In 2016, the world raved about the Knowles sisters, amid the release of their powerful culturally driven records, “Lemonade” and “A Seat at the Table.” Both separately spoke to the strength and power of black women, while celebrating the beauty of black girl magic. Before there were the poetic, socially conscious Knowles sisters, there was the woman who laid and left the blueprint, Ms. Tina Lawson.
Tina Lawson, born Celestine Ann Beyincé to a longshoreman and a seamstress, grew up in a small down in Galveston, Texas, the youngest of seven siblings. At a young age, Lawson picked up sewing and dressmaking, later learning different tricks to styling, which would eventually further her career in the business.
In 1990, with the help of then-husband Matthew Knowles, Lawson opened a 12-seat salon called Headliners, which at the time was one of the biggest salons in Houston. With the salon and Knowles’ intense work ethic, the family became well off, and able to afford a lifestyle among the upper class. Shortly after, her eldest daughter, Beyoncé, would break out with the popular girl-group Destiny’s Child, with Lawson grooming and styling the group, allowing them to stand-out from the other acts of the same time. With Lawson’s hand in the group’s wardrobe, she set the tone and made a statement, as labels refused to dress “four black, country, curvy girls,” as Beyoncé revealed in her CFDA Fashion Icon Award speech, last year.
“When I wore these clothes on stage I felt like Khaleesi. I had an extra suit of armor. It was so much deeper than any brand name,” she added. “Thank you for showing me that having a presence is far more than the clothes you wear and your physical beauty.”
Amid the changes within the group and Lawson’s relationship with Knowles, Lawson closed her fashion businesses, closed down her salon in Houston, and made a switch. She then remarried and began focuses on black women empowerment and philanthropy.
Most recently, Lawson was honored with the Community Commerce Impact Award for organizing the WACO Theater Center, providing education and resources to the youth and young adults.
“We’re both firm believers that you have to have a space for the community, especially right now, because all the music programs are being cut out of schools,” Lawson said of the theater she opened with husband, Richard Lawson. “When my kids were young, there was a place called The Shrine of the Black Madonna [which is also a cultural and community center] in Houston, Texas, where they grew up. It impacted my children. I always wanted to have something like that.”
Lawson also mentors a group of 15 girls, who she calls Tina’s Angels, alongside her husband, whose group is called Richard’s Warriors.
“You want kids to dream big,” she told Variety of the mentoring program. “It’s like a crash course in everything you need to know to be a well-rounded young lady.”
In addition to the WACO Theater, Lawson also started a non-profit rehabilitation center alongside her daughter, Beyoncé, called Beyoncé Cosmetology Center at the Phoenix House. She also had a hand in the Knowles-Rowland Center for Youth in Houston, as well as the Knowles-Temenos Place Apartments, which brings in domestic abuse survivors, in an effort to help them get back on their feet.
Ms. Tina’s strength and resilience has been an inspiration for not only her daughters, but for every woman around the world, especially black women. Her impact within the community, complete with her generosity and philanthropic nature exudes sincerity and black excellence. She is our Ballerific Woman.