Of Gospel and
Even as a
child CeCe Winans was a natural on stage. She had the voice,
the look and the presence that seemed to move and touch
people. The only problem was that she was a less-than-willing
participant. If she had had it her way she would have been
back in the choir singing along with her friends far from
the spotlight. But one Sunday morning, after being forced
by her parents to perform, she realized she was not just
singing a song, she was leading people into the presence
of God. That changed everything. Suddenly, the girl with
the amazing voice not only had dreams for her future, she
had a calling.
CeCe is the
eighth of 10 children and was the first-born girl. She grew
up in Detroit, but now lives in Nashville with her husband,
Alvin Love, and their two teenage children. Recently, CeCe
spoke with Associate Editor Kirk Noonan about her musical
heritage, where it has led her and life lessons she has
learned about being a wife and mother.
Your parents had seven boys and then you. Were you the princess
of the family?
I am sure if you asked my brothers they’d say, “Yes.”
But what can I say? I guess I was a pleasant surprise for
With nine siblings, did you ever feel as though you didn’t
get enough attention from your parents?
During my childhood there was never a dull moment —
or even a quiet one for that matter. My parents did a great
job of giving everyone attention. They didn’t have
any favorites and they laid down the law. What went for
one went for the other. That made it pretty simple. All
I can say is that God worked it out for them. With that
many kids it had to be God.
Tell me about your parents.
My father did a lot of everything. He was a barber by trade,
but he worked in a factory as well. He also sold cars, was
a minister and somehow found enough time to coach athletic
teams in the community. He was always very busy. My mom
was a medical transcriptionist between cleaning, cooking
and all the other stuff mothers do.
PE: How did
you become a believer?
We were raised in church. My mom and dad were strong believers,
always involved in church and they demanded that we were
too. Going to church was not a choice for us; we had to
go. But because of that we all fell in love with God.
I fell in love
with the Lord when I was 12. That was when I started to
make decisions that told others I stood for the Lord. I
had accepted Him years earlier, but at 12 is when I decided
to follow Him, stand up to others who criticized me for
it and walk in the faith.
PE: When did
you know you had a talent for singing?
was something everybody did in our family. At church a lot
of my friends sang too and I heard better voices all the
time. I knew I could sing, but I never thought I was anything
special. When I started doing solos at the age of 8 while
in church I discovered I could sing. I didn’t want
to sing, but I was made to sing by my parents. When I was
14 I realized it was more than just a gift of singing, it
was a God-given gift of ministry. As I sang a solo one Sunday
I saw the reaction of the people and I realized there was
something to this that was bigger than I was. It was a ministry.
PE: Did you
battle stage fright?
Somewhat. I was always much more comfortable being in the
background. I have a family where half of us love being
out front and half of us hate it. I am one who would have
been happy to be in the choir or singing in the studio where
no one could see me. But God had other plans.
PE: What was
your professional debut?
first recording session was with Andrae Crouch. My family
had met him and we went to Los Angeles to record some songs
with him. I made a little money, so I guess I became a professional
then. But I really became a professional when my brother
BeBe and I began performing on the Praise the Lord
PE: Did the
reception and ensuing success of your first album catch
you off guard?
I was very surprised. When you go into the studio to do
something you love to do and you’re a young kid, you’re
not really expecting much. We were just excited about giving
listeners the message of Jesus Christ through our songs.
And we were just happy we were getting a chance to do it.
But when people began opening their hearts and listening
to what we were saying through our music it really hit us.
When you started becoming famous and making money did it
have an adverse effect on you?
No. God has always blessed me by surrounding me with great
people and by letting me be a part of a wonderful church.
Those two elements have kept me on track. My family has
too. We’re each other’s greatest fans, but we’ll
let you know in a minute if your head has gotten too big.
PE: What obstacles
have accompanied your success?
people say I’ve sold out because I’ve had mainstream
success. Other people have said things about me because
of the money I’ve made. There will always be critics,
but being misunderstood is the worst thing because I can’t
explain everything to everyone. I just have to trust that
God is going to take care of me.
