Michelle Williams (singer)

Michelle Williams (singer)
Michelle Williams

Williams at the J&R Musicfest in 2008.
Background information
Birth name Tenitra Michelle Williams
Born July 23, 1980 (1980-07-23) (age 31)
Rockford, Illinois, United States
Genres R&B, gospel, pop, dance
Occupations Singer-songwriter, record producer, actress
Years active 1999–present
Labels Columbia, Music World Entertainment (2001-January 2010)
Associated acts Destiny's Child
Website www.iammichelle.com

Tenitra Michelle Williams (born July 23, 1980), commonly known as Michelle Williams, is an American singer, songwriter, record producer and actress. She is best known for being a former member of the successful R&B girl group Destiny's Child, one of the world's best-selling female groups of all time according to Sony BMG.[1]

Originally a backing vocalist for singer Monica, Williams, alongside Farrah Franklin, joined Destiny's Child in 2000 replacing former members LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson. Following the departure of Franklin just five months later, Williams continued with fellow members Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland as a trio. In 2002, after a series of commercial successes, Williams released her debut album Heart to Yours, which topped the US gospel album chart and became the best-selling gospel album of 2002. The album won Williams a MOBO Award for "Best Gospel Act" in 2002, giving Williams her first ever award as a solo artist. In 2004, Williams released its successor, Do You Know which gained Williams a nomination for "Best Gospel Act" at the 2004 MOBO Awards. In 2008 she released her first commercial pop album, Unexpected, on October 7, 2008.[2] The lead single from the album ("We Break the Dawn") reached number one on the Hot Dance Airplay chart and peaked within the top 50 of the UK and Hungarian singles charts becoming her most successful single to date. Unexpected's second single "The Greatest" peaked at number one on the US Hot Dance Club Play chart and was ranked number thirty-nine on Billboard magazine's Best of the 2000s Dance/Club Songs decade-end chart.

As well as having become a successful singer, Williams has also 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.[3]


Life and career

1980-1999: Early life

Born July 23, 1980 in Rockford, Illinois to her mother, a nurse and her father a car salesman, she became one of four children raised in a "stable, loving" household.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6]

2000-2002: 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.[7]

Destiny's Child performing their 2000 hit "Say My Name" during the farewell concert tour, Destiny Fulfilled ... And Lovin' It

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.[8] 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.[8] 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.[8] 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;[8] 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.[9] Survivor has sold over ten million copies worldwide, 4.1 million of which were sold in the US alone.[10] 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.[8]

2002-2003: 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.[11] "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."[12] 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.[13][14][15] 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.[16][17] It became the year's best-selling gospel album, selling over 200,000 units stateside.[18][19] 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"[20] 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"[21][22] 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.[23][24]

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.[25][26] She was the first and remains the only Destiny’s Child member to have acted on Broadway.

2004-2005: Destiny Fulfilled, hiatus and Do You Know

Destiny's Child performing during the farewell concert tour, Destiny Fulfilled ... And Lovin' It

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.[27] 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.[28][29] 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.[30] 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.[31]

After a three-year hiatus, Destiny's Child reunited for Destiny Fulfilled, released in November 2004.[8] The album hit number two on the Billboard 200, and spawned the singles "Lose My Breath", "Soldier", "Girl" and "Cater 2 U".[32] 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.[8][33] 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.[34]

2006-2007: 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.[35] 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.[36] In April 2006, Williams performed "America the Beautiful" at World Wrestling Entertainment's event Wrestlemania 22, which was in her hometown of Chicago.[37] 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",[38] playing the part of blues singer Shug Avery, which earned her positive reception.[39][40]

2008-2009: Unexpected and Roxie Hart

Michelle performing on stage at J&R Musicfest, 2008.

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.[31] The album, her first secular release and first release since the disbanding of Destiny's Child,[4] 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".[41] The song became Williams' most successful single, peaking at number four on the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart,[42] whilst also charting internationally at number forty-seven on the UK Singles Chart[43] and number thirty-eight on the Hungarian Singles Chart[44] before eventually being listed on Hungary's year-end singles chart.[45] During the week of July 11, 2008 "We Break The Dawn" hit number one on the US Billboard Hot Dance Airplay chart.[46] After the album's release date was delayed from September 12, 2008 to October 7, 2008,[47] "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"[48] - became Williams' second hit on the Billboard dance charts when it peaked at number-one the US Hot Dance Club Songs chart,[49] 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.[50][51] 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.[52][53][54]

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."[55]

Williams as Roxie Hart in Chicago

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.[56] 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.[57] 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.[58] 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 January, 2010 the album has sold 32,000 copies in the United States alone, according to Billboard.com.[59]

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.[5][60] 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'."[61] Her run was extended and Williams continued appearing for three additional weeks for an extended engagement starting August 23 through September 12, 2009.[62]

2010: Chicago, Label Troubles and Strictly Come Dancing

“After much prayer and consideration I have decided to part ways from my management team, Mathew Knowles and Music World Entertainment. From my time in Destiny’s Child to my solo career, I am grateful for everything Mathew and his team has done for me. We’ve shared great success together. However, as I move in a new direction in my career, I felt it was time. I wish Mathew Knowles and the Music World Entertainment family all the best.”

