Over the holiday weekend, I took a quick break from beachin’ and BBQin’ and checked my email, and lo and behold, there was an unsolicited YouTube link from my best friend with the subject line, “LOLZ for dayz.” I followed the link to find a clip from the Miss America Pageant in 1990 in which Miss Arkansas Nicole Bethmann busted out a famous Broadway ditty: “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from the hugely successful Dreamgirls. Sure, the robust Jennifer Holiday made it famous on stage (see her insane performance of the song at the 1982 Tony Awards); later, Jennifer Hudson sang it in the film version (and won an Oscar for her performance). But apparently the song, one of the few famous Broadway showtunes written for an African-American actress, has found a home in the trilling vocals of a somewhat less soulful group of people: white women. Check out a treasury of performances here, and spend the rest of your day figuring out the racial dynamic at play here.
Here’s the one that started it all: as one YouTube commenter points out, this is more like, “I Am Politely Telling You I’m Not Going,”
This Miss Arkansas hopeful must have thought, “Well, it worked for that lady back in 1994!” Bless her heart.
This tween actually knocks it out of the park and gets Brandy’s support, but I’m betting she lacks the complexities of Effie White’s character, maybe?
The original number is a show-stopper, for sure, but the version above, presumably taking place at some sort of corporate talent show, makes me want to stop listening to music entirely.
You have to give it to a performer for changing the pronunciation of words to suit her own fancy, but this lady gets the ball rolling immediately by singing, “And I am telling you I aaaaam not going.”
The hair. That is all.
The gal above cheerfully gives a little context about the song (Effie sings it to her manager when she realizes her professional and personal relationships are coming to an end), although forgets the part where it’s also from a show about the struggles of African-American recording artists set against the civil rights movement.
There’s a lot going on here that even I can’t effectively parse.
BONUS! Here’s a white boy singing as Effie White.
I’m sure you were wondering, “What would it look like if I mounted Dreamgirls but cast a white woman as Effie?” Welp, here ya go.