Gospel artist Kierra Sheard-Kelly is releasing the deluxe version of her album “Kierra.” And in a couple of day’s time, she will also debut her first book, a memoir called “The Big, Bold and Beautiful Experience.” We had a chance to speak to Sheard-Kelly about self love, spiritual self care, leaving a toxic relationship and what she’s learned in her marriage. See what she had to say below.
MN: Why did you decide now was a good time to write about your life and all that you have experienced?
Kierra Sheard-Kelly: Actually, this was all a God thing so it’s God’s timing. This book has been like a journal for me. I literally turned my journal into a book. And the way I found the book offer was from an email account that I hadn’t been checking. I randomly decided to check it. They gave the offer and they said, ‘Do you have a book now?’ And I did because I had been journaling.
This is God saying it is time. The other cool thing is you see the full circle of how I evolved from a single woman to a married woman.
MN: I want to speak to you a little bit about the body positivity aspect of the book. When was the first time you remember receiving negative messages about your body?
Kierra Sheard-Kelly: Oh yeah. I had been receiving negative responses when I recorded my first project. They were encouraging me to do photos that were only waist up. And I was like, ‘I am who I am. So market what you have.’ I had to learn to speak up for myself.
And then, in addition to that I was in a dysfunctional relationship. A majority of the time, I was the bigger friend in the crew of girls I would hang out with so that was also kind of eating at me as well. I would always redirect the challenges that I had in my relationships to my weight, thinking that I wasn’t good enough.
So those are the moments and the negative comments. And I still have people saying you’re fat, you’re this, you’re that.
In the book, I’m basically saying I don’t let the world identify or define for me what is beauty. That’s kind of how I turned things around for myself.
MN: In what ways was your previous relationship toxic?
Kierra: Cheating, verbal abuse. And it wasn’t just him. It was me too. Because I was learning a behavior to respond to that, to counteract that and to let him know don’t go to no other kind of extreme with me. I just thought that because I loved him, I thought this was the fight that you had to put in to make something work. But I had it all screwed up.
Any time we got angry, we were calling each other names, saying disrespectful things that could really bruise someone’s security. And that’s not just in one relationship. We saw what culture was doing and decided to act like that.
I completely, for some reason, forgot about the house that I came from. I’ve never seen my father or mother call each other names. If they had disagreements, it was healthy. I was trying to fit into something that I wasn’t called to fit in. It wasn’t a part of my purpose.
And I was out of God’s will when it comes to abstaining from sex before marriage. I was making a boyfriend a husband. I was practically living with him. That’s the kind
MN: How did you break that pattern or cycle?
Kierra: I broke the pattern by just being myself. At one point I was a serial dater. I thought I had to have a man to thrive or feel good about myself or be successful. There’s a scripture in Ecclesiastes that says make the most of every opportunity because you don’t just have yourself to give an answer to. You have to answer to God about what you did with what He gave you.
At one point, I was living like ‘I gotta wait to go to Paris or Dubai.’ I got to have a man on that trip. And it’s like, ‘No, girl! If you have the money to go, go!’ Live your life now. Do the soul searching so that you’re secure and not feeling like ‘I have to live my life’ while you’re in the middle of a marriage. It had everything to do with me diving into my relationship with God and having more of a higher perspective about life’s purpose and the life after this one.
What also broke the cycle was I got tired of being hurt and disappointed. I started looking and paying attention to the red flags. You praying and asking God to show you the signs, here are they! I got tired of looking at myself like I was the clown because I knew better. And I knew I deserved better. And nobody was going to give me what I knew I deserved but myself.
In that relationship, I started seeing that it was connected to me contemplating suicide. And I was like hecky nah. I ain’t bout to take my life for someone else. That was the delivering piece.
MN: In the book you speak about spiritual self care. What are some signs that you’re spiritually depleted?
Kierra: For me, I can say that when I am called to do something and I’m all over the place. If I can’t be still or am always trying to find answers or feeling like I have to compare myself to what we see on social media—if I’m always on social media and it’s the driving force for me. That is a sign that I’m not where I need to be.
Even in my conversation. Usually, I pull out the word of truth, which for me is the Bible. And if my conversation does not have those faith-based moments, that’s when I feel like, ‘You’re missing a piece. You haven’t been studying your word or praying and getting before the Lord.’
Even with my career. It’s not like a 9-5, not that there’s anything wrong with it. But I literally have to depend on God for instruction about the next time. It comes from my prayer life.
It shows up in me physically. When I’m exhausted naturally, that too is a sign for me. When my house is a mess and it’s beginning to be disgusting, that’s a sign. Since you’re not getting it in the spiritual, the natural is showing you signs as well.
MN: So then what does spiritual self care look like?
Kierra: I had to learn how to compartmentalize a lot of people. And I had a people problem. I always found something wrong. And really, it wasn’t that there was something wrong. I had to learn to meet people where they were. That was a part of my self care. In the book, I explain fountain-like relationships and draining relationships.
I stay in touch with the seasoned friends, my parents and my grandparents. I have fun with my funny friends, who are just a blast to hang out with. Then I have my friendships that are in depth where we can talk about the word and it can be edifying.
Also, a part of my spiritual maintenance is making sure that I tune in when my pastor is on because sometimes he’ll give me answers that I never had a conversation with him about.
Sometimes, I get bored with reading the Bible, I’ll be honest. I’ll fall asleep while I’m reading. So I have to listen to podcasts or I have to read books with scriptures in them. And that’s what inspired this book I’m putting out now. Some of our attention spans are short.
MN: What have you learned about yourself since being married?
Kierra: I learned that I talk a lot. I’ve learned that I like to be right. I’ll admit when I’m wrong but if I’m wrong, I still try to find at least one right in my wrong. I have learned though that I’m a good person. I like serving my husband. I love praying for him. I didn’t know that I loved praying so much.
I’ve learned that I’m a strong woman but I don’t like confrontation. I don’t like arguments. I would love to maintain my grace as much as I can. So I like having someone to speak up for me. I don’t like having to always speak up for myself. I take pride when my husband is there and he’s says, ‘Nah, we gon do it this way.’ I don’t like for people to tell me what to do. I like for the right person to tell me what to do.
MN: Has anything surprised you about marriage?
Kierra: I think I was well-prepared just watching my parents and hearing their lessons. I don’t go outside of my little bubble of counselors or advisors when it comes to marriage. Those who are faith-based believing couples have shown me that it takes work. It’s not as disgusting and miserable as so many people make it seem to be. It can actually be a beautiful thing. It’s more than just existing on the earth, it has everything to do with you heaven-bound perspective. This marriage for me has been a mirror for me to get better in some areas that I thought I had mastered. It’s helped me to evolve into a more beautiful woman. I’m already like where the money reside! But I’m evolving even more and I’m so grateful for it.
Today, Kierra Sheard-Kelly released the deluxe version of her chart-topping album “Kierra,” which features five more songs, including a duet with her mother Karen Clark-Sheard.
Her memoir, “Big, Bold, and Beautiful: Owning the Woman God Made You to Be,” will be released on April 13.
To commemorate the occasion, Sheard-Kelly will host a virtual conference called The Big, Bold and Beautiful Experience,” on April 10th and April 11th. The experience will include speakers like Sarah Jakes Roberts, Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Meagan Good, Erica Campbell, PrettyVee, Sevyn Streeter, Dwight Holt Jr., Chandler Moore, Terrence J, and Jonathan McReynolds.
You can listen to Kierra Sheard-Kelly’s deluxe version of “Kierra,” here.