She can thank lost luggage for her current design career. My “Renaissance Man” guest is Queen Tina Knowles-Lawson, also known as the mother of Beyoncé and Solange Knowles — though she will also claim Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland as part of her brood. Miss Tina was regularly doing hair for the girl group, but when traveling to Jamaica for an MTV event, the costumes and luggage were nowhere to be found.
“I had to go to a roadside place and I got all this camouflage clothes and I cut them down and I made costumes for the girls,” she told me. “They were with Wyclef Jean and he said, ‘Wow, who styled you guys today?’ And Beyoncé said, ‘My mom did.’ He was like, ‘You should style them all the time.’ And that’s how I got to styling them.”
She said her new role was totally unexpected. Not that she didn’t know her way around a bolt of fabric and a sewing machine. Growing up in Galveston, Texas, Mama Tina came from a large family with little means. Both her mother and grandmother were seamstresses. Her nephew was a designer.
“So I was surrounded by fashion and people who could take nothing and turn it into something. I grew up with the force of my mom. [She] reupholstered furniture to make curtains, [and made] clothes for people. So it was just in my blood. And I always wanted to do something in fashion … I was always doing everybody’s hair, doing their makeup. I made all my friends’ prom dresses.”
And get this: She was in a girl group, called the Veltones.
“We were really good, but we were kind of known more for our costumes than we were for our entertainment,” she said. “And me and my mom made all the costumes.”
In addition to sewing, her mother taught her to be charitable and selfless. Recently, Miss Tina and I were in an HIV-awareness campaign called Me in You, You in Me.
“My mom was such a humanitarian … Whatever we had, she shared with everybody,” Mama Tina said of her own mother. “And she did what she could do with hardly nothing. It was a great lesson. She always taught us that if you do things for someone, you do it from the heart, you don’t do it for the recognition, because then you’ve already got your blessing.”
Mama Tina has carved out a large niche for herself in fashion and design, and even dipped her toe into the acting world with Lifetime’s “Wrath: A Seven Deadly Sins Story,” which premiered in April. Funny enough, she played mother to Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams.
Through it all, though, she said her favorite job is being a grandmother. But she did raise two superstars, one of whom is arguably the best entertainer of all time. Did she see their unique talents as kids? Tina said no. They simply loved to perform.
“I mean, nobody wanted to come to our house because [Beyoncé and Solange] would sell them tickets and make them look at them put on shows. [The girls] always loved [performing]. They didn’t want to play outside. That’s all they wanted to do.”
Mama Tina put them both in dance class — surprisingly, because she hoped it would help Beyoncé come out of her shell. “She was super shy and I thought she would make friends. Her dance teacher was actually the stage mother. She was like, ‘This little girl is so talented.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, everybody thinks their kid is talented.’ It took me a while to really be a believer, you know, because … I never wanted to be that parent.” She added that her ex-husband, Mathew Knowles, had their daughters study the greats like Motown icons Diana Ross and the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas and Smokey Robinson. The Knowles sisters actively tried to emulate them.
“They had such great role models. They watched [footage] and they were familiar with those artists and Motown days. The girls were very, very dedicated to their craft.”
Tina has accomplished so much on her own, but she’s also become a revered pop culture mother. We all feel some of her maternal magic. In December, she even launched a Facebook show, “Talks With Mama Tina.” And we know mothers aren’t supposed to have favorites, but I wanted to know her favorite songs from her each of her daughters.
For Solange, Mama Tina didn’t hesitate to say “Cranes in the Sky.”
As for Beyoncé?
“I got so many with her, but probably ‘Survivor.’ That’s Destiny’s Child. That song means so much to me because I’ve seen that give people the courage to do things.”
Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before transitioning into a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book, “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.