Michelle Williams: Back to her gospel roots, with Destiny’s Child mates in tow
In Rockford, some people still call her by her first name, Tenitra. Around the world, she is known as Michelle.
As in Michelle Williams, one of the three voices of Destiny’s Child.
Destiny’s Child formed in 1990 in Houston but became a household name in the early 2000s when Williams joined original members Beyoncé Knowles and Kelly Rowland, and songs like “Say My Name,” “Survivor,” “Independent Women Part 1” and “Bootylicious” topped charts around the globe.
From 1997 to 2000, the Rockford native went from singing at Auburn High School to attending college and then singing backup for R&B artist Monica and attending the Grammy Awards with Knowles and Rowland.
From 2000 until 2006, Destiny’s Child grew into one of the best-selling female groups of all time. They won dozens of industry awards, toured the world and got a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. All the while, Williams pursued her own interests, which included gospel music and acting, and kept close ties to her family and friends in Rockford.
In June 2000, just as their star was rising, Knowles, Rowland and Williams — who goes by her middle name, Michelle — performed a special concert in Davis Park on Williams’ 21st birthday. In 2001, the three posed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.
Williams grew up singing at St. Paul Church of God in Christ, her uncle’s church on the southwest side. She was a lead singer and director for the West Middle School Inspirational and Martin Luther King Youth Unity choirs.
She released her debut solo album, “Heart to Yours,” in 2002. It became the biggest selling gospel album of the year.
In 2003, Williams won rave reviews as Toni Braxton’s replacement in Broadway’s “Aida” and released a second album of gospel music, “Do You Know?”
She went on to star in the television sitcom “Half & Half” and stage productions of “The Color Purple,” “Chicago,” “What My Husband Doesn’t Know” and “Fela!”
She released her fourth album, “Unexpected,” in 2008. Her latest album, “Journey to Freedom,” is due in September.
Williams makes it a point to give back to her community, returning often to speak to young people who idolize her as “a Rockford girl” who made it big.
Williams made special visits to West Middle and Auburn High schools in 2010, holding question-and-answer sessions with students and filming a video about the value of education.
“I sat where you sat, I walked the same halls that you did. … You can do what I do,” she was quoted in a Register Star article about her visit. “You can do it better, I’m sure.”
In 2013, Williams participated in the Alignment Rockford Academy Expo at the BMO Harris Bank Center, interacting with thousands of public school students. Williams posed for dozens of photos and answered their questions about singing and fame.
Also that year, Williams, Knowles and Rowland reunited for the Super Bowl halftime show. The performance spurred rumors that the group was getting back together.
That has yet to happen, but last month, the 33-year-old released a new single featuring Knowles and Rowland. “Say Yes” is an upbeat, Nigerian-inspired gospel tune.
It’s being called a mini-reunion because the three appear in the music video that Williams debuted June 17 on “Good Morning America.”
“Working together with Destiny’s Child again was amazing,” she said. “I am just so moved by this moment right now and to have my girls on there.”
Source: Rockford Register Star