The second episode of Michelle Williams’ new reality show, Chad Loves Michelle, aired last night on OWN—and boy, did things get messy.
The show stars Williams, the Destiny’s Child member who’s been the subject of some sympathetic memes in recent years, and her fiancé, Chad Johnson. In many respects, they seem like a normal couple in the throes of wedding planning, caught up in pre-wedding minutiae and petty arguments. But a clip from last night’s episode (the second in the series) raises some serious red flags about the caliber of Williams’ relationship with Johnson—and how he views race.
In the clip, Williams and Johnson are speaking via Skype to their therapist about communication, describing an argument they had the previous night. “I said something to him on the lines of ‘Well, Chad, because you are not black you would not understand why I communicate the way I do. Maybe because you didn’t grow up around a lot of black people.’ So that was very, very offensive to Chad,” Michelle says in the clip while recounting their disagreement.
Johnson was apparently irked by Williams’ (valid) comment highlighting their racial differences and what that could mean in terms of communication. “To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, green, yellow… it doesn’t matter,” he tells their therapist, Dr. Thema. Instead, Johnson says they should focus on “find[ing] some understanding,” reinforcing his stance as the kind of guy who probably says things like, “I don’t see race, I only see people” unironically.
“And let’s keep that the issue,” Johnson added. “Not pulling [in] all these other things [like race], because then it feels like you’re just trying to cut.”
Williams, understandably, was pissed at Johnson’s asinine suggestion that they keep race out of their discussions, and that her bringing it up was just an attempt at being vindictive or petty. Speaking of petty, Johnson was apparently so miffed at Williams’ mention of race that he decided to belittle her mental health while he was at it.
“And this is not to justify it, but yesterday when we had the disagreement, he said, ‘Did you take your meds today?’” Williams said to the counselor, clearly angry. Johnson attempted to cover his tracks, explaining, “That was, Dr. Thema—I would never go there and I apologized for it.”
“But you shouldn’t go there regardless!” Williams exclaimed.
“And I don’t think you should ever go there with ‘black’ and ‘white,’” Johnson replied, equating his petty jab at Williams’ mental health with her observation that, as people of different races, they likely were raised and taught to communicate in different ways.
Poking fun at someone’s mental state is obviously never OK, but it’s especially cutting here given that Williams has been very candid about her struggles with depression that began when she was between 13 and 15 years old, and continued throughout the heyday of Destiny’s Child. In past interviews, Williams recalled Destiny’s Child manager (and Beyoncé’s dad) Mathew Knowles brushing aside her concerns she voiced at the time. “I’m in one of the top-selling female groups of all time, suffering with depression,” she said while on The Talk earlier this year. “When I disclosed it to our manager [Mathew Knowles] at the time, bless his heart, he was like, ‘You all just signed a multi-million dollar deal. You’re about to go on tour. What do you have to be depressed about?’”
Williams has since sought treatment for her depression, and appears to be doing well; she and Johnson got engaged in March of this year after they met at a spiritual retreat in Arizona. While Johnson’s low blow was hopefully just a one-off comment in a moment of anger, his understanding of race (and how it functions in an interracial marriage) seems problematic at best—and the online backlash was swift, with “Michelle Williams” becoming one of the top trending topics on Twitter as fans took shots at her partner’s ignorant display.
With any luck, the couple can work through their issues with their counselor. Williams has long been the butt of jokes for her occasional lapses in coordination or choreography during Destiny’s Child performances. It’s about time she came out on top.