Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams

Born in Rockford, IL, Tenitra Michelle Williams grew up passionate about music and singing, and launched an entertainment career as a backup singer-dancer for R&B star Monica in the late 1990s. The singer landed the opportunity of a lifetime, however, when up-and-coming girl group Destiny's Child announced they were looking to replace two original members who had departed. Joining Beyoncé Knowles and Kelly Rowland, Farrah Franklin and Williams won the coveted slots. After just five months in Destiny's Child, Franklin quit due to personal reasons. The group became a trio and it would stay that way into its third album and beyond. In October 2001, Knowles, Rowland and Williams recorded the theme song to the film version of the popular television series, "Charlie's Angels" (2000), starring Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz. The song "Independent Women, Part 1" spent 11 weeks at the top of the charts. Their third album, Survivor, followed on its heels, solidifying Destiny's Child's place as one of the most successful girl groups at that time. Other hits spawned by Survivor included the infectious (and quietly mocked) "Bootylicious;" a cover of the Bee Gees-penned 1970s hit, "Emotion" (originally recorded by Samantha Sang); and the catchy title song.Although the spotlight was consistently on Knowles as the Diana Ross-esque leader of the trio, Rowland earned her own devoted fanbase while Williams was often relegated to a supporting role. In fact, many rumors swirled that Mathew Knowles had forced Williams not to use her true first name for fear it would distract attention from Beyoncé's unique moniker, and had instead insisted on her going by her middle name, which provided much confusion as the actress Michelle Williams continued her own ascent. Nevertheless, Williams released her solo debut, the 2002 gospel album Heart to Yours, which became an award-winning No. 1 success in its tiny niche but failed to make an impact on mainstream charts. Her gospel follow-up, 2004's Do You Know sold fewer copies, but Williams rebounded when the reunited Destiny's Child released their fourth album, Destiny Fulfilled. It was a bittersweet goodbye for both the ladies and their fans. Like its predecessors, it spawned a string of hits, including "Lose My Breath" and "Soldier," followed by a massive world tour. Their final album # 1s was released in October 2005 as a thank you to their fans and became the best-selling "greatest hits" album by any female group in the history of recorded music.Firmly entrenched as one of the most successful girl groups of all time, Destiny's Child went their separate ways. Williams recurred on the sitcom "Half & Half" (UPN, 2002-06) and attempted to move into mainstream R&B with 2008's Unexpected, which earned excellent critical reviews and spun off the No. 1 U.S. Hot Dance Club hit "The Greatest" as well as the No. 4 anthem "We Break the Dawn," which became the singer's signature song as a solo artist. In fact, Williams had the unique honor of serving as a special guest judge on "RuPaul's Drag Race" (Logo, 2009 -) in an episode where the contestants "lip-synched for their lives" to Williams' "We Break the Dawn," moving the singer to tears. She went on to serve as a judge on "Gospel Dream" (Gospel Music Channel, 2009) and to compete on "Strictly Come Dancing" (BBC One, 2004-) but earned her best reviews then to date as a musical theater performer, starring as "Aida" on Broadway, Shug Avery in the national touring cast of "The Color Purple," and Roxie Hart in a West End production of "Chicago" which eventually went to Broadway.Although all members denied any inequality in their ranks, Williams was often lovingly mocked in the blogosphere for her supposed role as a Destiny's Child also-ran. The blog "Poor Michelle," which was dedicated to her alleged "outcast" status within the group, went viral. In reality, Williams announced plans to release her fourth album in 2013 and landed a role in the national touring company of "Fela!" Longtime fans received a special treat when Williams and Kelly Rowland reunited with Knowles for an electrifying mini-Destiny's Child reunion during the latter's massively publicized Super Bowl halftime show performance. Williams also earned attention for helping pen the group's 2013 single "Nuclear."By Jonathan Riggs


Guest Appearances