An Appreciation: Tina Knowles, The One True Supreme

Solange’s wedding last weekend looked like a truly joyous occasion, and she sparkled with happiness in every photo. But there was one person in attendance whose radiance rivaled that of Solange, and no, it was not Beyoncé. It was Tina Knowles, Mother to the Bride, Queen of Everything. (And by “everything,” I mean “#everything.”)

It’s long been known that Knowles is a bosslady: for years, in internet circles and Beyhives across the world, she has been lovingly christened Mama Tina, Miss Tina, and, in the hilarious words of Fresh, ” Mama Creole Crawfish Delight” and/or “Queen Lobster Bisque Triple OG” and/or “OG El Creole.” She is varyingly viewed as a stern pageant mom for how she is seen to have hyper-pushed Beyoncé into performance perfection—the truth of which we’ll learn about the same time as we get access to the pre-edited Warren Commission—and as a Slay Queen whose gilded womb was sacred enough to have birthed Bey and Solo. Whatever the view, facts are facts: she raised two remarkable, creative, talented daughters, one of which happens to be the biggest pop star in the world.

And she has embodied the true incarnation of the American Horror Story Supreme Witch through it all: piercing eyes, brows that arch so it looks like she’s alternately sizing things up and seeing right through you, a smile like a Cheshire cat, and the air of a woman who gets shit done. Even leaving the church after Solange’s wedding, she is giving windswept face like she just stepped out of a Dior commercial. She is 60. Everything Beyoncé knows, she learned from her, no doubt.

Just to reiterate:

In the early and mid-’00s, when Beyoncé went solo and we began feeling accustomed to Tina Knowles as a public figure, Miss Tina was then an aspiring fashion designer, looking to get her line, House of Deréon, off the ground. She was always stylish, a costume designer for Destiny’s Child’s earliest days — though if you recall, fashion ca. 2002-2004 was dubious, at best. I personally remember one of my favorite ensembles at the time consisted of a baby tee with a switchblade printed on it, velour sweatpants with drawstrings on both legs, and brown Adidas. The year 2003 was all very embarrassing (many humans regularly wore newsboy caps!), so let’s focus on her gait and stride rather than, you know.

As these photos show, one thing that Knowles has mastered is the ability to look friendly and nice and also like she absolutely wants you to get the fuck out of her way at the same time. If that is indeed her intent, this is the quality of a person who has learned the true ways of interpersonal management, and she should write a book in the style of The Secret or like, the fucking Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. She could call it Yes, Miss Tina: Living Like a Boss Because You Are One and Don’t Let Anyone Ever Step to You, Goddammit. Written by Célestine Ann “Tina” Knowles Beyincé, bitch.

Miss Tina launched House of Deréon in 2004, named after her mother Agnés Dereon, a dressmaker all her life, under the tagline “Couture.Kick.Soul.” The clothes are meant to reference Agnés, Tina, Bey and Solange, and their respective generations, with looks hearkening to the ’40s, ’70s, and today. Let’s be honest: when it launched, half that shit was wild fugs, though it has gotten better as it’s progressed.

One distinctive aspect of the line, and Miss Tina, is its devotion to lamé in all of its hues. Well, gold, mostly. But it was devoted nonetheless, because you know why? Cause you’re a goddamn queen, that’s why. (See above.) Tina Knowles is not about to dress you in anything that does not have royal implications, hence the hoodies and jeans end of the line all possessing some level of elaborate embroidery.

But the power of Miss Tina is much more than fashion and serving face; she is like America’s mother, or life coach. America’s capitalist life coach. Tina Knowles would like you to be the best you that you can be, because that is what she expects of herself. Beyoncé summarized it thusly: “‘My mother’s gift is finding the best qualities in every human being. think her gift is understanding and helping people get to their best selves.” Tina was a surrogate mother to Kelly Rowland growing up, too. “I remember when Beyoncé and I were at our lowest,” Rowland told Interview in 2001, “my Aunt Tina would come in the room and say, “No, we’re not going to sit around in a funk today. We’re going to get out and be positive, and we’re going to make this situation better.”

This was probably good advice for Knowles to take during her 2009 divorce from Mathew Knowles, Bey and Solo’s father, who was dogged by infidelity rumors for years. (The divorce was finalized in 2011, which was the same year Beyoncé let her father go as her manager.) The divorce document stated the reason for divorce was “discord or conflict of personalities.” In non-legalese, this translates to Knowles totally got caught carrying on with a sidepiece while he was still married to Tina. You will note that she not only availed herself of his company with a quickness, but that his dunderheaded behavior seems to have made him persona non grata at family events. All bow to Miss Tina.

Last month, speaking at an International Women & Money Leadership luncheon because she is such a boss, she opened up about her divorce. ” “One day, my world just exploded, and I knew that I had to get a divorce. And at 58 years old, that’s a very hard, difficult thing. It does something to your whole self-esteem and psyche, because I had been married for 33 years,” she said.

But, like the divorce liberation narrative we all love and hope for if we are ever divorced, the time away from a bad man eventually helped her to build up her own, independent life that was better than before. “It gave me the courage to take some time off,” she said. “I started reading my art books. I love art, but I had never had the time. I started traveling.”

For the past year, Knowles has been happily dating actor Richard Lawson and enjoying her post as Fly Society Mom, attending charity events and other red carpet galas with the laidback ease and elegance of someone who’s got that shit figured out. She’s also out here making women half her age look comparatively ungraceful, just by standing next to them. And at the Angel Ball for Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation this past October, Jamie Foxx invited Knowles onstage and serenaded her, because he is a smart man.

Even in the realm of street style, Tina Knowles is monstrously badass. What is going on in her mind? By the looks on her face, it’s a mystical and powerful spell of protection, cast around herself and her family. Do you guys watch Grimm? Like that dude on last week’s episode who summoned a golem from red clay in order to kill his sister’s abusive husband. Mama Tina would summon the illest Hexenbiest. Sorry to mix TV metaphors, but witches are both #ontrend and the most important archetypes of our time, as you know.

This week, Miss Tina appeared on Entertainment Tonight to speak about Solange’s wedding and her new fashion line, Of course, because it is a matter of national import, the first question the shady host asked was about Solange’s hives. Knowles answers with the detail and concern of a loving mom, talking about like, Benadryl and shit. She also chats with patience through the most soul-deadeningly banal questions imaginable, including “Where was Blue Ivy” during the reception. UM, SHE IS A BABY SO PROBABLY SLEEPING.

Ahem. That was an outburst of annoyance, and very un-Tina Knowles-like of me. As you can see, the key to being a boss like her is to remain calm and size up your enemies like the Stealth Fox Witch that you are. One day, Lord willing, we will all grow up to be as spectacular as Miss Tina Knowles, OG El Creole de Witchiness Supreme. Bless.

Street style and early 2000s images via Splash News. All other images via Getty.

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