The last six months have seen a sort of Beyonce explosion, where she went from the most popular singer in a hot group, Destiny's Child, to a ubiquitous solo megastar whose Dangerously in Love has been bought by more than 2 million people, earned her six Grammy nominations and spawned two of the hottest songs of last year, "Crazy in Love" and "Baby Boy." Beyonce has become a crossover sex symbol a la Halle Berry, a black girl who's not so overwhelmingly Nubian that white people don't appreciate her beauty. She's what Janet Jackson used to be: the tasteful sex symbol who's giving you R&B-flavored pop hits and state-of-the-art videos, tours and movies, too. This year will see still more Beyonce: In March, she starts a five-week tour with Alicia Keys and Missy Elliott, then she plans to record a new Destiny's Child album and finish the year with a Destiny's Child tour. But offstage, the girl is careful to maintain a distance between the person who's famous and the person shaped long before fame. "I don't want to get addicted to fame," she says. "Then when I'm no longer famous I won't know what to do, and I'll just seem desperate and lose my mind." She has been training to be famous since age ten, when her father would make her run one mile in the morning while singing, to build up the ability to sing and dance at the same time. The first Destiny's Child album came out when she was sixteen, in 1998, a year before Britney Spears and the teen-pop supernova (she and Spears are the same age); Beyonce has worked relentlessly since. "You lose touch with who you are," she says. "When you work so much like we did, it's just too much."
From the moment Beyonce lands in London, she's treated like a princess. A British Airways agent meets her at the door of the plane and whisks her and her four-person crew down an almost hidden set of stairs and into a waiting British Airways car. Other passengers making connections at Heathrow Airport have to slog between terminals on a bus, but the twenty-two-year-old Houston native, who says she's really a New Yorker now, zips through the airport's back roads, trying to figure out whether her final destination -- Cannes -- is pronounced can or con. She wears no necklace and no rings, but she's still dressed very girly, in big, chunky earrings, a pink off-the-shoulder cashmere sweater with a sort of bow in the front, a brown fur-lined wrap, fuzzy pink boots, jeans and a hot-pink baseball hat with embroidered sparkles on the front forming a cat and more sparkles on the back spelling out Beyonce. Her shoulders and neck flow gracefully out from under her sweater, recalling old French sculptures that romanticized the curves of the female form. She has golden skin, three small birthmarks on her face, perfect teeth and a dancer's posture that makes her seem much taller than five feet seven. And her tight jeans reveal her to be a healthy girl, someone the brothers would call thick, with a booming system in the back.