Pharrell Williams made an impassioned plea Tuesday for women to rally behind Hillary Clinton and take the reins in American society.
Appearing at Variety‘s Inclusion summit at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, the R&B artist and producer slammed Donald Trump — though without ever mentioning the Republican presidential candidate by name — and countered criticism of Clinton’s trustworthiness.
“If all the women in this nation decided to vote and support the first female candidate, there’d be nothing to worry about,” Williams said in a conversation with Indiewire executive editor and Variety editor-at-large Michael Schneider. “It’s that easy.”
Of Clinton, he added, “Has she been dishonest about things? Sure. Have you?” Accusing Clinton’s opponents and Trump of “gender bias,” he said, “She don’t lie no more than any other politician does.”
At the end of a conversation that focused on Williams’ wide-ranging career in film, television, and music — including as a producer of the upcoming feature “Hidden Figures,” Schneider asked Williams how the social and political polarization of the day has impacted him and his work. Williams responded with a long period of quiet.
“That silence in this room right now is often what I feel when you see some of the things that are being said, not just about my culture, but about women,” Williams said. He spoke of the need for women to wrest control of society from men. “I’m praying that women come together and save this nation,” he said. “You think about the destructive things that have come from mankind, it’s mostly men.”
But he also was self deprecating as he contrasted the lyrics from some of his more salacious songs — which he said were written “in the spirit of dancing” — with the misogynist language employed by Trump and many of his supporters.
“I’ve had 60- and 70-year-old women come up to me and say, ‘You know, I like that ‘Drop it Like it’s Hot’,'” he said. “And I’ve had women come up to me, 80-year-old women, and say, ‘That ‘Blurred Lines’ … ” Williams then raised his hand as if imitating someone about to slap another person, and added, “But they knew where I was coming from. And there’s some other people out there, we knew where they’re coming from too.”
In the closest he came to calling out Trump explicitly, Williams said, “Are we going to let this other situation take over and remind us what ‘great’ used to be?”
He then rejected the idea that Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan constitutes coded language.
“It’s not a code, it’s blatant,” he said. “It made me not want to wear red white and blue for a while, that rally. Those things that were being said. Those t-shirts. I call them the bumper stickers. Cause that’s how they talk. Just like bumper stickers.”
Williams began the conversation talking with Schneider about “Hidden Figures.” Directed by Theodore Melfi and starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, the film is based on the true story of African-American female mathematicians who contributed to the success of NASA’a Mercury and Apollo programs.
“The female contribution to society was not acknowledged like it should be,” Williams said of the movie’s mid-century setting. “Women’s contributions were often dismissed, discounted. The idea that we get a chance to actually go back and shine a light on the amazing accomplishments of these women — and African-American women, you know. It’s one thing to be a woman in the 1960s. It’s another thing to be an African-American woman in the 1960s.”
Watch the Pharrell Williams interview below: