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Michelle Williams interviewed by Christopher Herron
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Since 2000, Michelle Williamsí life has been incredibly eventful by all accounts. After a stint as a back-up singer to Monica, Ms. Williams would become a permanent fixture to pop cultures most popular and best-selling group, Destinyís Child. With international tours, red-carpet affairs and a cabinet full of awards, Michelle Williams would experience more in the last few years than most of us will ever encounter in our lifetime.

But in recent years, Michelleís focus has taken a noted turn most unexpected. Itís an ambitious solo career branded in her love for Jesus. As the timid, conservative member of Destinyís Child, Michelle has quietly distinguished herself from her DC sisters - Kelly and Beyoncť - by dedicating her music and life to uplifting the Lord.

Two gospel albums, candid media interviews and a series of public appearances at key gospel events and mega churches would reaffirm her sincerity and enthusiasm for the gospel.

In an exclusive interview with GospelCity, Michelle Williams shares her thoughts on growing up as a C.O.G.I.C., her battle to balance life, love and her Lord, as well as her future with Destinyís Child. We tip our hats to a strong, Black woman whoís using her profile to draw souls towards the Kingdom.

Letís begin with your upbringing in Rockford, Illinois at the St. Paul Church of God in Christ. It appears as though singing was important from your days in your church. When did you realize that singing was your lifetime calling?
I just didnít realize that I had the gift to really sing until I was like in the seventh or eighth grade. I sang in church all my life and did all of that, but it was between those two grades when I really began to like Ďsing, singí and I was like, ďOh, I guess I got a little something something going here.Ē

Who were a few of the artists you enjoyed listening to as a teenager?
I always loved CeCe Winans.

Oh, really!
Yolanda Adams. Before she got signed to Elektra, her earlier albums, those albums like More Than A Melody; I used to sing to those songs everyday! Whitney Houston, of course. I loved Marvin Winans; I grew up thinking he was the greatest male vocalist in the world.

Did you have a lot of exposure to the gospel choirs and groups making a name for themselves in Chicago?
Yes I did! When we would hear of concerts and stuff, we would just get on the highway and go. We had access to WTCI Radio in Rockford so we knew. I was going to try out for Walt Whittmanís The Soul Children Of Chicago, but my mom was like, ďWell, how are you gonna get to rehearsals and stuff from Rockford?Ē

You grew up singing in gospel groups like United Harmony and Expressions. How did your experience singing in those groups prepare you to be a gospel soloist?
I think that my experiences in the group, and even in church, were the best teacher. Now I have a vocal coach and he teaches me stuff but it was the church where you get all of your emotion. I grew into knowing and being able to pick out harmonies; I was a choir director as well. But being in a group taught me so much; I learned about blending and being patient. You may have someone in the group who needs more time and it may take them a little while longer to learn a part.

Your professional career started as a background singer for Monica, then eventually with Destinyís Child. Most artists, after having that kind of exposure, wouldnít dare to experiment. What inspired you to return to gospel as a soloist and release Heart to Yours and now, most recently, Do You Know?
I grew up singing gospel; it is my first love. I knew when I had the opportunity to really record a gospel album that I would. I believe God has elevated me for the masses. People may not understand but, when God does something, He does stuff, sometimes, in a way, where you wonít understand it, which makes you know that itís God. I believe Iíve been released even explaining myself to people. I do believe that Iíve been elevated so that all types of people, religious backgrounds and races can hear the message about Jesus Christ and God - His message will spread. He doesnít care how it spreads just as long as it spreads. Especially in these last evil days, God is using all types of people. Heís not using the ordinary ones; He is using people outside the four walls of the church. I canít wait for this year; God has really been doing some things in my life. I canít wait for you to know what He's got up His sleeve.

You move in all kinds of circles with a number of celebrities. What has been their reaction to your bold stand for the Lord?
Even before this gospel record, they knew something was different about me. They knew, "We canít do this around her." With certain people, when they walk in a room, they have a presence. Thereís something about them that makes people say, "Let me get on my Pís and Qís."

I think people respect Destinyís Child when we walk into a room. They are like, "O.K., we have to put our drinks down or we got to put these cigarettes down." They just canít do anything around us or me, per se.

