Michelle Williams (singer)
Williams at the The Drama League Benefit Gala in 2012.
|Birth name||Tenitra Michelle Williams|
July 23, 1980 |
Rockford, Illinois, United States
|Genres||R&B, gospel, pop, dance, soul, hip hop|
|Occupations||Singer-songwriter, record producer, actress, model, dancer, WNBA Team owner|
|Labels||Light Records, E1 (2012–present)
Columbia, Music World Entertainment (2000–2010)
|Associated acts||Destiny's Child, Mary Mary, Shirley Caesar, Fantasia|
Tenitra Michelle Williams, (born July 23, 1980) commonly known as Michelle Williams, is an American singer, songwriter, model, record producer and actress, she also owns WNBA team Chicago Sky . Williams rose to fame in the 2000s as a member of R&B girl group Destiny's Child, one of the best-selling female groups of all time. Her work earned her several awards and accolades including a Grammy Awards and star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with Destiny's Child, a solo MOBO Award and nominations in the Stellar Awards and NAACP Theatre Awards.
During the hiatus of Destiny's Child, Williams released her debut solo album Heart to Yours which topped the US gospel album chart and became the best-selling gospel release of 2002. Also a critical success, the album won Williams a MOBO Award for "Best Gospel Act". Billboard ranked Williams as the fifth Top Gospel Artist of 2002. In 2004, she released Do You Know which gained Williams a second nomination for "Best Gospel Act" at the 2004 MOBO Awards. After Destiny's Child's disbanded in 2005, Williams released her first pop album, Unexpected in 2008, which spawned the internationally-charting single "We Break the Dawn" and the US Dance number-one "The Greatest". In 2013, she made a return to inspirational music with the lead single, "If We Had Your Eyes" from her upcoming fourth studio album titled Journey to Freedom.
Furthermore, Williams found success as a television, Broadway and West End theatre actress, gaining a nomination for best "Lead Female Actress" in 2008 at the 18th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards. Making her acting debut on Broadway in Aida she has since starred in the sitcom series Half & Half and the productions; The Color Purple, Chicago, What My Husband Doesn't Know and Fela!. Furthermore, she was a featured judge on MTV's Top Pop Group and Gospel Dream and a contestant in series 8 of Strictly Come Dancing.
- 1 Life and career
- 1.1 1980–99: Early life
- 1.2 1999–02: Breakthrough with Destiny's Child
- 1.3 2002–03: Solo career and Aida
- 1.4 2004–05: Destiny Fulfilled, hiatus and Do You Know
- 1.5 2006–07: Television debut and The Color Purple
- 1.6 2008–09: Unexpected and Roxie Hart
- 1.7 2010: Chicago, Label Troubles and Strictly Come Dancing
- 1.8 2011–2012: Music collaborations & What My Husband Doesn't Know
- 1.9 2013–present: Fela! and Journey to Freedom
- 2 Artistry
- 3 Honors and awards
- 4 Philanthropy
- 5 Discography
- 6 Acting and television appearances
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Life and career
1980–99: Early life
Williams was born in Rockford, Illinois. Her mother was a nurse and her father was a car salesman; she became one of four children raised in a "stable, loving" household. She made her musical debut at the age of seven, performing a rendition of the hymn "Blessed Assurance" at the St. Paul Church of God in Christ. She later sang in the gospel groups United Harmony and Chosen Expression. After attending Rockford Auburn High School and being a part of the school's Creative and Performing Arts magnet program, she pursued a degree in criminal justice at Illinois State University, doubtful of her ability to make a career as a professional singer. However, after two years of university, she left to pursue a music career and began touring as a backing vocalist for Grammy-award winning R&B artist Monica in October 1999, after successfully auditioning in May.
1999–02: Breakthrough with Destiny's Child
In late 1999, Williams met Destiny's Child band members Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland in the lobby of an Atlanta hotel. Months later Beyoncé asked an acquaintance if she knew anyone who could sing for a possible spot with the group and was referred to Michelle.
