Chloe Bailey’s recent tribute to Nina Simone caused quite a bit of conversation, when she performed the iconic late singer’s hit, “Feeling Good” as part of ABC’s Together We Triumph—A Soul of a Nation Special celebrating Juneteenth.
Despite Chloe’s seductive moves trending on Twitter, there was a deeper plot twist happening on the timeline. It all started when the official Twitter account for Nina’s estate tweeted a gif of Nina saying, “Eh girl, sit down!” (which has now been deleted) during the performance, seemingly a swipe at Chloe. RéAnna Simone Kelly, daughter of Nina’s daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, soon shifted the attention to Vice President Kamala Harris when she noted that the family isn’t actually in charge of the Twitter account.
“Nina’s granddaughter here. My family doesn’t run her estate anymore,” RéAnna tweeted on Thursday. “It was taken away from us & given to white people. Our family name was DRAGGED in the media. We get NO royalties, nothing. Wanna hold someone accountable? Ask Kamala Harris why she came for my family #NinaSimone.”
The Daily Beast’s Cheyenne Roundtree offered more insight into the background of Harris’ involvement:
The iconic jazz singer’s family gripe with Harris goes back to 2013, when Harris was serving as California’s Attorney General. After Simone’s death, Kelly was made the administrator of her estate, as well as a charitable trust that Simone had established. It was Simone’s last wish for the charity to support the musical education of Black children in Africa.
But in 2013, Kelly was accused of “breaching her fiduciary duty” to both the estate and trust, allegedly draining up to $2 million from its coffers, including a $1.5 million deposit into her personal company, according to court records reviewed by The Daily Beast.
Harris oversaw the case and came down hard on Kelly, at one point wanting to surcharge her nearly $6 million, plus more than $2.5 million in interest. Eventually, the parties came to an agreement: Kelly was stripped of her title of estate administrator and agreed to relinquish her rights to Simone’s works. She also was barred from saying or implying that she had any affiliation with her mother’s legacy and estate.
Following Kelly’s resignation as administrator, San Pasqual Fiduciary Trust Company was appointed special administrator of the estate and the firm also serves as trustee of Nina’s charitable trust.
In the Twitter thread, RéAnna claimed Harris’ actions caused financial and emotional turmoil for the family.
RéAnna also wanted to clear the air and note that she actually loved Chloe’s performance...and assured followers her grandmother would’ve, too.
“Everyone’s coming at @ChloeBailey for her performance… But what y’all don’t understand is that grandma was a free-spirited woman herself,” RéAnna wrote. “She would’ve loved that performance as much as I do! Relax. Chloe killed it.”
RéAnna’s mother Lisa also took to social media to praise Chloe’s performance and posted a video on Instagram responding to the “explosion” that transpired from her daughter’s tweets.
“While I may not be able to speak on certain things, those close to me who witnessed the happenings firsthand are choosing to step forward with the Truth,” Lisa captioned on IG. “Using this opportunity to educate my son @alexandersimoneofficial and my daughter, who are the future of the Simone Legacy. For those who believe everything they read in the media, you have been misled. There is an old adage: THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE. My smile is wide for freedom is at hand.”
The Root has reached out to a representative for Vice President Kamala Harris for comment on this matter.