Michel’le Toussaint, known professionally as just Michel’le, is the subject of Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel’le, a Lifetime movie that debuted on October 15, 2016. Toussaint had an abusive relationship with Dr. Dre, who disputed the claims prior to the Lifetime movie and reportedly tried to keep Lifetime from airing the movie. The 45-year-old singer has a son from her relationship with Dre and also has a daughter with ex-husband Suge Knight.
After the film first aired, Michel’le wrote, “My love,my goal is to educate 1st n for most…keep in mind what matters.”
After the success of Surviving Compton, Michel’le signed an overall deal with Thinkfactory Media. The company, which produced the film, is in talks with networks about making a reality series about Michel’le and her family. The move came after the first airing of Surviving Compton drew 2.3 million viewers.
Here’s a look at Michel’le’s career and, yes, an explanation for her famous high-pitched voice.
1. Michel’le Has a Unique, Squeaky Voice Because She Talks Over Her Larynx
When Michel’le was on The Wendy Williams Show last year, the first thing Williams wanted to get out of the way was her unique, mousy voice. Although she has powerful vocals when she sings, she sounds entirely different when she talks. Michel’le explained that’s because she talks over her larynx and her singing comes from her diaphragm.
In an interview with The Breakfast Club in March 2015, Michel’le said that her voice has always been like that. She said that she didn’t start talking until she was 3 or 4 years old. When asked if her voice was due to anything wrong, she said it wasn’t. Instead, it’s simply the way she talks.
When SoulTrain.com asked Michel’le if she wanted to voice a cartoon character, she said she’d be interested.
“I’m signed to a voiceover agency so hopefully I’ll land something really quickly because I love it. I’m waiting for something to bite,” she said. “And I don’t care if I get to do the voice of a pig, a dog or a bear—I don’t care—I just want it!”
Actress Rhyon Nicole Brown, who plays Michel’le in Surviving Compton, did her best to recreate the voice in the film. While on The Real, Brown explained how she did it:
2. Dr. Dre Claims Michel’le’s Allegations That He Abused Her are False & He Threatened to Sue if ‘Surviving Compton’ Aired
In her Breakfast Club interview, seen above, Michel’le claimed that she had five black eyes, suffered a crack rib and a broken nose during her relationship with Dre. At the time of Straight Outta Compton‘s release in 2015, Dre issued an apology “to the women I’ve hurt.”
In an interview with Rolling Stone, it appeared that he directly apologized for what he allegedly did to Michel’le.
“I made some f**king horrible mistakes in my life. I was young, f**king stupid. I would say all the allegations aren’t true – some of them are. Those are some of the things that I would like to take back. It was really fucked up. But I paid for those mistakes, and there’s no way in hell that I will ever make another mistake like that again.”
However, Dre’s attorney told Jezebel that the apology did not refer to Michel’le’s claims. “Her false claims of being a victim arose for the first time more than 25 years after their relationship ended, coinciding with the success of Straight Outta Compton and her own efforts to sell a life story,” Dre’s attorney said.
TMZ obtained a cease and desist letter to Sony Pictures TV, saying that they will sue if Surviving Compton airs. They also wanted her to stop talking about her claims. Michel’le insisted to TMZ that the Surviving Compton shows the truth.
Still, as Jezebel notes, Surviving Compton does end with a disclaimer. “Dr. Dre, through his attorney, denies abusing Michel’le and challenges her credibility,” it reads.
In her interview with Jezebel, Michel’le said it feels like Dre retracted his 2015 apology. She said:
That’s what it looked like to me. Did it look like that to you? First of all, he didn’t apologize to me. He apologized to the public. So why would you do that? That makes no sense. We thought [the letter from Dre’s attorney] was hilarious. I loved it. I thought, “This could not have closed the movie any better.” It’s like an oxymoron. I couldn’t believe it. I had them read it to me three times.
3. She Thinks She Was Responsible for the Success of Ruthless Records & N.W.A.
Although Michel’le’s self-titled 1989 album came out a year after N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton, she told Elle Magazine that she does think she was at least partly responsible for Rutheless Records’ success. She said that her status as an R&B singer instead of a rapper gave her a wider audience in the late ’80s.
Michel’le explained to Elle:
Rap was forbidden with the people who were interviewing us and the shows that I was getting [booked on], and I had kind of crossed over. So Jerry [Heller, who managed N.W.A.] would tell me, ‘Do not say you’re a rapper, always say you’re R&B.’ Then instead of introducing Dre as the guy from N.W.A., he would say Dre was my producer! Dre would come to my interviews with me—he’d come to all these places that would never have had the guy from N.W.A. Wasn’t it genius? Do you see how Jerry Heller made it work? That is how he combined what we did to make the rap music into mass music. That’s exactly how it happened.
Despite her important role in Dre’s early success as a producer, Michel’le was left out of the Straight Outta Compton movie. She told Elle that the film is an “illusion” and “how he wanted it to be remembered.”
Dre was a co-producer on Michel’le’s first album, which included the smash hits “No More Lies” and “Something In My Heart.” However, she didn’t record another album until 1998’s Hung Jury, which failed with critics and didn’t connect with fans, for Death Row Records.
“I cried, and that’s all I want to say. That’s all. I’ll leave it like that,” Michel’le told the Washington Post about her thoughts on Straight Outta Compton. “I have no comments because I haven’t collected my feelings on anything.”
4. Michel’le Was Married to Suge Knight, Who Also Threatened to Sue if He Looked Bad in ‘Surviving Compton’
Michel’le married Suge Knight, the co-founder of Death Row Records and they had a daughter, Bailei, who was born in 2002. She also had a son, Marcel, with Dre. Her marriage with Knight ended soon after Bailei’s birth.
In 2009, Michel’le went to court over unpaid child support from Knight, The Wall Street Journal reported at the time. Three years after Death Row Records and Knight filed for bankruptcy, she asked the bankruptcy official handling the estates to pay $40,476 in unpaid court-ordered spousal and child support bills that had stacked up in three months.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Michel’le said that Knight also threatened to sue her and Lifetime “if we made him look any type of way” in Surviving Compton.
Suge Knight is still behind bars and facing murder charges in a January 2015 hit-and-run case, in which one man was killed.
5. Michel’le Revealed That She Attempted Suicide in 2013
Last year, when Michel’le spoke with the Daily Mail, she revealed that she attempted suicide two years prior. She had reached a breaking point because Knight also controlled her life, claiming that he was the reason why she didn’t sing for seven years.
“Two years ago I tried to kill myself as I was at such a low point in my life,” Michel’le told the Daily Mail. “Looking back I didn’t even know I was depressed, I was just so used to feeling that way and thought that was what life was. I tried telling my family and friends but they just blow you off and say: ‘Yeh right’ they don’t know what it is, so they just don’t want to be around that.”
In that same interview, Michel’le revealed that she showed Bailei the security camera footage that allegedly shows Knight running over two men. And even though Knight was in prison when Bailei was born, she was still tying to make an attempt to have keep her Bailei’s father in her life.
“Even if he is found guilty, it does not change anything. He is still her father,” Michel’le told the Daily Mail. “I wouldn’t be happy for her to visit him in jail, but I wouldn’t stop her.”
“It’s easy for people to say, ‘OK, get over. Let it go,’ but then it’s not as easy,” Michel’le told the Huffington Post about abusive relationships. “And the same goes with substance abuse, too. It was hell and didn’t help the situation, at all. I just really don’t want women to go through it, at all.”
Michel’le is also recording a new album and writing an autobiography that will be released in early 2017. She also starred in the reality show R&B Divas: Los Angeles from 2013-2015.