After the much-publicized turmoil, Williams—alongside Farrah Franklin—officially joined the group in early 2000, replacing LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson without notice. Buoyed by the group's breakout success, Luckett and Roberson had both attempted to split with the group's manager in late 1990s, claiming that he kept a disproportionate share of the band's profits and unfairly favored Knowles and Rowland. The issue was heightened after Williams and Franklin appeared in the video of "Say My Name", implying that the original band members were already replaced. Franklin, however, faded from the group after five months, as evidenced by her absences during promotional appearances and concerts. Franklin attributed her departure to negative vibes in the group resulting from the strife. After settling on this final lineup, the trio recorded "Independent Women Part I", which appeared on the soundtrack to the 2000 film Charlie's Angels. It became their best-charting single yet, topping the official US singles chart for eleven consecutive weeks; the success cemented the new lineup and skyrocketed them to fame.
Following this success, in May 2001 Williams and Destiny's Child released the group's third studio album Survivor. It debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 with sales of 663,000 copies. Survivor has sold over ten million copies worldwide, 4.1 million of which were sold in the US alone. The album's other number-one hits are "Bootylicious" and the title track "Survivor", the latter earning the group a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. After releasing their holiday album, 8 Days of Christmas, the group announced their temporary break-up to pursue solo projects.
2002–03: Solo career and Aida
While Williams was still with Destiny's Child, she intensified work on her debut solo album Heart to Yours. The album material included collaborations with singers Carl Thomas, Shirley Caesar and the Mary Mary duo, taking the singer's work further into urban contemporary gospel and Christian music. "Some people will do gospel when their career fails, but I chose to do it at the height of the popularity of Destiny's Child," Williams explained during the album's release. "And I didn't want to do it because it was a fad. I wanted to do it because it's in me. It's in my heart." Released on April 16, 2002 in North America to much critical acclaim, Williams became the first member of Destiny's Child to release solo material with Heart to Yours. The album sold 17,000 copies in its first week, placing it at number fifty-seven on the Billboard 200 and number two on the Billboard Gospel Albums chart, where it later rose to number one. It became the year's best-selling gospel album, selling over 200,000 units stateside. A music video for the album's first and only single, "Heard a Word," was produced by film director Sylvain White. Heart to Yours won Williams a MOBO Award for "Best Gospel Act" along with a raft of nominations including a Stellar Award nomination for "New Artist of the Year", a GMWA Excellence Award nomination for "Female Vocalist of the Year Urban Contemporary" and a nomination for "Traditional Gospel Recorded Song of the Year" from GMA Dove Awards for her collaboration with Shirley Caesar on "Steal Away To Jesus" which was first featured on Caesar's Hymns album. Billboard listed Williams as the fifth Top Gospel Artist of 2002.
Following the release and promotion of Heart to Yours, Williams made her on-stage acting debut in 2003, replacing fellow R&B singer Toni Braxton in the title role of Aida, the hit Broadway musical with music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice. She was the first and remains the only Destiny's Child member to have acted on Broadway.
2004–05: Destiny Fulfilled, hiatus and Do You Know
During the release of her fellow Destiny's Child members' debut albums, Williams spent time in the studio, recording her second album. The album saw her generally re-teaming with the majority of the producers and songwriters from her previous effort, also including Solange Knowles, Dawkins & Dawkins, and brother Erron Williams. However, released on January 26, 2004 in the United States, Do You Know reached a disappointing number one-hundred-and-twenty on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 10,000 copies in its first week despite warm reception from critics who lent praise to Williams' songwriting ability. Once again, Williams scored more success on the component charts, where the album debuted at number two on the Top Gospel Albums chart and number three on the Top Christian Albums tally. The album was later re-released, including previously unreleased songs, to find greater success but did not re-chart; its same-titled lead single also failed to chart. As of March 2008, Do You Know has sold 78,000 copies domestically.
