Phylicia Rashad Was Married To Lead Singer Of A Controversial Group, Most Fans Never Knew

Posted On : January 10, 2023
Phylicia Rashad as “Clair Huxtable” on “The Cosby Show”

Phylicia Rashad’s ex-husband was a far cry from the character, “Mr. Huxtable.” She married this very outspoken guy during the disco era and his group was wild back in the day. Before she jumped the broom with former NFL player, Ahmad Rashad, America’s TV mom was once married to.

Answer: Phylicia was married to Victor Willis, the original lead singer and co-founder of the disco group, VILLAGE PEOPLE. Okay, I’ll just let that one sink in for a minute.

Victor is the original lead singer of the group. From 1978–1980, he and Phylicia Rashad were married. This was during the time when Phylicia was an understudy on the Broadway hit musical Dreamgirls. He also wrote the lyrics for her album, Josephine Superstar. On November 17, 2007 Willis married his real life “Clair Huxtable” when he married his second who is a lawyer and executive.

The Village People: Victor Willis is at the bottom center in this pic.
The Village People: Victor Willis is at the bottom center of this photo (via Getty Images)

His persona was the Cop and Navy. The son of a Baptist preacher, Willis developed his singing skills in his father’s church. With training in acting and dance, he went to New York and joined the Negro Ensemble Company.

Phylicia Rashad with her then-husband, Victor Willis– co-founder and former lead singer of Village People

The Village People quickly rose to the top of the charts with Willis at the helm scoring numerous chart busters such as “Macho Man”, “Y.M.C.A.”, “In the Navy”, and “Go West”. In 1980, as preparations for a Village People feature film, Can’t Stop the Music were under way, Willis left the group. Yes, the former “policeman” and lead vocalist for the enduring disco band left the group because he said it was “too gay.” Although Victor was the main lyricist and vocalist, for songs like “In the Navy,” “Macho Man” and “Go West,” he also eventually became fed up by the homosexual subtext they took on, fearing that catering to a “niche” market would doom the group to failure, he says.

In a prior interview, Victor Willis states:

“Here’s my question: were it not for the ‘appalling homosexual subtext’ in these dance classics, would they have even registered a blip on the RADAR screens of disco dancers? They’re okay songs and all, but their real staying power lies in the pageantry and image that the iconic Village People boasted.”

Willis also was upset because he felt that “In the Navy” was rejected as a theme for the U.S. military because of the group’s gay image and fan-base.

So to sum it up, not all members in the Village People are, nor were actually gay, which is what most of us thought for all of these years. They admitted to playing into the gay culture, although only some of them were in fact gay, but not all.

Willis occasionally made headlines for arrests for drug possession.

Following an arrest in 2006, he was given probation and ordered into rehab at the Betty Ford Clinic. In 2007, following treatment, Willis made his first statement to the press in more than 25 years, saying:

“The nightmare of drug abuse is being lifted from my life… now that the haze of drugs are gone, I’m thinking and seeing clearer now than I have in years… I’m looking forward to living the second part of my life drug-free.”

As for Ms. Rashad, not only is she currently the dean of the College Of Fine Arts at Howard University; she’s continuing to give us those stellar performances just as she did on the now-canceled hit series, “Empire”; and as she will also do in films and stage plays going forward. Get it Ms. Rashad…we see you queen!