TL Mag sat down and talked with the legendary daughter of Karen Clark-Sheard from the famous Clark Sisters. She talks about the contemporary Christian lifestyle and what it means to be a fashion designer.
When I spoke to Kierra Sheard in December of 2015 she was hot off of the new release of her EP, LED. During that time she was in the place where God was dealing with her about being a light to the world and being a Christian. She was using the eight-track EP as her gospel version of a mix-tape to shine her very bright light. I remember enthusiastically expressing my joy on how the EP felt like real R&B music and less like traditional gospel music – it was more like gospel-infused R&B.
Those who are fans of Kierra should, by now, be aware of the contemporary sound that permeates into her music. On every album she always includes a heavy-based R&B sound usually produced by her brother J.Drew Sheard, Rodney Jerkins, Fred Jerkins, III (Uncle Freddie), and a host of other phenomenal producers. With LED, I wondered who she was making the music for and what was the inspiration behind the sound. The answer I received was a declaration of what it meant to be young, fabulous, and Christian. Kierra boldly proclaimed, "I am a strong Christian, who is most definitely saved and stays in church." She wanted to clear up the notion that you can’t be a strong believer and not live your life.
Although a debated topic among the most sanctified churches to the more relaxed, contemporary ministries – Kierra unapologetically proclaims that she listens to all genres of music. Her inspiration behind the music is to give people songs they can take everywhere. She looks at artist like The Winans, Clark Sisters, Andre Crouch, Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams, etc. – she states "these artist gave us a sound we can take everywhere."
Kierra believes the music you listen to determines your mood at the time. So while many artists make worship music everyone is not always in the mood to worship – sometimes we want to praise or turn up. Kierra says, “you don’t always have to come out with a cry to worship God. But I wanted to make different music for people who like other genres styles but wanted to keep Jesus in the atmosphere. I wanted to keep the conviction there, but at the same time be me and chill. I don’t feel like I have to go into revival to get to God. If worship is a lifestyle for me I can be OK with living my life to God’s standards and break out of tradition a little bit.”
So for those who haven’t heard there’s a new term going around for non-traditional Christians - contemporary Christians. I asked Kierra how she felt about that term and what she has to say about the naysayers who refuse to be open minded to this new expression of giving God glory. Here’s what she had to say.
“I don’t down them because I don’t like it when they do it to us. But what I will say is that there is only so far we can reach with that mind set.” She goes on to say that Jesus was a prime example of breaking free of traditions and using his way to draw in the world. “He did things like a modern revivalist and he went to places where he was unexpected. He dealt with people and he talked to people, but at the same time he knew he was Jesus and knew he had a standard. I think that those that won’t accept the modern revivalist are them [in their flesh], and it doesn’t show the character of Christ. Jesus was open to us all and we should have the same mindset in order to reach people. So many people have learned tradition but don’t know the reason behind tradition. I think that it’s possible to develop a relationship with God based on tradition and that [may] work for them, but there are some that they don’t know why they do what they do [they are just going along].”
But to the modern revivalist and contemporary worshipers, she suggested that they continue to be who they are because we’re dealing with a generation that is very inquisitive. Kierra expresses how the older generation didn’t ask questions because it was taught to be a form of disrespect. But Kierra wants the older generation to understand that when the current generation is seeking a reason behind tradition that they are not trying to be disrespectful but just want to have an understanding – the seek is genuine and comes from a sincere place. She believes that there should be a catering to this generation in the best way possible. There is a place for the birthing of new worshipers and legends to work in unity to build the body of Christ.
Kierra talks about how she honestly allows herself to be inspired by many around her within the music business. During the time of the interview she expressed a desire to one day collaborate with ColdPlay, Beyonce, and Kanye West. In particular she’d love to pick apart Kanye West's brain and ask what was the mindset of making his song Jesus Walks to understand what that journey was like for him. Even as she was making the statement my mind wandered to what a remix with Kierra’s vocals on the song would sound like. Honestly, I think that would be bananas and I’m sure many would like for the old Kanye to reappear!
I asked Kierra about working with her brother and what it feels like to work with other producers. In her adoration on speaking on J. Drew there weren’t enough words for her to say on how he has been one of the biggest influences of her music. Even despite times of conflict in the studio that the work is fun, challenging and great. They use those sessions to vent to each other and it becomes a part of the music. She also understands that in order to grow she also has to work with other producers – she believes that we can’t keep our dreams among ourselves and can’t keep ourselves limited.
Even bringing it back to the contemporary Christian she is changing the game with her clothing line, Eleven60 – which is her mother’s birth month and year, inspired by her mother’s style and grace, and the thick heritage of her family, the famous Clark Sisters. Kierra says that “they maintained and wore their thick well.” The line’s motivation is from the need to cater to the full-figured woman who want quality and more durable clothing. She wants to give the full-figured woman something that will compliment them and not highlight their weaknesses when it comes to body image. Focusing on the total woman and designing well-constructed pieces and bridging her passion in putting forth great style for the full-figured woman who can’t wear the same styles as the smaller-sized women.
She wants it also to be known that Eleven60 is not a Christian clothing line, but a line designed by a Christian woman. Her clothing line is a line that is catered to the world as a whole. “It’s clothes!” She says. The statement comes from me asking if Eleven60 should be label as a Christian clothing line. Kierra admits to loving and being inspired by Kim Kardashian’s style and that she uses that creativeness for some of her pieces and tailors them to the full-sized woman.
She goes on to make a very valid point in saying, “we buy non-Christian items every day from people who don’t label themselves as Christians. So I think it’s important that we don’t label ourselves and box ourselves in. If I’m doing a clothing line why do I have to say it’s a Christian line? Let’s just do this thing and get the wealth that is laid up for us. The Bible says that wealth is laid up for the just. I want to encourage other Christian entrepreneurs to get out of the box and stop letting people box us in. We should go for the goods and go for the world. Of course we’re in the world but not of it. We’re in the world but we don’t take on the ways of the world. Having said that, God says he is Jehovah Jireh, I am the provider, I can give you everything that you ask for if it’s in my will.”
Kierra's latest project is Kierra's Krash Kourse - her entrepreneurial class.
Photos Credit: Facebook, Kierra Sheard
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