After a three-year hiatus, Destiny's Child reunited for Destiny Fulfilled, released in November 2004. The album hit number two on the Billboard 200, and spawned the singles "Lose My Breath", "Soldier", "Girl" and "Cater 2 U". In support of the album, Destiny's Child embarked on a 2005 Destiny Fulfilled ... And Lovin' It world tour, which started in April to September of the same year. On the Barcelona, Spain visit, the group announced their disbandment after their final North American leg would end. In October 2005, the group released a greatest hits compilation album, entitled #1's, including the their most successful singles alongside three new tracks, including the band's final single "Stand Up for Love", penned by David Foster. Destiny's Child was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in March 2006. They were also recognized as the world's best-selling female group of all time.
2006–07: Television debut and The Color Purple
Following Destiny's Child's disbandment in early 2006 Williams made her television debut in the UPN comedy Half & Half, where she played the role of Naomi, a record company executive who is HIV positive. Later that year, she appeared as one of the celebrity singers on the FOX reality television show Celebrity Duets, duetting with actors Alfonso Ribeiro and Jai Rodriguez. In April 2006, Williams performed "America the Beautiful" at World Wrestling Entertainment's event Wrestlemania 22, which was in her hometown of Chicago. Beginning in April 2007, Williams joined Oprah Winfrey's Chicago-based cast of the hit Broadway musical The Color Purple for its national tour, starting with an extended run at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Williams described the opportunity as "a dream come true", playing the part of blues singer Shug Avery, which earned her positive reception.
2008–09: Unexpected and Roxie Hart
In March 2008, Columbia Records and Music World Entertainment revealed that Williams would be releasing her third studio album Unexpected on October 7, 2008 in the U.S. The album, her first secular release and first release since the disbanding of Destiny's Child, involves production by Stargate, Rico Love, the Heavyweights, Wayne Wilkins, Andrew Frampton and Soulshock & Karlin, among others. In June 2008, Williams released lead single "We Break the Dawn" to universal acclaim from critics who hailed it as "a terrific fusion of European disco and American R&B". The song became Williams' most successful single, peaking at number four on the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart, whilst also charting internationally at number forty-seven on the UK Singles Chart and number thirty-eight on the Hungarian Singles Chart before eventually being listed on Hungary's year-end singles chart. During the week of July 11, 2008 "We Break The Dawn" hit number one on the US Billboard Hot Dance Airplay chart. After the album's release date was delayed from September 12, 2008 to October 7, 2008, "The Greatest" replaced "Stop This Car" as the anticipated second single release, and was serviced to mainstream radio. Meanwhile, "Hello Heartbreak" was catered to dance clubs. "The Greatest" - described as a "fantastic pop ballad" - became Williams' second hit on the Billboard dance charts when it peaked at number-one the US Hot Dance Club Songs chart, thanks to its numerous remixes, before being listed at number thirty-nine on the chart's decade-end list - ironically, just behind "Lose My Breath" which Williams recorded while a member of Destiny's Child 5 years prior. Gaining favorable reviews from critics, in October 2008 Unexpected debuted on the US Billboard 200 albums chart at number forty-two and number eleven on the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, with first week sales of 14,000 units.
Speaking of her move from gospel music to secular pop/R&B with Unexpected in August 2008, Williams told noted UK R&B writer Pete Lewis of the award-winning Blues & Soul: "For me to sell the number of units that I did, and to get the amount of love and reception that I got, from doing gospel was great. It's just that, right now I'm ready to try something different and to get my name and face out there in a different way."
In 2009, Williams confirmed in a video blog that she and a production team were putting the finishing touches on a remix version of the album due for release in North America and Asia. Williams also later confirmed via her Twitter account that Unexpected would soon receive a full UK re-release with "Hello Heartbreak" serving as its lead single. In July 2009, Williams elaborated further on the re-release in an interview for Digital Spy, confirming that Sony Music (London division) was considering a re-issue of the album for which some new songs could be recorded. Furthermore she revealed that the Unexpected remix album was "completely done" and puts a hip-hop and/or jazz spin on some the album's original tracks. She also said that some of the new remixes could also be released as part of the UK re-issue. However by November 1, 2009 no more confirmation had been made on any Unexpected re-releases, suggesting that all plans had been scrapped. As of April 2013 the album has sold 34,000 copies in the United States.
