Embattled R&B singer Chrisette Michele agreed to perform at President Trump's inauguration because she wanted to use her voice for change.
The 34-year-old vocalist — who has battled backlash since signing on for the inaugural gig — admits she didn't think twice about accepting the offer to sing on Trump's behalf, because she hoped to use her platform to send a message to the commander-in-chief.
"With the entire campaign experience, I think that many of us were wondering, 'Who is he talking to?'" Michele said Wednesday on New York's "The Breakfast Club" radio show. "You would hear something and you would say, 'Why does he think it's OK to talk to 'us' like that?' So I needed him to see what 'us' looked like because I was as confused as everyone."
Michele's decision to perform didn't just upset her fan base, however. Famed filmmaker Spike Lee responded with a vow to avoid using Michele's song "Black Girl Magic" in his upcoming Netflix series, "She's Gotta Have It."
Despite the scrutiny, Michele believes she had no choice but to take the stage in Washington.
"I'm the one who feels left out," she said on Wednesday's radio show. "I keep hearing him say, or the campaign trail say, 'For the people who feel like they don't belong or who feel like they're not being heard...' And I was saying, 'I don't know if we're being heard.' So I had to go. There was no hesitation."
Michele's "Breakfast Club" appearance comes a day after she revealed to Billboard that she didn't even get to meet Trump at the inauguration, despite the ridicule she suffered through to be there.
She was originally scheduled to take the mic after Trump's first speech, she recalled. But an organizer told her she would instead perform before the speech — leaving her without a chance to even shake Trump's hand.
"I looked her in the eye and said, 'My family has disowned me,'" Michele said. "'If you decide to Google me, you'll see that America is writing about me in their newspapers. I'm the black poster child for discord right now, and he's not going to shake my hand?' So no, I didn't get to meet him."
Michele served as a headliner for Trump's inaugural performance lineup that also included Toby Keith, 3 Doors Down and Jackie Evancho, who sang the national anthem.
|Chrisette Michele said she didn’t think twice about performing at the inauguration last week. (JACQUELYN MARTIN/AP)|
Chrisette Michele on Trump Inauguration backlash: “I stood up for the people who felt disrespected”
“I thought that it was almost my responsibility to not just say yes but to say yes with purpose.”
Chrisette Michele is still responding to the backlash she’s faced for performing at Donald Trump’s Inauguration held last Friday.
In a new interview with Billboard, the R&B singer expands on her initial hopes to “build a bridge” across a divided United States: “The first thing I thought was that I have an opportunity to get in front of these people who don’t seem to understand who they’re talking to and show them what we look like.”
She continues: “I felt automatically committed to making sure that I stood up for the women who’ve felt disrespected and the minorities who felt disrespected, communities that felt that they weren’t being heard or understood. I thought that it was almost my responsibility to not just say yes but to say yes with purpose.
“I recently spoke at Harvard University about how we can use art for change. I sat with a lot of different folks in politics to see what can happen. So when I got the offer [to sing at the Inaugural Ball], the only thing I thought of was what I could do to fix this.”
Despite putting her career on the line to perform, she did not get any face time with Trump. She was originally scheduled to sing after his Inauguration speech, but had her slot moved and, ultimately, did not get to meet him:
“Originally I was supposed to perform directly after his first speech… and the woman who organized the event came and told me, ‘Now you’re going to go first and he’s going to go after you.’ I looked her in the eye and said: ‘My family has disowned me. If you decide to Google me, you’ll see that America is writing about me in their newspapers. I’m the black poster child for discord right now, and he’s not going to shake my hand?'”
Michele’s music was recently cut from consideration for Spike Lee’s upcoming Netflix series adaptation of his debut feature film She’s Gotta Have It. The director wrote on Instagram: “I Wuz Sorry To Read That “Sistuh Girl” Is Singin’ At DT’s Inauguration (And To Use His Fav Word-SAD). I Wuz Thinkin’ ’bout Using Chrisette’s Song- BLACK GIRL MAGIC In My Netflix Series SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT…. NOT ANYMORE.”