Virtually the whole world has seen the March cover of Ebony magazine, featuring Grammy Award winner Chrisette Michele standing boldly and beautifully alongside three other curvy ladies for its feature on body image. Flanked by Danielle Brooks of Orange is the New Black fame, R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan, and plus-size blogger/swimwear designer Gabi Fresh, Chrisette donned a thigh-baring bathing suit for the issue that continues the conversation about body-shaming, self-love and self-acceptance, and normalization of curvaceous and full-figured femmes in all their splendor. The success and increased visibility of celebrities like Adele, Melissa McCarthy and Amy Schumer have opened a door, but not necessarily one that the Ebony cover models, including Chrisette, feel they are welcomed to walk through as a result of industry bias and double standard.
I planned to ask Chrisette about the Ebony cover (and the aftermath) when I met up with her following a sold-out performance at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill last week. However, her responses were far different than I expected.
While the self-proclaimed rich hipster did acknowledge that the shoot was about celebrating and not being ashamed of one’s curves, for Chrisette the experience was about the art of play. “My motive was one of, ’Let’s play in bathing suits and show our tattoos!'” Although Chrisette is proud of the cover and grateful for all of the support, praise and press it’s gotten, she’s shocked by the response. “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.”
To further celebrate her curvy figure, Chrisette says she shops at fun stores like L.F. Larchmont and Alice & Olivia. For her New York City show at B.B. King’s, Chrisette was determined to play dress up. “This morning I woke up and decided I wanted to play make believe that I’m Cher tonight up on stage. So that’s what I did,” she revealed after the show. “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 bell bottoms and I played! Every day I’m playing. When people take it seriously I’m always kind of like ’Oops! Totally joking.'”
For Chrisette the world is her playground, whether she’s jet-setting around the planet with her longtime manager turned fiance Doug Ellison, chilling with her skateboard/surfer brother and her peeps, or putting the final touches on her new album, due out May 6. She describes the upcoming work as “an upbeat, fun album with diamonds and sparkles from beginning to end.” For more on Chrisette Michele’s music and her life, check out her website here.