Michelle Williams has been reaching out to the gay community like Barack Obama has been reaching out to the Right. The former Destiny’s Child diva has endless YouTube videos shouting out the gays, and there’s even a Michelle look-a-like contest, which will surely bring in the drag queens. She also performed during NYC Pride weekend at gay club Splash with a dance troupe of shirtless, hunky men.
Yes, Miss Williams wants our support, and she’s willing to lose her breath for it! Her upcoming album, “Unexpected,” is pure pop, demanding us to dance till dawn. In fact, “We Break the Dawn,” the album’s first single, gave the successful gospel artist her first #1 hit on the Billboard dance charts.
In this one-on-one interview, Williams breaks down her love affair with gays, playing bi, and how to battle a Beyoncé drag queen.
What can your gay fans expect from “Unexpected”?
Expect just fierceness all the way through! Expect to dance; just expect Michelle Williams coming out in her own way. I’m having a ball. Expect a side of Michelle that maybe some always knew existed, and they just couldn’t wait to see it. Expect a classic album.
You, Beyoncé and Kelly have done gay press for your solo records, but despite your gay following, there wasn’t really any gay press while you were Destiny’s Child. Why didn’t you reach out to the gay community as a group?
I have no idea. I don’t have an answer for that, honestly. I’m not giving you a politically correct answer. Although we knew we had gay fans. We saw that at the shows — they were living! Some of the music, like “Lose My Breath,” we knew the queens were going to be tipping!
I don’t know…did gay press come to us or did they not feel they had to because we had addressed them already with the costumes and songs? We appreciate them. There are times I’ve gone on YouTube and I’ve seen drag queens as Destiny’s Child or Beyoncé. We definitely feel that love. I think that’s why individually we can give that love back because we didn’t get a chance to do that as a group.
Who’s the first gay person you met in your life?
When I was younger — this is so typical and cliché, but — it was the choir director at my grandmother’s church. I probably shouldn’t have said that because I don’t know if he was really open with it. [Laughs]
Well, you had a sense!
Yeah! I had a sense as a child. You know, something was different! [Laughs] Some of my closest friends are gay. [They’re] the ones that keep us together, keep us in line, tell you the truth. I have a straight male best friend that tells me the truth, but there is something about a gay queen. He’s like: “I ain’t got nothing to lose, so I’m going to tell you the truth, baby! I’ve been there, done that, so what is the worst reply you can tell me that I haven’t heard?” I think that’s the toughness that comes with it.
Patti LaBelle once said, “The gays will make or break your ass!” How important is it to have a gay fan base?
It’s definitely important because they are going to be loyal. They know what it’s like to stick together. I’m happy to gain that fan base, so I’m looking forward to having fun this year with this record.
Given your religious background as a Christian, how do you reconcile your religious beliefs with the gay community?
Well, the thing that shuts me up is “judge not.” We are all judged for being different, so that’s all I can say from my religious standpoint is to judge not. People can argue the Bible up and down, all day long. People have their own interpretation.
But how about God is love first and foremost, and it’s important to have that relationship with God. Christ being the one, my specific one, and what my conviction is may not be your conviction, but that’s something that one has to personally work out with God. If you feel like your walk is solid, keep it moving!
What are your thoughts on gay marriage?
If that’s who you love and that’s who you want to be with, it’s not going to affect me at the end of the day. I don’t think about it; I don’t worry about it.
You played Shug Avery in the musical version of “The Color Purple” in Chicago. Shug was a little lesbian, a little bisexual.
She was a little of everything!
Were you at all nervous about playing a bisexual character?
If that’s all someone focused on in “The Color Purple,” you missed the whole story about love and overcoming things. I talked to my mother and she said, “Baby, it’s just acting, don’t worry about people, especially in the gospel community. It’s okay; you’re going to be fine.”
Shug needed some love and she thought she was showing Celie love. Before you know it, it was something in Celie that empowered Shug as well.
If you were bi, who’d be your girl crush?
[Pauses] Lord, now they’ll be like, “She likes Rihanna!” Honey, just put Rihanna down! [Laughs]
Do you get hit on a lot by women?
I haven’t really had it direct and hard, but in their own way.
Did it make you uncomfortable?
No, I had fun — I’d flirt back!
If a Michelle drag queen had to battle a Beyoncé drag queen, what advice would you give the Michelle drag queen?
Well, since me and Beyoncé have both fallen, you should fall fabulous, honey! Roll, do the splits — and have some goldfish in your platform shoes!
— “Unexpected” (Music World Entertainment/Columbia Records) is out Oct. 7.