After being lambasted by a large chunk of the active social media population last week over her decision to sing at the inauguration ball, Chrisette Michele performed (doing “Intentional” with Travis Greene), the inauguration came and went, and people moved on.
The backlash Michele felt then is something she’s still feeling now, even from her own family members. In an interview with Billboard, one of her first since she found herself swept up in controversy, the singer stated that she’d been disowned by some in her circle over her decision to perform. She also explained why she never thought about saying no to the invitation, cleared up whether or not she was payed $750,000, shared whose criticism hurt her, and admitted that she didn’t even get to meet Trump despite performing at his celebratory ball.
How She Ended up Accepting the Invitation to Perform:
When we got the phone call, and this may sound crazy, there was literally no hesitation. I turned my phone off. After seeing what happened to Jennifer Holliday, I literally turned my phone off because I knew if I was going to make any type of decision, I couldn’t be swayed left or right by what anybody thought. I had to just go with my own convictions. I changed my phone number also. I didn’t even think to say no. It didn’t cross my mind. The first thing I thought was that I have an opportunity to get in front of these people who don’t seem to understand who they’re talking to and show them what we look like. I felt automatically committed to making sure that I stood up for the women who’ve felt disrespected and the minorities who felt disrespected, communities that felt that they weren’t being heard or understood. I thought that it was almost my responsibility to not just say yes but to say yes with purpose, so that was my reasoning. And no, I didn’t think twice about it.
I’ll say that the backlash, I did personally feel, came from members of my extended family who decided that they didn’t want to speak to me anymore or support my family in supporting me. As far as social media goes, I didn’t really look at it much. The two biggest things that I did experience internally was two celebrities who I had much respect for: Questlove and Spike Lee. Those were kind of the two things that I took a look at.
On Her Hope to Use Her Art for Change:
I recently spoke at Harvard University about how we can use art for change. I sat with a lot of different folks in politics to see what can happen. So when I got the offer [to sing at the Inaugural Ball], the only thing I thought of was what I could do to fix this. We sent in an offer for how much we charge and they said, ‘Well we don’t have that,’ and the first thing I thought then was how I sang for Barack Obama and Michelle Obama free of charge. This is not a money thing.
Whether She Was Paid $750,000 to Perform Since Her Performance Was “Not a Money Thing”:
No, I didn’t perform for free. One, it wasn’t $750,000, but my manager did negotiate my contract.
How She Came up with Her Response to Her Critics in “No Political Genius”:
For the two days after the ball, I decided to take the weekend, turn my phone off, journal and just be quiet because it was so much noise. No one can hear if anyone is shouting. I went to bed when I got home, woke up at three o’clock in the morning, and all of a sudden all these words were just in my head. I spent maybe five or six hours writing down every word in my head. I didn’t get afraid of what I was saying or of offending anybody. I decided that if I was as affected by what was going on in politics as I was that it was my right to write about it. This past Sunday, I went into the studio and recorded five poems and a song. But it came to me out of nowhere and I had to record it.
On Not Meeting Trump During Festivities:
Originally I was supposed to perform directly after his first speech, and I had done that with Barack Obama before, so I was used to that kind of experience. And the woman who organized the event came and told me, “Now you’re going to go first and he’s going to go after you.” I looked her in the eye and said, “My family has disowned me. If you decide to Google me, you’ll see that America is writing about me in their newspapers. I’m the black poster child for discord right now, and he’s not going to shake my hand?” So no, I didn’t get to meet him.
If She Sees His Decision Not to Meet Her as an Insult:
I know he has a lot of other things going on. I don’t know if, like Barack and Michelle, he’s listening to my album or that I’ll be on his summer playlist, so I don’t want to take it that way. I’d rather be optimistic and think that they’ll come another chance where I can talk to him. But I definitely did take the time enough to meet as many of the 60,000 people in the room as I could that night and begin to exchange information. And there were a lot of people who are excited to sit down and talk, who worked on his campaign.
It seems that on Friday, Michele didn’t really fully accomplish what she set out to. However, I will admit that her performance with Greene was great, and she sounded exceptional as always. Still, one has to wonder if she truly believed it was worth it in the end.
Check out her full Billboard interview here and check out Michele and Greene’s very Black presentation of “Intentional” to a very White crowd at the inaugural ball below: