Admit it. You’ve always thought your daughter was special. Whether you’ve internally blushed when you’ve seen that child pretend performing in front of the mirror, or caught a glimpse of them in your rearview looking cute while hitting that Ariana Grande high note in the backseat of your car, inside, you believe your little girl could be the next….Beyonce. Yes, I said it. The new standard for performance and entertainment excellence. Beyonce’s talent, work ethic, image and success would be the goal if you got up off your lazy, overworked behind and decided to do something about your child’s future career in Entertainment.
So where do you start? Well, you could go in a lot of different directions, but one that’s explorable would be reading Mathew Knowles’ recently released book, “The DNA Of Achievers.” True, personally you might not be a fan of what you’ve read on the gossip blogs about this man’s personal life. Still, professionally there is no denying that the secret to Beyonce’s success lies—at least somewhat—in the mind of her father.
At a neighborhood spot in Harlem, Mathew Knowles sits down for dinner and an interview to talk about his first book. He is punctual, prepared and professionally dressed. There are things he won’t discuss, as per his publicist, who sits a few tables away with Knowles’ current wife. Throughout the interview, the idea of asking him those question crosses your mind. It’s tempting, but everyone’s going to do that.
Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last week, you’ve seen Knowles making his interview rounds in the press to promote this book. But while you may have tuned in to the radio shows or clicked on the link because you are just too nosey and must find out what his relationship with Blue Ivy is like, or whether he accidentally slips up and reveals details of his daughter’s marriage, the truth is that the business philosophy he employed is the one that created one of the biggest superstars of our generation. Luck was not a factor. Mathew Knowles Frankensteined Beyonce. And those of us who have children we believe have what it takes to be a superstar want to know how he did it in this exclusive with Mathew Knowles he tells us his background and how to make it in the entertainment business.
So do you need a specific DNA to be successful in this business?
Again, it’s not literal. It’s not a molecular DNA [that I’m talking about in the book title], it’s a professional DNA. You aren’t necessarily born with [it].
As a father, how do you bring those traits, and that specific DNA out in your children?
Kids watch their parents, right? And when kids are three, four, five-years-old, that’s when they’re like a sponge, and who they are is really developed by the time they are seven. At that time [in my life], I was the number-one sales rep in the medical division of Xerox. Tina and I had a number-one, top hair salon, that we were making $1 million plus a year. So they witnessed that. They saw that. They heard us talk about the success and failures, so they actually grew up in that environment. But you know, one of the things that I hope that somebody does before I die, is actually do an interview just about me. I don’t surround myself around my kids, never have. [I don’t] live vicariously through them. I have my own life. I was extremely successful before they were even born. So how about you give me the first interview that doesn’t talk about Beyonce, that doesn’t talk about Solange.
Well, from a parenting perspective, there’s a secret there and people want to know what that is. I talk to moms and to parents who are trying to get their kids to do things, whether it’s in entertainment, whether it’s in business, whether they want them to excel in education. There is that ‘how do I?’ question that you have as a parent. For you in entertainment, you have been a part of building the most successful female artist in the game right now. So the question is really a natural one, and it really is about you. What is it that you feel like hasn’t been addressed?
People don’t know my background. I talk about my real small town, Gladstone, Alabama, background. My mother’s last name, maiden name is Hogue. She is Cherokee and African. My grandfather, Dave Hogue, owned 300 acres of land in Marion, Alabama. He was an entrepreneur and someone I looked up to as a kid a lot. My dad was just a hardworking, uneducated man, but he made $25 a week. My mom made $3 a day as a maid. They both found a way to be entrepreneurs. I lived on a dirt road. We didn’t have an outside bathroom until I was like 15. I went to white schools all my life and we’re talking in the 50s and 60s, being the only Black. It was challenging, really challenging, but it gave me another perspective. So think about this, I’m 63-years-old. I grew up in Gladstone, Alabama, on a dirt road, with an outside bathroom. I didn’t go to a Black school until my junior year in college. I have a different perspective on how I approach things.
I love learning. I only do things that I’m passionate about. My passion has always grown. When I look at those traits, being a risk taker, learning from failure, I consider myself a strategic planner … all the traits that I talk about in the book, but it starts with passion.
What is your passion?
My passion is educating and motivating. Entrepreneurship and entertainment. I teach entrepreneurship, and that’s what this book is. It’s a motivational, self-help, entrepreneurship, and music business [book]. The idea hit me on a plane. You start talking to people and they ask you what do you do. I started noticing the similarities in successful people, and then I started thinking about my friends and I thought about them and where they were. They’ve had these traits of successful people.
Now you’ve got the book and you’ve got the seminars. What else do you see yourself accomplishing in the future?
More books. More seminars. I have a seminar for parents of talented and gifted kids. The one I’m doing today is the ‘Entertainment Industry: How Do I Get In.’ In January, I’m presenting a whole online foundation, a platform for online education to compliment these seminars and books. I’ve taught for 10 years. That’s a long time. I teach three courses, that’s almost full-time. I went back and got my MBA. I have a degree in Economics, an MBA in Strategic Planning and Organizational Structure.
I love what I do. Being in sales and marketing, basically what you do is educate and motivate. You educate a person on your product and how it’s gonna solve their need. You educate them and then you motivate them to buy it. And when you think about it, when you’re a manager, and you deal mainly with young talent, you’re educating them on the industry. You’re educating them on artist development, all the tools on that, and then you are motivating the audience to buy it. Those two basic things are what I’ve done all my life, just what I was educating and motivating changed. It went from clothes, to hair, to diagnostic imaging, to talent, but at the end of the day, it’s educating and motivating. That has never changed for me.
One of the points you made earlier was that your grandfather owned property and was an entrepreneur, so this entrepreneurial spirit seems to have existed in your bloodline for a few generations. But what about someone who isn’t born into that mentality? How do they acquire it?
That’s why they are buying the book, for that reason specifically. That’s where reading and taking seminars become critical. Successful people do that. They read a lot. They take seminars, they learn from others. They get mentors. They don’t try to do it all by themselves. They don’t see it as weakness, they see it as a strength. So that’s what I did. I surrounded myself and my kids with that.
When your children were younger, what type of things did you do to nurture their talent and help develop it into what it is today?
Well, my philosophy when the kids were young… Their mother, we co-owned a successful hair salon, and what is it that women do on Saturdays? They’re in their hair salon. So on Saturdays, I played the role that most mothers would play. I would take the kids to dance lessons. I would take them to vocal lessons. I would take them to a party, to a theater, go skating so I spent a lot of time with my girls, more time than most fathers. My philosophy has always been as a parent, you surround your kids with all the tools to start seeing what it is that they enjoy, and hopefully buying into something they are passionate about.
That doesn’t always happen the first go round. Those formative years, those years from five to 10, that’s what we did. Our kids loved the arts, so I got on the school board at the elementary school and we formed an arts division. But I let them decide and they chose the arts. I used to always say that had my kids said they wanted to be a doctor, I would have bought a hospital. But think about that. Here’s a dad saying, you decide what you wanna do, but you never gonna work for anybody. So my kids always grew up with, “You’re never gonna work for anybody.” That was that entrepreneurial spirit. You’re never gonna work for anybody.