I’ll preface this article with a full admission that I was never a diehard Chrisette Michele fan. Like many in the culture, I noted her as an undisputed vocalist who could sing sing, resting comfortably at the table with other current singers who sang sang. You know, the unofficial Award Show Tribute Collective founded by the likes of Tamia, Faith Evans, Yolanda Adams, KEM, Jazmine Sullivan, Ledisi and others. Singers whose vocal abilities were undeniable yet for some reason, despite their talent, they never got our full attention or made it to the mainstream realm of celebrity occupied by the likes of Rihanna, Beyoncé or Bruno Mars. Again, never loved the girl, but I respected her and gave (and still give) consistent props to her vocals.
Like a good portion of black folks who were slightly tuned into the Trump inauguration festivities, my “like” for Chrisette Michele quickly morphed into side eyes, disbelief and WTF, as we the people watched the notoriously woke and insert any other adjective typically tied to one’s level of blackness and commitment to the movement, belt out a gospel hit in celebration of one of the most racist and bigoted men to take the Oval Office. And just like that, Chrisette Michele was abruptly escorted from the cookout and hasn’t been invited back since.
I’ll be honest, in the nearly two years following her inauguration performance, I really didn’t think about Michele. Shade unintended, but again, I don’t check for her to almost any degree. That all changed when I read this Washington Post article, a “where are they now” of sorts on the singer since her fateful 2017 performance. In a nutshell, sis has been going through it: a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, suicide contemplations and a miscarriage she alleges was due in part to the onslaught of stress tied to the harsh criticism she received following her performance. Oh, and then there’s her concerts which, on a good night, now fill barely half of the theaters she used to sell out.
Listen, I’m all for casting out those who don’t have our best interests in mind, particularly when 45 is involved, but this one doesn’t seem to be the case. At its core, we have an incredibly naïve woman who made a very bad mistake, and with time (and therapy) has seemingly learned from her wrongs. She said it in her own words that she thought her performance was “a bridge.” A bridge to what? I’m still thinking on that one, but still, sis really thought she was doing some good with the shenanigans. Did the $75,000 the Trump administration paid her make the decision to perform a little easier? I’m sure it did. Were the writings of discord already etched onto the wall when veteran performer Jennifer Holliday erected a Baptist finger and moonwalked herself right on out of the performance line-up? Yup. Did posting a fake miscarriage photo help? Not a bit. And did Chrisette’s intentional salute to blackness courtesy of her Basquiat skirt only fuel a self-induced fire? Sho ‘nuff did. But even stupidity deserves to be forgiven in select instances. And, in her own defense, she did tell us she was “no political genius,” therefore we shouldn’t have expected too much in the first place.
What’s life without a good comeback story? The girl has acknowledged her wrongdoing and is really trying to rebuild her life, and *pauses to put on corny hat* do her part to make the world a better place. What’s the harm in the rest of us getting on board? If R. Kelly can sodomize young women and still sell out shows and Whoopi Goldberg can rebound from that whole Ted Danson blackface thing, then surely we can give Chrisette Michele a one-time, don’t make us regret it, comeback pass. We’ve forgiven and turned a blind eye to others for far less; others who have actually, drastically impacted us, the culture, in the worst of ways. Chris Brown punched a black woman. Bill Cosby drugged women for sport for more than 30 decades. Fabolous (allegedly) played boxing with his wife’s face. James Brown endorsed Robert Nixon. Jamal Bryant (allegedly) had sex with nearly every woman in his congregation and somehow kept his pastoral seat. See my point?
Let us not forgot, Michele didn’t perform alone. Her co-performer, gospel singer Travis Greene (who is also a black man) came out of this ordeal essentially unscathed, even though it was his song that was performed. This leaves one to believe Michele took the hits for several others who were involved in the fiasco. Did anyone boycott the Abundant Life Choir who provided the background vocals? I suppose the Jesus folks get a pass because you know, favor ain’t fair. Side Note: It hasn’t gone unnoticed that the majority of the aforementioned and 90 percent of the black community’s “second chance” passes have gone to black men, but that’s a whole other article on the perks of black male privilege, so I digress.
I have to be honest, it was the Post’s photo of the one-fourth full theater that really pulled at my heartstrings. Twenty tickets sold, on a good night, is just mean. At the end of the day, do we really want people contemplating ending their lives because of one bad decision, particularly when Kanye West is out here slanging MAGA hats, and Bobby Valentino considers himself a serious contender for the “King of R&B.” Let’s point our anger here. There are real fights to be fought, and the ostracizing of Chrisette Michele is not one of them.