Michelle Williams on Fela!, Blue Ivy, and Handling the Haters
Since the Super Bowl, pop-culture chatter has essentially revolved around Beyoncé -- her HBO special, her world tour, her GQ cover. But let's not forget about the other members of Destiny's Child -- especially the one who's starring in a Broadway show, planning a new reality TV show, and dealing gracefully with her haters.
Photo by Carol Rosegg Michelle Williams rockin' the stage in Fela!
Grammy-winning Michelle Williams is taking the lead in Fela!, a musical tribute to Fela Kuti, the Nigerian singer who created Afrobeat as a musical genre and used it to speak out against government corruption. The highly acclaimed song-and-dance show is headed to Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center March 19. We spoke to Williams about the stigma of depression, Blue Ivy's charms, and the fried Oreos at Prime One Twelve.
Cultist: There are some big names attached to Fela!, yourself included. [Jay-Z and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith are producers.] How did you get involved?
Michelle Williams: I've been familiar with the musician himself for the past six years, and then when it came to Broadway, there was so much excitement about it, like you said, because of the names attached. And the director himself, Bill T. Jones, is well respected. If you can get into a Bill T. Jones production, it means you must be really special. I happened to be in London when they were opening and went to opening night. I was sitting in my seat saying, Wow, it looks like it would have been spectacular to be a part of this. Then later I get the phone call asking me to tour! So I thought that was pretty cool.
How do you describe the show?
I would say the music is what's gonna get you, and especially being in Miami. It's Afrobeat combined with jazz and Cuban and African beats -- that, first and foremost, is absolutely amazing. The story of standing for something so that you don't fall for anything is amazing -- the story of Fela's strength and passion for what he believed in. I cannot wait to get to Miami, where I know the community itself is very much into the arts. I'm very excited.
Your Super Bowl performance was jaw-dropping. Just watching it from home was pretty amazing. How did it feel being up there?
We had so much fun prepping and preparing for it. Beyoncé had asked us a couple of months ago to join her on the stage for the Super Bowl, and it was like, yes! But it became a little difficult because I was in rehearsals for Fela! and literally at the same time they were in rehearsals for the Super Bowl. When they say women can multitask, we really can multitask! I would be in rehearsals for Fela! from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, then about 8 I'd go for a couple hours to see what was going on as far as the Super Bowl stuff was concerned. There was a lot of girl talk. We were like, "Aren't we supposed to be rehearsing?" But we can't help it -- when we get together, we talk all the time for hours and then sometimes the creative director or choreographer has to say, "OK ladies, it's time to rehearse. I know y'all miss each other." I mean, that was an amazing time.