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An award-winning, record-shattering artist, Beyoncé has been in the spotlight since she was a teenager, and now she is reflecting on her decades-long career. Ahead of her 40th birthday, the megastar graces the cover of Harper’s BAZAAR’s September Icon issue, where she teases the release of new music. 

“With all the isolation and injustice over the past year, I think we are all ready to escape, travel, love, and laugh again,” Beyoncé said in the interview. “I feel a renaissance emerging, and I want to be part of nurturing that escape in any way possible.” She went on to reveal that she has been in the studio for the last year and a half. 

“Sometimes it takes a year for me to personally search through thousands of sounds to find just the right kick or snare. One chorus can have up to 200 stacked harmonies,” Beyoncé explained of her process. “Still, there’s nothing like the amount of love, passion, and healing that I feel in the recording studio. After 31 years, it feels just as exciting as it did when I was nine years old.”

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Looking back on her career, Beyoncé told the publication that she sacrificed a lot. She noted that she started competing in dance and singing competitions at age seven, and by the age of 10, she had already recorded at least 50 or 60 songs. Then, her teenage years — her breakout years — were all about putting in the work to reach her goals. 

“I felt as a young Black woman that I couldn’t mess up. I felt the pressure from the outside and their eyes watching for me to trip or fail,” she recalled. “I wanted to break all of the stereotypes of the Black superstar, whether falling victim to drugs or alcohol or the absurd misconception that Black women were angry. I knew I was given this amazing opportunity and felt like I had one shot. I refused to mess it up.” 

It was in her 20s, she said, that she started establishing her legacy and independence. “I was focused on commercial success and number ones and being a visionary no matter how many barriers I had to break through. I was pushed to my limits.” In 2008, Beyoncé founded Parkwood Entertainment so that she could “produce and work on projects that meant the most to me.”

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And the years that followed, she said, were about living a life that was more than her music career. Beyoncé started a family — she shares three kids with husband Jay Z — founded the BeyGOOD charity program, directed films, most notably Black Is King, which was released last year, and started new business ventures including Ivy Park. 

“I’ve spent so many years trying to better myself and improve whatever I’ve done that I’m at a point where I no longer need to compete with myself. I have no interest in searching backwards,” she said. “The past is the past. I feel many aspects of that younger, less evolved Beyoncé could never f*** with the woman I am today.”

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As for what’s next? Beyoncé said she wants to enjoy life and continue doing what feels rewarding. “My wish is for my 40s to be fun and full of freedom. I want to feel the same freedom I feel on stage every day of my life. I want to explore aspects of myself I haven’t had time to discover and to enjoy my husband and my children,” she told Harper’s BAZAAR

“I’ve done so much in 40 years that I just want to enjoy my life. It’s hard going against the grain, but being a small part of some of the overdue shifts happening in the world feels very rewarding,” she continued. “I want to continue to work to dismantle systemic imbalances. I want to continue to turn these industries upside down. I plan to create businesses outside of music. I have learned that I have to keep on dreaming…My wish for the future is to continue to do everything everyone thinks I can’t do.”

Bey fans can rest assured: Yes, the music is coming!” Beyoncé, who has released six studio albums to date, confirmed. The Harper’s BAZAAR‘s September Icon issue, is out Tuesday.

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