Michelle Williams experienced a challenging end to 2018. In December of last year, less than five months after sharing that she felt better upon seeking treatment for depression, the “We Break the Dawn” singer revealed that she and her fiancé, pastor Chad Johnson, ended their engagement. Days later, Williams took a leave of absence from the Broadway production of Once On This Island on doctors’ orders.
“What better way than to emerge and say, ‘I’m taking my power back, I’m getting my strength back,’ ” Williams, 40, tells PEOPLE. ” ‘I’m going to be okay and start knocking these obstacles out.’ “
Though she lost to Thingamajig during the smackdown round, Williams feels partially relieved to have her identity revealed. “It feels so good because I don’t have to lie,” she says. “I’ve been lying to my friends and family and the world since September!”
Williams shares how she felt throughout her Masked Singer journey, whether she plans to continue singing, and getting confused with the Fosse/Verdon actress who shares her same name.
Why was The Masked Singer the right choice for your return to the spotlight?
In my time away, I didn’t have to be on. I didn’t have to sit in the hair and makeup chair and turn into this entertainer. [With Masked Singer] I just felt like I was literally going onto the set, nobody knows it’s me and having a blast just being me. That’s what I will take into every situation is to be me, and whoever’s for me, you’re going to be there for me. Opportunities will be there for me being me.
How was your mental health going into the show?
I was stable enough, but still a little fragile, but thinking that this is going to give me some strength. Because you can’t stay in your cocoon forever, you’ve got to come out.
You talked on the show about feeling insecure in your voice. What made you feel that way?
It’s been that way for a long time. I remember growing up in church and how there was a lot of use with me there. I was very active in my church, very active with various choirs and groups and leading things and teaching at a very young age and sometimes you come into the entertainment world and they don’t appreciate that about you. Of course, I come into a group that already existed, it’s not like I’m a founding member, so it’s kind of like I’ve already got an “X” on my back. That insecurity started 20 years ago, if I’m being honest. And it just builds and builds because I feel like, I’m never going to be able to please anybody. Until you can get to a place where you’re like, “The people that are for me are for me, they buy my music, they support the shows that I do,” it might take you a while to get to that point.
Did you feel like you weren’t able to fully be yourself when you were sharing the stage with others in Destiny’s Child or Broadway?
No. The good thing about being in a group is that you do have other people to lean on. Being in a group we had fun between the three of us. We had a good time and that translates into the relationship that we have with one another today almost 20 years later.
Were you surprised the panelists suspected you were Kelly Rowland?
When you’ve been hanging around somebody for 20 years, no matter if I deny it or not, they’re looking at me like, “Girl!” Last night under my Instagram, Kelly called me out by my entire government name. I responded back. I said, “Kelly, you know we girls are the queens of secrets of reveals.” I want her to do the show! I actually hope that she gets the opportunity. I know her schedule has been bonkers, so I hope she does it.
Have any other famous friends been in touch? Solange or Beyoncé?
Those are my girls! I love them to the moon. I can’t wait to see them. I head to L.A. on Sunday night.
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What’s next for you?
I’m doing a limited run in a show called A Snow White Christmas. I go from being the Butterfly on The Masked Signer to being the wicked queen in A Snow White Christmas. We’ll be in Pasadena Dec. 13-22 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Right now we’re in Raleigh, North Carolina, until this Sunday.
What did you learn about yourself from doing The Masked Singer?
I learned that sometimes we can let our fears cloud how strong we actually are. The majority of the time the stuff that plays in our head is lies. Lies can rob you of your strength. I also learned to not make permanent decisions out of temporary feelings. I don’t know if I want to perform again. Of course, I’ll do theater and all that stuff but do I really want to be an artist full-time? I want to make sure if the answer is no, that the reasoning behind it is not because of feeling like you’re not wanted in the industry. It has to be because you know you can go on and do something greater.
Does that mean you’re still figuring out your next steps in terms of music?
I’m definitely trying to figure things out musically. I know the way we used to do music years ago, you can’t really do it anymore. It doesn’t have to be: okay, every two years you have to release music. If I want to get up in the middle of the night and write a song to a track and release it the next day or two days later, you can do that. You might be the type of free spirit where you’ll be [on social media] like, “Hey you guys, I’m about to release a song tomorrow.”
Have you been feeling the love on social media since the unmasking?
I want to thank you all so much for the support and the love. That’s what we need is more love and if it’s moments like this that show people, love, keep The Masked Singer on forever. I had one person who told me that I found a new fan in them. Hopefully I turned some naysayers to believers. And I’m hoping people were inspired and encouraged and say, “Okay, she’s not just Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child. That’s Michelle Williams.” In parenthesis, the black one.
Do people confuse you and the other Michelle Williams a lot?
Yes! Especially when it’s Oscar time or Emmy time I get all the tags. Or if she’s been fabulous on the red carpet, various bloggers or publications will tag me. I just go right along with it. Sometimes I’ll respond and say, “Thank you soo much! I love that outfit she has on but it’s the wrong Michelle.” And they just laugh and say, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!” I think she went to a Stevie Wonder concert and they were expecting me to show up but it was her that showed so they were like, “Its’ okay Michelle, come on in!” That would be a fun little gag to do if we ever get to do something based off of our names. It would really be hilarious on like Jimmy Fallon, something like that. Hopefully that could be something fun.
The Masked Singer will air back-to-back nights next Tuesday and Wednesday (8 p.m. ET) on Fox.