Poor Michelle Williams. The oft-forgotten third member of Destiny’s Child’s final incarnation has ben the butt of our jokes for too long, and she’s not gonna take it anymore.
Williams tweeted a sharp rebuke to the #PoorMichelle Tumblr and hashtag on Twitter earlier today, quickly shooting down any theories that Beyoncé is the only Child of Destiny who can throw some shade:
BURN, Michelle. You told everyone. That you aren’t poor, that is. Well done. Good for you.
Of course, being Michelle Williams, she may have made things worse for herself. Shortly after her tweet, #PoorMichelle was trending on Twitter, joined by the likes of Tyler Oakley, David Letterman and James Franco – a quartet that we really hope gets to work together soon.
Williams has a history of being the butt of jokes. But for those who just saw the trend today, this may be news. So why does everyone pick on Destiny’s Middle Child, the Jan Brady if there ever was one? The answer lies deep into Destiny’s Child history.
The adopted Child
Notably like a character she once played on screen, Beyoncé’s girl group didn’t start with the same configuration for which it’s known. The group, which has roots going all the way back to the “hip-hop, rappin’ Girls Tyme” on Star Search, started with Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland, LaTavia Roberson and LeToya Luckett. The group was moderately successful at first, even having a big hit with lead single “No, No, No.” But it wasn’t until their second album, The Writing’s on the Wall, that they really broke through. “Bills, Bills, Bills” became their first No. 1 hit, and the girls were off to the races.
But there was trouble brewing, even as “Say My Name” was becoming a cultural phenomenon. Roberson and Luckett attempted to split with their manager, Mathew Knowles (Bey’s father), over their feelings that he was favoring his daughter and Rowland. Knowles didn’t take the attempted breakaway well.
When the video for “Say My Name” dropped, there were still four faces, but two were quite different. Roberson and Luckett, without even being told, were replaced by Farrah Franklin and miss Jan “Michelle” Brady herself. Because of the timing of the switch, “Say My Name” occupies an odd place in the Destiny’s Child canon: It acts as the dividing line between Pre- and Post-Reconfiguration. Shortly after this, though, Franklin was let go, and the group took on its power trio format we all know and love.
All this history is well-worn – even non-Destiny’s Child diehards know about the change. Yet knowing that Williams is the odd one out is vital to understand why, as time went on, she found herself on the losing end more often than not.
Needing a “Soldier” at 106 & Park
Perhaps immortalizing the “Poor Michelle” meme before we even said the word meme was Destiny’s Child’s appearance on 106 & Park. It was the mid-Aughts, and Beyoncé had already enjoyed a taste of solo success with her debut album. The girls united for one last wholly original record, Destiny Fulfilled, that was a commercial success. The group went on BET’s 106 & Park to promote their single, “Soldier,” and within five seconds, Williams tripped and tumbled down to the floor.
It’s a mesmerizing clip to watch, particularly in GIF form. The other girls just do not care. Rowland in particular looks disgusted, like some trash just fell on the ground and picking it up would be far too much work. Beyoncé doesn’t even notice at first, but then sees it, looks up and continues about her business. The first thing that pops in one’s head is, appropriately, “Oh, poor Michelle.”
Can one trip change a career? Sure, Williams wasn’t the most beloved member of Destiny’s Child prior, but it was a pre-Twitter world. Hating on Williams was a private affair. This clip made it easy to have a laugh at her expense – a trend that continued long after the group broke up for the final time.
Super Bowl: Whoa-oh-no
It’s 2013, Beyoncé is playing the Super Bowl, and viewers are awaiting the inevitable Destiny’s Child reunion. Suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, Kelly Rowland blasts up onto the stage from a trap door. She lands with grace and poise. Will Williams stick her landing too?
Against all odds, she does! And for a brief, shining moment, it’s not #PoorMichelle anymore. But Beyoncé can’t let her have nice things for too long. She asks her DC sisters to join her in “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” – dance included. Williams, despite her best efforts, just can’t quite nail the choreography, to the Twitterati’s delight.
Even fellow artist/Beyoncé feud enthusiast (and therefore Public Enemy No. 1) Keyshia Cole got into the fun:
Around this time, a new Tumblr that had been around since January caught fire. It was, of course, Poor Michelle. Dedicated to “all the times Michelle Williams got the short end of the Destiny’s Child stick,” the blog posted tragic Williams moments consistently for over a year. The rest, of course, is #PoorMichelle history.
The #PoorMichelle trend today indicates things might not turn around for Williams soon. But she’s never let that get her down. In a recent interview with The Huffington Post, she was asked what she’d tell her 25-year-old self. “I would tell myself, ‘it’s OK to be yourself. It’s OK to be odd. It’s OK to not fit in,'” she said without an inch of self-pity.
To paraphrase Williams herself: #PoorMichelle? That’s not what she said.