On July 13, Williams began a limited six-week engagement at the Cambridge Theatre in Chicago, making her the first African-American to be cast in the West End production of the musical. On discussing Williams' acquiring of the coveted role of murderous chorus girl Roxie Hart, manager and Music World Entertainment executive Matthew Knowles said, "She's one of the greatest characters in the history of musical theater and it's both a challenge and a lot of fun to bring her to life on-stage. I hope that everyone who comes to the show enjoys it as much as I do, Michelle is a prime example of an all-round entertainer, she has enjoyed many successes as a music artist and now theater goers are going to experience her far reaching talents once again" whilst Williams is quoted as saying, "It's a real thrill to be given the opportunity to play Roxie Hart in the West End's spectacular production of 'Chicago'." Her run was extended and Williams continued appearing for three additional weeks for an extended engagement starting August 23 through September 12, 2009.
2010: Chicago, Label Troubles and Strictly Come Dancing
On January 12, 2010, it was announced that Michelle had parted ways with Mathew Knowles (her manager) and Music World Entertainment. On February 8, 2010, Williams made a return to Broadway by commencing a seven-week limited engagement in Chicago at the Ambassador Theatre, replacing Ashlee Simpson. In April, producers Barry and Fran Weissler announced that Williams would extend her limited engagement in Chicago. Originally slated to play her final performance on Sunday, March 28, 2010, Williams played an additional 18 performances through Tuesday, April 13, prior to joining the Los Angeles engagement of the Chicago national tour, Tuesday, April 20 through Sunday, May 9 at the Pantages Theatre. In commenting on Williams' engagements Barry Weissler said, "Michelle has proven to be a tremendous asset to CHICAGO, first in London last year and now on Broadway. In addition to being a fantastic performer, she's as delightful and genuine offstage as she is onstage. We're thrilled that she's not only able to extend her Broadway run, but to join our national tour for its third return engagement in Los Angeles."
In August, it was reported that Williams would be appearing in series 8 of Strictly Come Dancing. On the launch show for the series it was revealed that Williams had been paired with Brendan Cole, who 'immediately described the pairing as "perfection"'. They remained in the competition for seven weeks with variable results; on 23 October Ian Waite stood in as her professional partner when Brendan Cole was unable to do so. Williams was eliminated on November 14.
Strictly Come Dancing performances
|Week #||Dance/song||Judges' score||Result|
|1||Cha-Cha-Cha / Stone Cold Sober||5||6||7||6||24||N/A|
|2||Foxtrot / It Had to Be You||6||7||7||6||26||Safe|
|3||Rumba / Wicked Game||4||6||7||7||24||Bottom Two|
|4||Tango / Killer||6||7||7||7||27||Bottom Two|
|5||Jive / The Time Warp||7||6||8||8||29||Safe|
|6||Waltz / Right Here Waiting||6||8||8||8||30||Bottom Two|
|7||Paso Doble / American Woman||4||7||7||6||24||Eliminated|
2011–2012: Music collaborations & What My Husband Doesn't Know
Williams has stated on her Twitter account multiple times that she will release a new album in 2011. In 2010, she started work on her fourth studio album. Michelle stated on Twitter that her new album will have a similar sound to Unexpected and might contain a dance track she has recorded with Ultra Naté entitled "I'm Waiting on You". The upcoming album has been stated to feature production from Timbaland. In December 2010, Williams released a song entitled "Stay for a Minute" for free digital download via Twitter to celebrate gaining over 100,000 followers. "Stay for a Minute", written by Keli Nicole and produced by Jazz Nixon in 2006, was due for inclusion on the original version of Williams' Unexpected, which she described as a "solid R&B album", however when "the sound changed", the song was shelved and left unreleased. Furthermore, a track produced by Stargate titled "If You Wanna Go", leaked to the internet, believed to be an outtake from the Unexpected sessions as Williams dismissed the song as "old" during a Twitter post.
