The 'real Lady A' speaks out about Lady Antebellum lawsuit: 'If you're going to be an ally, sometimes you have to give up something'

Lyndsey Parker
·Editor in Chief, Yahoo Music

Anita White — the Seattle blues singer known as Lady A who was thrust into the national spotlight last month when Lady Antebellum adopted the same name in a bungled attempt to “practice antiracism” and align themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement — is continuing to speak out, after the country trio recently filed a lawsuit to share the name with her.

In a July 8 statement, the band surprisingly put the onus on White — a Black woman who has performed under the Lady name for two decades — saying they were “disappointed” that their negotiations fell through after several “heartfelt discussions” and claiming that she had “demanded a $10 million payment” for sole use of the name. But in a new interview with Showtime’s late night comedy show Desus & Mero, White has told her side of the story. “It’s ironic that they want to be woke, but at the same time, you only want to be partially woke,” she said Tuesday evening, appearing from her home via Zoom.

White, a 62-year-old independent artist who has been “grinding before they [Lady Antebellum] were born,” told hosts Desus Nice and the Kid Mero that when Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott first reached out to her (after White’s Rolling Stone interview about the name-poaching caught the band’s attention), she immediately made it clear that she did not want to share the name.

“What does ‘coexistence’ look like? Nobody would answer that specific question,” White said. “I don’t see how coexistence is going to work,” White said. “Because as soon as you put a CD out as Lady A, you’re going to wipe me off social media. You’re going to wipe me off Amazon, iTunes and Spotify. I was very specific about what it is that would happen. So, I needed specifics as to how this was going to work, because they kept saying, ‘Oh, don’t worry, you're not going to get buried. Don’t worry about it. You’re not going to get buried.’ So, then we go to contracts. We get a contract from them. It says, ‘We’re going to give you our best efforts to make sure you don’t disappear.’”

That vague and seemingly noncommittal language didn’t work for White, so she told Desus & Mero that she tried to offer a “reasonable” compromise: that she and the country trio continue to work respectively under the differentiated monikers “Lady A the Artist” and “Lady A the Band.” However, this suggestion, she claimed, was met with “crickets” — as was a suggestion that the band’s management company, Red Light Management, take on White as a client to help her “rebrand.”

“Black people, indigenous people, people of color — we’ve had our artistry, our music, our language, our culture and our names taken from us. You can’t continue to take from us. Because if you’re going to be an ally, you need to put some power behind your words. If you’re going to be an ally, sometimes you have to give up something,” White declared.

“Not to get too deep, but it’s kind of a parallel of how Black people are treated by America. The idea of how the erasure and just things, that you don’t matter until you can help them in some way,” said Nice. “And just even the idea, to even get further, the fact that they’re trying to steal your name and they clearly did not know your history — because it’s not just you’re a singer. You’re an active activist out here. You’ve made songs about Trayvon Martin. You’ve made songs about George Floyd. You’ve been out in the streets. You’ve been doing the work. And for them, that’s what makes it more egregious — the fact that you put so much work in building your brand, doing work in the community, and they’re just going to come and just squash it.”

White acknowledged that this is a David-and-Goliath situation, emphasizing, “Just because I don’t have 40,000 fans, the 4,000 I have, or the 400 I have — or I wouldn’t care if I only had four! — they mean something to me, because they helped me get where I am today.” White’s producer and adviser, John Oliver III, who also appeared on the Showtime program remotely, chimed in regarding the possibility that the country trio might actually have a case and ultimately prevail in court, since their suit claims says the group started using both the Lady Antebellum and Lady A names around 2007 and registered “Lady A” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in July 2011 with no opposition.

“My response to that is Lady A cannot lose, because you know why? We are Black people. We are people of color. This fight doesn’t end with this suit,” Oliver said. “Even if she loses the trademark dispute or whatever, she’s won the war because she’s standing up for injustice. So the next generations that come after us, they are gonna know to stand up.”

White is going to keep grinding: Just four days ago, on her 62nd birthday, she celebrated by releasing a new album, Live in New Orleans, under the name Lady A. White ended her Desus & Mero interview by saying, “I am the real Lady A” and rolling up the sleeve of her “I’m Not Angry” T-shirt to reveal a Lady A tattoo on her left shoulder. “That’s the trademark, right there,” Nice quipped.

Yahoo Entertainment has reached out to the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum for comment.

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