Back in 2010 we heard about the out frontwoman of a band in Ann Arbor, Michigan that had a killer voice and was a devoted Skins fan. Then 24 and a student at the University of Michigan, Michelle Chamuel spoke with us about being a musician, rather than “a lesbian musician” or a “Jewish artist.” “It’s not one and alone,” she told us. “I think of myself as a musician. I’m not in to labels, which makes it so that I don’t live by them anyway, so I’m not trying to fit into a category. I think people should do whatever they want.”
Three years later, Michelle Chamuel was standing on a stage in Los Angeles waiting to be told if she was the winner of The Voice. Although she took second, Michelle’s send-off was a happy one as she cheered for the winner, 16-year-old country singer Danielle Bradbery, and knew she’d be going home with a huge new fanbase of her own. Her time on the show was spent with her mentor Usher, who challenged her to sing different kinds of songs and try new things with her voice that had her topping the iTunes charts week after week of the competition. From her rendition of Katy Perry‘s “I Kissed a Girl” for the blind auditions to the more recent performance of Taylor Swift‘s “Trouble,” Michelle was a standout and people wanted to know more about her.
Although she never spoke about her sexuality on the show, it was easy enough for curious minds to find our interview with Michelle and see that she is out, and she had fans in the LGBT community just like she did outside of it. The Voice, unlike other singing reality competitions, has a proven track record of finding and supporting queer contestants, and so Michelle’s presence as a queer, Jewish woman might have been understated, but it was definitely appreciated.
We spoke to Michelle just a day after she flew home to Massachusetts.
AfterEllen.com: I just want to say congratulations for coming in second on The Voice. I’m sure to you it’s just as good as winning first, right?
AE: I found it interesting that we were getting a ton of hits as you were rising up in the ranks on The Voice because of an interview we had done with you on AfterEllen a couple years ago. Are we the only place before or even during The Voice that you spoke with about your sexuality?
AE: I wondered how you felt about that — you never really talked about it on the show. Was that something that you regretted having done or were you glad you did that?
AE: Who were you getting heat from about being out?
AE: I feel like the songs you chose to sing and the way you dressed, the way you wanted to dress, was a statement in and of itself, wouldn’t you say?
AE: The Voice has always been so open and so gay-friendly. Most of the gay contestants in the past have only really addressed their being out because they mentioned their girlfriend or boyfriend or brought them to the audition so it was just there because it was a part of their life. I’m assuming you are single, but maybe it just didn’t come up because who you are dating had nothing to do with it.
AE: A couple of years back, Usher came under fire for saying that lesbians only exist because there’s not enough good men in the world. I was just wondering if through your experiences with him, did you ever sense any sort of homophobia on his end?
The publicist comes on the phone at this point and asks “Do you have anything that’s closer related to the show?”
AE: Sure. I loved the Annie Lennox number you just did. Are you a fan of Annie? What is the genesis of choosing that song?
AE: I just interviewed Vicci Martinez not that long ago and she said she was excited to meet you and your family backstage. Did she give you any advice for during or after the show?
AE: A lot of people want to know what you’ll be doing next, obviously. Will you continue with your band on own your own?
AE: People have been clamoring to find out more about you and see what you have to say about things that are relevant to them and that they are connected with after seeing you on the show. So I put a call out for questions and I got a ton because people are excited. I put them together with some of my own and read back over the old interview we did with you and thought I would update some things about it.
But OK. Band, I don’t think I’ll be getting back together with the band. I love the boys and I love making music with them so if we do make music together, that’s great. As far as getting that ship running, it’s a very big ship and I think my creative direction – being so close to the industry and seeing such hard working people, I really do realize that I want to stay independent as much as I can. And I realize that in my life, I’ve constantly made these choices to stay independent. Like I was thinking of going to Tisch in New York City. They had just opened a program about music business and the industry and production and I was so excited about that, but that would have taken me right into the heart of the industry part of it and I chose more of an alternative program to that which was performance and technology at Michigan because I was like “I want to learn all about it but not necessarily go right into the industry.” I always kind of wanted to pair up with it but on my own terms and it’s difficult when you work really close to it. But when you’re the person that runs the way it goes, it doesn’t necessarily have a space for people who on the outskirts. But that’s my goal and I really want to keep supporting that and doing that because that’s what makes it worth it to me.