Stellar Awards is the Top Night For Gospel Music

By Journalist Ms. Jones

LAS VEGAS, NV – “What happened in Vegas, stays in Vegas!” Hopefully, that saying is true because the 38th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards was taped in “Sin City” on Saturday July 15th at The Orleans Arena. The Stellar Gospel Music Awards is the longest-running African-American music award show on TV. The Stellar Awards Red Carpet Special Pre-Show will premiere on the newly launched Stellar TV Network on Sunday, July 30th at 5pm followed by The 38th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards telecast at 6pm. The Stellar Awards will also air on BET on Sunday, August 6th at 8 pm.

“This year’s show is historic. Reminds me when we started the First Annual Stellar Awards 38 years ago… It also launches our Stellar Network Television 24/7 which will be the first time we will be producing Stellar Awards over a 24/7 network… Now we’re taking it to the world,” said Don Jackson, the Founder and Executive Producer of The Stellar Awards, who discussed the history of the award show. “It’s been just a God-given journey… When we launched the First Annual… we had wires. We didn’t have handheld mics then. We didn’t have a teleprompter for Tremaine Hawkins. But it was just so exciting to see how all of it came together, miraculously… We had The Winans and we had Shirley Caesar and The Mighty Clouds of Joy, [and] The Thompson Community Singers, and it worked.”

2023 Main Show Pastor Mike and Kierra Sheard Kelly. Photo: The Stellar Awards
2023 Main Show Pastor Mike and Kierra Sheard Kelly. Photo: The Stellar Awards

The First Annual Stellar Awards was in Chicago, but this year it is back in Las Vegas because it has grown so much over the years and Las Vegas can accommodate the nominees, the press, the performers, the families, the staff, and the attendees. This year’s show is co-hosted by Multiple Stellar Award Winners Jonathan McReynolds and Tasha Cobbs-Leonard. The top nominees are Tamela Mann with four nominations. DOE, Zacardi Cortez, and Tasha Cobbs Leonard each have five “noms,” Maverick City Music & Kirk Franklin have a whopping six nominations. Tye Tribbett has nine nominations. Pastor Mike, Jr. leads the pack with10 nominations!

“I’m just honored and excited to be here…Interruption is how God causes innovation. That’s the word God laid on my heart…Whenever God wants to cause innovation, He brings interruption. So, for me, coming to The Stellars and being a part of all of this, it matters to me because it was in the midst of a global interruption, that God called me to innovate… I was a pastor in Birmingham, Alabama, and of course singing music in my city. And during the pandemic, God blessed us to launch a gospel music career and the first time I met Don Jackson and the Stellar Family was via Zoom… So, I’m excited to be here to be nominated once again,” said Pastor Mike, Jr. who spoke about how important The Stellar Awards is to him. “It matters to me. That’s my thing. I tell everybody… this is my Grammys. This is my Golden Globe… It means the world to me. That’s why I go as hard as I do… I believe it’s my dutiful responsibility to go as hard as I can to let the world know Gospel music is not dead. We are alive and well. So, I’m excited about it.”

CeCe Winans is honored with The Aretha Franklin Icon Award at The 38th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards. Photo: The Stellar Awards
CeCe Winans is honored with The Aretha Franklin Icon Award at The 38th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards. Photo: The Stellar Awards

Not only is Pastor Mike, Jr. nominated, but he is also performing in this year’s Stellar Awards. Other Stellar Awards Performers include Kierra Sheard-Kelly, Lena Byrd Miles, Naomi Raine, Maranda Curtis, Zacardi Cortez, Charles Jenkins, and Tim Bowman, Jr. DOE will be doing a special tribute to CeCe Winans who will be honored with The Aretha Franklin Icon Award.

“[I will be singing] Alabaster [Box]. I asked for that one,” said DOE who is inspired by the legend and shared how she changed her name from Dominique Jones to DOE. “As a part of Forever Jones there were so many Joneses. But my family started calling me DOE at some point. I thought, ‘That’s a great artist name.’ Because I wanted to start over and build an identity separate from the family… I had to get the name DOE into people. And people are still finding that out sometimes. When I talk about my family, they’re still putting 2 + 2 together. ‘That was you?’”

There will be several other special tributes at this year’s Stellar Awards. Rev. Dr. Milton Biggham will be honored with The James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Bobby Jones will be receiving The Thomas A. Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award.

There was a host of Stellar Award Events called The Stellar Plus Experience in various venues across the city that brought Gospel recording artists and fans to the city from Wednesday to Saturday. The events included a Stellar Community Arts Symposium, a Stellar Masterclass discussing The State of Gospel Music and New Media Players, A Stellar Talk discussing Love & Faith, The Legendary Game Changers Lunch hosted by J. Bolin and Joyce Sheffield, and The Stellar Awards Pre-Show & Radio Awards. In addition, there was The Stellar Celebrity Basketball Game hosted by Gospel Recording Artist Lamont Sanders and coached by Bishop Marvin Sapp and Pastor Jamal Bryant with a full roster of Gospel Stars including Ben Tankard, Brian Courtney Wilson, Mali Music, and David Wright. There was also The Stellar’s Unplugged: “Who’s Got Next” Live Music Session hosted by Gospel Recording Artists Red Hands who called celebrities up to the stage as they walked in or as they were lounging at their seats; Gene Moore, Jonathan McReynolds, Lena Byrd Miles, Melvin Crispell III, and Kirk Franklin were just a few people who blessed the stage. During the Spotify Fireside Chat with Kirk Franklin and DOE, Kirk Franklin gave advice to new artists about how to break into the industry.

“I would find ways to make noise… Sometimes everybody gets in the same lane…Find something that is noisy, that is risky, something that is outside of the curve that will get some level of attention and conversation, something that is not expected but still unapologetic…Sometimes you got to get a little bit noisy and you got to get a little bit disruptive….Find disruptive ideas, they’re organic… you’re not afraid to look like a fool at times. There’s this risk of cool that ‘Everybody’s too cool for school.’ But sometimes… you have to be a little ‘hood., get a little ghetto, get a little rachet…I think everybody is safe because everybody’s trying to get the number one radio single. So, everybody’s safe. And I think that is also making everything a little boring,” said Franklin who is doing a Special Reunion Tour Performance at The Stellar Awards with Israel Houghton, David and Tamela Mann, and The Clark Sisters.

Journalist Ms. Jones

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