Michelle Williams[63][64][65]

On January 12, 2010, it was announced that Michelle had parted ways with Mathew Knowles (her manager) and Music World Entertainment.[66] 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.[67][68][69] 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.”[70]

In August, it was reported that Williams would be appearing in series 8 of Strictly Come Dancing.[71][72][73] 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"'.[74] 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.[75]

Strictly Come Dancing performances

Week # Dance/song Judges' score Result
Horwood Goodman Dixon Tonioli Total
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

In December, 2010, Williams joined DJ Martin Jay to became a co-host on Choice FM's Breakfast Show in London for the month, replacing Lucy Ambache who was on maternity leave.[76][77]

2011-present: Fourth album

Williams has stated on her Twitter account multiple times that she will release a new album in 2011.[78][79] In 2010, she started work on her fourth studio album.[80][81] Michelle stated on Twitter that her new album will have a similar sound to Unexpected and might contain a dance track she has recorded Ultra Naté titled "I'm Waiting on You".[58][82][83] The upcoming album has been stated to feature production from Timbaland.[84] In December 2010, Williams released a song titled "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.[85] 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.[86][87][88]

In January 2011, Williams appeared on BBC's popular comedy panel game show Never Mind The Buzzcocks.[89][90] 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."[84][91][92]

In June, Williams posted a series of tweets and pictures documenting her time in Munich, Germany; including a visit to the BMW Museum.[93][94] [95] On June 5, she announced from Munich, Germany, that the following day she would be going to Ibiza, Spain.[96] 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".[97] 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 Beddingfield’s "Unwritten".[98][99][100][101] 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".[102][103] 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.[104][105][106] 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" which states that the song is due for release in the UK and Ireland on November 27, 2011.[107]


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.[36][108]

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.[109] 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.[110]

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.[111][112] 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.[36] 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.[36][113]

In 2011, Williams became a spokesperson for the Training, Education & Research Institute (TERI) and their Power of Ten campaign to raise money to fund a £21.8 million specialist facility in San Marcos, California. During an interview Williams revealed she has "a personal connection to the movement" as her godson was diagnosed with the development disorder at the age of two.[112][114] In discussing the campaign, Williams said "It's such a great organisation dealing with people with autism and other developmental disabilities" and she was "just blown away" when she was informed "that they're trying to build a 20-acre facility that will have (an) equestrian centre, aquatics, arts and crafts facility and theatre".[115]



Year Title Role Notes
2003 Aida[26] Aida Lead role
2007 The Color Purple[39] (Tour) Shug Avery
2009 Chicago (West End, London)[5] Roxie Hart
2010 Chicago (Ambassador Theatre, Broadway, New York)[68]
Chicago (Pantages Theatre, Los Angeles)[118]
2011 What My Husband Doesn't Know[84] Lena Summer
Year Title Role Notes
2006 Half & Half[35] Naomi Dawson 3 episodes
2008 MTV's Top Pop Group[46] Judge All episodes
2009 RuPaul's Drag Race[119] Episode 2
Gospel Dream[120] All episodes
2010 You're Cut Off[121] Herself; special guest Episode 7 - "Giving Back"
Strictly Come Dancing[75] Herself; contestant 16 episodes
Year Title Role Notes
2010 Blessed & Cursed Herself; cameo appearance Straight to DVD
2011 What My Husband Doesn't Know[122] Lena Summer Live performance recording

Awards and nominations

Year Category Recording Result
GMA Dove Awards
2002 Traditional Gospel Recorded Song of the Year "Steal Away To Jesus" Nominated
GMWA Excellence Awards[21][22]
2003 Female Vocalist of the Year Urban Contemporary Heart to Yours Nominated
Stellar Awards[23][24]
2003 New Artist of the Year Heart to Yours Nominated
MOBO Awards[20][123][124]
2002 Best Gospel Act Heart to Yours Won
2004 Do You Know Nominated
18th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards[3]
2008 Lead Female Actress The Color Purple Nominated
NewNowNext Awards
2008 Best R&B Vocal Performance By a Female Artist "We Break The Dawn" Nominated


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