If Tina Knowles-Lawson were to begin a letter of gratitude to her late mother, Agnes Beyoncé, she would begin by saying, ‘Thank you for your prayers.’
“I really feel like my children and I and my grandchildren are living off my momma’s prayers,” a forever grateful, Miss Tina begins. “That was the best example she ever gave me.”
A devoted mother, grandmother, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Tina Knowles-Lawson was raised in Galveston, Texas and is the youngest of seven children. Extremely active and outgoing as an adolescent, Miss Tina enjoyed dancing and singing, which prompted her to form the singing group, the Veltones. It was during that time that the skills of the future fashion designer started to take shape as she and her mother designed all of the costumes. Although underprivileged, Miss Tina’s mother exposed her and her six siblings to many experiences, that were all free.
“When I was about 14, my brother’s girlfriend, who was older than me, came into my life and it just about changed my world because she started taking me places. It opened a new world for me. It made me want my world to be bigger,” says Lawson. An aspiring fashion designer, the cultural exposure fueled Miss Tina’s dream of relocating to Los Angeles, New York, or somewhere she deemed more glamorous than her beach town.
Observing the generosity of her mother engendered inspiration and imitation. “My mother just got so much joy out of doing nice things for other people and that’s contagious because I saw the joy that it brought to other people,” says Lawson. A successful hairstylist and salon owner in Houston, not only did Miss Tina provide beauty transformations, but she created an environment built on the foundation of community, support and sharing knowledge. It was more than a salon; it was a healing place.
After witnessing the devastating affects of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, Miss Tina, along with Mathew Knowles, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Solange Knowles and Kelly Rowland, formed the Survivor Foundation, a charitable entity set up for the purpose of providing transitional housing for Hurricane Katrina victims and storm evacuees who settled in the Houston, Texas area. Miss Tina’s initial plan of action was to purchase a motel and provide lodging for victims while they actively searched for employment and/or schooling. However, after partnering with her minister, Pastor Rudy Rasmus, who rallied the community starting with members of St. John’s Church, they raised enough money to build the Knowles-Temenos Place, in March 2006. The mission is to provide affordable housing opportunities, supportive services and employment resources to low-income persons on their journey to self-sufficiency. Recently the City of Houston funded the development of a second tenement, an 85 unit building to help even more families in transition. Miss Tina hopes that this is a movement to inspire others to do the same.
In the summer of 2016, Louisiana again experienced another catastrophic disaster, this time a flood that affected Baton Rouge businesses, homes and infrastructure that caused displacement, but not wide press exposure.
“I saw it on TV and I thought, ‘my God! This is horrible!’ I went out of the country and I came back and it just disappeared off the radar and I didn’t hear anything else about,” says Lawson.
The scarce media attention prompted Miss Tina, Essence Magazine’s president Michelle Ebanks and a representative from Time magazine to fly to Baton Rouge to observe the calamity caused by the floods for themselves. To boost the morale of the capital, Miss Tina, along with Essence Magazine, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge, Beyoncé’s BeyGOOD, Nike and Gucci partnered with the City of Baton Rouge in hosting a pre-Thanksgiving and awards dinner for over 800 Baton Rouge residents.
“It was good to lift the morale and for the people to know that they’re cared about. It was the best Thanksgiving blessing to me,” says Lawson.
And her giving has extended to her adopted home of Los Angeles, California. With her husband, actor and acting coach, Richard Lawson, Miss Tina’s latest philanthropic initiative is the launch of the non-profit WACO Theater Center in Los Angeles. The WACO Theater Center is dedicated to the empowerment of artists within a diversified pool of LA communities. Its founders’ mission is to create a space Where Art Can Occur. The launch will kick off with the first annual Wearable Art Gala. The charitable event is set to take place at the California African American Museum (CAAM) on Saturday, April 29, 2017 in Los Angeles.
The Gala will introduce WACO Theater Center’s community mentorship programs, which includes Tina’s Angels, a platform that focuses on the education and empowerment of girls. It is a year long program that emphasizes the importance of proper etiquette, dental and personal hygiene and exposure to arts and culture.
“Sometimes in people’s lives they just don’t have anyone they feel really cares about them. You don’t have to do anything big. You don’t have to have a lot of money. It’s the thought that counts. It’s not about how much money you spend or how much you give,” says Miss Tina. “My prayer for Tina’s Angels is that other people will start mentoring programs because it’s just so important to have mentors. The whole program is based on providing those experiences that will make the girls have a bigger and better life, and ultimately want more for themselves.”
For more information on WACO, including the Gala and Tina’s Angel mentoring program, visit www.wacotheatercenter.com/events/gala and
For more on Miss Tina, please follow her on instagram.
WORDS BY SHEAN ENGLAND