Beyoncé Knowles is only 21, but she's smart enough to learn from the mistakes of fellow songbirds who've tried acting. (Poor Mariah Carey still catches hell for that whole Glitter debacle!) That's why she's been taking small, but juicy roles opposite A-list stars like Mike Myers in Austin Powers in Goldmember and Cuba Gooding Jr. in The Fighting Temptations (opening Sept. 19).

"I didn't have the pressure of carrying the movie by myself," Knowles says of those flicks. "Before I do that, I want to make sure that I know exactly what I am doing."

Speaking of Hollywood heavyweights, the Destiny's Child frontwoman isn't talking about her rumored romance with "Crazy in Love" cohort Jay-Z. Of course, she's more than willing to plug her role in the gospel-infused Temptations. Okay, we'll bite. Why'd she choose this gig?

"It was important for people to know who I am, and that I am very different from who I am on stage," she insists. "And that I could show more of my range. I could wear no makeup, wear my hair in braids and be a regular person.

"I try to give the message for people to accept their imperfections and to love their bodies," she continues. "Basically, not to concentrate so much on it and to concentrate instead on your character and the person that you are, and the beauty shines through. That's why I wrote 'Bootylicious' and why I feel it is important to make movies like this, where you can show me not looking so thin and not looking so beautiful."

Oh, puh-leeze! That's hard to buy, coming from the lips of a runway-perfect pop star. But Beyoncé insists she's more down-to-earth than her glam public image suggests. "I like nice clothes," she admits. "[Especially] when I go out, because I have [paparazzi] taking pictures of me. I have to try to look alright, but if it takes more than five minutes, then it is not my thing."