Home » Tina Knowles-Lawson: From Galveston roots to fashion mogul and philanthropic force

Tina Knowles-Lawson: From Galveston roots to fashion mogul and philanthropic force

Charting the stellar rise of Beyonce's mother from small-town seamstress to fashion and philanthropy icon

by Adenike Adeodun
Tina Knowles Lawson

Celestine Beyonce Knowles-Lawson, born Jan. 4, 1954, is a renowned American businesswoman, fashion designer, and philanthropist. She is acclaimed for founding the fashion labels House of Dereon and Miss Tina by Tina Knowles. Knowles-Lawson is also the mother of Beyonce Knowles-Carter and Solange Knowles, who are both distinguished personalities in the entertainment industry.

From Galveston to Glamour

Knowles-Lawson, the youngest of seven children, was born in Galveston, Texas. Her mother, Agnez Beyince (nee Dereon), worked as a seamstress, while her father, Lumis Albert Beyince, was a longshoreman. An error on her birth certificate resulted in her surname being spelled differently than that of her relatives. During her high school years, Knowles-Lawson was a member of a singing group called the Veltones, which drew inspiration from The Supremes. Her children’s exceptional musical talent is clearly a trait inherited from her.

Knowles-Lawson has carved out a remarkable, multifaceted career path, starting as a makeup artist in her teens before moving on to run a hair salon, design costumes, write, speak publicly, and engage in philanthropic efforts. Her diverse talents have significantly influenced the entertainment industry. Knowles-Lawsons’ innate skill and flair for fashion, potentially inherited from her Louisiana-born grandmother and mother, have always set her apart, regardless of external recognition or awards. As the matriarch of the Knowles family, her devotion to nurturing a lasting legacy is profound. For Knowles, family isn’t just important; it’s the heart and soul of all her achievements and aspirations.

Reinventing Pop Culture Fashion

Knowles-Lawson started her career at the age of 19. She relocated to California, where she honed her skills as a makeup artist for Shiseido Cosmetics. However, she returned to her hometown to care for her ailing parents. Her career also included a stint as a dance choreographer at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and working as a beautician in Birmingham, Alabama.

In 1990, she made a significant entrepreneurial leap by opening Headliners, a hair salon in Houston, Texas. The salon quickly established itself as one of the premier haircare destinations in Houston.

Knowles-Lawsons’ reputation soared as she took on the role of costume designer for Destiny’s Child. Initially involved in grooming the group, she later expanded her contributions to include designing their distinctive and eye-catching stage outfits. At a time when hip-hop culture was dominated by baggy pants and backward baseball caps, Knowles aimed for a different look for the group. “I always wanted the girls to be glamorous,” she said. She took this responsibility upon herself because designers were reluctant to style the girls because to them they looked too curvy and country.

Fashion Forward: Launching Iconic Labels

In 2004, Knowles-Lawson partnered with her daughter Beyonce to create the fashion label House of Dereon, a heartfelt tribute to her mother, Agnes Deréon. The brand, which debuted in 2006 under the vibrant tagline “Where the sidewalk and catwalk meet,” blends everyday comfort with stylish elements, offering items like chic sweatpants and intricately embroidered hoodies. Gaining notable exposure, House of Deréon was featured on popular shows like “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “The Tyra Banks Show.” Its unique fusion of hip-hop vibes with delicate details like lace and ruffles has made it a standout in the fashion world. Tina Knowles’ creative vision has earned her a place as one of America’s top fashion designers.

Further expanding her fashion empire, Knowles-Lawson appeared alongside Beyonce on “The View” on Nov. 22, 2010, to showcase her “Miss Tina by Tina Knowles-Lawson” line. Initially launched on the Home Shopping Network, the collection broadened its reach to Walmart stores in 2010. Knowles-Lawsons’ design philosophy focuses on accentuating the positive and crafting pieces that slim and elongate the figure. She explains that her designs, including dresses, are constructed to act like foundation garments, aiming to sculpt a leaner and taller appearance for the wearer.

The Matriarch Behind the Brand Beyonce

Knowles-Lawson has been an invaluable support to her daughter, Beyonce, both personally and professionally. In 2013, she showcased her skills as the director of wardrobe in “Beyoncé’s Life Is But a Dream.” She also made a memorable cameo in the 2016 visual album “Beyonce: Lemonade,” appearing in the “All Night” segment that included glimpses of her wedding day with Richard Lawson. Her presence was again felt in the 2019 release of “Beyonce’s Homecoming,” a concert film documenting Beyonce’s iconic 2018 Coachella performances.

