DIONNE CAROL

"I left a full-time job with benefits, vacation time, security..."

When did you develop a passion for entertainment?

That gift was placed inside at a very young age. I grew up singing in the church choir, always admiring theater and loving the entertainment world. When I grew up, I went to college and became a teacher. I got married young, had my children and really put singing on the back burner. I was a teacher for 12 years and went into administration and education. One day, a friend called and told me about an audition in New York. I went to the audition and got the job!

I was not able to maintain my administrative position in the school, and also take the job in New York. I took a great leap of faith, left my administrative job and took the job in New York. I can honestly say that God has been so good ever since. That was in the same year I joined AMTC. I did SHINE, then my contract for the new job picked up. During AMTC, I realized that entertainment was my calling… finally it was my season to do what I was called to do.

What was the AMTC and SHINE experience like?

AMTC was life changing…it really was! As a Christian and as someone who has a passion for people and the world, there are times when you need balance. When you are singing in the pulpit, all honor and glory goes to God. However, when you are singing on a stage in front of people, they are actually applauding for you. Sometimes, you think that you cannot accept that applause…but SHINE taught me that there is a light needed in the Kingdom. It was permission for me not feel bad in leaving home and leaving church, going into uncharted territory.

I always felt the apprehension that, “Okay Lord, if I sing this secular song, does it mean I am not giving you honor and glory?” He confirmed, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” [Matthew 5:16]. That’s what SHINE did for me. I had so many likeminded people who pushed me in the name of the Lord. From the beginning, when I auditioned and was accepted, something deep inside my spirit was saying “Yes, yes, yes. Go.” It gave me so much courage.

How did you hear about AMTC?

A friend heard about the audition on the radio. So I said, “Okay, I’ll try any audition! That’s half of the battle, just to go.” Someone passed along the word, and I went to the audition in Philadelphia.

You were actually the winner of the McDonald’s Gospel Fest?

Yes! I am so honored because out of all of the people who auditioned, only a few were selected as finalists. When we did compete in May of 2011, I won in the solo competition. It was one of the first times I ever sang for 14,000 people! I was honored to sing “Only What You do for Christ will Last.” It meant something so powerful to me: no matter how far He takes me, and no matter what comes my way, anything and everything I do is for Him. That is the song I chose to sing, and the song that took me to first place!

What opportunities came out of the Gospel Fest?

I was able to use that credibility and title. Having that title allowed me to release songs on iTunes. I did a couple of local performances here in the city. I was also able to work with a well-known gospel artist, BeBe Winans. From there, I was able to get more opportunities.

What have been your favorite opportunities?

My favorite opportunity was participating in the Broadway show “Dream Girls.” Someone else encouraged me to go to the audition. When I finally received the callback, she asked me two things: “Do you have a passport?” I said yes. “Are you available next month?” and I said yes. They already knew that I could act and sing, but it was those two determining factors that sent me on my way.

I’ll rewind for a minute. A minister at my church asked the congregation, “If the Lord asked any of you to go on a mission trip across the world, how many of you would go?” Of course, everyone raised their hands and agreed! Her next question was, “How many of you have passports?” Not very many people raised their hands. She said “You have to be ready. Stay ready, and you won’t have to get ready.” Well this was years ago, so as soon as she said that, I had my passport made. I had it for years and didn’t know why. So last year, that question came to me and I was able to go…in less than four weeks, I was in Japan doing “Dream Girls.”

That just confirmed God’s Word that you have to be ready. As an African American singer, you want these dream jobs! It was so exciting, and I am glad to have had the opportunity to do that. It really brought me back to the Word of God that says, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” I was chosen for that, and honored. Along the way, I have done theme parks, have been an extra in a movie here, and was in a documentary.

And you’re currently performing on cruise lines?

 I finished one contract, and just picked up another! I was working with Holland America Cruise Line for six months, and that was spectacular. It has opened doors where God can just use you mightily. We went to Northern Europe, Canada and England, and we went to the Caribbean. There were seven shows produced for that cruise line and, in the theater world we call it F1, I was chosen again as a lead vocalist. It was another opportunity to let my light shine!

How do you balance out family, with you career as an entertainer?

I am very fortunate that my children (two sons) are older. Even though I went to school and was a teacher, my pursuit into my destiny gave me my new lease on life. My children are adults, in college, much older. Even when I was producing records, or when I went to Japan to do Dream Girls, or when I was on the Cruise Ship, I had my community to help me with them. My family members understand my purpose and promise, and definitely released me to go. It is something that you have to be confident in.

Seasons and timing matter…I could not have done this when my children were very little, even with support. They needed the nurturing of their mother. Now that I am older, they have given me permission to go and do what I love to do. They are excited and proud of their mom, but if it wasn’t for my village, family and friends, and of course technology, things would be so much more difficult!

What have been the biggest obstacles you face?

At times, I get weary in trusting God. I left a full-time job with benefits, vacation time, job security. It was stepping out into a field where you don’t know when you will work again, or how long the contracts will last. If you believe God and believe that this is for you, you have to also believe that He’s not a God who will leave or forsake you. It doesn’t mean that you won’t have dry seasons, but you have to trust God.

Another thing that I learned from my Holland America contract was God is not “invited.” You have to be strong in who you are and who you are in Him. It doesn’t mean that I was in a horrible environment, but everyone was so secular just living their own lives. Very few people will say, “To God be the Glory,” or ask “How are you?” or strengthen and encourage you. I really had to find my place where I could encourage myself, then found others where we could encourage each other. I also had to be that light for someone else. You really have to stay guarded and connected with the Holy Spirit. Sometimes when you are away from people who encourage and strengthen you, those are dry times. I would find myself in mood shifts…because I needed to plug-in and connect with my prayer line. For those of us with purpose and mission, you have to be reminded that He is with you all of the time. You have to trust His Will, no matter what it looks like.

Do you have any specific encounters you have had with passengers?

There are always encounters where I could pray with the passengers. I remember crossing the Atlantic, and the ship became very rocky. Guests were beginning to get nervous, so I went up to the deck to eat and someone sat next to me. We were talking about everything, and the lady sitting with me said, “There is such a peace about you.” I told her that God was giving me the peace, amidst the ship tossing back and forth.

She and I began to talk about the goodness of the Lord, and together in the public area, we began to pray and intercede in that moment. You don’t always get those opportunities, but I will never be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So here I was with someone from across the world, able to connect and pray for the ship. God says where two or three are gathered in the name, He is in their midst. God did just that…he brought the seas to a calm, and we began to sail smoothly.

What do you have planned for the future?

Another cruise contract is on the way! It broadens me for versatility, style of music, and more opportunities for the Lord to sing through me. I also get to do a particular show in NYC every February called “The Black History Program.” I actually get to portray Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston! I am able to tour and just portray these influential people. It encourages people that they can do this too, and be whoever they want to be. I love giving back and using this gift to do and go wherever God is leading me to.