Broadway star Jennifer Holliday is the latest performer to back out of next week’s presidential inauguration celebrations, saying she did not realize that her participation would be interpreted as a statement of support for president-elect Donald Trump.
The move comes a day after singer Paul Anka announced he would no longer be singing at the Jan. 20 ball, despite Trump being “an old friend” of his.
Anka, who had previously agreed to perform at the Inauguration Day gala for a “first dance” between Trump and his wife Melania, blamed a scheduling conflict for the cancellation. But Holliday, best known for her Tony-winning role in Broadway’s Dreamgirls, said she did it to support her lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) fans.
Her reversal was first reported by The Wrap; the publication obtained a letter Holliday wrote to her fans. Her representative, Bill Carpenter, confirmed the details in the letter to The Associated Press.
“My only choice must now be to stand with the LGBT Community and to state unequivocally that I will not perform for the welcome concern or for any of the inauguration festivities!” she wrote.
“Please know that I hear you and I feel your pain. The LGBT Community was mostly responsible for birthing my career and I am deeply indebted to you,” she added. “You have loved me faithfully and unconditionally and for so many years you provided me with work even though my star had long since faded.”
In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Holliday defended her initial decision to perform.
“I didn’t see it as singing for Trump; I saw it as singing for the people on the mall,” Holliday told the AP.
The performer, who most recently starred on Broadway in The Color Purple, said she was hurt by the angry backlash, which included calls to boycott her music. Others called her “Uncle Tom” and there was even a suggestion that she take her own life.
‘How could I have this much hate spewing at me, and I haven’t even done anything?’ - Jennifer Holliday, singer
“It just really made my heart drop to my feet,” Holliday said. “How could I have this much hate spewing at me, and I haven’t even done anything? I guess it’s not like those old days when political views were your own and you had freedom of speech. … We live in a different time now, and a decision to go and do something for America is not so clear-cut anymore.”
Teen singer’s transgender sister shows support
Holliday is not the only performer who has faced intense public pressure to back down from Thursday’s concert at Washington’s Lincoln Memorial.
Teen opera singer Jackie Evancho, best known for her appearance on America’s Got Talent, has faced criticism for her decision to sing the national anthem.
The 16-year-old’s transgender sister has recently come to her defence. Juliet Evancho appeared alongside Jackie on a CBS Sunday Morning segment set to air this weekend, saying her sister “is singing for our country and it’s an honour for her to be singing in front of so many people.”
Jackie Evancho told CBS she hopes her performance will bring people together and “make everyone forget about rivals and politics for a second.”
Several other prominent entertainers have either declined to perform at Trump inaugural festivities or indicated they would decline if asked to, including Elton John, Garth Brooks, Kanye West, Céline Dion, Moby, Charlotte Church, Ice-T, Andrea Bocelli and David Foster.
A member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir resigned from the famed group over its decision to perform. The Radio City Rockettes are slated to perform, though the union representing the dancers has said participation is voluntary after some members of the troupe expressed discomfort with the decision.
Inauguration host snubbed after 60 years
One person who wanted to play a role at the event but won’t is Charles Brotman, the 89-year-old who has announced every inauguration parade since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1957.
CNN reported last week that Trump opted to break tradition and replace Brotman with Steve Ray, a 58-year-old Washington-based freelance announcer.
The veteran announcer found out about the snub in an email from Trump’s team.
“I looked at my email, then I got the shock of my life,” Brotman told CNN’s Carol Costello. “I felt like Muhammad Ali had hit me in the stomach.”
He told CNN he was so distraught he thought he “was going to commit suicide.”
The so-called “A” list celebrities are all wanting tixs to the inauguration, but look what they did for Hillary, NOTHING. I want the PEOPLE!