Michel’le is a silver linings kind of woman.
Last year’s hit movie Straight Outta Compton omitted Dr. Dre’s court documented brutal assault against music journalist Dee Barnes in 1991 and the alleged abuse Michel’le, 45, says she suffered at his hands. In the six years they were a couple, the “No More Lies” singer says Dre, to whom she was engaged and has a son with, violently attacked her multiple times, blackened her eyes and broke her nose and ribs.
The singer will further tell her side of the story when the made-for-TV biopic Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel’le premieres Saturday on Lifetime.
“The blessing was that he didn’t put it in there,” the singer, nee Michel’le Toussaint, tells ESSENCE regarding the movie’s slight. “It gave me the opportunity to tell the story. If he would’ve put five minutes of me in there, I would’ve never gotten to tell my story.”
The powerhouse vocalist, who speaks with an equally legendary high-pitched voice, wonders why Dre chose to leave out the abuse but has a few theories. Dre aka Andre Young is reportedly threatening to sue Sony if Surviving Compton depicts him as abusive. Sony and Lifetime declined to comment. Actress Rhyon Nicole Brown (Lincoln Heights) stars as Michel’le and Curtis Hamilton (Castle) plays Dre.
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“Straight Outta Compton was his story and maybe he has a vision of what he wants his people to remember him as,” Michel’le says. “If he wants to make a movie to be remembered from that era until now, I can understand that. But you ought to be as truthful as you can because it’s a part of history. It was baffling to me but then again, it is his story.”
Facing public and possible professional backlash, Dre, who co-produced Straight Outta Compton, vaguely apologized about his abusive past in the New York Times saying,
“Twenty-five years ago I was a young man drinking too much and in over my head with no real structure in my life. However, none of this is an excuse for what I did. I’ve been married for 19 years and every day I’m working to be a better man for my family, seeking guidance along the way. I’m doing everything I can so I never resemble that man again. I apologize to the women I’ve hurt. I deeply regret what I did and know that it has forever impacted all of our lives.”
But this movie isn’t about Dre’s remorse. It’s about Michel’le. A former star on TV One’s R&B Divas: Los Angeles, which aired for three seasons until 2015, Michel’le says television movies are more labor intensive than reality TV. “I appreciate actors much more than I did before,” she says. “But at least the drama is on the page. On R&B Divas, there were times when we wanted to just sit and laugh and the producers created drama.”
Making Surviving Compton has also been therapeutic for Michel’le, particularly when she watched Brown portray her.
“I didn’t have the final say in terms of casting, but once I heard her talk and then they put the contacts in and I fixed that hair, I said, ‘She’s me,’” says Michel’le, who narrates the film. “I was quite happy. She did a phenomenal job. I did pick the actor who plays Dr. Dre (Hamilton) and notice he’s cuter than Dr. Dre. But we had to give it that modern-day feel.”
The movie also addresses Michel’le’s strange, eight-year romance with Suge Knight. The two got married but the marriage was invalid because Knight was still married to another woman. The two have a daughter together, Bailei, who is now 13.
R. Marcos Taylor, who played Knight in Straight Outta Compton, is reprising his role as the infamous record executive and producer. Knight started out as her protector, the singer says, but also hit her once, dislocating her jaw.
“Abuse is not love,” Michel’le says. “That’s no way to treat a woman.”
Michel’le is most proud that Surviving Compton is airing in October, which also happens to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month. “It organically happened,” Michel’le says of the film’s timing. “Just the way it was supposed to and I hope women watching the movie feel empowered. ”
Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel’le premieres Saturday Oct. 15 at 8 pm ET on Lifetime.