Forget Clint Eastwood! For many African Americans watching at home, perhaps the biggest surprise of last night’s Republican National Convention was seeing BeBe Winans on stage. Just before his performance, for which he was not paid, ESSENCE News Editor Wendy L. Wilson caught up with the Grammy Award winner to find out why he sang for Mitt Romney.
ESSENCE: Why sing at the Republican National Convention?
BEBE WINANS: I’ve been privileged to meet presidents and sing at inaugurations and other political events. Along the way, I realized that politicians are people. We sometimes look at them as if they are more than human. It’s so easy to sit back in your comfort zone and judge people and say you’re this and you’re that. So to come here and to be a part of the Convention, I feel like I am showing bipartisanship and taking a stand as an American. I applaud anyone who wants to take on the load that comes with being President of the United States. You really have to love your country to place yourself in that position.
ESSENCE: You do know there are certain implications of you singing on this national stage, right before Mitt Romney accepts the nomination and right after?
WINANS: This is something most artists would fight to get and I realize it’s huge. But I didn’t ask to be placed in this position. When they came to me, two things popped in my head: The RNC realized this was something that could work to their advantage and I realized there is a master plan here. And so my message to them and to the world is that we are all Americans before we are a part of any political party. It’s so simple and yet we make it so difficult.
ESSENCE: Was there any hesitation in your mind before saying yes?
WINANS: Oh yes. I’m 50 next month and I know we live in a world where some African Americans especially are going to say, “Oh, you don’t like us anymore.” You know, those thoughts came — but without hesitation I dismissed them because I am at a point in my life where I know who I am and I know what I’m all about. I have never been the type of person who has ever worried about what people think.
ESSENCE: Have you met Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan?
WINANS: No, I haven’t met either of them but I look forward to it tonight.
ESSENCE: Describe your performance.
WINANS: I rehearsed my song “America America” the other day and I started crying, so I hope the surprise is that I can get through this without weeping. It is truly my heart that is singing the song, and I believe it is so relevant to each and every one of us as Americans. People need to know before I’m associated with any party, I am an American and that’s what I want to drive home at the RNC. I know some people will not understand and some people will get angry, and that’s okay — but at the same time, I feel me being here tonight will touch so many lives in a way that I could never even imagine, and to me that’s worth more than gold.
BeBe Winans’ seventh solo release, America America, is out now.