Whether you're a member of the Beyhive or the most casual fan, odds are that you're aware of what sets Beyoncé apart from the average pop star: Her ability to put on a show. Whether it's at sold-out concerts around the world or award show performances that have been viewed millions of times, the singer's status as one of the greatest entertainers of our time has been cemented by her stage presence; by the way she tells a story through vocals, visuals, and mind-bending choreography; the way she completely and fully slays audiences to the point of hysterical shrieking, crying, gasping, and yes, even fainting.
And since 2007, a Beyoncé show has not been a Beyoncé show without the help of one person: Ashley Everett.
Since first auditioning for Beyoncé a decade ago, Everett is now the longest-standing dancer on Bey's team — and her dance captain, a well-known performer in her own right with a cult following, easily recognisable onstage thanks to her red curls. (Which, by the way, started as a lighter colour in 2009, until Queen Bey admired the look in a rehearsal and asked if she'd consider a slightly brighter shade. The fiery hue has been Everett's signature since.)
As I drive down a palm-tree lined street of Los Angeles's Valley Village one April morning — my rental car windows down, blasting "Freedom" at full volume into the particular kind of crisp blue sky that seems to be saved solely for the city of L.A. — I search for the home Everett shares with her fiancé, John Silver. I scan each street, looking for the sprawling mansion the head backup dancer of the world's most recognisable entertainer must live in. Instead, I pull up outside a charming apartment building; Everett is standing on a lawn of bright green grass in fuzzy black slippers and cobalt workout pants (Ivy Park, of course) with her rescue dog, Future. I can see her bright smile from across the street, so when I approach her for a hug, I'm surprised that she's a bit reserved — timid, almost, returning my embrace with a gentle pat before shyly asking if I'm okay with Future sniffing my calves.
Later, this will all make sense: There's a clear difference between the Ashley Everett who saunters on stage in heels and bodysuits in front of hundreds of thousands of fans, and the Ashley Everett who walks her dog through her quiet neighbourhood on a Thursday morning with little fuss or fanfare.
"What some people don't realise is that when you’re a performer — whether that's a singer or actress or dancer — you’re playing a character," Everett says. "When I'm working, I'm a completely different person. That's Ashley onstage, and she's very different than the person y'all see here, with no makeup, thinking about what she wants to eat for brunch."
It's time to officially get acquainted with the latter.