Interview: Deleon Richards

Perennial recording artist and highly favored figure, Deleon Richards-Sheffield always possessed a remarkable presence.  Ever since her celebrated debut, as the toast of the recording industry, with her Grammy nomination twenty-three years ago, Deleon has intrigued and enticed  audiences with her engaging voice, her undeniable comeliness and her cultivated self-assurance.

Now, fast forward to the present day. Deleon is now a mother, wife and seasoned Christian recording artist who’s been tried by the fire and tested by tribulation, only to find her God still a very present help in a time of storm. In our recent exchange with Deleon, one phrase stood out like an epiphany. “Let all your tests become your testimony.”

Our recent exchange with Deleon centered on her evolution as a Christian, her inspiration for her latest album – Here In Me – and her formidable faith that’s exponentially grown from tests and trials. Her testimony will capture your imagination and feed your spirit.

Christopher Heron: Let’s begin with your upbringing.  How did music become such a focal point in your life, at such an early age, and when did you know, or can you remember when, you became aware of your special gift for singing and stage performance?

Deleon Richards-Sheffield: I was raised in the church my entire life.  My Mother Grandfather, Father, and Uncles were all pastors in the church, so church kind of interwove into my lifestyle.  That has always been the underlying theme.  My mother was a choir director and she was an amazing director who just commanded the stage and commanded her choir, and could get the best out of the worst.  She directed a lot of community choirs, as well as state choirs within the church we were members of.  She was very well known for that.  When I came along, she was directing church choirs so I was just kind of in the mix.  When I started talking and singing a little bit, around 2 or 3 years of age, my Mother recognized my talent and voice, so it became just part of my life, part of who I was.  The ability was there, the gift was there and it magnified from there.

CH: It seems as though you had the tremendous favor of God from a very early age.  You traveled to many parts of the world, received a Grammy nomination, and became a darling in many circles in the music world even before puberty.  How did the limelight and visibility affect your spirituality, even as a child and as a teenage gospel singer?

DRS: As a child, I was told, “you better not do this”.  “This is how you do it.”  You don’t really ask questions as to why and why not.  You just do it.  Growing up doing what I was doing, I knew that I was always held to a different accountability than other children.  I knew there were those certain things that I dare not do or enter into.  I did take on the responsibility of what I was singing about.  But, just like any child, you go through all of the phases of growing up.  You have rebellious moments.  You have moments that you just kind of ride the wave.  But as I grew older and I understood more of what I was talking about, I understood it wasn’t just words.  After becoming an adult and experiencing highs and lows, even now as a mother, a wife, and a woman, all these songs mean so much more to me, and God is so much bigger to me than He could have ever been when I was a child. 

CH: It’s one thing to be gifted and talented.  It’s another thing to have a special gift like singing or acting, and also carrying the added burden of beauty, especially going in to your years as an adolescent, a teenager, and a young adult.  How did you cope with people willing to support your talents, yet not knowing if the intentions were genuine?  And, what advice or counsel would you offer to young aspiring, gifted artists who maybe a little naïve, who are women and who receive offers from influential individuals in the music business?

DRS: I would say that if you know that God has given you this gift, you have to treasure that gift.  The Bible says that our gifts will make room for us.  Know that and be secure in that.  Don’t say things like “Oh, I have to run over here to make my career happen or I have to run over there to make something else happen”.  Sometimes you actually delay what God’s plan is for you, especially by being naïve and wanting to get to a certain place quicker than God wants you to get there.  So, just rest in God.  That’s easier to say than to do, especially when you see other people doing things and you see this person over here and you think “How did they get that? And how did that happen?  I know I can do this and the other!”   

You may see all these things long before God wants to give you them.  He may want to see what you’re going to do with them.  He may want to see how you’re going to do when you get to a certain point.  Do not be deceived by anybody or anything, because God is all powerful, all mighty, and you know He can do all things.  If he wants to take us up to the highest level, he can do that.  You don’t necessarily need to have somebody telling you that I can do this, or I can get you here, because it’s not about I but about Him.

CH: You’re a mother, wife, and Christian artist.  How do you wear so many hats successfully, and what gives you the greatest satisfaction, joy and happiness in life today?

DRS: First, I’m able to wear many hats by the grace of God.  Two, I have a wonderful family.  My husband is very supportive. My children love to hear mommy sing.  Just to see them light up when I’m on stage is a wonderful feeling.  I don’t forget that my mom, my dad, my mother-in-law and my father-in-law’s support are just wonderful.  I’m able to do what I do and know that home is still running smooth and that my kids are not missing something.  I think the greatest satisfaction for me is my children, just to watch them and see them grow up.  I have three boys, and we’re raising them to be wonderful men of God, successful, loving and kind.  We’re raising them to not think that the world owes them anything, and to know what they can do and how they can be contributors to society.  I think those are my greatest satisfactions right there.

