Thousands of teenagers were screaming, wailing for a beautiful, young woman -- a global pop star far from home who was spending a very special night backstage practicing her Japanese.
The beautiful, young woman is Beyonce Knowles, on tour in Tokyo.
On this night in September, she turned 25. That she chose to celebrate this day far from friends, family and home is just part of being Beyonce, we learned.
"I'm just now starting to get it -- balance," Knowles said. "I'm starting to learn to take care of myself, and usually, it's all or nothing. I work really, really hard, long hours, or I do absolutely nothing."
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And over the last few months of watching her behind the scenes, from Tokyo to Chicago, we never saw Knowles doing nothing.
We saw a major contender for the hardest-working woman in entertainment who endured grueling 15-hour days, a work ethic based on unrelenting pace.
"I was really exhausted when I was in Japan," she said.
But exhaustion is no excuse for Knowles.
"I know when people are in the audience they come to see -- they want to see -- a show. They want to live out their fantasies," Knowles said. "And I see when I am looking in the audience it doesn't matter how sad or how weak or whatever emotion they feel. For that two hours they think they are me. So they don't want to see something boring, so I give them a show."
Knowles is enjoying her success, but there is no doubt that she feels the weight of extraordinary pressures that are placed upon her and that she places on herself.
"Sometimes I feel like, because I give so much, people expect so much," she said. "And it doesn't matter if I hit the highest note for 10 minutes. People expect that."
The former lead singer of Destiny's Child has been in the spotlight since she was a teenager and has had to overcome ever more demanding obstacles. But Knowles says she relishes the challenge.
"I'm only 25, but I was 16 when we [Destiny's Child] had our first No. 1 single. So I've already had a 10-year career, and I still I haven't seen the best of myself, not in movies or in music," Knowles said. "I'm still growing, so that's really exciting when I think about that."
On the simplest level, Knowles quickly draws a crowd, and she can't help but notice the effect she has on people. But the once-shy little girl from Houston still finds the adulation stunning.
Folks weren't screaming when Knowles showed up at the Chicago Art Institute, but she sure created a stir.
The notoriously private and protected star sat down for an extended and candid talk.
Knowles says she created an alter ego named Sasha when she was a child to help her overcome her fears on stage.
"Sasha is so confident and is fearless and can do a lot of things that I can't do. She protects me," she said.
But Knowles had to leave Sasha at home to snag her latest movie role: the Diana Ross-inspired role of Deena in "Dreamgirls," which will open in theaters next month.
"I wanted to play Deena more than any character ever in a movie," Knowles said. "I have done a couple movies, and I have wanted to be a part of them but never even close to the passion that I felt for this character."
There was just one problem. Sasha, the alter ego Knowles relies on to perform, is confident and fearless; Deena, the character Knowles plays in "Dreamgirls" in the movie, was not.