Chrisette Michele

By Sandria M. Washington

Whether it’s to celebrate the newness of love, do the ugly cry in the dark to get over the pain of heartbreak or channel her unmatched badassery to live life unapologetically how you choose, there’s truly a Chrisette Michele song for every occasion. Since the release of her debut album I Am in 2007 showcasing her this-is-what-#BlackGirlJoy-looks-like smile on the cover, Chrisette Michele’s soulful transparency and connectedness to young, Black womanhood instantly earned her a position as everyone’s BFF/dope homegirl in their head. So, it’s no surprise that after a nonstop day of media, ‘Super Chris’ could sit down in a Chicago hotel, lean back and relax, and speak girlfriend to girlfriend to a complete stranger about her intimate – at times terrifying – struggle with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).

PCOS. Fibroids. Ovarian cysts. Endometriosis. So many of us are connected by an unfair sisterhood of reproductive issues and Chrisette has experienced all four. “My cramps were so bad every month that sometimes – this happened twice within a couple years span – I had to be rushed off of an airplane or an airplane had to land to rush me to the hospital because I was in that much pain,” she recalls. “So after some time I decided there’s no way this is normal. And so, so many of my sisters – by ‘sisters’ I just mean girls in the struggle – were like, ‘You know what? That happens to me,’ and I was like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna talk to my doctor about this.’”

At the time of Chrisette’s PCOS diagnosis four years ago, the Grammy-winning singer was in the midst of a vegan diet and working with a holistic doctor, doing everything from kinesiology, Reiki treatments and leaning on her Christian faith “praying and just asking God to just open up doors and windows for me to see what I should be doing with my body.”

Classified as a common hormonal disorder, PCOS can cause weight gain, insulin resistance, excessive (and just downright disrespectful!) hair growth and increase the risk of other chronic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Chrisette’s doctor initially kept her on a vegan diet, focusing on anti-inflammatory foods so that things (i.e., fibroids) wouldn’t be growing as big as they could grow. Sugar and salt became the singer’s enemies and eventually she even transitioned to a raw vegan diet – super hardcore. Like, peaches for breakfast and watermelon with a huge bowl of salad for lunch type hardcore.

Chrisette MicheleEven with the focus on eating better, she was still experiencing extreme discomfort ‘down there.’ One night she was rushed to the hospital and they removed one of her ovaries.  “It was the scariest thing that ever happened to me…It was overwhelming.” This was a turning point for her to learn more about PCOS and really start talking about her struggle. “I wanted to let other people know because I kind of wanted people to know that they weren’t by themselves. And, I wanted to see who else was in this struggle with me.”

Chrisette, the vegan with natural hair, was a part of her identity, she says. It became part of the brand. So, what happens when you have to let go of something that’s been such a large part of your identity and career?

“There’s no way that you can be a vegan and have PCOS at the same time, and you DEFINITELY cannot be a raw vegan and have PCOS.” This is what Chrisette’s holistic doctor – who is also vegan – told her not too long ago. Her doctor told her, “You need to be on a Paleo diet.”

Having built an ethical lifestyle around veganism, Chrisette describes the transition to a Paleo diet as “uncomfortable.” She didn’t want to tell anyone. “I didn’t want to tell PETA because I had just sat down with PETA and we were so excited. I wouldn’t tell the record label because a part of me was vegan. A part of Chrisette Michele is the natural hair and the vegan.” The singer admits, “This is my first interview where I’m letting people know that I’ve decided the Paleo diet is kind of the way for me.”

Chrisette MicheleThese days, she’s doing sugar-free coffee in the mornings (if she has coffee), Crystal Light and burgers without the bread or with a gluten-free bun instead. Sugar is still not her friend, along with dairy. After making the change in her diet, Chrisette says, “I began to experience much less cramping, much lighter cycles and less drastic mood swings before and after my cycle.” Hopefully, fans, vegans and whoever else won’t have a problem with Chrisette doing what works best for health at this time. Like the evolutionary artist that she’s always shown herself to be, she’s okay with change and her journey is coming full circle.

“I started off the vegan journey needing healing and that was almost four and a half years ago and I went on that juice feast because I was so exhausted and distraught with all that I had been through. I just needed to be cleansed,” she explains. She was in a brokenhearted space that needed healing and from that journey fans were gifted with the album Better. With a new release from her independent Rich Hipster label slated for spring 2016 – the first single “Steady” currently in rotation – Chrisette says that it’s playtime. The newly-engaged Chrisette Michele has been in the studio having fun and singing about love.

“Now I feel like, man, it’s harvest time. You know what I mean? It’s okay for me to sing about it [love] and be okay with that space.”

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