In January 2011, Williams appeared on BBC's popular comedy panel game show Never Mind The Buzzcocks. On February 4, 2011, Williams began a 28-city tour starring in the David E. Talbert stage-play What My Husband Doesn't Know along with Brian J. White, Ann Nesby and Clifton Davis, playing the lead role of Lena Summer. Summer is described as "the envy of all her friends. Big house. Successful husband. It's the perfect life... or so it seems. But with her husband's demanding career, the other side of her bed is too cold too often. When a handsome young foreman is hired to work on their home, the spark she's been missing quickly rages into a wildfire that could cost her everything."
In June, Williams posted a series of tweets and pictures documenting her time in Munich, Germany; including a visit to the BMW Museum.  On June 5, she announced from Munich, Germany, that the following day she would be going to Ibiza, Spain. She further detailed her plans on June 6, announcing that she'd met with a "video director" for a 2-day shoot in Ibiza for a song titled "On the Run". On 6 July 2011, Williams released a buzz single titled "Love Gun" produced by Druski, to precede the release of her upcoming fourth solo album. Describing the sound of the album, Williams stated "My album will be 'inspirational pop". Think of Katy Perry's "Firework" or Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten". I want to give people a message of hope while at the same time get them moving with dance inspired tracks." The album is "slated to drop this winter with an official single release in August/September". In August 2011, during an interview for The BoomBox she discussed collaborating with hip-hop artist Talib Kweli on a song produced by Hi-Tek on which she sings a verse and the hook. Furthermore, she revealed the sound of her upcoming album would include more "live instrumentation", inspired by the gospel music she "grew up" on. In August, Electronic Giant Beatz released a press release, cover art and a music video teaser for a song featuring Williams titled "On the Run". "On the Run" was released in the UK on November 27, 2011. Furthermore, in December, Ultra Naté released a joint collaboration with Williams titled "Waiting on You" which has thus far risen to number eleven on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart.
2013–present: Fela! and Journey to Freedom
On June 7, 2012 it was announced that Williams had been signed to Light Records and is due to release her fourth studio album in 2013. On January 3, 2013, it was announced that Williams will play Sandra in the national tour of the Tony-nominated musical Fela!, beginning January 29 in Washington, D.C. and playing in a total of 16 cities. Destiny's Child released a compilation album titled Love Songs on January 29, which features the newly recorded song "Nuclear", co-written by Williams. On February 3, 2013, during Beyoncé's performance at the Super Bowl XLVII halftime show, held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Rowland and Williams joined Knowles on the stage, where the trio performed excerpts from "Bootylicious", "Independent Women", and "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)". Rowland and Williams then exited the stage and Knowles ended her performance. On February 21, it was announced that Williams will be starring in her own reality television show, titled My Sister's Keeper produced by E1 Television, to coincide with the release of her fourth studio album. Lead single "If We Had Your Eyes", produced by Harmony Samuels is due for release on June 24, 2013. On June 29, it was revealed in an interview for Michigan Avenue magazine that Williams' fourth album is titled Journey to Freedom. Williams appeared alongside Kelly Rowland in Beyoncé's "Superpower" music video, taken from her self-titled fifth studio album.
Williams is an mezzo-soprano. William Ruhlmann of Allmusic commented that she has a "warm, kittenish voice" with the ability to "transform" from "kitten to tiger", belting "with absolute conviction". GospelMusicCity.com praised her "delicate vocals" and described her "sopralto stylings" as "inimitable", writing that on "Heard a Word" she "demonstrates further versatility in Ella-like fashion". Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine also compared her to other singers writing; "Williams's warm vocal recalls both the playful wisps of her R&B contemporaries (Jill Scott, Erykah Badu) and the breathy timbre of Diana Ross" while Emily Sogn of PopMatters wrote "Williams singing style is pleasingly slow paced...that owes a lot to her pop contemporaries like Ashanti and Janet Jackson." Similarly, Mike Rimmer of Cross Rhythms described her voice as "soulful" and Caroline Sullivan of The Guardian wrote that "Williams's strength is a shimmery jazz lilt".
