued her commitment this year to ongoing philanthropic projects and entrepreneurial activities from fashion to fragrances.
"She's incredibly creative," says Rob Stringer, chairman of Sony Music Label Group. "She also works phenomenally hard to create the opportunities she has. People tend to think there's always an image-maker behind female pop stars. That's not the case with Beyoncé. There's no element of diva or difficulty about her; she takes control of the process and makes it happen. She's grown beautifully in that role."