‘A better day has come’


John Legend is speaking with Yahoo Entertainment about his “This is Our Shot” campaign with Walgreens — which aims to encourage all citizens, especially those in areas hit hardest by the pandemic, to get the COVID-19 vaccine — and he’s in an upbeat mood about what the near future holds.

“A lot of us had tragedy last year. We had it personally, in our immediate family,” says the EGOT-winning musician, activist, and Voice coach. “But I feel optimistic. I feel hopeful. We’ve got to get to the finish line, and the finish line for the pandemic is getting as many people vaccinated as possible, making herd immunity a possibility, in our communities and our society and around the world. And that’s why I’m out there with this message. We all want to get back to normal. We want to touch each other again, feel each other again, connect with each other again.”

Legend deeply felt that disconnection and sense of isolation himself in 2020; he reveals that he lost some of his older relatives to the coronavirus, then wasn’t able to visit his family in Ohio during the holidays. (“We had Christmas on Zoom,” he sighs.) On top of that, as he notes, he and his wife Chrissy Teigen were grappling with another family tragedy, the loss of their son Jack, who was stillborn and delivered about halfway through Teigen’s pregnancy in late September. But Legend recalls a moment five weeks after Teigen’s pregnancy loss, on Nov. 7, 2020, when he and his wife felt some much-needed hope again.

“It was impromptu,” Legend says of the sunny Saturday when Joe Biden — for whom Legend had performed at 2020’s Democratic National Convention — was officially declared the winner of the presidential election. That afternoon, Legend and Teigen jumped in the car and headed to West Hollywood, to join the unofficial victory parade that had taken over Santa Monica Blvd. “It was Chrissy knowing that so many of our neighbors in the community were out on the streets celebrating. We had been on lockdown. We had been grieving the loss of baby Jack. We just hadn’t been out for such a long time, and we just felt that sense of euphoria, like a better day was coming. And we went out and celebrated and it was a beautiful feeling. And the fact is, a better day has come. We are doing better on vaccinations than nearly any country in the world, and that’s due to good leadership — leadership led by people who believe in science and listen to the scientists. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it feels good.”

Of course, there are still plenty of people this country who seemingly don’t believe in science — for instance, just this week, podcaster Joe Rogan recklessly told his millions of listeners that younger people don’t need to be vaccinated — which is why Legend feels the urgent need to be part of the “This Is Our Shot” initiative and get the correct messaging out. “There’s so much misinformation out there,” he laments. “There’s a lot of noise from people who don’t know what they’re talking about, when the overwhelming consensus from scientists — who have been studying medicine and infectious diseases and virology and have committed their lives to working on these issues — is that these vaccines are safe, they’re effective, and they’re the best way to prevent the spread of the virus. It’s overwhelmingly clear. I respect the work and the time that these scientists have put in, and I trust them to tell the truth about what they’ve seen. I trust them enough that I was willing to take the vaccine myself and encourage all of my loved ones to do the same.”

As for some sectors of the population that perhaps harbor a more understandable distrust of the medical system and are therefore hesitant to get vaccinated, Legend says, “I think a lot of times people point out the Tuskegee experiment and other times when the Black community has been betrayed by science and by medical professionals. And that certainly is valid, that people remember that and use that as an example of a time when we clearly were betrayed by the people who were supposed to be taking care of us. But the essence of that betrayal was denying treatment for people who needed it, and this is the opposite. And the fact is, even though it’s been hyped up that Black and Brown people are more distrustful, the overwhelming result of the polls is that we’re not the most hesitant community. You’re seeing it become a political issue where people on the right, people on Fox News, are introducing a lot of skepticism out to their viewers.

