We love in depth conversations with positive people. We are overjoyed to bring you a delightful discussion with award winning gospel artist Yolanda Adams. Join in as she opens up to discuss humble beginnings, pursuing passions, and dreams turned reality.
How did you know singing was your calling?
I started it when I was a kid, so that’s always the easiest thing, something that you’re passionate about, you’re doing it all the time. That’s pretty much just something that you were probably destined to do, but I wanted to model. I wanted to be on television. I wanted to be all of the different things that I am now getting a chance to do other than singing.
It took a little time because everyone around me could sing. Everybody in my family has a wonderful voice, and the folks that I grew up in church with, everybody could sing. So, it wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m the only one that can do this.”
It was just that as time went on, I realized that there was something special when people would say, “The way you sang that song made me feel closer to God,” or “The way you interpreted that song made me really understand how much God loves me,” and that’s when you realize, “Oh, this is more of a call than just something that I’m doing,” and I think I had to be about 20-years old when I realized this is a ministry.
What advice would you give to people who are trying to figure out their purpose or follow their dreams?
Find something that you’re absolutely passionate about because that’s going to be the tell-tale sign of whether you’ll stick with it or not. Sometimes people think they’re passionate in one area and then when it gets difficult, they give up. That’s the time to put your heels to the ground and stay there and stick with it until it happens, and sometimes it happens quickly and sometimes it does not.
There are certain things that I’m doing now that I absolutely, positively love, but it in only happened after the stardom of gospel music came: the opportunity to do my own clothing line, the opportunity to have my own body line, the opportunity to have a specialty food line.
It only came as a result of the fame with the gospel music because there had to be brand recognition. People know me from singing, but now they’re going to know me from other things.
Talk about your other ventures.
Yolanda’s Closet we’re very, very proud of that entity. It is my own design, my knit design for women of all sizes, from size 4 to size 28. It’s online only at this time. Also, my daughter and I are designing T-shirts for her community service causes. She’s very adamant about breast cancer. She has a friend who has juvenile diabetes, so she’s very adamant about that.
So, at 12 years old, here’s this kid who has this conscious and I absolutely love that. So, we’re working on those things and those things can be found at YolandaAdamsLive.com.
Also, our bath and body line, I am so extremely proud of that. That’s our new venture. We just launched it a couple of months ago. We have two sets of products. We have the love products which is the body wash, the body soufflé and the body oil. Then, we have the chocolate which is so scrumptious, you’ll want to eat it, but you can’t. Please don’t do that. [laughs]
There has been criticism from the Christian community about how some female Gospel artists dress. Is that something that you’re conscious of? Is this something Yolanda’s Closet tries to address?
Yolanda’s Closet was designed for business women, church women, women of style. It’s a knit line, so you can only get so sexy with a knit line. I think what happens is people have to define what is alluring, what’s sexy and what’s sexual.
To me, some of the things that you see on the red carpet are extremely sexual. I know for a fact that Mary Mary—because I’ve known them for years—they don’t try to be sexual. Some of the things that they want to wear, they’re in style. Shirley Caesar is one of the most fashionable women that I know. She’s always in style.
The one thing that I tell people all the time is, “if you feel convicted by what you’re wearing, then don’t wear it.” The next thing is: their bodies are different than, let’s say, my body. I’m tall. I’m thin, but I have hips. A gown may graze me in a place where somebody may find it offensive, but it’s not sexual. That’s not my intent.
You have to take criticism with a grain of salt because you’re never going to please everybody, and I don’t look at my life like I’m trying to please everybody with what I do. I’m very respectful in everything I wear. I think about how my daughter will respond if I wear something that has a split up the back or something too revealing. She has to deal with it on her level, as well as me.
Is it more responsibility being a gospel artist?
I don’t think it is. I think what tends happens is people outside try to make it so hard.
God never asked us to be perfect. He just asked us to be witnesses.
So, if you live your life trying to be perfect in front of people, you’re going to always fail because people will find something wrong, something bad. If the camera angle catches you at a wrong angle, “Oh, she’s gaining weight,” or if it catches you at another angle, “Oh, she needs to gain some weight.” You see what I’m saying?
Again, if you continue to live your life based on what people feel about you, you’ll stay inside your house and never be effective.
Your radio show inspires many, how’d you get into radio?
We are celebrating 9 years in February. I asked God to give me an opportunity that would keep me at home most of the week. With my schedule, I can actually be away from my home six to seven days a week and it’s just not feasible when you’re trying to raise a healthy young woman. I asked God for something that would keep me at home at least Monday through Thursday.
All of a sudden, two weeks later, my lawyer called and said that there was this opportunity. He said, “What do you think about radio. They’re bringing a gospel station to Houston, and you can be apart of that.”