Honors and awards
Williams has earned an array of awards and honors as both a solo artist and member of Destiny's Child. These include (but not limited to); 5 American Music Awards, 17 Billboard Music Awards, 1 BRIT Award, 3 Grammy Awards, 1 MOBO Award, 2 MTV Video Music Awards, 3 Soul Train Music Awards and 7 World Music Awards. Billboard ranked Williams as the fifth Top Gospel Artist of 2002 due to the success of her debut release Heart to Yours which was one of the best-selling gospel releases of the year. In 2013, Williams was honored in her hometown of Rockford, Illinois at the 2013 I Love Gospel Music honors luncheon, which featured musical tributes, including one by Sunday Best winner Amber Bullock.
In 2001, Williams made a "bountiful" donation of $148,900 to her church, St. Paul Church of God in Christ in Rockford, Illinois - to which she has been a member since birth - to finish construction of the church's school, St. Paul Academy. The church is pastored by her uncle, Bishop James E. Washington.
In 2005, music producer David Foster, his daughter Amy Foster-Gillies, and Knowles wrote "Stand Up for Love", which would serve as the anthem of World Children's Day, an event which takes place annually around the world on November 20 to raise awareness and funds for children's causes worldwide. Destiny's Child lent their voices and support as global ambassadors for the 2005 World Children's Day program. In this role, Knowles, Rowland and Williams visited Ronald McDonald Houses around the world during their Destiny Fulfilled...and Lovin' It World Tour and donated a portion of their North American ticket sales to Ronald McDonald House Charities.
On September 19, 2006, Williams jump-started the Chicago PepsiCo S.M.A.R.T. - which stands for five simple steps that encourage active living and better food choices - program to promote active, healthy lifestyles by building a new "Smart Spot" playground in Chicago. Williams, along with friend Lance Bass, was on hand to sing to and greet kids at the opening of Camp Heartland, a camp dedicated to helping kids suffering from HIV/AIDS enjoy life and take their mind off their illness. Furthermore, in 2006, the Chicago Sky, a team in the Women's National Basketball Association, announced that Williams, along with Mathew Knowles, is part of a group of minority shareholder owners in the team.
In 2012, she became an ambassador for the American Heart Association's Power to End Stroke campaign. In speaking of her role she said "I am honored to partner with the campaign [...] my father had a stroke in 2005 due to smoking, diabetes and an unhealthy diet, and my grandmother was diagnosed with having a stroke in 2006 when she went to her doctor for a simple outpatient procedure. I am bringing awareness to people so that strokes can be prevented. Let's take care of ourselves…the first step is knowledge about your health."
Acting and television appearances
|2003||Aida (Broadway, New York)||Aida||Lead role|
|2007||The Color Purple (National Tour)||Shug Avery||Supporting role|
|2009||Chicago (West End, London)||Roxie Hart||Lead role|
|2010||Chicago (Broadway, New York)|
|Chicago (Los Angeles)|
|2011||What My Husband Doesn't Know||Lena Summer|
|2013||Fela! (National Tour)||Sandra Isadore||Supporting role|
|2006||Half & Half||Naomi Dawson||3 episodes|
|2008||MTV's Top Pop Group||Judge||All episodes|
|2009||RuPaul's Drag Race||Episode 2|
|Gospel Dream||All episodes|
|2010||You're Cut Off||Herself; special guest||Episode 7 - "Giving Back"|
|Strictly Come Dancing||Herself; contestant||16 episodes|
|2010||Blessed & Cursed||Herself; cameo appearance||Straight to DVD|
|2011||What My Husband Doesn't Know||Lena Summer||Live performance recording|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Michelle Williams (singer).|
- Michelle Williams - official website
- Michelle Williams at AllMusic
- Michelle Williams at the Internet Broadway Database
- Michelle Williams at the Internet Movie Database