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Deborah Joy Winans shares her struggle with singing, and how she’s embraced it on Greenleaf


Lionsgate TVDeborah Joy Winans can confidently say that whatever God has in store for you cannot be ignored.

The actress, who stars as Charity Greenleaf on OWN’s hit drama Greenleaf, says she never intended to follow the family’s tradition of singing, but it eventually caught up to her when her character became the minister of music.

“I remember telling the Lord — I was about seventeen or eighteen — I’m like, ‘Lord, I’m never gonna sing.'” You know that’s my family’s thing, that not what I do,” Winans tells ABC Radio.  

“I love acting since I was little girl. I went to school for it, that’s all I worked on, that’s all I prepared for. And so when this happened, I said, ‘Wait a minute. God really? So I have to sing for the role?'”

Winans, daughter of Carvin and Deborah Kerr Winans, is also the niece of legendary gospel singers BeBe and CeCe Winans. In 2015, Deborah was cast as CeCe in the Lifetime biopic, Whitney.  

Now, as one of the stars of Greenleaf, the actress says her musical background has come full circle.

“So that’s the thing that really has my family tickled, because they knew I was the one that didn’t want to sing… but they’re awesome, they’re grateful, they see that it’s a gift that I have that I didn’t really feel the need to pursue because I was a little scared, intimidated,” she explains.

Although Winans admits she was afraid of her family’s legacy, she says she eventually warmed up to the opportunity: “They are very happy that I’ve been stretching myself, and challenging myself, and stepping into an arena that I didn’t think I had the shoes to fill.”

Greenleaf airs Wednesday nights at 10:00 ET on OWN. 

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