Anita White won’t let the band formally known as Lady Antebellum “erase” her without a fight.
The Black Seattle blues singer has been performing as Lady A for more than 20 years, long before the country trio announced they were changing their name to Lady A as “Antebellum” has associations with slavery. But this week, the band sued White over the stage name and the irony isn’t lost on the 61-year-old artist.
“They claim to be allies and that they wanted to change their name out of the racist connotation, and then they sue a Black woman for the new name,” White told Rolling Stone. While she recognized Lady A wanted to shed racist undertones “to do so by taking the name on which I, a black woman, have built my career in the music industry for over 20 years is ironic.”
A spokesperson for the band told Yahoo Entertainment earlier this week they aren’t “asking anything of Anita White,” but are merely suing to share the name. That’s not how White sees it.
“They want to change the narrative by minimizing my voice, by belittling me and by not telling the entire truth,” she explained. “I don’t think of myself as a victim, but I’ve worked too long and too hard to just walk away and say I’ll share the name with them. They want to appropriate something I used for decades. Just because I don’t have 40 million fans or $40 million, that should not matter.”
According to White, she made it clear to the band from the beginning she didn’t think “coexistence would work.” White says her music has already been impacted by the band’s name change.
“They said they were going to do their best efforts at insuring that my name could stay out in the forefront [with SEO and streaming services]. Before them, my name was under theirs; I could find myself easily, no problem. Now you can’t find me anywhere, so their ability to keep their word was false,” she claimed. “Their best efforts were hollow; they didn’t mean what they said. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been erased. I have new fans sending me emails asking how to get my music because they can’t find me anywhere.”
In June, it appeared as if both sides were coming to some sort of agreement as the band posted a photo on Instagram of everyone looking happy on a Zoom call, with the caption, “Transparent, honest, and authentic conversations were had.”
According to White, the call with Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley, who make up the Grammy-winning trio, wasn’t productive, as she maintained “coexistence wouldn’t work” and they didn’t seem open to other options.
“They came back with their agreement, which didn’t address my concerns, and I knew what they wanted. They wanted a story that showed us getting along,” she said. “They wanted me to make them look good in the eyes of the public, and that’s why that Zoom call was so important to them. It wasn’t important to me. I went along with it figuring maybe they’d keep at their word, but that didn’t happen.”
White feels her only option is to rebrand.
This week, White sent a revised settlement offer to the band seeking financial compensation for the first time. She asked for $10 million, which she told Rolling Stone would have been split between herself and donations to Black Lives Matter, a charity for seniors and youth in Seattle and musicians in need of legal counsel. The band responded with their lawsuit, calling White’s financial demands “exorbitant” and noted that “prior to 2020, White did not challenge, in any way, Plaintiffs’ open, obvious, and widespread nationwide and international use of the Lady A mark.” The country group has had a trademark on Lady A since 2010.
“They tell a story that I asked for $10 million, but they didn’t tell the true story, and they didn’t say why I did it. I saw this wasn’t going anywhere and they erased me. So what do you think I’m going to do? I have to rebrand myself. I don’t want to have to share a name with you. And you shouldn’t be allowed to just get a slap on the wrist. I wanted my name,” White emphasized. “I should not have to bend to their will because they’ve got money.”
White thinks the group is trying to make her “look bad” and that she’s “just out for the money.”
“I didn’t need their money before,” White explained. “My life was happy before I met them. I do community work. You need to understand if you’re going to be an ally, you need to speak up bravely about what is going on. And if they’re saying they’re an ally, they are lying to the American public.”
White also scoffed at the idea of Lady A’s trademark argument, noting that’s the epitome of “white privilege.”
“I was Lady A for 30 years, regardless of whether I have a trademark. This is what kills me about white privilege. Their advantages let them do whatever it is they want to do. They have people in their camp to go out and get these trademarks. I never had that. I managed myself, I booked myself, I put my brand name out there,” she explained, adding, “‘Lady A’has been tattooed on my shoulder for over 20 years.”
“Am I an angry black woman? I’m angry because of the lack of consideration for me and my people,” White continued. “Like I said, this isn’t just about me. I didn’t ask for that money just for me. If I give up my name or share my name, I’d be a sellout to my people.”
White concluded by telling the country band to change their name if they are truly allies of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“If they are in fact allies, they have the resources, they have the money, they can change their name. It wouldn’t cost them a dime,” she said. “We have to remember the reason for the name change. If that wasn’t the true reason for the name change, none of this makes sense.”
Watch — Lady A, formerly Lady Antebellum, files lawsuit against blues singer with same name:
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