CH: It’s amazing to know you’ve been singing and ministering as an artist for nearly a quarter of a century.  When you look back to your days as a child prodigy and compare it to today as a mature, confident, resilient woman – call it the renaissance of Deleon Richards – what is the difference in the person and in the perspective you hold as a Christian and as a Gospel artist, between that Deleon as a child and today’s Deleon Richards-Scheffield?

DRS: Time has truly changed me from when I was a child till now, and my life has changed at such an escalated pace.  Things that I went through as a child, my children right now are seeing and experiencing at an earlier age. It’s just crazy to see the acceleration of situations and what it’s presenting in front of our children. The things that I see now versus the things that I saw as a child, wow, it’s amazing!  There’s of course been a big change in me.  I am confident.  I experienced a lot, growing up in ministry, being out on the road, and seeing all of the different things, and knowing and thanking God that I didn’t get swallowed up in real craziness. 

The devil is around every corner saying “come here come here”.  But, just knowing that God is with me and that I can move forward and I can walk with Him and let Him lead and guide me, I think that’s the most important thing for me as a woman in where I am right now.  I would credit my parents as well for instilling those values.  When I was growing up, people would frequently come up to me and say “you’re such a beautiful girl”, but my mother’s motto was that “you’re not pretty.  It’s your heart that’s pretty”. 

So when people come up and tell you you’re a pretty girl, you must tell them that you’re not pretty.  It’s your heart that’s pretty because if you have an ugly heart then you’re ugly.  My Mother was very candid.  No holds barred. She didn’t care to dance around me or anybody else with words.  She told the truth and if it hurts your feelings, oh well.  She doesn’t want anyone to go to hell, and she wants your soul to be saved most importantly.  Even now, my mother will get on the phone with me and remind me I need to pray more and I need to do this more, and I’m like “Ok mommy.”  Nobody is going to give it to me like she does.  I think that alone has kept me completely grounded.

CH: Deleon, so frequently in life we experience joy and sorrow sometimes; sunshine and rain.  There are valleys we all face and confront, and sometimes we wish God would take away the pain.  When you faced your darkest hours, particularly when media reports came out regarding scandalous rumors, when the enemy tested your limits, how did God get you through those hours and days, and what testimony and lesson would you share with others who face adversity, especially the kind of adversity that’s played out in public and must be overcome to live for a brighter day?

DRS:  At that point, you really do have to let go and let God.  You can not be in the driver’s seat because it’s how you would make bad decisions or choices.  That is how a lot of times people get to desperate points, where they feel almost hopeless.  They can’t allow themselves to ever get to that point, where there’s no hope, because Jesus is hope and to turn that hopelessness into something else we have to continue to put our hopes and attention on God.  That’s what I did.

My trials that I had to live out in public were things that were not even things that weren’t even current.  I had to deal with things that I had done years ago, but it still had the potential to take me to a deep, dark place.  In order for that not to happen, you really have to have some serious faith and trust in God.  He has all things in control.  You need to trust God and let all those tests really become the testimony.  My experience has made me stronger.  It has made me wiser. It has given me the ability to be more transparent and I think even humbler to a degree.  It’s like God just wants to use me in whatever way He wants me to be used.  I’m just a vessel.  If it’s souls that He wants me to save, I will.

CH:  You obviously still have a testimony since you have recorded your latest album, “Hear In Me”.  It’s been a minute since your previous recording.  What inspired you to write, record, and return to share in your ministry through song?

DRS: You’re right. It’s been only a minute since I’ve come out from the last project till now!  In between that, I got married.  I had three children.  I’ve been busy in between, but I never really stopped singing, writing and ministering.  I was still doing things, here and there.  But to this point, I think God said “I’m going to really press you like some grapes to make the wine.”  I felt really, really pressed. They say fine wine, when it’s aged, is better, and that’s how I feel about this project.  It’s like it’s been pressed, it’s been aged, and it’s something that’s really, really better.

CH: If there’s a final message that you would like the listeners to take away after listening to your album, what is that message?  What is that testimony?

DRS: This album is about praise and worship, but it has a completely different twist on it.  I just know we can do all things through Christ.  The title track is “Hearing Me”.  Sometimes the devil will come to try to destroy the destiny that God has placed before us, and to stop us from getting there and reaching it.  Despite all of that, know that we have to be watchful.  Sometimes we won’t be able to get to a certain place or get a prayer from this person or that person but it’s inside of us.  It’s through Christ Jesus that we can do all things. It’s hearing You.   

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About Christopher Heron

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