In July 2020, Knowles-Lawson featured in Beyonce‘s Disney+ film,Black Is King,” which was based on the music from “The Lion King: The Gift.” She appeared in the visuals for “Mood 4 Eva” and “Brown Skin Girl.” Prior to the film’s release, she contributed by lending art pieces for the project, earning her credits as an art curator.

Dec. 2021 marked a new venture for Knowles-Lawson with the announcement of her show, “Talks with Mama Tina,” set to air on Facebook. The show features interviews with celebrities like Ciara and Zendaya. The inaugural episode aired on Dec. 22, highlighted by a performance of the show’s theme song by Beyonce and her children. This theme song later received a nomination for Outstanding Original Song at the 49th Daytime Emmy Awards.

Philanthropy with Purpose; A Voice for the Voiceless

Knowles-Lawson is far more than a fashion icon, media personality, and devoted mother; she is also a passionate advocate for civil rights and a supporter of the underprivileged. In 2002, Knowles-Lawson generously donated $1.5 million to help establish the Knowles-Rowland Center for Youth, a collaborative effort with Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland and St. John’s Church in Houston.

Her commitment to community service continued in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Knowles-Lawson co-founded the Survivor Foundation alongside Mathew Knowles, Beyonce, Solange, and Rowland, providing essential transitional housing to those affected by the hurricane.

In 2010, her philanthropic efforts extended further with a family donation of an additional $1.5 million toward a housing project for the homeless in Houston. That same year, Knowles-Lawson and her daughter Beyonce inaugurated the Beyonce Cosmetology Center at the Phoenix House in Brooklyn, a renowned nonprofit drug and alcohol rehabilitation organization. This initiative offered a comprehensive, seven-month cosmetology training course.

During the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, she collaborated with Beyonce charity, BeyGood, on the #IDidMyPart campaign. This initiative aimed to combat the disproportionately high COVID-19 mortality rates in Houston’s African-American community. She also raised public awareness about the issue through appearances on various U.S. television and news programs, including CBS News and ABC News.

Throughout her career, Knowles-Lawson has been a staunch supporter of civil rights and a vocal opponent of gender inequality, focusing her efforts on African-Americans. She has actively supported movements such as Black Lives Matter, African Pride, Still I Vote, and Mothers of the Movement. Her advocacy has included speaking out against police brutality and violence against women.

In 2020, Knowles-Lawson furthered her activism by joining the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. She advocated for the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, which aimed to address key issues in the U.S. such as healthcare, economic security, justice reform, housing, and voting access in the aftermath of the COVID-19 economic crisis. She penned an open letter to U.S. Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, calling for the bill’s passage. This letter garnered support from notable figures, including her daughters, Viola Davis, Whoopi Goldberg, Octavia Spencer, and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Moreover, she is deeply committed to the well-being of the Black community. Knowles-Lawson has emerged as a significant voice in movements like Black Lives Matter. On June 16, 2021, she took part in Facebook’s Lift Black Voices Hub, discussing the importance of Juneteenth to her family. In Aug. 2021, Knowles announced her involvement in producing a new program for Discovery, Inc., and the Oprah Winfrey Network. This show, “Profiled: The Black Man,” which aired in early 2022, delves into the challenges faced by Black men while also celebrating their achievements.

In November 2021, Knowles-Lawson and her husband, Richard Lawson, revealed their plans to adapt “Black Terror,” a 1971 play by Richard Wesley, into a movie. This project is a joint venture with the Yendor Theatre Company at Newark Symphony Hall and their WACO Theater Center.

She also made her mark in the literary world. In 2002, she published “Destiny’s Style: Bootylicious Fashion, Beauty, and Lifestyle Secrets From Destiny’s Child” with HarperCollins. In this book, she examines the influence of fashion on the success of Destiny’s Child.

Honors and Homage

Her contributions have not gone unrecognized. In 2001, she was honored with an ACE Award for positively impacting the accessories industry. Additionally, in 2017, she received an impact award at the Variety Power of Women luncheon for her philanthropic work. During the ceremony, she was lauded as “a successful entrepreneur, a tireless philanthropist, and a humble humanitarian,” praised for using her platform, businesses, resources, and voice to create organizations that foster positive change.

In 2020, she was awarded the Inspiring Leadership Award at the Essence Festival’s Empowerment Experience. Solange presented the award to her mum and proudly said these words to her mum “When I think of the words ‘inspiring’ and ‘leadership,’ I think of none other than my mother Ms. Tina Knowles-Lawson. You are the walking example of the greatest in class, in sass and I couldn’t have asked for a more phenomenal mother.

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