Twenty-five years after her debut album All By Myself made her a bonafide star, Regina Belle considers herself blessed to have a music career beyond the 15-minute shelf life fans are now accustomed to. And in 2008, after dazzling audiences her soulful voice through hit singles such as, “Make It Like It Was,” “If I Could” and “This is Love,” the New Jersey-bred songstress discovered a whole new world in gospel with her 2008 album, Love Forever Shines. Knowing that the transition from one genre of music to another doesn’t typically happen, the 1993 Grammy Award winner notes that it was all God’s doing. “It’s kind of moving being lead by God,” says Belle. “As to what it is He wants me to do, it’s not really my call. If you would’ve told me eight years ago if I was doing a gospel album, I would’ve told you, “No.” But ready and open to following God’s plan, Belle is set to release her sophomore gospel album, Higher, this summer.

Noting that her road manager/prayer partner came up with the title for the album, Belle believes the LP is perfectly labeled. “It is so fitting for where the Lord has me right now.” She continues, “I believe that my praise, in terms of my recording is higher, [and] He’s elevated me in my writing.” And with 13 songs on the album—a number some typically steer clear from—the Lord’s songbird chose to release “Make an Example Out of Me” as the album’s lead single. Calling the track the “most powerful piece on the record,” Belle uses this song as worship, reflecting on all that she’s been through, mentally and physically, having to have brain surgery in 2009. And with a sense of responsibility to lead, she says, “I believe that if we’re Christians, we have a responsibility to be an example, because how else will folk know about Christ if they don’t know through us?”

But even with a soon-to-be nine albums under her belt, there have still been times when the soul singer has questioned her decision to enter into the music business. Attending Rutgers University in New Jersey as a double major, Belle entered into summer school to finish her final 12 credits during her senior year. Realizing that a 9-to-5 couldn’t possibly be in her future after graduation, the New Jersey native started praying, “God, please make something evolve.” And needless to say, Belle got the opportunity to audition for The Manhattans. Referring to that as her “get-out-of-jail-free card,” she walked away from her pending 12 credits to graduate and went to sing as the group’s opening act. While it was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up, her grandfather just couldn’t understand. “I don’t believe this! Twelve credits to go towards your Bachelor’s degree, and that couldn’t wait?”

Years later, her grandfather on his deathbed, Belle’s decision to walk away from school and pursue music still weighed on her heavily. Going to see him, she said, “Pop, this may be strange, [but] are you proud of me?” With a heavy heart she continued, “I know I left college and maybe someday I’ll go back, but I’m not really sure about that.” Not knowing what his response would be, she remembers him looking at her and saying, “Of course I’m proud of you.” He said, “I never dreamed that you would do all of the things that you did. Travel the world, and see things that I’ve never seen—that comes from somebody in my line!”

Ready for to watch the success of her upcoming album, as she “bring[s] people to the presence of God”, Belle wants to continue to go higher. “I’ve done a good job so far. I have a ways to go, and I’m not finished.”

Questions for Regina Belle? Contact Ivy Taylor from the Brian Springle Entertainment Group: [email protected].