When Michelle Williams checked herself into a health clinic in July 2018, she chose not to tell the whole world about it. But once TMZ broke the news, the Destiny’s Child singer decided it was time to share her story. And after she revealed what was really going on with her diagnosis, her fans rallied around to show their support.
For those who don’t know, Williams was born in Rockford, Illinois, on July 23, 1980. Of course, she loved singing from an early age and even began performing in church and gospel groups from as young as seven. She naturally dreamed of making it as a successful musician – but didn’t truly believe it was realistic.
So instead she started studying at Illinois State University for a degree in criminal justice. However, in 1999 – just two years into her studies – Williams dropped out and found work as a backing singer for R&B star Monica. Shortly afterwards, a choreographer buddy got her in a room with Beyoncé Knowles and Kelly Rowland.
You see, Destiny’s Child was looking for replacement singers, and Williams soon bagged one of the vacant spots. But she was just 19 at the time and struggled under the pressure of daily 12-hour rehearsals. “I mean, many tears were shed,” she told The Observer in 2001. “I was comparing myself to the other members, and the pressure was on me.”
After all, Destiny’s Child already had a record contract and a hit album in the shape of 1999’s The Writing’s on the Wall. At that point, though, tensions between the band’s original members, Beyoncé, Rowland, LaTavia Roberson and LeToya Luckett, had got to be too much. So when the latter pair eventually split, Williams and Farrah Franklin, who also later left the group, subsequently replaced them.
When all was said and done, the band became the trio of Beyoncé, Rowland and Williams. And this version of Destiny’s Child went on to sell more than 60 million records internationally and was known for hits such as Bootylicious, Independent Women and Survivor. In 2002 the ladies took a two-year break to focus on their solo work and then came together again for their final album, Destiny Fulfilled, in 2004. The group officially disbanded two years later.
Since then, Williams has released two more solo albums and also performed in theater. Yet despite not achieving the same level of success as Beyoncé (but then, who has?), the former bandmates have remained friends. In fact, Williams and Rowland performed with Beyoncé during her Super Bowl halftime show in 2013 and at the Coachella music festival in 2018.
In her personal life, meanwhile, Williams started a relationship with pastor Chad Johnson in March 2017. And something must have felt right because in April 2018 they announced their engagement. But then just three months later, TMZ reported that Williams had checked into a clinic near Los Angeles to receive some treatment. So what was going on?
The star later confirmed that she was indeed getting help. “For years I have dedicated myself to increasing awareness of mental health and empowering people to recognize when it’s time to seek help, support and guidance from those that love and care for your wellbeing,” she shared on Instagram. “I recently listened to the same advice I have given to thousands around the world and sought help from a great team of healthcare professionals.”
She added that she wants to be vocal about her experience in the hope that it benefits others. “Today I proudly, happily and healthily stand here as someone who will continue to always lead by example as I tirelessly advocate for the betterment of those in need,” Williams wrote. “If you change your mind, you can change your life.”
And this is not the first time that the star has opened up about her mental health issues. In October 2017, for instance, she revealed that she’s battled these demons since she was a teenager. “I think at the age of 25, had I had a name to what I was feeling at the time, I would have disclosed that I’ve been suffering from depression,” she said during an interview on The Talk. “I didn’t know until I was in my thirties what was going on.”
Williams added, “I just thought it was growing pains. I just thought I was turning into a woman. I’ve been suffering since the age of between 13 and 15. At that age, I didn’t know what to call it.” Those feelings didn’t go away once she became successful, either.
Indeed, the 38-year-old confessed that she had once tried to confide in Destiny’s Child’s manager, Mathew Knowles. “I’m in one of the top-selling female groups of all time, suffering with depression,” she said of her feelings at the time. However, Knowles hadn’t offered her a solution, and Williams had subsequently put it down to being overworked.
Williams went on, “[Knowles] was like, ‘You all just signed a multimillion dollar deal. You’re about to go on tour. What do you have to be depressed about?’ So I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I’m just tired.’”
But Williams admitted that her depression then got “really, really bad” as she attempted to ignore it. Indeed, she said that she had even reached “the point where [she] was suicidal.” She said, “I was to that place where it got so dark and heavy… and I wanted out.”
So after she revealed that she was getting help at a clinic in July 2018, Williams received a huge amount of support from her friends and fans. For example, her fiancé commented on the Instagram post, “I’m so proud of your courage and commitment to this!! WE are in it together and on an AMAZING journey of watching THE master artist paint a priceless work of art!”
Superstar Missy Elliot was one of the celebrities to share a touching message for Williams, too. “I’m inspired by your courage… May God give you a peace of mind/strength/happiness. We love you, sis,” she commented. Beyoncé’s sister Solange agreed, “Love you so Michelle! Really proud of you. Sending you all the love in the world.”
And as well as cooking her a meal, Beyoncé and Solange’s mother, Tina Lawson, wrote, “My Belle, I’m soo proud of you! You have given unselfishly of your time and support to so many, and I know that you will be the best example of self-care, which we all need. Keep being a warrior and an advocate for you. I love and support you with all my being.”
Two weeks after revealing she was getting treatment for depression, the star expressed her gratitude for the kind messages she had received. And she added that she’s glad to be working to erase the stigma around mental health.
“I had no plans of what I was going through being public, BUT now that it is I have a made an even BIGGER commitment to the mental health awareness area,” she shared on Instagram. “So many people are suffering, hurting, hopeless, lost and don’t see a way out, but there is. Depression sucks, but my faith in God and my commitment to doing the work to stay well is my way out!”