By Nekesa Mumbi Moody
The Associated Press
NEW YORK - With millions in album sales, Grammys, more than a half-dozen hit singles, a blockbuster movie and A-list endorsements, it's hard to imagine how Beyonce Knowles' star could get much brighter. Yet with the release Dangerously in Love - Knowles' first solo disc apart from the megagroup Destiny's Child - the 21-year-old is moving into a celebrity stratosphere so luminous even she's a bit nervous about it.
"It's getting worse," says Knowles in her husky, Southern-accented voice, looking particularly bootylicious in a white Juicy Couture shorts set as an SUV ferries her to an evening performance.
"Sometimes, the more movies I do and the more TV shows that I do, the more people obviously know me, and after the L'Oreal commercial - after all these wonderful opportunities, people recognize me more, so it's harder for me to go anywhere," she says.
"It takes getting used to, everywhere you go somewhere, you have to sign autographs or look a certain way to get pictures."
She'll have to make the adjustment, given the early success enveloping the project. She's got a Top 10 hit on the Billboard charts with the album's first single, "Crazy in Love," and the album, on Columbia Records, is on pace to debut on the top of the album charts next week.
A new film
In addition, she's starring with Cuba Gooding Jr. in The Fighting Temptations, due out in September, her first film since her turn as the high-flying Foxxy Cleopatra in last year's Austin Powers in Goldmember.
She's even becoming a one-named wonder: she simply uses the name Beyonce (pronounced BEE-yon-SAY) on the new album.
"I think she's become the superstar that we all expected she would be," says Rick Krim, a vice president of VH1, which featured Knowles on its recent "Divas" concert; her powerhouse performance of the ballad "Dangerously in Love" brought down the house.
Krim says Knowles is reaching the level of a Jennifer Lopez, whose celebrity cuts across several different genres, including film and music.
"When you combine the musical talents and the success, you can spread that success to other movies," he says. "I think it just broadens your appeal and takes you to a whole another level."
Knowles' stardom has long eclipsed that of her two groupmates, Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland. Still, she insists that her solo career is just a brief diversion in the juggernaut that has become Destiny's Child, one of the most successful girl groups of all time. Their hits include the songs "Survivor," "Independent Women, Part I," and "Bootylicious," which gave the world a new way to describe a sexy, curvaceous woman.
Another group album planned
"I'm going to do another Destiny's Child album, regardless if I sell no-million, one million, five million or however million," she says. "The only way I won't do it unless Destiny's Child is no longer friends - no other reason, but because I love them and I love being in the group."
Besides, father Matthew Knowles, the manager of both the group and Knowles, says: "I don't think any one of their solo careers will be bigger than Destiny's Child."
Knowles is the last member of the multiplatinum trio to release a debut album. Williams put out a gospel album, Heart to Yours,and it sold a little more than 100,000 copies, a success in the gospel arena; Rowland sold about 500,000 copies of her "Simply Deep."
Knowles' disc was supposed to be released last fall, but she decided to delay so Rowland could capitalize off of the success of her duet with Nelly, "Dilemma."
The end result is an album with a retro sound and a sensual more romantic feel.
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