Yesterday, Donald Trump’s Presidential Inaugural Committee announced that Grammy-winning Broadway star Jennifer Holliday would join artists like 3 Doors Down and Toby Keith for Trump’s Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration on January 20. But Holliday’s camp was quick to clarify that the Dreamgirls star hadn’t agreed to anything just yet. And now, after a day in which she’s been blasted in certain corners for being seen as supporting the president-elect, Holliday—who previously performed for Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and both Presidents Bush—has formally dropped out of the show, issuing an open letter to the LGBT community in which she apologizes for her “lapse of judgment.”
“It’s amazing, because I’m not a person that gets a lot of attention or that seeks a lot of attention,” Holliday told The Hollywood Reporter today about the initial reaction to her decision to perform. “And I’ve spent all day yesterday and all last night reading all the terrible things that people were saying about me. And even being called by my own black people a “n———,” a “house n——-,” “c—n, “Uncle Tom,” people suggesting I should kill myself, a “traitor,” all kinds of things. It was very frightening and very alarming and overwhelming as well to see those kinds of things. It’d be different if I’m out there all the time trying to make headlines or something.”
Initially, Holliday responded to the criticisms by pointing to the inauguration’s wider, apolitical impact. “I’m not singing for Donald Trump, I’m singing to welcome the people of America,” she said at the time. “He cannot be the only face that’s gonna represent us. And just to have all white people up there singing is not going to be a fair representation either. So you’re just saying don’t go? Really?” Ultimately, though, she said she pulled out of the performance because she didn’t want her name to be associated with “heartbreak or sadness.” Specifically, Holliday cited a Daily Beast article about the reaction of the gay community, which has long supported her career. “That got me right at the heart.”
In the interview, Holliday continues to question the idea that accepting an invitation to perform is an inherently political act, saying, “Well, I don’t feel like that but I guess now that’s what will be the future of doing things like that. Now when you sing or appear at things it’s no longer just a performance, it means that you support or you believe what that person is standing for. So, I know that now.” Speaking of political statements, though, Holliday did have a few words for Trump’s recent criticism of her long-time friend and civil rights activist, Representative John Lewis:
How could he say this to a man who sacrificed so much? Not just for African-Americans but just for America, so that America could be better. I have a personal bond with Congressman Lewis, he loves my singing, I sang at his wife’s funeral by special request. I just couldn’t believe that. I was like, “Is he serious by saying that he’s ‘all talk and no action’?” He’s already taken the action, the ultimate action, his blood on the bridge. It’s like, “Really?” I thought that was just very disrespectful and an insult to every person.