On the Oprah show four years ago, a young singer broke from the pack of hopefuls to capture America’s heart with her rendition of the classic gospel “Amazing Grace”. Amazing is what the transformation has been for the winner of Oprah’s Pop Star Challenge, LaShell Griffin. In the four years since, she has recorded a CD (Free, on Epic/Sony), gone on a nine city tour, became a spokesperson for a major clothing store (Ashley Steward), and is about to star in her first major play (Forever the Same.) * The wife and mother spoke with The Detroiter.com last week to discuss her career and life since her “discovery” on Oprah.
thedetroiter.com: You’ve been a very busy woman since that day four years ago. What has been some of the highlights in your career since then?
La Shell Griffin: There have been many. Having my husband Lee (singer Leuonties Griffin) become my manager two years ago was a huge blessing. He has made lots of things happen for me like Ashley Steward. We have a distribution deal with WalMart for my new CD, ”Dreams Are Possible”, which we are working on now. There’s the “Touch a Dream” tour, which will happen next year. So many good things happening I truly feel blessed.
thed: What can you tell us about the new CD?
L G: I’m very proud of the songs on this upcoming CD. There’s one entitled “I Can Win” that features The Allen University Choir from Columbia, S.C. that we recorded. I’m very excited about it. It deals with the real problem of HIV and AIDS and how we deal with it. I’m also proud of the fact that my two oldest boys have contributed a couple of songs that they wrote and sing background on.
thed: Any plans for them to come out with a CD of their own?
L G: Not at this time, possibly in the near future. Right now getting my CD ready for release and preparing for the play is what I’m concentrating on.
thed: The play (Forever the Same) is coming out next week. What can you tell us about it?
thed: I’ve really enjoyed working on this. The part I play, “the woman with issues” is great for me personally because it’s a good role and because of my other commitments it’s not overwhelming in terms of time. I also get to share a scene with my husband, which I enjoyed very much. There are some funny, touching moments in the play describing Jesus and His disciples and some different kinds of churches are portrayed. I’m very excited about it.
thed: It’s well documented how you won the contest on Oprah. Tell the readers something they may not know about your experience on the show.
L G: They may not know that initially I wasn’t one of the final eight contestants.
L G: Yes. The producers had the eight selected but they felt they were still missing something. They went back and looked at the tapes again and by the grace of God this time I was chosen.
thed: Do you stay in touch with Oprah’s camp?
LG: Oh yes! (Laughing) I’ve got them on speed-dial. Oprah has different producers that handle her many enterprises and we’ve build some fine relationships there.
thed: Any chance for a return to her show any time soon?
LG: Sure. Lee and I are concentrating on making the right things happen for my career, the new CD, the play and the upcoming tour next year. When the time is right I’m sure the Lord will let us know.
thed: You are spiritually grounded aren’t you?
LG: I feel really blessed. I don’t feel like all this success is about me. I feel that I’m just a vessel for the Lord, doing his bidding. When I was on tour with Sony, they were sending me to a lot of different places I wasn’t used to being at, such as nightclubs, to perform. At first I wasn’t comfortable. Then I realized that it wasn’t about me feeling funny about what people might say about me being in a club but the effect I could have on people. One time I was at a club and a woman came up to me to talk. She was standing close enough that I could smell the alcohol on her breath. I didn’t know what to expect but you know what? She had a request. She wanted me to sing “Amazing Grace.” I did and was very warmly received by the entire club. The woman told me she was going to go to church the next day. I felt good, playing a small part in her decision. The Lord sends me where I need to be.
thed: So you feel you can make an impact wherever you are, singing performing…
LG: I’m just a vessel for the Lord. Church is like a hospital to me. Like a hospital, church is somewhere you go for healing. Lots of people who go to nightclubs are there searching for something to make them feel good. It’s a false since of security at the clubs but you are there looking for something to make you feel good. If I can be at a nightclub performing and the songs I sing make you feel good about yourself in a spiritual sense then I’m where the Lord wanted me to be. If I touch people in that atmosphere that’s the Lord’s will.
thed: Are you ready for opening night on the 16th?
LG: Oh yes! I’m excited and a bit nervous. But that nervousness is a good thing. (Laughing)
thed: We here at thedetroiter.com want to thank you for sharing your time and your thoughts on your career and your life. Good luck in the future and we’re looking forward to seeing you on stage next week.
LG: Thank you.
* Forever the Same premiers next week (October 16th) at the Millennium Centre at 15600 J.L. Hudson Drive in Southfield, MI. See our coverage of it here for more information.