Michelle Williams reveals fight with depression
Feb. 17, 2012 file photo shows singer-actress Michelle Williams at the
43rd NAACP Image Awards in Los Angeles. Williams is joining the latest
national tour of the musical “Fela!” Producers said Thursday, Jan. 3,
2013, the singer who starred on the UPN sitcom “Half & Half” will be
onstage when the tour opens at Sidney Harman Hall in Washington, D.C.,
on Jan. 29. Williams, part of Destiny's Child along with Kelly Rowland
and Beyonce, is now solo artist who released the dance album
“Unexpected” and the single “On The Run.” (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, file)
YORK (AP) — With a new single about to drop, a solo album in the works
and a starring role in a national tour of a Broadway musical, you’d be
hard-pressed to tell that Michelle Williams once had difficulty just
getting out of bed.
The singer-actress — one third of Destiny’s Child alongside Beyonce
and Kelly Rowland — said that in the past few months she has emerged
from years of suffering from moderate depression. Her dark cloud lifted
thanks to exercise, therapy and positive thinking.
“I’ve dealt with depression,” the 32-year-old said during a break in
rehearsals for a new touring production of “Fela!” that kicks off later
this month. “I had to choose to get out of bed and do whatever I needed
to do to be happy.”
Williams says she suffered her first bout of depression at 15 or 16
and has managed to avoid medication. She is speaking out for the first
time about her battle to encourage others to seek help.
“We’re taught, ‘Just go to church and pray about it. The Lord is
going to heal you.’ Well, in the meantime, I believe God-gifted people,
physicians, doctors, therapists — that’s your healing. Take advantage of
it,” she said. “Go see a professional so that they can assess you. It’s
OK if you’re going through something. Depression is not OK, but it is
OK to go get help.”
Williams on this day is bursting with energy, smiling and laughing,
her body even leaner than normal as she dives into the frenetic
biography of Nigerian musician and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who
died in 1997.
In the rehearsal room, Williams bounces in her chair with the other
cast members as the show’s hybrid of jazz and pop songs swells. Though
she’s a Grammy Award winner, she easily hugs her fellow performers and
wears sweat pants and a tank top. Where’s the diva? “Who has time for
that?” she said. “That’s just dumb. I come from Rockford, Ill. — there’s
no divas there.”
Williams will be playing the role of Sandra Isadore, who was Fela’s
African-American lover. Maija Garcia, the tour director and
choreographer, said the presence of a Destiny’s Child member in the cast
“empowers the musical.”
“Sandra is our key for an American audience to look at Fela and
understand a bit more where Fela may have been coming from,” Garcia
said. “And an American audience can very much identify with Michelle
Williams because she’s of our time. She really becomes a vehicle for
people to learn about Fela and for people to understand why Fela is
relevant in the United States.”
The show, which made it to Broadway in 2009, is set for a 16-city
tour starting at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., on
Jan. 29. By the time summer rolls around, it will have visited Miami,
Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Los Angeles, Seattle and Nashville, Tenn.
Williams is looking forward to cheese steaks — extra provolone,
please — and fabulous food on the road. “I know it doesn’t look like I
eat — I’m just blessed with a high metabolism right now,” she said. “I’m
having a time trying to gain weight.”
The Jan. 29 date is important to Williams for another reason. That’s
when Destiny’s Child releases “Love Songs,” a collection of previously
released songs as well as a new track co-written by Williams, “Nuclear,”
the group’s first new recording since 2004.
The new song was recorded before Christmas in Los Angeles when all
three members were recording their own solo projects. While Williams
said the trio isn’t ready to make a new full-length CD right now, the
old magic that created songs including “Say My Name” and “Bootylicious”
is still there.
“Stacking those harmonies on top (of) each other gave me goose
bumps,” she said of recording the new song. “We were like, ‘We still
sound good together.’ Duh! The bond will never die. We’re always going
to be close. We’re always going to work together.”
“It’s amazing that people are still fascinated by the connection.
It’s been about eight years since we released original material and
people still ask me, ‘Do you all talk?’ We could take a picture together
today and then tomorrow, people would say, ‘Do you all still talk?’”
But Williams was coy about whether she and Rowland will join Beyonce
at the Super Bowl halftime show on Feb. 3. “Who knows?” she said with a
smile. “We make sure not to go too long without doing something.”
Williams has her own CD — her fourth — that she’s putting the final
touches on, an album of original Christian pop influenced by her own
struggles, which includes being bullied. She laughs that she hopes
listeners will be inspired, even if that sounds cliched.
“Sometimes you’re going to wake up on the wrong side of the bed or
some situation might have you down in the dumps, but you have to choose
to be happy,” she said. “I’m choosing life. And I’m hoping this album
makes people want to choose life.”
In the meantime, there’s her fifth stage show to concentrate on.
Williams adds the character of Sandra Isadore to a list that includes
the title role of “Aida” on Broadway and Roxie Hart in “Chicago” on
Broadway and in London.
“People might look at my resume and be confused. I’m not just one
thing,” she said. But switching genres and projects — she one day wants
to record jazz and bluegrass albums — comes naturally.
“People I look up to did it all the time — Whitney Houston, Aretha
Franklin, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye,” she said. “Sometimes I’m like, ‘Man, I
really should be more like my other peers and really stick to one
thing,’ but I love what I do.”