Michel’le: A Survivor at 50, 30 Years In The Making

Michel’le Denise Toussaint, better known simply as Michel’le is the platinum recording artist, songwriter, and author you probably remember during the early to mid 90’s. During the height of her success, she had hits with N.W.A., Ruthless records and by herself like, “Nicety” and “Something In My Heart.”

But her soft, sweet voice and buttery R&B vocals hit the pain of an abusive relationship that took time to heal.

Michel’le was originally a featured female vocalist on World Class Wreckin’ Cru’s 1987 single “Turn Off the Lights.” Soon she caught the attention of Eazy-E and signed to his label. Dr. Dre served as the sole producer on the South Central native’s self-titled debut album and because they worked so closely in a professional manner, their relationship soon became intimate.

During their relationship, which included parenthood and an engagement, Dre raised his hand to Michel’le several times. According to Michel’le he broke her nose, cracked her ribs and blackened her eyes. The relationship prompted a downward spiral into substance abuse for the singer.

“When you’re living in it, you can’t see it. But I couldn’t believe that I was really living like that,” she recently said during an interview with The Huffington Post. “And it really resonated with me. Never did I wake up and ask Dre, ‘Why did you hit me?’”

Michel’le detailed the abuse in a recent interview with The Breakfast Club. “When he gave me my very first black eye, we laid in the bed and cried,” she said on the morning show. “He was crying and I was crying because I was in shock, hurt and in pain. I don’t know why he was crying, but he said ‘I’m really sorry.’ That was the only time he ever said he was really sorry. And he said, ‘I’ll never hit you in that eye again, okay?’“ She said in the interview that he kept that promise, but hit her in other places — “I have scars that are just amazing,” she told the show.

“I never went to the police because –” Toussaint paused to collect herself before continuing. “Because I didn’t know any different and I thought it was a form of love and I didn’t know any better. Can I just leave it right there?”

Now, Michel’le has grown up. She’s now 50, and recognizes what she’s been through, but doesn’t let it stop there.

“When my mother and my grandmother died three months apart, I knew my world was over. They were everything to me and my world was shattered. I was appearing on the reality show R&B Divas and when I started to fall apart it was very public. But I am glad that it happened that way. It made me see myself. And it made me transparent. But doing reality TV is hard. You get lost. You are shooting three months before anybody sees it. So you are past [the emotions]. Then when it airs and the public sees it, they react and it drags you back. It feels you have grown, but then you suddenly feel like you haven’t moved at all.”

But moving on is finally something Michel’le has done, with her family, her emotions, and her life.

Dr. Dre confronted abuse allegations during the Straight Outta Compton press tour, telling Rolling Stone, “I made some f**king horrible mistakes in my life… “I was young, f**king stupid,” he continued. “I would say all the allegations aren’t true — some of them are. Those are some of the things that I would like to take back. It was really fucked up. But I paid for those mistakes, and there’s no way in hell that I will ever make another mistake like that again.”

In 1999, Michel’le found some peace with Death Row Records founder Suge Knight. The two married and welcomed a daughter Bailei, now 14. Although, the marriage was invalid because Knight was still married to another woman. 

Since then, Michel’le’s story was told in a Lifetime movie and she continues to tour and sing all over the country.

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