Michelle Williams: Independent Woman

By Teryl Warren

Photo by Derek Blanks

When the members of Destiny’s Child announced the trio would be going their separate ways, R&B fans mourned the end of one of the most electrifying chapters in music history.  But independence, as the world soon discovered, can be a very good thing. Fresh off a successful stint in the hit show Fela and with a new album on the way, Michelle Williams reflects fondly on the past and is poised for, perhaps, an even brighter future.

“I’ve taken control of me again – of my confidence in being a woman,” she said. “Sometimes you can give too much of yourself to other people – trying to be what they want you to be. But I’ve taken [myself] back, and I’m determined to be honest and not compromise.”

Energetic, gracious and probably one of the funniest people you’ll ever meet, Michelle Williams is the type of girlfriend you want in your corner through thick and thin.  When chatting with her, it’s easy to forget that she is one-third of one of the most successful music groups of all time. But as she candidly explained, “success” is truly a matter of perspective.

“I have to say, the ‘success’ and whatever comes with that, is nice because you get to see the results of all the hard work you put in. But I like to leave the work at work. When I’m done, I just like to be normal,” she shared. “To this day, I will pump my own gas or go to the grocery store by myself. I don’t think about being a celebrity.”

Aptly titled Journey to Freedom, Michelle’s new album slated for release in early 2014 is a deeply personal reflection of the singer-actress’ trek from a small town in the Midwest to superstardom and beyond.

Photo by Derek Blanks

“I’ve grown so much and I’m much more confident in my spirituality. With this new project, I really wanted to share my own journey to freedom – to be free from what people pay you, what they think of you, and to inspire people to accept the amazing person we’ve each been created to be,” she told us. “Before we started the album, I had a revelation. I wanted to get back to the place to where I used to be. I didn’t ask my parents if I could join Destiny’s Child, I just did it. That’s what I encourage everyone to do. If you don’t believe in your gifts and just do it, you won’t reach the potential you’re supposed to.”

The first single off the album “If We Had Your Eyes” – produced by hit-maker Harmony Samuels – combines Michelle’s signature soaring vocals and sensual production with lyrics that challenge listeners to see the world  through a lens of compassion.

“I grew up under a strict Pentecostal upbringing, and I know that sometimes religious traditions can overtake our personal relationship with God. Working with songwriters and producers like Warryn Campbell and Tommy Simms helped me balance out the message on this album.  You don’t have to shove the Bible down people’s throat to talk about God. We’re all human. We get hurt and we go through joyous times, so let’s just talk about life.”

When not in the recording studio, Michelle has also kept busy lending her voice to the growing movement to raise awareness about mental health issues – particularly in the African-American community.  According to a recent report from the U.S. Office of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Mental Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites. Yet, the issue of mental health is still very much stigmatized.

Photo by Derek Blanks

“In our culture, we’re not taught about mental health. We dismiss it and we just don’t deal with it.  I grew up thinking therapy was for crazy people.  But sometimes we have unresolved issues and it may take a licensed professional to help us deal with them,” she confided. “We’re crazy if we don’t seek out help. There’s no point in us wearing some Jimmy Choo shoes and being crazy. A man isn’t marrying your feet! I want to be the best wife and parent I can be, someday, but I have to be healthy to do that.”

Bold, beautiful and brutally honest to boot, Michelle Williams is navigating new waters in her career and in life – unafraid, and on her own terms.  And as she travels along, her hope is that each of us will be inspired, as well, to enjoy our own sense of satisfaction.

“Take time out to learn about yourself.  Dig deep and once you get free, you’ll see that life can really be beautiful, despite the fact you may not have all the material things you may want,” she advises. “Change your mind and you can change your life. The first thought in your mind, each day, will determine your destiny.”


Order Michelle Williams’ single “If We Had Your Eyes” on iTunes today!


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