Michelle Williams’ five life advice tips:
In female-only singing groups, respect matters.
“As far as being in the group [Destiny’s Child], the girls and I have never had an argument because there is respect there. I’m not a morning person so don’t talk to me for like two hours in the morning, while Kelly’s favourite colour is purple, so if the stylist pulls a dress and there is a purple one on the rack, I’m not going to be petty and grab the purple dress. Coming up we all knew there was a bigger picture because we had so many great examples of female groups not working out. Our goal was to be successful and be world changers, and the thing that kept us together was respect.”
Build a strong network
“A friend of mine who was going on tour with [90s R&B singer] Monica found my number one day and called me. I told him that if Monica ever needed a background singer to let me know, a week or two later he calls and says she’s having auditions, come along.” After getting the gig with Monica, who was touring with Destiny’s Child at the time, Michelle made an introduction to the ladies and auditioned, then got the call to say she was joining Destiny’s Child and invited to sing Say My Name on the video set…and the rest is history!
Branching out on your own is scary but worthwhile
“Becoming a solo artist was the scariest thing in the world. My first single on my solo record was ‘Heard a Word’ and I remember having a moment, I was in Tina’s [Knowles, Beyonce’s mother] hair salon, scared and literally crying in her lap and she was just rubbing my head, telling me it was going to be fine. Because I had always been in groups coming up with two or three other people, but at the same time I was able to grow and do my own thing, singing solo.”
How to deal with race/ identity and the challenges it brings in the music business
“I’ve definitely be told to stick to certain muic. If I wanted to do a certain style of music I would be told well, African-American women do soul music, they don’t do well [achieve sucess] doing pop music, but I love everyone from Rod Stewart to Chaka Khan so it was hard for me to hear that feedback. But I ignored it and did a pop album anyway!
Also as an artist I’ve had to deal with being on the road with another artist who just got signed or hasn’t sold as many records as you but because they are a different colour they are making more money than you, or they are in the better hotel- it was little things like that I discovered and it was disheartening.”
Dealing with depression
“I’ve been dealing with depression since about the age of 14-15-years-old, but at the time I didn’t know it was called that, I thought it was just growing pains. Then as years went on, not dealing with things that I had experienced- it came to a head when I got into my 30s and it is something that I don’t mind sharing because we don’t talk about mental health issues, we sweep it under the rug.
I remember telling an ex-manager 10 years ago, ‘Hey, I think I’m depressed’ but they were like ‘Why are you depressed you just went on tour, you signed this amazing contract, what are you talking about?’ So that made me think ‘Oh, you are right, I’m just sad today’. But then I realised it was more than that and I decided that I needed to see someone, talk about it, get therapy and heal from it – and it was the best decision I made, and it’s a day to day process.”
Michelle was talking as part of an interview at #WOWApollo, the Women of The World Festival in Harlem, NYC.
Photo credit: Shahar Azran
Article credit: Empowering Women