After changing their name to Lady A for racial sensitivity reasons, the pop-country trio formerly known as Lady Antebellum then decided to sue a blues singer also named Lady A over their right to use the name. The lawsuit, filed in Tennessee court this week, claims that the band registered the Lady A trademark years ago and that Anita White, the 61-year-old Black woman who has performed under the name Lady A for decades, made an “exorbitant monetary demand” of $10 million in exchange for shared use of the name.
Lady A the singer responded to the lawsuit with interviews in Vulture and Rolling Stone, explaining that she was going to spend half of the $10 million on rebranding and the rest would be donated to racial justice organizations. “If you want to be an advocate or an ally, you help those who you’re oppressing,” she said. “And that might require you to give up something because I am not going to be erased.” And now, Billboard repoorts, she’s released a lengthy, detailed statement explaining her position.
“It has already been demonstrated why co-existence will simply not work,” White writes. “My fans used to be able to listen to my music on streaming services; now they struggle to find me. Due to Lady Antebellum’s massive rebranding efforts, Lady Antebellum has erased me from every platform. Lady Antebellum has used their wealth and influence to intimidate and bully me into submission without offering any real recompense for appropriating my name.” Read her full statement below.
I first heard about Lady Antebellum’s planned name change after they went public on June 11, 2020, at which point I was shocked and taken aback. During initial calls with the members of the band — Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and Dave Haywood — I hoped that we could reach an agreement that left both sides whole. Lady Antebellum understood that their use of “Antebellum” was offensive and that their adoption of Lady A harms me, as I have been using the name professionally for over 30 years.
Though they recognized their impact, Lady Antebellum has not been receptive to my proposals for correcting their infringement, unfortunately. It has already been demonstrated why co-existence will simply not work. My fans used to be able to listen to my music on streaming services; now they struggle to find me. Due to Lady Antebellum’s massive rebranding efforts, Lady Antebellum has erased me from every platform. Lady Antebellum has used their wealth and influence to intimidate and bully me into submission without offering any real recompense for appropriating my name. It is now clear that their apologies, friendly texts, and playing on my love of God were just insincere gestures aimed at quieting me. Well, I will not be quiet any longer.
After being called out for taking my name, Lady Antebellum and their team of publicists and attorneys are doing what many folks of privilege do when asked to cease and desist bad behavior. Hillary, Charles, and Dave are attempting to change the narrative by minimizing my voice and belittling my experience as an artist — as if having a lot of money gives them permission to tread on my rights. I have worked too long and too hard to just give my name away.
The band’s decision to change their name to Lady A follows the trend of many other groups and organizations working to distance themselves from racism in the wake of the uprisings in this post-George Floyd world. Someone finally told them — or perhaps they knew all along and didn’t care until now — that their name reminds Black folks of just how much was taken from us in the past: our lives, freedom, languages, families, and, yes, our names. It is absurd that Lady Antebellum has chosen to show its commitment to racial equality by taking the name of a Black woman, particularly in this time when we are reminded every day to “Say Her Name.” It is one more demonstration of what continues to be taken away from us in the present. Given the way that Hillary, Charles, and Dave have treated me, I am not surprised that they used the name Lady Antebellum for so long or that their cure is to adopt a name that is only less overtly racist. The A in their name stands for Antebellum and always will. If they are truly committed to racial equality, why do they want to maintain that association, especially when it means making a public, intentional stand to disregard me and my rights?
Lady A is my identity — and it has been since 1987. I want to be able to freely use my brand that I spent decades building. I do not want to part with it. It is particularly painful to me, as a Black woman, to lose my name in THIS time and place so Lady Antebellum can use it as shorthand to celebrate a time and place connected to and very heavily reliant upon slavery. I asked for $5 million to compensate me for this loss, and to help me rebuild under a new name. I also asked that they donate $5 million to a charity so that we could work together to promote racial equality. It was my impression from our communications that this would appeal to Hillary, Charles, and Dave. I guess I was wrong.
Their refusal to come to an agreement that would be respectful of my work and my rights, however, has given me the clarity and the drive to not back down. Black lives, names, experiences, work, art – they all matter. Fellow independent artists have reached out to me to share their stories of name feuds that they lost because they were on the opposite side of big money and privilege. Not only will I not be one of them, but I am hopeful that this fight for what is rightfully mine will help those damaged by this type of bullying and erasure in the past, and that it will prevent it from happening in the future. I will not allow Lady Antebellum to obliterate me and my career so they can look “woke” to their fans.