This is how — and crucially for a potentially wounded Anna Wintour, with whom — Beyonce is marking her 40th birthday. Vogue limped dreadfully into September — a big fashion month, and also this year, that’s also its big Met Gala issue — with an absolute wreck of a cover. Now, I don’t know whether Vogue and Harper’s actually give each other the stink-eye as real rivals (these days I would imagine British Vogue feels more threatening to A-Dubs, and yes, we’re trying to get its Gemma Chan cover for you soon). And maybe Anna isn’t too fussed about missing Beyonce in theory, when she got her in 2018, but it must sting for Vogue’s weak September effort to be in competition on newsstands with freaking Beyonce’s freaking milestone birthday. Even if the covers themselves do not radiate joy in the way I had hoped. (More on that in the slideshow.)

Beyonce is, obviously, extremely smart. Her tight control of her image means it’s a Big Stonking Deal anytime she shows up on a cover, and so — much as she did with her British Vogue covers from November — she’s using the guaranteed furor to promote her latest Ivy Park collection in 24 total international issues of Harper’s, as well as jewelry from Tiffany’s, with which she and Jay-Z recently signed on to be ambassadors. And in the tradition Beyonce did actually start at Vogue with the 2018 cover she curated, she is doing it in her own words rather than turning the pen over to a profile writer. Here, it’s structured as a Q&A with… someone (I assume the intro’s author, Kaitlyn Greenidge), but one where her responses were clearly given in writing. Which is another form of control — and one I can relate to, as someone who expresses herself more confidently in print than out loud, and often needs that beat to sit and think — but there are some fun freewheeling-feeling bits where she refers to “[her] Virgo ass” and laughs at the idea of the young Beyonce being unable to go toe-to-toe with today’s version.

It’s a good read. I thought this, from a reflection upon her 20s, was an interesting portrait of an artist realizing she has the clout to follow her own instincts, especially when you consider how she’s done that since:

I remember being in a meeting discussing analytics, and I was told the research discovered that my fans did not like when my photography was black and white. They told me I wouldn’t sell if it wasn’t in color. That was ridiculous. It pissed me off that an agency could dictate what my fans wanted based on a survey. Who did they ask? How is it possible to generalize people this much? Are these studies accurate? Are they fair? Are all the people I’m trying to uplift and shine a light on included? They’re not. It triggered me when I was told, “These studies show…” I was so exhausted and annoyed with these formulaic corporate companies that I based my whole next project off of black and white photography, including the videos for “Single Ladies” and “If I Were a Boy” and all of the artwork by Peter Lindbergh for I Am…Sasha Fierce, which ended up being my biggest commercial success to date.

There’s something remarkable about the way she’s turned fame into something she experiences solely on her own terms, a path she has blazed so confidently despite the fact that it cannot be easy and must always feel tenuous. I’m curious what the next decade holds. She turns 50 in September 2031; Anna had better start bartering now.

[Photos by Campbell Addy; the September ICONS issue of Harper’s Bazaar is available on newsstands August 31]