Michel’le On ‘Surviving Compton’ Ahead of Premiere
Michel’le has always been a fan of music. In her South Central, Calif., home, tunes from The Commodores, War and Prince filled the space. Her dad was a singer, her brother had skills on the drums and her mother played the guitar. And like her dad, she, too, had amazing vocals.
“When we found out Prince could play all those instruments, we were in awe!,” she tells JET.
But then, her voice lowers from the excitement of the memory and shares, “My parents were never a couple in the household, they just had sex and there I was…I think my parents did the best they could at the time. They were still trying to have a life and sometimes people don’t always make the best decisions.”
Fast forward to her teenage years and Michel’le, a quiet and shy teenager, would find herself in the studio laying vocals and later being signed to Ruthless Records, in a turbulent relationship with music producer Dr. Dre and some time later dating Suge Knight and signing on as an artist on his Death Row record label.
The chain of events and everything in between is now the centerpiece of her Lifetime biopic Surviving Compton: Dr. Dre, Suge and Michel’le, which premieres on Oct. 15.
In the made-for-TV movie, Michel’le, who ran the charts with hits such as “Nicety” and “Something in My Heart” invites viewers completely into her world. She details her love for music and the pain that came with it, including her abusive relationship with Dr. Dre and her “ego-builder”, Suge Knight.
JET caught up with Michel’le and discussed the message behind Surviving Compton and lessons passed on to her children about love and relationships.
JET: When news circulated that you’d be producing a biopic, some said “why now?” Why was it important for you to get this film out?
Michel’le: When Dr. Dre told his story in Straight Outta Compton, I think by him not including me, my absence was noticed and people started their own campaign about ‘why wasn’t she in the film?’ So it kind of manifested itself. I was approached with the opportunity and I took it. Really what the movie is about and why I think it was good to tell is, I could have given you guys a movie about a good girl, sugarcoated it and said that’s my story. I chose to tell you guys what I really went through because I thought it was a better message in that. Abuse is not love. I’m shocked that more women are saying “why now” than men. Like, why not?! Are we going to bury this like we bury AIDS, cancer and molestation? We need to stop bury things and talk about it because if I had heard this story when I was 15, I would have said ‘oh no, I’m going to be more cautious of that.’ But everybody wants to be the hero in their story, so it’s hard.
JET: How deep of a story are we getting with Surviving Compton?
Michel’le: I go back about 20-something years ago and explain a lot of questions that I’ve been asked: ‘How did you go from Ruthless to Death Row?’ So I tried to clear that up and also let people know that ‘maybe I wasn’t the smartest bulb in the chandelier’, so give me a break! What I did back then is being done now and people are having marriages from it! (laughs) So I’m like wow! It’s really trying to show women that abuse is not love. You really should just leave. When men are having families and relationships outside of that, that’s not your man. So I needed to stop fighting with these women, because he wasn’t my man! It’s so much to learn when you watch the movie, ‘why am I fighting with the woman? It makes no sense and I wanted to get it out to strengthen women.
JET: From the trailer, it appears that story deals heavily with you and Dr. Dre’s relationship. What initially attracted you to him?
Michel’le: Um…nothing. He was attracted to me! He stared at me, I stared at him…he just kept staring at me and then finally he got my number and started calling my house. I wasn’t checking for him at all! (laughs) not even a little bit.
JET: But eventually it did blossom into something for quite some time…
Michel’le: Oh yea, well you know…whatever…he was a good kisser so…(laughs)
JET: The trailer depicts Dre as physically abusive. And you’ve been public about all you endured while in a relationship with him and Suge Knight. Was there any consultation with either about telling this story or even concerns about a lawsuit?
Michel’le: I can’t answer that because, you know, legal reasons. But, I’m expecting Suge and Dre to talk. It’s only right for them to express their opinions. But, please don’t try to discredit me and say this didn’t happen because then, I’ll go to court with you and let’s try doing those depositions. Won’t we? Now, that’s a movie. I mean, c’mon! In a deposition, you can’t lie. So, you know, I hope they just let me eat ’cause they’re not feeding me. They do take care of their children right now. I know Suge is struggling but, I’m doing my best to try to take care of my half and be a good co-parent. I don’t think either one of them should say anything but ‘ok, do you.’
(*Editor’s Note: Dr. Dre has recently threatened to sue Sony over depiction in film)
JET: With everything that you’ve been through, how did you begin to build your self-esteem and understand the woman that you wanted to become?
Michel’le: Believe it or not…Suge. He did a lot of building of my self-esteem when I was with him. I think he was good for my ego. He was very uplifting during most of the time I spent with him. He just made me feel like I could do anything and I didn’t have to take anything from him or any other man that thought they wanted to control and be abusive and put their hands on me.
JET: How would you describe love, today?
Michel’le: I don’t know. I think it should be organic. You should feel it. It should be an absolute feeling of pure bliss, I think. Like when you haven’t seen your kids in a week and you can’t wait to see them. Euphoria at its best. When you fall in love with somebody, you don’t always stay in that same frame of love with them and I think people should be able to do that. But as far as me knowing what love is, I can honestly say that I don’t.
JET: Having been through all that you have and being a mother to a son and a daughter, what are some things you were able to instill in them about relationships?
Michel’le: First thing I told my son was don’t put your hands on a woman, and he doesn’t. First thing I told my daughter was ‘you are the one in control. You train him.’ Because what you allow a man to do the first couple of months you’re with him, is what he thinks he’ll be able to do for the rest of the relationship. They may change their minds later because once a child leaves the nest, they enter the real world and have to test these theories. And since I come from a different generation, I can only give them what I’ve been through.