You were front and center last year when you co-hosted the Stellar Awards. Tell us about that experience.
I had a blast doing that because there were so many people there that I admire. I had so much fun just being in that atmosphere. Even this year, I didnít host, I didnít present an award, but I had a ball just being in the atmosphere and being included.

What was it like to host the Stellars with Donnie McClurkin and Mary Mary last year?
I can truly say we're friends and we had each otherís back and they definitely had mine. I truly love them from the bottom of my heart.

I am thoroughly enjoying your latest album, Do You Know. Itís a very bright, very warm, very inspirational CD. Itís very different from the first one, how would you characterize it?
I just wrote from my heart on this one. These songs are just about the real me; I know it didnít turn out to be as 'gospel-ly' as some would have liked. But the stuff thatís on this album is stuff I went through. God gave me the songs and even the producers that I worked with; He gave them particular songs for me. I know being a Christian, we go through some things, being saved. Just because we are saved does not make us untouchable. We're going to make mistakes but God still has you in His hand, He still loves you, His love is unconditional, thatís what Iíve learned. This whole album is about Godís love and me.

How are you balancing your professional life, your ministry and being single? After all, you are one of the most eligible celebrities I can think of.
Yes, I am one of the most eligible bachelorettes. Like I said, the experiences I've had in the past have molded and shaped me into who I am now. I just believe that God will send me the right man in my life. I donít want to do anything that displeases God or hinders my blessing. I believe my man is on the way!

I mean saved; I want him to be saved and be a praying man. Yet, still have balance, not that he has to be all holy 24 hours a dayÖ

How difficult is it for a brother to step up, understanding that you are in the limelight most of the time? How difficult is it to keep a realistic relationship thatís grounded?
The man just cannot be intimidated; the man has to have something going on for himself. He canít be sitting around watching me and not doing anything. He cannot be intimidated at all. He has to have dreams and goals; heís got to be trying to reach those, not worrying about me and what Iím doing. He has to know that this is just my thing but it doesnít make me who I am.

You do have a very special family in Music World Entertainment. Matthew Knowles and your girls Ė Kelly & Beyoncť Ė all support you. Would it be the same had you been a part of another record label or is Music World the place where you feel you can grow and do what you need to do, musically and professionally?
God has me in Music World and Columbia Records for a reason. I donít know of any other label that has been able to handle what I go through. I think the label is small but yet itís so big. Itís small enough to where weíre family-based and it keeps us grounded, humble and focused.

I've got to ask the Question because itís a question I get all the time through e mails. How do you maintain a Christ-centered life and be the professional artist as part of the group of Destinyís Child? How do you keep that needed balance?
I think in the same way someone else would keep their balance, say if they were like a hairstylist in a salon. The world should know this about me: I donít make this a big deal. It seems everybody makes this a big deal; Iím handling it fine.

I maintain it fine; I read my Bible and pray just as much as the next person who isn't in R&B. Probably more because I've got to stay grounded, humble, focused and saved. I got a whole bunch of videotapes from my church in Chicago and my spiritual father in Atlanta, Bishop Eddie Long keeps a watch on me. They keep sending me CDs and videos so that I can be in the Word more.

In closing, Michelle, as people listen to the album, Do You Know, as they get acquainted with the songs, what are you hoping to bring to their lives?
That everybody live in peace and not settle for anything less than what the Lord wants to bring your way. I know what I went through, I know God is taking me to another level. I had people around me that were not going where I was going - I had to release them from my life.

I was in a relationship for three years - I had to put that off. There were other friends. Iím not saying they werenít nice people but they were hindrances in my life. As soon as I let them go, thatís when God started opening up major doors whether spiritually, financially. God started just making ways for me.

I believe God needs me to Himself; thatís why I tell people, "God had me to himself for a while. Let Him leave you in a corner so He can minister to you. He can begin to show you or just let you know him better and help you not let people be hindrances to your life.

Thereís a song on my album called The Way of Love. With my time alone with the Lord, Iím learning the way of love; Iím learning the way of Godís love. Iím learning thatÖ thereís another song called No One Like You. Thereís no one like the Lord in my life. Nobody - and there will never be.