Kathy Troccoli: A
message of hope
20-plus years in the Christian music industry have seen their
share of ups and downs. Dove Awards, Grammy nominations, television
appearances and No. 1 hits have been the highlights; but they’ve
been tempered by losing both parents to cancer, a 10-year struggle
with bulimia and a battle with depression. So when this singer
turned author turned speaker tells audiences of women that God
will help them through the dark valleys of life, she knows what
she’s talking about. Troccoli recently shared with Assistant
Editor Ashli O’Connell how the Lord has given her the message
You seem to be concentrating your career on speaking engagements
rather than singing these days. Why the change in focus?
The transitions my career has taken have been remarkable for me.
I’ve sung most of my life and now I feel like I’m
finally stepping into my stride of what God has intended for me.
I’m speaking a ton now and writing books. My singing is
almost the cherry on the cake now, which is very, very new for
me. I love that God has taken me through so many seasons in my
career so that when I got to this point I’d go, “Ahh,
here it is. This is what I’ve been waiting for.” When
you have a gift, sometimes you’re kind of thrown out there
and you go through all these questions. Should I do this? Should
I sing this? Should I be here? It wasn’t until I turned
40 that I went, “Oh, OK, I get it. You gave me a singing
voice, but that’s not the main thing. You want me to speak
about You and use the singing as an added extra.”
your message to women?
I don’t really consider myself a teacher. I feel more motivational.
I have a passion and fire inside of me to ignite women in their
faith and remind them of who they are and to whom they belong.
So I think my message in all my books and songs and speaking engagements
is about hope: You’re going to make it. You’re going
to get through this. God loves you. You’re going to be OK.
The difficulties you’ve overcome seem to have given you
It’s funny you mention that because when I speak I start
by saying, “I met the Lord in 1978 and everything has been
perfect since.” Then I pause and hear this great hush. And
I say, “Of course not. We still have suffering as Christians.
It’s just that our suffering is not in vain.” So I
give them this list — lost my parents to cancer, went through
a struggle with an eating disorder, went through a time of depression
— and I begin to see in every woman’s eyes this ray
of hope because they’re thinking, Wow. Kathy Troccoli has
gone through this? And she’s making it. She’s OK.
I couldn’t offer
women what I do now at 45 when I was 25. I didn’t have the
life behind me. That’s not to say that women who are 25
can’t speak; it’s just that God has given me a testimony.
He’s given me a message about His faithfulness. So women
are more open to what I have to say.
talk about your bulimia. What triggered it?
I always ate normally growing up. As a matter of a fact, I ate
a lot and kept a fairly decent weight. I grew up in an Italian
family and you’re around food all the time, they’re
just stuffing it in your face. But I went through a time of transition
when I went to Berklee Jazz School of Music in Boston right out
of high school. I hadn’t been away from home before. I had
never experienced a lot of different philosophies or cultures.
And here I was thrown in this jazz school, not a traditional college.
Everything was so different. I started questioning what life was
about, what am I here for? And before I knew it food became a
comfort, and then it turned into an addiction. I saw myself gaining
weight like I never had before. I never purged, but I started
to abuse laxatives.
PE: How did you
learn to do that?
It’s not like anybody told me how to do it. I just discovered
it on my own and found out later that many women abuse laxatives
for the same reason — to feel like they’re getting
rid of it, to feel like they’re in control. It happened
slowly and became a problem for 10 years.
PE: Did it develop
had a little bout of just not eating, or eating just rice cakes
and green beans. I went down, down, down in my weight. You can
be bulimic and hold a steady weight; but with the anorexic thinking
you really decide that you look heavy and you just quit eating.
PE: What made you
finally seek help?
I had a roommate who would see me suffer from terrible stomach
pains. And one day she said, “You are just ruining yourself.”
There was swollenness to my appearance because of the toxins in
my body. The laxatives become very toxic. I was miserable. I felt
like the light was starting to go on then. So I got to the end
of myself and said I really needed help. My roommate helped me
get into counseling.
PE: Do you recommend
counseling for others struggling with an eating disorder?
tend to want a magic wand when dealing with addiction. But it’s
a process. I really believe in counseling. Bringing things to
light. Getting down and digging into things you’ve held
in your soul and your gut and letting God’s light shine
upon them. It takes time.
PE: Do you still
struggle with it?
I can say I am completely delivered from that addiction. I don’t
have that habit of binging anymore. I have a tendency toward food
addiction in the sense that I watch myself closely. I make deliberate
choices every day. If I eat a little bit more one day I watch
it the next day. I’m always aware that I could fall into
bad eating patterns.
PE: What would you
say to women who are secretly battling an eating disorder?
got to get it in the light. The first step is admitting it. That
may be to a mother or close friend, a minister or a counselor.
If you keep things in the dark, God’s light can’t
get to it. You have the choice to choose His light or remain in
darkness every day. So get it out in the light.
What do you think keeps women from getting help when they’re
surrounded by people who would gladly help them?
I think there’s fear of being known in that way. It’s
pride, shame or guilt. Or there’s denial. And sometimes
women just become hopeless. They feel they’re stuck in this
pattern and God can’t possibly be with them.
What I like to do is
remind people that God has promised abundant life for the soul.
He wants to take you to higher places. You can get out of it.
But there is some work to be done. I have rarely seen people in
addictions — it doesn’t have to be anorexia or bulimia
— just get out of them. Yes, God can do the miraculous,
but it is usually a process and you have to be committed to the
talk a little about your career. What’s your favorite Kathy
I don’t have a particular favorite. I think I’m like
anyone who may listen to my music — on any given day I like
a certain song better because it just feeds what I need to be
fed with. But one in particular would be “A Baby’s
Prayer.” That has absolutely ministered to women who have
had abortions or considered having abortions. I have held babies
who were not aborted because of that song. I’m just amazed
at the power of music.
PE: Is there another
artist or song that ministers to you?
Groves is my favorite artist right now. I’ve been in Christian
music for such a long time now, and I am absolutely blown away
by Sara’s ability to be so poetic, and yet the melodies
are so beautiful. Sometimes when you have poets, their songs are
unrelatable. The way she puts things is so real and so profound.
She has affected my life in the last two years deeply.
After 20 years, three Grammy nominations and countless Dove Awards
… what if it all ended today?
thought about that because I’m halfway through life. I would
be so thankful for the opportunity to continue using the gifts
I have in the way I have been using them. If it all ended, there
would be an element of missing my singing; but I don’t believe
it would stop me from wanting to be about Kingdom work. There
will always be a person to reach out to. There will always be
people in need. There will always be a chance to give life as
long as I have life.
PE: How have your
mainstream hits impacted your career?
was an interesting time 10 years ago when “Everything Changes”
came out. I got to do a lot of TV shows and meet a lot of stars.
I think the biggest impact is that I learned more about what it
is I should be doing.
One last question — how tall are you? When I’ve seen
you in concert I see this little person with the biggest voice
I’ve ever heard.
I’m 5’5” [laughing]. People say that all the
E-mail your comments