Jennifer Holliday has cancelled her appearance at President-elect Donald Trump's upcoming inauguration concert, after her booking sparked outrage from members of the Broadway and LGBTQ community
“My only choice must now be to stand with the [LGBTQ] Community and to state unequivocally that I WILL NOT PERFORM FOR THE WELCOME CONCERT OR FOR ANY OF THE INAUGURATION FESTIVITIES!” Holliday wrote in an open letter obtained by PEOPLE.
She continued, “I sincerely apologize for my lapse of judgement, for being uneducated on the issues that affect every American at this crucial time in history and for causing such dismay and heartbreak to my fans.”
On Friday, the 56-year-old actress and singer was announced as a performer for a Jan. 19 event at the Lincoln Memorial called “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration” — alongside a handful of artists including rock band 3 Doors Down and country singers Toby Keith and Lee Greenwood.
Holliday has long been a member of the Broadway community since her breakout role in the 1981 original production of Dreamgirls when she was just 21. Her performance as Effie White catapulted her to global success, won her a Tony award, and earned her the first of two Grammys for her signature song “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” She recently returned to Broadway after a 15-year absence for a run in the hit revival of The Color Purple.
Broadway has long been a haven for the LGBTQ community — accepting, employing and championing many of its members. Holliday’s no-holds barred attitude, outcast status and fight-for-justice spirit showcased in “And I Am Telling You…” became an anthem for the LGBTQ community during the AIDS crisis — turning her into a LGBTQ icon and advocate. For decades, she has raised funds for LGBTQ causes and been vocal in the fight for equality.
While President-elect Donald Trump has said he will uphold the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision on marriage equality, he has supported provisions that would make it legal to deny services to LGBTQ individuals based on religious beliefs — and could possibly reverse an executive order that states federal workers can’t be fired on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
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Vice President-elect Mike Pence has been a crusader for anti-LGBTQ legislation throughout his career, supporting a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality and signing a 2013 bill to jail same-sex couples in Indiana for applying for a marriage license. As a Congressional candidate in 2000, Pence even proposed to move federal funding from HIV/AIDS organizations to institutions that would provide conversion therapy for “those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
Many of these points were made to Holliday in a widely circulated editorial published by The Daily Beast on Friday — one that Holliday says changed her mind about her inauguration performance.
“I sincerely apologize for my lapse of judgement, for being uneducated on the issues that affect every American at this crucial time in history and for causing such dismay and heartbreak to my fans,” she wrote.
“Please know that I HEAR YOU and I feel your pain,” she continued. “The LGBT Community was mostly responsible for birthing my career and I am deeply indebted to you… 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.
“Thank you for communicating with me, I had no idea that I still meant so much to all of you,” she wrote.
Holliday — a Hillary Clinton supporter — had previously defended the booking amid death threats and boycott warnings, telling The New York Times that she doesn’t have “a dog in this fight” and explaining to Billboard that she considered her performance to be a non-partisan one.
“I haven’t even endorsed anything,” she said. “I’m not singing for Donald Trump; I’m singing to welcome the people of America. 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.”
She maintained her self-described “bi-partisan songbird” status in her letter, explaining that she had previously sung for presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
“I was honestly just thinking that I wanted my voice to be a healing and unifying force for hope through music to help our deeply polarized country…” she wrote. “Regretfully, I did not take into consideration that my performing for the concert would actually instead be taken as a political act against my own personal beliefs and be mistaken for support of Donald Trump and Mike Pence.”
Holliday’s inauguration booking isn’t the first celebrity booking that has been wrapped in controversy. The Radio City Rockettes have been facing backlash since their participation in the Jan. 20-event has been announced. Despite turmoil behind the scenes caused by the controversy, the group is still expected to perform.
- with reporting by MARIA MERCEDES LARA