Ever since her late-‘80s debut “Just as I Am,” Yolanda Adams has carried the torch for contemporary gospel and inspirational music via a dozen glorious albums.
Stunningly beautiful, exceptionally educated, filled with the spirit and blessed with one of the most powerful voices in any genre of music, this former schoolteacher is a beacon of God’s light.
Born in Houston on Aug. 27, 1961, Adam has earned numerous accolades for her efforts, including the first American Music Award for Contemporary Gospel Artist, four Gospel Music Association Dove Awards and five Grammy Awards.
Christened the First Lady of Modern Gospel, Adams’ pioneering blend of gospel and RandB with a touch of jazz continues to inspire her fans and transform the musical landscape. Now in its fifth year of celebrating the community and the power of gospel music, the national finale of gospel celebration “How Sweet the Sound” will be staged in New York on Nov. 4th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
What’s it been like judging “How Sweet the Sound?” Is it similar to the job you do on BET’s “Sunday Best?”
No, I actually co-hosted with Donald [Lawrence] this year. So, I didn’t have to face the difficult challenge of judging these great choirs.
Do you care to share which choir you think is going to win?
The crazy part is that the finalists are the top choirs from all of the cities that we chose. So, there are no duds left in this selection of choirs. These really are just the cream of the crop, the best choirs in the U.S.
Which of your songs has the most personal meaning for you?
That’s like asking “Which of your children is the most precious?” When I write a song, it comes from the heart and is based on a specific experience. You can’t really say that one experience is greater than another, because all of your experiences take you through life on this journey.
Which one do you think has the biggest emotional impact on your audience?
Wow! I have no idea. Some days it may be “Just a Prayer Away.” Some audiences want “Victory.” Others want “The Battle Is the Lord’s.” I have so many songs that have impacted people in different ways. “Fragile Heart” is one that really took off years ago in South Africa when I had 20,000 people singing along with me.
You served as spokesperson for Operation Rebound, a program that addressed the concern of inner-city schoolchildren, and you worked in the past as a schoolteacher while you were modeling. Can you share with us the importance of education and how it helped you in the music business?
Education helps you to be a well-rounded person, period. It teaches you how to take in information and data, process it and use it for life-building. Education was key in my family. You were going to college. Unfortunately, I think what’s happening nowadays is that many young people think they don’t need to avail themselves of higher education because a lot of music stars left high school before graduating. Kam, you and I both know that you can be hot today in the music business and then nobody knows who you are tomorrow. So, you always have to have a good education. I am a stickler for that.
And some of those rappers are college-educated.
Yeah, nobody talks about how Puffy went to Howard University or about Lil Wayne attending the University of Houston. All the young kids know is what they see on the videos. They don’t realize that these guys have taken managerial and business courses, and know how to brand and how to market themselves. They’re very smart.
Are you ever afraid?
Fear? Wow! I don’t call it fear. I call it awareness. I only think fear comes when you’re unsure or in danger, but I’ve never been put in a dangerous situation.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
My guiltiest pleasure must be watching “RuPaul’s Drag U.”
What was the last book you read?
”The Law of Confession” by Bill Winston.
What is your favorite dish to cook?
Omigosh! Kam, I just love to cook. Some of my favorites are sautéed kale, shrimp scampi and lobster risotto.
What excites you?
Wow! That’s a great question. New challenges, especially doing things that people think are impossible for a gospel artist.
Who is your favorite clothes designer?
Me! I have my own fashion line that can be found at YolandaAdamsLive.com. I also definitely like Mark Bouwer, Donna Karan and Kevan Hall, and I’ve really been into Etro these days.
What was the best business decision you ever made, and what was the worst?
My best was to own everything that belongs to me. My worst was once making a spur-of-the-moment decision because I needed the money.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
I see a very happy mom who is in love with life and in love.
If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
I know everybody says world peace but, seriously, world peace. I really wish we could have world peace.
What is your earliest childhood memory?
Having lots of fun and laughter in the house with my mom, dad and siblings. I didn’t grow up in one of those restrictive Christian households where you couldn’t do this or that. We were brought up with a great collection of good morals and good values, but we also had fun. We’d go to church on Sunday, but then have ice cream, roller skate or play in the park afterwards.
How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
Guess that would’ve had to be in the third grade when Michael Gray said he didn’t like me. [Laughs] It was puppy love, and the pain of the rejection left me convinced I was never going to share my feelings with anybody ever again.
What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be?
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Hone your craft, study the history of the music and sing anywhere that you can.
How do you want to be remembered?
Wow! I want to be remembered as a person who loved and cared for people and who genuinely wanted the best for them. As a nice all-around person. That is my goal for my daughter. I’ve been teaching her that since she was in the womb. People deserve your kindness.
What was it like to be invited to participate in Oprah’s Legends Ball?
It was amazing! First of all, I felt quite honored to be acknowledged as one of the youngin’s with Shirley Caesar serving as my legend. Oprah was very adamant that she wanted to celebrate the people who had made a difference in her life. I had no idea that I had impacted her that deeply.
My invitation came at one of the lowest points of my life. No one knows this, so you’re getting an exclusive, Kam. I was going through a divorce proceeding. And then to get an invitation saying that you’ve made a difference in someone else’s life when your own is going down the tubes relationship and family-wise, can you imagine where I was in that space?
So, I had to make a decision: Do I go, even though I might not feel up to participating, knowing what’s going on at home with the lawyers? How do I deal with this? Then a soft voice whispered to me, “Go, and be blessed!” And I was like, “Okay, I’m going.”It was the best decision I could have ever made, because there were so many wonderful women there who had impacted my life since I was a little girl: Dionne Warwick, Leontyne Price, Nancy Wilson, Shirley Caesar, Gladys Knight and many others.
It was almost as if Oprah knew how they had affected my life. I was just overwhelmed! God told me to dream bigger that day. And listen, Kam, I have not let go of that. I am trying to do everything I possibly can and I don’t do anything that I don’t absolutely love. Isn’t that a great place to be?