“You know, Trump didn’t publicly get the vaccine, even though he got it, and he hasn’t really actively encouraged his followers to get the vaccine,” Legend continues. “And so you’ve seen a bit of a political divide, where the most hesitant community are conservatives, followers of Donald Trump, watching Fox News and One America News Network and all the conservative news outlets — who have done a disservice to their audience because, you know, Rupert Murdoch got the vaccine early. And I’m sure a lot of these anchors are getting the vaccine and they feel like they can make money by stirring up fear and skepticism, but what they’re doing is making their viewers less safe, and making the country less safe. And it’s really irresponsible of them. And so I encourage all of our media to tell the truth, bring on actual medical experts to discuss the efficacy and the safety profile of these vaccines, and encourage people to get vaccinated. Because this is how we get back to normal. This is how all those people that are frustrated with wearing masks all the time get to take their masks off, basically. … This is what we’ve been waiting for. We’ve been waiting for this moment.”

Legend and his wife have never been reticent when it comes to speaking out, whether it’s regarding their pro-vaccination stance or their passionately held political beliefs, so when Teigen suffered her aforementioned miscarriage last year, she bravely documented the traumatic experience, first on Instagram and later in a moving essay on Medium. Legend has also not shied away from posting or speaking about it. As usual, the polarizing couple was cruelly criticized by some detractors for “oversharing,” but many fans expressed gratitude for their candor, especially women and couples going through the same grieving process in private during an already emotionally fraught year.

John Legend performs alongside Chrissy Teigen and family in Philadelphia, ahead of remarks by Kamala Harris on the eve of the 2020 presidential election. (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

John Legend performs alongside Chrissy Teigen and family in Philadelphia, ahead of remarks by Kamala Harris on the eve of the 2020 presidential election. (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

“I think there’s some shame and a sense of loneliness that that people feel, and I think a lot of times when it comes to what you share with the world, you want to present the rosiest version of your life. It’s tempting to only present to the world your best vacation shot, the filtered versions of your life that are the most appealing. But the truth is, all of us go through really tough times. And a lot of people have lost a pregnancy — way more than I thought or understood before we actually went through it and learned more about it,” says Legend. “And it really helped us to share this tragedy as well, because it connected us to people all around the world. I feel so glad that we were able to share it in a way that was really helpful for us and helpful for other people. We read so many messages. We got flowers from so many people. We had people sending us books that helped them get through similar situations. And you just realize the extent of the community that’s out there, that’s been through something like this, and are happy to connect with you and share with you and support you and be there for you. It’s very heartening. You feel really buoyed by it. It was a powerful feeling. And I think it helped them as well. People felt more seen, knowing that we went through something similar to what they had gone through.”

Many couples, famous or otherwise, did not survive the stress of a lockdown year, and Legend and Teigen were additionally tested by this tragedy. But as they ease into 2021, their bond is more solid than ever. “I think it starts with the foundation,” says Legend, when asked about their marital secret. “You know, we’d built the foundation with each other where we love each other, we trust each other, we respect each other, we support each other. We’ve been through tough times before — nothing like what happened last year, but we’ve been through it — and we are committed to doing the work, whether it’s going to therapy, doing what we need to do to fight for our relationship. When you go through a crisis like that, it does test foundation of your relationship. And I feel like we’ve come through it even stronger. Our love is deeper than ever. It’s more tested than ever. We value our family, I think, more than ever. But it all starts with that foundation of love and respect, which puts you in a position where you’re ready to take on whatever challenges life throws your way.”

Now, as “folks of all races, ethnicities, religions, countries” get the COVID-19 vaccine, move past whatever personal challenges may have been thrown at them in 2020, and try to get back to normalcy in 2021, Legend is also hopeful that everyone will remember their own life lessons from the past pandemic year. “One of the silver linings of this moment is we realize how connected we are, to our neighbors and our community and people all around the world,” he says. “The decisions that we make as a society affect each other, whether it’s masking up to protect each other or getting the vaccine to protect each other. … All of these things have become more clear as we’ve gone through this deep, deep, destructive crisis together. And hopefully that will lead us to think differently about how we look out for each other in the future — realizing that we’re all connected, realizing that leadership and good public policy matter. And hopefully that will make us treat each other better in the future.”

John Legend performing at a pre-pandemic Get Out the Vote event in February 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder

John Legend performing at a pre-pandemic Get Out the Vote event in February 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder

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