Let’s talk about your mainstream success — have
you ever regretted not concentrating all your efforts that
don’t regret it at all. First of all I wasn’t
called to do that. But God has proven that He can take whatever
He wants and allow it to cross barriers and spill over into
the mainstream even when I don’t plan it. The success
BeBe and I have had in the mainstream has been exciting
because we have had a chance to share the good news with
a lot of people who need it. My calling is to bring light
to a dark world, not add more darkness.
you do an album for the mainstream?
am about to go into the studio for Sony to do an album that
they want to push as a pop record. I am excited about that,
but they know who I am and what I stand for so they know
who I am going to sing about. If they can take that and
spread it over the world, then praise God.
PE: In 1995
you and BeBe decided to pursue solo careers. Why?
It was the best move for both of us because it was God’s
will. That’s the only way I can describe it because
I hated the idea of performing by myself. But again, God
had another place for me. He wanted to teach me more about
himself. I know now that BeBe and I have both grown separately
in different ways. But I really do long for the day when
we can get back together.
Tell us about your new project that is coming out in September.
It’s called Throne Room. The Lord dropped
in my heart the idea of a CD that would encourage people
to worship without interruption. I’ve always done
a variety of songs on my albums, but this CD is mostly comprised
of worship songs.
A lot of Christians
don’t know how to worship. Worship is about Him; it’s
not about us. Worship isn’t about our requests, needs
or what we want or think. It’s just about Him and
who He is. My goal with this album is to get people to the
throne room so that they not only worship there, but they
talk about your family. How many children do you have?
Only two. I come from a family with 10 children so I feel
like I cheated. But we had a boy and a girl and it was like,
“Hey, we’re done.”
What’s a lesson you learned from your parents that
you hope to pass on to your children?
far it is to live the Christian life at all times. My mom
and dad did not just teach us about the Lord, they lived
a holy life in front of us. That is the biggest and best
example I’ve ever had.
Now I strive
to do that daily with my children. I try to teach them God’s
way and stress the importance of having God first in their
lives because that is guaranteed success. No matter where
you are or what you do, if you love the Lord then you’re
PE: What have
your kids taught you about faith and parenting?
stay on my knees. Don’t get me wrong, we have two
great kids. But my main prayer for them has always been
that they would both love the Lord. And they do.
What have you and your husband discovered to be the key
to a strong marriage?
Alvin and I know what it takes to make a marriage work and
to live a fulfilled life: Jesus. We know we’re going
to have rough times, but Jesus is always ready to help fix
things as long as we keep Him at the center of our marriage.
married for 19 years. We’ve had a few rough times,
but when you both love the Lord you consult Him on what
you’re going through. And when you listen to the Lord
you stay together. People try to make it difficult, but
it’s not. Flesh has to die. We have to take up our
Alvin and I haven’t
had a lot of rough times because we really enjoy each other’s
company. We believe in spending time together and we love
going to church and having God at the center of our marriage.
But when problems do arise we handle them the way the Word
tells us to.
Dispel a couple myths about the “glamorous”
life you live.
As far as everything being picture-perfect, it isn’t.
Look at my album covers. I’ve heard people say, “You
look so cute,” and I just laugh. I look good on those
things because they have worked on my makeup and hair all
PE: So what
is reality for you?
life is not perfect. Not at all. But God is always perfect.
He is my source and my life. Without Him I would be crazy.
If He told me to stop singing tomorrow I know I would be
OK because I have Him in my heart.
PE: How do
you keep your relationship with the Lord fresh and new?
spend time with Him. For me it’s not an option. I
have to put Him first. It’s so important to be rooted
in His presence by studying His Word and praying without
ceasing and fasting. You have to do everything He tells
you to do because that’s the only way to become a
Doing so helps
me stay focused on who I really am and on what my purpose
is. Without Him I am nothing. Without Him I will die. He
is my Source, my Life, my Joy and my Peace.
When you get to the end of your life what do you hope people
remember the most about you?
I hope they say, “She was just like Jesus.”
That’s what I strive for. But I don’t strive
to be like that for people — I strive to be like that