When Chrisette Michele came onto the music scene in 2007, I remember thinking, pretty girl, beautiful big eyes, amazing voice. But it wasn’t until the Grammy Award winner’s 2013 album Better, when the extensions and permed hair came out along with the tattoos, that I started to think, wait a minute, this girl is actually pretty cool. As in, someone I would love to sit across from in a cozy cafe, over a latte or a glass or wine, and have a conversation with about music, personal style, what lights her up, relationships, etc.
Well, I got to sit next to Chrisette Michele on a couch in her dressing room after her recent show at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, and while she sipped on a glass of red wine we chatted about her upcoming new album, her approach to life, and her recent Ebony magazine cover.
Samantha Hunter: Now that a little bit of time has gone by since you shot the Ebony cover and it was revealed to the world, how do you feel about it?
Chrisette Michele: Perfect. I think that there were so many motives with that cover. My motive was one of, let’s play in bathing suits and show our tattoos. Some of the girls’ motives, well one in particular was to celebrate women’s curves and to never be ashamed of yourself, and she said that with a vengeance, you know. It was very meaningful for her to express that self-love is very important. And for another one of the girls it was knowing that they are examples in the music industry in general and there are people who need them to speak up. And then one of us were petrified. So it was four completely different types of experiences for all of us.
SH: What has the response been from other people in the industry and your fans?
CM: The most exciting thing is when comrades in the industry show love. Especially in the social media ages – N’Dea saluted us and retweeted it, and let us know that she loved it so much. And then Ledisi and just so many people, and so many different types of publications, even television – I recently had an interview with TMZ and I was just like really? Because we had our thighs out? So I think all four of the girls, we just take it completely differently. I can’t believe that it means so much. I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t know that saying I’m curvy and proud was as powerful as saying I’m anything else and proud. I just thought they were my thighs. So it’s fun to have them celebrated.
SH: In your day to day, whether you are performing or just living your life, how do you ensure that you’re in that good space where you’re just celebrating yourself and loving yourself, curves and all?
CM: Well first of all, there are other things that intimidate me about myself other than my body, for instance my style. This whole hipster, tattooed, Williamsburg/Long Island girl — who the hell is that? And how do I wear that comfortably and let people know that’s who I am? What black girl’s brother skateboards and surfs — do you know what I’m saying. Every once in a while we as a culture are uncomfortable fitting in. And so, when we add my curves to it, that part is kind of like, well let’s put on an outfit and flaunt it – let’s have a blast. And I shop at fun stores like L.F. Larchmont and Alice & Olivia. But I remember when I said those two stores in the interview one of the girls were like, “Well that store only has this size,” and I was like, well that’s my size, do you know. So again, I think it’s just very differing in everyone’s view of what we mean.
SH: Is it really about fitting in or…?
CM: Having a freaking blast! I mean this morning I woke up and I said you know I want to play make believe I’m Cher tonight up on stage, so that’s what I did. I woke up, I got a dome cap, and I got four bundles – I went to Indique — and I sewed them into my dome cap on a fake head this morning, and then I got platforms and I pulled out my leather bellbottoms and I played! Every day I’m playing. When people take it seriously I’m always kind of like oops, totally joking.
SH: So don’t take yourself too seriously…
CM: I don’t personally. I have a freaking blast.Yeah.
SH: How does your engagement and relationship reflect how you feel about yourself and your body image? How does he support you in loving yourself and just being who you are?
CM: Well I think a lot of times, especially in the music industry, we do things to attract a certain type of attention. So we might go to a basketball game in stilettos and sit in the front row, do you know, in hopes that whatever big celebrity basketball player notices us. Or we might hang out at the red carpet events where we know that these type of guys will be there. I don’t feel like I have to do that anymore, and so now I can spend more time playing and not trying to impress anybody. Doug’s thing is, he know me as a kid, so he’s seen all of this and all these parts of me before, and it’s refreshing that he still loves them.
SH: Have you set a wedding date?
CM: Yeah, we’re thinking November of this year… but we keep pushing it back (clears her throat).
SH: When is your new album going to drop?
CM: That drops May 6, and you can pre-order it on April 8.
SH: Anything you want people to know about the album?
CM: Sure. It’s a love album. It’s a girly album. It’s an upbeat, fun album with diamonds and sparkles from beginning to end. I just was bored singing slow songs so I decided to sing fast ones. And then some of the slow ones have 808’s to keep it moving. It’s got pulse.
SH: And what about your online reality series?
CM: I have been vlogging since my first trip to Paris six years ago. I don’t know why people are suddenly just noticing! Out of nowhere — I think it’s because it’s about love now, it’s got a lot more love, and I think, and no offense to anyone — I think black love is a subject that people are very interested in. I didn’t know that. I didn’t realize we would have #blacklove under everything, every time we post anything… I think the love stuff really touches a place, and truthfully I’m hoping that this album satiates that thirst for love that everyone is looking for from me.
For more on Chrisette Michele and her new album Milestone releasing on May 6, go to http://www.thisischrisettemichele.com.
Photo Credit: Raymond Hagans @daraseans