What’s the best part of being on radio?
You get a chance to have a one-on-one with the audience that has supported you and loved you throughout the years. I’m one of those artists who has been in this business now for 35 years. I do not take it lightly. That means we are doing something relevant every year.
We’re relevant in our message. We’re relevant in our music, and we’re relevant in our presentation. You have to be able to sing. People don’t want to pay money and then you can’t get the notes out. No, ma’am. They want their money back. You have to take care of your body. You got to take care of your voice. That’s something that’s God given, so don’t take it lightly.
What’s the most rewarding part of “Sunday Best”?
The most rewarding part of Sunday Best for me is being able to encourage young people to stay with gospel music, to make it a lifelong commitment because that’s what it’s going to take. Gospel music for me is one of the most enriching genres of music because it’s not just about the music.
IT’S ALSO ABOUT ENCOURAGEMENT. IT’S ABOUT SALVATION. IT’S ABOUT PEACE. IT’S ABOUT HOPE.
What about the singers who aren’t talented or who are secular artists who just want a shot at stardom?
There are very few people who are secular that come and try to get a shot. This is about people who want to make this a lifetime commitment, a long-term commitment. It’s not like an “American Idol” or “The Voice” where you can do any type of music: you can be a gospel singer, an R&B singer, a jazz singer, a country singer.
This is “Sunday Best” and this is about God. It’s about singing gospel music. If you don’t have the commitment to gospel music, nine times out of 10, by the time the second or third part of the competition starts, you can tell who’s committed and who’s not.
They’ve been weeded out?
Usually they weed themselves out. This is not an easy task to get up in front of an audience of 300 people in the studio and knowing that an audience of close 5 million people a week [is] watching.
What’s your strategy for nicely dismissing people who you know have no talent?
That’s usually during the audition process. It’s easier because what tends to happen is people think because they’ve seen somebody else sing, it’s easy. Most of the time people who get up and sing during the audition process, it’s me, Kim Burrell, you have CeCe Winans, Donnie McClurkin. We are four of the top gospel artists. So, it’s intimidating.
If you’re intimidated in front of us during the audition process, when you get to Atlanta [where the show is taped], you’re going to be real intimidated. That’s usually the deciding factor.
There’s some people who crack under pressue. Then, there are others who keep it flawless and they go to the next level.
Mary Mary and some other gospel acts now have reality TV shows. Would you ever do reality TV?
No reality shows.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about you?
I don’t think there’s too many misconceptions about me because I’ve been pretty real and pretty open and honest with my fans. I have no idea what those misconceptions would be.
I TRY TO MAKE SURE THAT THERE ARE NO SURPRISES WHEN YOU MEET ME, THAT I AM AS REAL AS I CAN BE WITH ANYBODY WHO I DON’T KNOW.
Of course, I’m not taking everybody into my confidence. I just think that there is a level of respect—whether it’s a fan or somebody you’ve know forever—there’s a level of respect that everybody deserves.
In some Christian circles, divorce is frowned upon. Do you ever receive criticism about having been divorced?
You’re gonna always have those people who have something to say. I don’t know of anybody in their right mind who wants to be divorced. Nobody. For someone to be critical of the fact that I’ve been divorced, I usually chalk that up to ignorance. You can’t know what my life has been like unless you have walked in my shoes. If you can beat me rocking, take the chair. I got that one from Mahalia Jackson. If you can, go ahead because what I make look easy, really is not.
What advice would you give to someone considering divorce?
I’ve always been open and honest with people and I’ve always said I did not choose divorce for myself. It was chosen for me because my ex-husband said he could not do this anymore, meaning the marriage. So, what do you say when somebody says they can’t do it anymore? You can’t make them stay. You can’t make somebody love you who doesn’t love you. The last thing that I tell people is to run and get a divorce unless there is physical violence against you or the child.
Otherwise, if both of you have a common goal of wanting to stay married, you’re just going through some difficult times—it’s one thing to just go through some difficult times. Every marriage goes through a set of difficult times during certain periods of time.
Don’t be so quick to wimp out and push through it. Marriage is so worth it. If there’s violence on whomever’s part, run. Don’t just stay because somebody said that you’re supposed to stay.
Do you do any philanthropic work?
The Children’s Defense Fund. I love Dr. Marion. She has been such an advocate for all children’s causes. I’ve donated money. I’ve donated time. I’ve given articles for auction. I love that because children have no defense but us.
Talk about any other projects you’re working on.
We still have Becoming. It is in stores. It has been award-winning, and we’re grateful for that. We’re working on our new project. We have Israel Houghton, Donald Lawrence, B. Michael McCay, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. We have a lot of great people working on the next project.
Follow Yolanda on Twitter: @Yolandalive