Kierra Sheard isn’t your typical gospel star. Though she’s down with the King and hails from one of gospel music’s most storied clans, the Detroit native and Wayne State University grad admits she once had a weakness for bad boys and is very open and critical about the church’s ability to connect with young people. While many traditionalists question her usage of so-called secular beats in her music, Sheard’s talent and transparency has endeared her to fans.

Recently, EBONY caught up with the singer ahead of the premiere of the Centric show, Being, and she got all the way real about being a PK (preacher’s kid), having cosmetic surgery, and why she’s not afraid to release non-traditional gospel music. 

EBONY: Being is known for giving fans an intimate look at a celebrity’s life. What made you want to do the show? Were you nervous about sharing so much?

Kierra Sheard: Any opportunity to share my experiences and help someone, I jump at the chance to do it. At this point in my life, I’m not nervous to share anything. Someone has to be real and completely transparent, why not me?

EBONY: Your mother is Karen Clark Sheard, one of the legendary Clark Sisters. Did you feel pressure to live up to their legacy when you first got into music?

Sheard: Yes, but it was a healthy pressure because they were my blueprint; they paved the way for me and so many others. I was somewhat intimidated but I channeled it properly, using it as inspiration instead.

EBONY: You’re a youth leader in your church and on the show you talk about people feeling uncomfortable in traditional churches. Can you talk a bit about the church’s inability to connect with younger people?

Sheard: Each generation is tough! I’m still learning my generation. The desire to connect has to be present and evident. My generation thrives off of transparency and we can see through inauthenticity. On the contrary, we cling to what is real and genuine. While tradition and customs are important in their place, it’s also important to be able to meet people where they are and speak their language a little bit. If this isn’t done, you’ll have a very difficult time connecting with young people.

EBONY: You incorporate non-gospel elements into your songs and shows. Why is that important? How do you deal with the criticism from people who don’t understand updating traditional gospel?

Sheard: I enjoy incorporating different elements of music that I enjoy listening too. I want to give what feels good to me while never compromising my message, which is Jesus is my Lord and Savior.

Again, it’s important when ministering to people to speak their language. For an example, my native tongue is English, if someone is communicating with me while not speaking my language—no matter what they say—it does me no good. In order to effectively minister to this generation, in some sense, we must speak their language.

That’s why I’m unafraid to release non-traditional gospel music. It’s my assignment and I’m doing all that I can to fulfill that task. I don’t necessarily “deal” with the criticism of others. I used to, but now I’m so confident in my walk with Christ that it simply no longer impacts me. I can’t allow it to. I’m on a mission!

EBONY: In addition to music, you’re working toward your Master’s in psychology. Why is continuing your education important to you?

Sheard: My parents, especially my father, have always been advocates for education. Receiving a degree was not an option for my brother and I, so it’s just been instilled in me over and over again. Furthering my education by obtaining a Master’s degree is very important to me also because I started it. I don’t believe in starting things and not finishing them!

To be a well-rounded individual and to know how to speak to both audiences of intellect and emotion means something to me. Not trying to be super woman, but I’d like to sit at both tables and on both platforms. I’d also like to have the proper education to correctly help people rather than just all of a sudden calling myself a life coach. I’d like to get to the root of the issue and not only deal with the surface. To me faith and education is powerful and very effective.

EBONY: You’re also an entrepreneur, how did you get into plus size design?

Sheard: I’ve been a big girl almost all of my life. I noticed as an adult consumer that the plus size woman didn’t have very many quality options when shopping. I wanted to offer amazing fashion with lasting material to the plus size community. So I basically design clothes that I love to wear and make them available to my plus size sisters! They love it!

EBONY: You’re an advocate of accepting yourself and empowering others, so it’s interesting you decided to have cosmetic surgery. What made you want to have the surgery AND talk about it, especially when so many people pretend they don’t have them?

Sheard: The cosmetic surgeries that I’ve had did for me what diet and exercise simply did not—or could not—do for me. After losing over 80 pounds I had skin that sagged and no matter how much I exercised I couldn’t tone it. So instead of continuing to feel insecure about it, I decided to do something about it. I talked about it because it, too, is a part of my journey and story. Maybe it could help someone in some way.

I’m very open and honest about who I am and what I’ve done. I don’t hide very many things, so why hide this part of me? I also understand why some people may hide it. Because with people knowing your personal business, it allows them to want to know more information. If we give everything to the world or to social media, what will we have left for ourselves? I’m open about it, too, because I rather tell it before someone else tries to dig something up on me. I keep what I want to myself and release what I think is necessary—when I’m ready. I also like connecting with people.

God created us to connect and it also keeps me humble. Reminding me that I share the same issues with every other human. Fluctuating weight is a woman thing. No woman in the world can convince me that they’ve always been 100% satisfied with their weight. I also wanted to wear my arms out. There was one roll on my left arm (that’s seeming to appear again) that wasn’t on my right arm! I looked deformed. I also had a roll on the right side of my back but not on the other side. I wanted these adjustments IMMEDIATELY!

EBONY: Has it been hard being in the public eye while also struggling with your weight? What advice would you give to other young women who are going through what you went through?

Sheard: It used to be hard publicly struggling with my weight. But now, I openly talk about it and actually receive support from others who fight the same battle, which is very helpful.

I would tell other young women that face this struggle to love yourself at every weight and stage because weight does not define who you are. However, if you are unhappy (like I was) then love yourself enough to do something about it. You can do it!

Listen, if I can lose weight anybody can! (laughs) I would also encourage people who struggle with the weight to surround themselves with people who will hold them accountable and who are genuinely concerned with their health and long life, and not only how they look in comparison to what society says is beautiful.

EBONY: What’s one thing you wish people knew about you?

Sheard: I wish people knew how down to earth and cool I am. A lot of people think that I’m this high and mighty, bourgeoise girl born with a silver spoon in her mouth. I’m a super fun girl that is obsessed with my family and friends and just love to have fun and be a blessing to people! That’s it! I’m very simple!

Being airs Saturday nights at 10 pm on Centric. Catch up on EBONY & Centric’s entire interview series here