November 24th, 2010
07:20 AM ET
Editor's note: CNN's Gabe La Monica recently interviewed gospel singer CeCe Winans. La Monica caught up with Winans at Verizon's "How Sweet the Sound" gospel competition in Washington as she was planning to head to Ghana. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation:
La Monica: You're a woman of God, a woman of faith, and you've been singing gospel since you were 6 years old?
Winans: Oh, probably as long as I've been living; my first solo was probably when I was about 8.
La Monica: Has your faith always been integral to your music?
Winans: Yes, yes, it always has. ... It started out in church, but you know you come to a point, probably when I was a teenager, when you begin to really understand what being a person of faith really means.
La Monica: And how has that developed over the years?
Winans: It's been great because you get a chance to sing what you believe in, what you know has worked for your life, what has strengthened you, what has kept you focused and strong.
It's more than just a song; it's more than just religion, but it's a relationship of loving God and knowing that God is real.
I get a chance to sing good news. You know the world needs good news, right CNN?
La Monica: You've done a lot of work with World Vision International [a Christian relief organization].
Winans: Yes, love World Vision - ooh, hooking up with World Vision just changed my life. I want to do it, probably for the rest of my life. Ethiopia was my first trip over to Africa with World Vision.
It's one thing to see commercials, and it's another thing to go see face to face people suffering, and understanding that if we would just give a little bit of what we have , we could really change a person's whole life, and World Vision - I just commend them because they go all over the world helping the poor, and not just helping them, teaching them how to take care of themselves.
I love Africa. I've been traveling, within the last three to four years, a lot to Africa. Our music has been there for years - since we've been singing. It wasn't until recently I've started going over there and understanding that they have loved our music for years, and you know, to go that far, to see people singing your songs and tell you how impactful it's been to their lives, especially in their living conditions, it's just amazing.
We have to spread our faith everywhere we can. People need it, and people need to have hope. And that's what we give, we give hope.
La Monica: How'd you meet Whitney Houston?
Winans: Ooh, Whitney. At an awards show. The year she came out, it was the Image Awards, when she was winning everything that anybody could ever win. She saw us in the lobby and she was like, "CeCe, BeBe."
And we're like, "You know us?"
She was like, "Yes, I love your music."
I'm like, "What?"
She's like, "Yes, heck," and she started singing songs.
We were going to be in concert actually that night; we were doing a real late concert in some old little place out there in Los Angeles, and she said, "I'm comin'."
And we were like, "Yeah, sure you're comin'."
She came that night. After she got all the awards, she ended up coming to our concert, getting on stage with us and singing our songs better than we could ever sing 'em. And that's where the friendship began, so that was like, ooh probably about 23 years ago now. We're good friends, yeah.
La Monica: What brings you to Verizon’s "How Sweet the Sound"?
Winans: I was really excited to see how Verizon had put together a wonderful event that was first class for the gospel community. I was totally impressed.
It's been a 14-city tour; the choirs have been amazing, and we've had a lot of fun. It's a lot of joy onstage and offstage. Verizon has been a joy to work with, and I know they've made a major difference in the faith community.
So I just pray that it keeps going, because I really think it's something that could be global. I mean think about it: People love choir music all over the world, and we say it's competition, but I think it's just a great excuse to come together and make a joyful noise.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.