Humble Beginnings

I am a PK—a preacher’s kid. My father was a lead pastor and my mother a missionary, so I grew up knowing about the Lord and being taught how to call on His precious name. At the age of five, I was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and accepted Him as my personal Lord and Savior. Because of the community of faith I was raised in, I had a good understanding of what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus. This understanding has been the foundation upon which I’ve built my life.

I came from the most humble beginnings. Our family didn’t have much, but for what we lacked materially, God gifted us with joy, strength, and love. We ministered to others with the limited resources we had, and as a result, God blessed us continually. In addition to being ministers of the Word, my parents were also migrant workers who harvested fruit. For 16 years, my family and I (parents and seven siblings) travelled to Florida, New York, and Michigan to harvest citrus, cherries, and apples. As kids, our lives evolved around school, church, and work—there wasn’t time for anything else.

For so long, I was embarrassed of that young girl in the groves. She was so awkward, unlike the other kids her age. When I finally stepped out of the groves and onto a stage to sing before thousands of people, I was warned, “Don’t tell anyone where you come from.” So I didn’t. And in the process, I hid an incredible part of my life, because it was in the groves that I became who I am today. It was there that I learned to rely on the Lord’s strength and made a true connection with Him. It was there that I learned the art of perseverance and developed a good work ethic. And it was under the blue skies that I found joy in my gift of singing.

It’s time to tell my story, all of it. For years, I allowed people to see only the more pleasant parts of my life. Today, I am sharing the full story, hoping that someone, maybe even you, will find inspiration to know that, regardless of where you come from or how disadvantaged you are or how poorly you have been treated, there is hope. Life can be tough, even cruel at times, but God can take anyone’s life and transform it into something amazing.

Overcoming Insecurity

Now, let me tell you about the bullying that I endured at the hand of others. From kindergarten until high school, I was bullied mercilessly. I was a preacher’s kid who worked in the fields—I was an easy target. It didn’t help that I had big feet and kinky hair. My peers made certain that I felt like I was the ugliest little thing in existence. The bullying was so intense, it captured the attention of my teachers. They would remove me from these situations by sending me to other classrooms to sing. When I opened my heart and my mouth to sing, it would ultimately close the mouth of my bully.

I realized very quickly that this gift was my protection. Singing made me special; it made people stop picking on me. That motivated me to be the best singer I could be. I wanted people to see—not my hair or my feet, not the fact that I was a migrant worker or a preacher’s kid—but the gift God had put inside of me.