We could tell there was a little something extra special about Michelle and her preacher bae, Chad Johnson. The two seemed to be celebrating more than her Beychella performance.
Today, we learned what that something was. According to People, Williams and Johnson are now engaged.
After a year of dating, Johnson proposed to the Destiny’s Child-turned-gospel singer.
The couple has been engaged for a month. But as Williams said, “We could not contain this any longer.”
Williams met Johnson, 40, in March of 2017 while attending a spiritual retreat in Arizona. Johnson, a pastor, life coach and chaplain for the Pittsburgh Steelers and L.A. Dodgers, was running the event.
Williams, 37, said, “I was in a horrible, dark place.” The singer had recently ended a relationship after a cheating scandal, reportedly with her ex, singer Sir The Baptist.
She continued, “I just needed to go somewhere where I could get a message of hope and restoration, rejuvenation-get connected to God.”
“When we met, both of us were in very similar places on a personal level,” Johnson said he had all but given up on dating. “Michelle was coming off the heels of a really bad relationship, and I was just in a place of despair as well.”
The two liked each other immediately but remained focused on the purpose of Johnson’s Elevate International Retreat.
She said, “I mean he was cute but I did not go to flirt with the pastor!”
The two parted ways but kept in touch. A friend of Johnson’s suggested he pursue a romantic relationship with Williams.
“I tried to roll in with some mac daddy game — and I tried to flirt a little bit and said something like, ‘How about you and I connect sometime?’ And right away, she texted right back with one word and six question marks behind it: ‘Connect??????’” recalls Johnson. “I thought she had dissed me. So I was embarrassed, and I didn’t reach back out to her because I thought I’d ruined the friendship.”
Thankfully, that wasn’t the end of things. A week later, Johnson was on vacation with his 15 and 16-year-old nephews he helps raise. He posted something about the trip on his Instagram stories and Williams responded with a direct message. She slid in the DMs.
Johnson said, “The rest is history.” The social media messages turned into to texts, which turned into frequent late-night FaceTime calls. “We spent almost three months without even seeing each other, just building a strong foundation on the phone and through FaceTime; it was really built on friendship and communication.”
The two had their first official date in the Dominican Republic, where they shared their first kiss. It was also there that Johnson told her, “I’ve been looking. I don’t want to look anymore. I’m done. My search is over.”
Williams said that she decided to keep this relationship under wraps.
“I didn’t even tell any people I was talking to Chad. I wanted to treat this relationship differently because obviously all my past relationships have failed. I didn’t want to talk about another relationship that possibly wasn’t gonna go anywhere.”
She didn’t introduce him to her friends, including Kelly and Beyoncé, until July.
The couple maintained a long-distance relationship with Johnson traveling to work with the Steelers. Still, both believed they would be together for the long term.
“What kept drawing me and drawing me at first was I felt like I could be myself.” She shared that Chad calls her by her given name, Tenitra. “My first name is Tenitra; my middle name is Michelle. I felt like I could be Tenitra: just ratchet, I didn’t have to have on any makeup, if I had to have on my hair bonnet — he just made me feel very safe in being myself.”
For the proposal, Johnson planned a trip to Williams’ hometown of Rockford, Illinois to get permission from Michelle’s family. He traveled there secretly, arranging for the whole trip to be videotaped.
On March 21, a year after he sent that vague “connect” message, Johnson returned to the Pebble Beach hotel in California to recreate the moment.
“We were replaying the whole text message, recreating the moment. I was like, ‘Hey, what about if you and me connected?’ She sent back a message saying she’d check her availability.
Afterward, he signaled for the waitress to bring over his iPad. That’s when he showed Michelle what he’d met her relatives on what he called “the proposal tour.”
“I started weeping and wailing when I see all these special people,” Williams said. “Towards the end of the video, something in my head said, ‘Pull yourself together! He’s about to propose! Stop all this crying!”
Johnson got down on one knee and offered her a 5-carat engagement ring.
“I was just losing it!” Williams said.
With plans to tie the knot this summer, the couple will have a short engagement.
“We do wanna get married very, very soon. We’ve been moving very quickly and planning. Why wait? I want to get married now, but he wants a wedding.”
Williams says she’s already picked out a dress.
Johnson is involved in the planning. “The day after we got engaged, Chad was like, ‘Okay, we gotta pick the wedding date! We gotta do all this stuff!” Williams said.
Williams wanted to slow down just a bit. “She was like, ‘Can we just revel in the moment, relish the feeling?’ And I’m like, ‘Let’s go, let’s go! It’s gonna be…think James Bond meets Midsummer Night’s Dream— with a little hood in it. It’s gonna be very traditional. We’re doing black-tie. We want it to be small and intimate and very private.
Of course, Williams said that includes Kelly and Beyoncé. “We’re wanting all of our friends and family to be there. So it’s looking good!”
Johnson said he hopes their story inspires others. “I’m white, she’s black. What a special time for our relationship to be on display in that respect with the tension in the world and in our country.”
Michelle wants their union to encourage others not to lose hope.
“Don’t lose hope in love,” says Williams. “I do think you should not focus so much that if you’re not in love that you get depressed about it. I was in a place where I was like, I’m just going to focus on my career and my family and just keep it moving. I started taking myself out; I started traveling by myself, to the point where I loved being by myself. Just don’t lose hope. But definitely, be doing what you can do to make yourself a better person for the person that possibly is on the way for you.”
Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days” and the creator of the website NoSugarNoCreamMag. You can follow her on Facebook and on Instagram and Twitter @VDubShrug.