By Noah Yoo.
On Friday night, Chrisette Michele performed at one of Donald Trump's official inaugural balls. The R&B singer was the subject of a public backlash leading up to and following her appearance. Director Spike Lee announced that he would not use her music in his upcoming Netflix series, and she was also criticized by former collaborator Questlove. She addressed them and other detractors in a song called “No Political Genius,” released yesterday. Now, Michele has given her first in-depth interview about her inaugural ball performance.
Speaking with Billboard, Michele said that she accepted the offer to perform immediately, with “no hesitation”:
I didn’t even think to say no. It didn’t cross my mind. 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. 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, so that was my reasoning. And no, I didn’t think twice about it.
Michele also addressed rumors that she accepted a $750,000 fee for her performance:
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. We sent in an offer for how much we charge and they said, ‘Well we don’t have that,’ and the first thing I thought then was how I sang for Barack Obama and Michelle Obama free of charge. This is not a money thing.
When asked by Billboard, "Did you perform at the ball for free?," she replied "No, I didn’t perform for free. One, it wasn’t $750,000, but my manager did negotiate my contract."
Michele also revealed her frustration at not getting to meet Trump himself:
Originally I was supposed to perform directly after his first speech, and I had done that with Barack Obama before, so I was used to that kind of experience. 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?" So no, I didn’t get to meet him... I know he has a lot of other things going on. I don’t know if, like Barack and Michelle, he’s listening to my album or that I’ll be on his summer playlist, so I don’t want to take it that way. I’d rather be optimistic and think that they’ll come another chance where I can talk to him. But I definitely did take the time enough to meet as many of the 60,000 people in the room as I could that night and begin to exchange information. And there were a lot of people who are excited to sit down and talk, who worked on his campaign.
She said that she's working on a television series, also titled "No Political Genius," which she describes to Billboard as "taking on the mission of speaking to congressmen and women, elected officials all around the country and then speaking to people just like me who don’t understand what they’re talking about, bring them our questions and get some answers on how we can move forward."
This story originally appeared on Pitchfork.
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