I think it’s safe to say that the concept behind “The Masked Singer” is a little…weird. Still, the show has become a hit. It trends all the time on Twitter. People get into intense discussions about the vocalists’ identities. And the reveals are extremely satisfying even for people who’ve never managed to tune in.
Last night, Destiny’s Child member and gospel singer Michelle Williams revealed herself on the show. And given the distinct nature of her voice, it wasn’t hard for the audience or the judges to realize who they were listening to.
After her unveiling, Williams spoke to Billboard about her run on the show, being insecure about her voice and how “The Masked Singer” has been therapeutic as her first foray back into the mainstream.
Joining the show in the midst of the break
The cool thing was it was right in the middle of me taking time off. I really intended to take this entire year off. Management and everybody was like, “Your identity is hidden, no one will know who you are until the day you have to be unmasked.” So I was like, “OK, I can rock with that.” Of course a few people knew… I’m close with the music director of the show, he’s a friend of mine, so I felt comfortable and I’d be taken care of. And as it relates to anything I’ve done in 20 years in the industry, The Masked Singer is probably one of the top three to five things I’ve ever done.
Billboard: Why is that?
The way they handle you, it’s good energy. Everybody wants you to be your best. I miss people that worked on the show. And musically for me, it worked for me to do… I felt like I was able to shine a little bit.
In an interview with “Entertainment Weekly,” Michelle spoke about how performing has helped her deal with some things in her life.
EW: After you sang “Bang Bang,” someone wrote on a YouTube that you ‘almost caught the Holy Ghost toward the end’ and how you did the old church shuffle.
That’s why I’m telling you music keeps me in a different way. And this whole year I was kind of in a shell, just kind of, um, I took some time off this year and music hits you different when you are in a different place like spiritually. I was meditating and working on my heart, my soul, and my mind this entire year. So when I grabbed that mic, it just hit me in a different way. So I don’t know, sorry to the show. I barely worked this year. In 20 years, I had never taken pretty much the year off. When they asked me about The Masked Singer, I said I’d love to do it. No one’s gonna know it’s me. I didn’t care about how I looked when I showed up to the studio because no one knew. I also did it this year because last year people thought I was on the show.
You talked in the package about insecurities about your voice, which seemed odd since you were one-third of one of the most popular groups of all time. Was that for real?
Oh yeah, that was no lie. Because I’ve done a lot of gospel, so I’m kind of insecure because mainstream [fans] don’t know my voice. And sometimes social media… it’s bad when you read the comments. I like engaging with people on social media. I don’t want to not talk to the people that are being gracious all because there are some mean ones out there. But sometimes before you get to the nice ones you have to get through a couple mean ones. Apparently I don’t have the most commercially appealing voice or whatever. People have their favorites, but vocally I was not a favorite in the group, and that stuck with me.
That struck me, because here you are in this enormously popular group and you still feel that way, which is proof that despite all the sucess, it’s still a struggle every time you go out there.
It’s still a struggle. I’m in a theater show as we speak, and you want to make sure… I hope the people like it. That’s what we signed up for — people are buying their tickets and you want to make sure they’re pleased so they’ll continue to support you on the next move you do. At the same time, you have to go up there and be you, not bend or conform… no, do it the way God gave it to you. Be who you are.
In fact, on her Instagram page, Michelle Williams shared that she was going to stop singing all together.
You’ve played Coachella, the Super Bowl, which were also very hush-hush, surprise gigs with DC. How did this show compare when it came to nerves, prep and secrecy?
It’s the difficulty of lying. Remember for the Super Bowl I couldn’t tell anybody. For Coachella I didn’t even tell my immediate family because they get so excited and they’ll start Facebooking it and telling it. Even for The Masked Singer — I do have a personal Facebook page and I use it to lurk and make sure that my nieces and nephews aren’t posting. I can’t police them, but I’ll be like, “Take that down! That has curse words!” I looked on my sister’s page and I think on my first performance she was like, “I know that voice anywhere!” But I couldn’t tell her anything. I couldn’t tell her, “Hey, sis, take it down.” Or if you do post don’t allude that it’s me. I couldn’t say anything. I talked to my aunt not too long ago when I called to see how she was doing and she was like, “Oh, well, before you leave, Miss Butterfly.” I was like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And also I’m in a musical now called A Snow White Christmas and a lot of the cast members, I believe they know it’s me, so they’re asking me questions like, “We’re going to watch The Masked Singer tonight, do you want to come to our hotel and watch it?” And i’m like, “No, I’m still learning lines. I got an early morning. I can’t watch.” Some of the little kids are asking me, “Miss Michelle, are you on The Masked Singer?” And I’m like, “No, I’m in rehearsal here with you, I don’t have time for that!” I had to lie!
That must be tough for a church kid!
Oh yeah. I said, “Jesus, now I know one of the commandments is to not lie”… and I’m like, “I’ve been lying… but I think you’ll forgive me, right?” These lies are not compromising anyone’s health or anything like that! I’m saying that to say I come from a stock where we’ve had to lie because the element of surprise, you don’t want to give things away. I’ve seen Kelly Rowland do some interviews and they keep asking her about a Destiny’s Child reunion. Like we’re gonna tell you? We’re not gonna tell you! So I have to use that same energy for The Masked Singer.
So did you tell Kelly and Beyoncé?
No, I can’t because I’m just so scared. But I’ll tell you this: I know they’re watching.
Who did you tell?
My management knows. But I’ve been getting text messages from Bey, Kelly, my cousin — so I know people are watching. But I don’t want to say nothing. But I’m gonna go ahead on and say it: Bey and Kelly know it’s me. They know my voice. They know! They know it’s me. But they won’t say anything. But I still signed an NDA [non-disclosure agreement].