Chrisette Michele Talks Trump Backlash
Chrisette Michele is opening up about some of the backlash she’s received over her decision to perform at Donald Trump’s Inaugural Ball. Check out a few excerpts.
Backlash from Spike Lee:
I was so saddened by Spike Lee’s comments because he’s somebody that I look up to in our community. Now that I’m working on my own show, I’m looking to him, so he’s the one I’m supposed to be able to come to and say, ‘Ok, Spike, you understand my city, where I’m from, my world, show me how to do this.’
Why she decided 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.
Backlash from family and Questlove:
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.
What her thoughts were throughout Trump’s campaign:
I’ll start by saying that I have a lot of activists, a lot of people who are Black Panthers, in my family, I’ve got a lot of people who marched, and watching these marches and watching the older people in my family have to experience [these times] was, for lack of a better word, traumatizing. I called my mom asking if she was upset by looking at [young people protesting] and I asked, ‘How devastating is it for you to have to watch this?’ And my mom almost gave me what I felt like was a blessing. She said, ‘Now it’s your turn.’ And while I was so upset that I had to have a turn to do what she already did, I took that and ran with it.
If she performed at the Ball for free:
No, I didn’t perform for free. One, it wasn’t $750,000, but my manager did negotiate my contract.
If she was able to meet President Trump:
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 took not meeting Trump as a slap in the face:
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.
Her reaction to the Women’s March:
It was the most heartwarming feeling that I’d had all week. I’d felt so disappointed but when I saw all the pink hats and when I saw Alicia Keys, Janelle Monae and Madonna, I felt like we’re gonna be OK. We’re gonna figure this thing out.
How she would suggest others do to cope for the next four years:
I challenge everybody to put their phone down for an hour twice a week. Spend one hour reading a newspaper and spend hour watching the real news. And when you do that without your phone, without opinions, I want you to journal what you think. See what you can fix, and if you can’t fix something, find somebody who can.