Beyoncé’s mom, Tina, recalls how a racist birth certificate change created the star’s name

Charles Trepany

For many around the world, the name “Beyoncé” is forever associated with pop superstar Beyoncé Knowles.

But even the most dedicated members of the Beyhive may be surprised to learn how the famous mononym actually came to be.

During Tuesday’s episode of the Spotify podcast “In My Head With Heather Thomson,” the singer’s mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson, shared the story behind her elder daughter’s first name.

Turns out, the moniker runs in the family, though its spelling has a complicated origin.

“It’s interesting, because a lot of people don’t know that Beyoncé is my last name,” Knowles-Lawson explained. “It’s my maiden name. My name was Celestine Beyoncé, which at that time was not a cool thing, to have that weird name. I wanted my name to be ‘Linda Smith,’ because those were the cool names.”

But Knowles-Lawson doesn’t spell her last name the same way as her other relatives do. According to the businesswoman, only she and her brother, Skip, spell their last name B-E-Y-O-N-C-E, while, for others in her family, it’s spelled B-E-Y-I-N-C-E.

When Knowles-Lawson asked her mother about the discrepancy, her reply was simple: “That’s what they put on your birth certificate.”

“So I said, ‘Well, why didn’t you argue and make them correct it?’ ” Knowles-Lawson said. “And she said, ‘I did one time, the first time, and I was told, ‘Be happy that you’re getting a birth certificate,’ because at one time Black people didn’t get birth certificates.”

According to Knowles-Lawson, the lack of a proper birth certificate sent a specific message.

“They didn’t even have a birth certificate, because it meant that you really didn’t exist,” she said. “You weren’t important. It was that subliminal message. And so I understood that that must have been horrible for her, not to even be able to have her children’s names spelled correctly.”

She continued: “They were like, ‘How dare you have a French name.’ Like, ‘We’re gonna screw this up real good for you.’ And that’s what they did. So we all have different spellings.”

And the different spellings persist to this day, Knowles-Lawson said, noting that she has a niece whose last name is spelled B-E-Y-I-N-C-E.

“People don’t even put the two together and know that that’s the same name, but it is,” she added.

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