By Ruth Kinane
August 06, 2018 at 12:14 PM EDT
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Beyoncé is getting personal.

The superstar opens up about everything from motherhood and her body to her performance goals for her Vogue September cover story.

“I was 218 pounds the day I gave birth to Rumi and Sir,” the singer tells Vogue in captions that accompany photos taken by 23-year-old Tyler Mitchell — the first black photographer to shoot the cover of Vogue in the magazine’s 125-year history — for the its acclaimed September issue. “I was swollen from toxemia and had been on bed rest for over a month. My health and my babies’ health were in danger, so I had an emergency C-section.”

Tyler Mitchell for Vogue

Knowles goes on to reveal that she then spent weeks in the NICU after the birth of twins Rumi and Sir, and that husband Jay-Z was a “soldier” who provided her with a strong support system while she recovered. As well as giving the singer a new appreciation for parents who have been through similar experiences, the emergency surgery changed the way she viewed her body and weight-loss goals. “After the C-section, my core felt different,” she explains. “I needed time to heal, to recover. During my recovery, I gave myself self-love and self-care, and I embraced being curvier. I accepted what my body wanted to be.” Rather than race to reclaim her former figure, Knowles took her time preparing for Coachella, temporarily becoming vegan and giving up alcohol, coffee and fruit drinks. “I was patient with myself and enjoyed my fuller curves,” she says. “My kids and husband did, too.”

Her family members weren’t the only ones enjoying her new curvier shape — Knowles herself was ready to embrace the change in her body. “To this day my arms, shoulders, breasts, and thighs are fuller,” she says. “I have a little mommy pouch, and I’m in no rush to get rid of it. I think it’s real. Whenever I’m ready to get a six-pack, I will go into beast zone and work my ass off until I have it. But right now, my little FUPA and I feel like we are meant to be.”

Believing it’s important for women and men to appreciate their natural beauty, the Grammy-winner opted to keep things stripped-down for her Vogue photos. “I think it’s important for women and men to see and appreciate the beauty in their natural bodies,” she said. That’s why I stripped away the wigs and hair extensions and used little makeup for this shoot.”

Tyler Mitchell for Vogue

“It’s important to me that I help open doors for younger artists,” Knowles says, reflecting on the changes in the industry over the past 21 years. “There are so many cultural and societal barriers to entry that I like to do what I can to level the playing field, to present a different point of view for people who may feel like their voices don’t matter.” She goes on to add that people in powerful position can’t continue to only hire those that look and sound like them, if they hope to have a “greater understanding of experiences different from their own.”

When it did come time to prep for Coachella, Knowles had a clear vision of what she wanted her performance to be and include. “I was so specific because I’d seen it, I’d heard it, and it was already written inside of me,” she says, explaining how she’d been singing the black national anthem to Rumi and decided to incorporate it in her performance. “In the show at the time I was working on a version of the anthem with these dark minor chords and stomps and belts and screams,” she says. “After a few days of humming the anthem, I realized I had the melody wrong. I was singing the wrong anthem.” Making the change to the correct anthem, turned out to be deeply gratifying for the star as she “felt pure joy shining down” when performing it. “I know that most of the young people on the stage and in the audience did not know the history of the black national anthem before Coachella,” says Knowles. “But they understood the feeling it gave them. It was a celebration of all the people who sacrificed more than we could ever imagine, who moved the world forward so that it could welcome a woman of color to headline such a festival.”

Knowles rounds off the as-told-to story by reflecting on motherhood and her own legacy. “As the mother of two girls, it’s important to me that they see themselves too — in books, films, and on runways,” she says. “It’s important to me that they see themselves as CEOs, as bosses, and that they know they can write the script for their own lives—that they can speak their minds and they have no ceiling.” She has similar hopes for her son, hoping he knows he can “be strong and brave but that he can also be sensitive and kind” and that he possesses a “high emotional IQ where he is free to be caring, truthful, and honest” since that is “everything a woman wants in a man, and yet we don’t teach it to our boys.”

“I’m in a place of gratitude right now,” concludes the superstar. “I am accepting of who I am. I will continue to explore every inch of my soul and every part of my artistry. I want to learn more, teach more, and live in full.”

Read the Vogue September issue cover story in full here.

The September 2018 issue of Vogue is available for preorder on Amazon and will arrive on newsstands in New York City and Los Angeles on Aug. 14, before going nationwide Aug. 21.