Crystal Aikin Interview
Shamerra and Crystal strike a pose for the camera.
|© Copyright 2010 MannaScript LLC
Reproduction or republication without publisher’s written permission is prohibited.
Dr. Bobby Jones w/ Crystal
Crystal w/ BET President and CEO, Debra
Lee, and VP of Entertainment, Reginald
Hudlin, after winning a record deal a new
car and other prizes for her home town.
With the high price of fuel these days, boarding a plane from Tacoma, Wash., to L.A. for $2.50
isn’t so bad. Especially when it ends up being the trip that leads to your big break.
Just ask Crystal Aikin, Black Entertainment Television’s Sunday Best contest winner (the show is
Gospel music’s answer to the American Idol franchise). Up until a year ago, she was minding her
own local ministry business, working as an ER nurse, and tending to family and friends. One
announcement from the BET camp changed all that.
When she heard about the contest — the first season aired last fall on the network — Crystal
wasted no time using her mom’s frequent flyer miles (translating to $2.50), hightailing it to the
audition. From the start, she mesmerized the show’s judges, Erica and Tina Campell (aka, Mary
Mary) and BeBe Winans, who struggled each week to find negative words about her. Ten
episodes and millions of supporters later, the melodic powerhouse, who still leads praise and
worship at her local church, is preparing for her debut solo project.
If you missed the program, you missed a heavenly treat. Just one listen to her voice and there is
no second-guessing that Crystal Aikin was sent by God Himself to deliver melodies from Heaven.
His stamp of approval is evident. But like most challenging times, life’s valleys threatened to
imprison her and keep Crystal from sharing her gifts with the world. Thank God for time-honored
perseverance. She invited us to a benefit concert, and we managed to steal away for some
Manna time. Join us in this unforgettable heart to heart ...
Shamerra T. Brown: How long ago did your father pass? I know you were very close to
him … he would have been so proud.
Crystal Aikin: My dad passed away six years ago, May 29 in 2002. I had a great dad, and I
know he was a good husband. So much has gone on now that he’s not here and I know he would
just be in tears all the time to know where I am. His biggest thing was always, “Crystal,
I want you to take care of yourself … I don’t want you to depend on a man … ” I was like “OK,
I’m going to be fine … ” but when he passed, it shocked me. Because you know, you’re ‘Daddy’s
girl’ so Daddy’s always going to take care of you. But in his passing, it clicked for me and I went
back to school and actually I got my nursing degree, something that would always be able to
take care of me. You can nurse anywhere — in any state, in any country.
Shamerra: Hadn’t you already started school or had a [bachelor’s] degree?
Crystal: I had a bachelor’s already. But I was just kind of like, hangin’ out at a job, working at a
financial company … it wasn’t [for] anything I had a degree in. I got my degree in biology and
psychology. And I wasn’t making a lot of money, but it was comfortable. And so my dad was like,
“Crystal, that’s not enough …” And I was like, “I’m fine … I have a degree …” But when he
passed, the words that he had said resonated in my head and I went straight to school and got
my nursing degree.
Shamerra: Are you still practicing as a nurse while you’re prepping for your [music]
Crystal: I’m still going to keep my license, but I just quit my job.
Shamerra: So after you won, you kept working?
Crystal: After I won, I kept working. It was amazing because patients would come in — the staff
called me “Superstar Nurse ” — one lady came in, she was having chest pains, and she was like,
“Oh my gosh, you got to sign ...” I said, “You need to get on an EKG, get on the monitor, honey,
this can wait.” They are hilarious. But I ultimately had to [stop] because I was working the night
shift, so then trying to go back from nights then come and live again during the day with
everybody and then trying to travel. … It was getting to the point where I was really tired. So it
was a big decision, ’cause I’m big on insurance, I’m big on having my medical [care] covered …
But I remembered years ago, I had asked God to put me in a place where I’d have to trust Him,
and trust Him alone.
Shamerra: Oh He’ll set you up real good with that kind of request!
Crystal: I don’t know why I did that back in the day, but you know, when you’re kind of a spoiled
kid you don’t really have … I wasn’t spoiled in everything, but my parents took very good care of
me, they did their job and within that, you know you kind of didn’t have to struggle, that’s the word
I always use. And in struggle comes having that strong faith, because no one is bringing it to you,
Mama isn’t doing it, Daddy isn’t doing it. I didn’t have to look passed them a lot of times. So I
wanted God to move them out of the way, as far as having to look just at them, but like, “My God,
I want You to be Who I look at.”
Shamerra: So … you went ahead and asked for it, huh?
Crystal: I did, you know, a lot of my friends, they kind of looked at me like that. I loved having the
friends who had a different testimony than I did. I thought that they were a lot more mature than
me in some areas. They were developed because they had to grow up a lot faster than I did … in
cooking, taking care of their siblings, I didn’t have to do that. So they just thought differently,
knowing how to make a buck stretch. I didn’t have to do that.
Shamerra: Yeah, I know what you’re saying. When I was just out of college I didn’t really
know anything about the real world — things like insurance, money management …
Crystal: I didn’t know. Taking care of yourself, Mama did it all honey. Scheduling my doctor’s
appointments, hello … I needed to grow up …
Shamerra: Yeah, there were lots of things I didn’t know, and I needed to grow up in life
and in the Lord.
Crystal: In the Lord, and me as a woman. I feel good about me as a woman, knowing that I’m
taking care of me. But I didn’t want anybody to pass away, you know when I say “move them out
the way” I mean let them go in that direction so I can make it through God, having to rely on Him
for everything — for my strength, for my money, my provision … Now I feel like I’m in a better
place, I’m learning a lot more how to rely on God and not be so spoiled. Well, I’m a brat with the
Lord. He gives me what I need, He’s really good to me too …
Shamerra: So you’re 34?
Crystal: No, 33, honey don’t age me quickly,
but I will be 34 this year.
Shamerra: I know, I don’t want to age myself
Crystal: Are you 33?
Shamerra: No, I’m about to turn 30.
Crystal: OK. Oh, girl, welcome to the 30s, it’s fun!
Shamerra: But … there’s the crossover.
Crystal: The crossover … it’s gonna be great though.
Shamerra: It’s challenging … Not claiming fear or
worry, but I am definitely “concerned.”
Crystal: Are you really?
Shamerra: I am.
Crystal: What are you concerned about? I mean, I know the tape’s running but … You know
what, let me tell you this, I think that if you’ve gotten a lot of your stuff together and you feel like
you’re in a better place than you were when you were 25, then you’re doing OK. If you’re not in
the same place that you were when you were 25, then you’re doing great. The thing about your
30s is that there’s no time for a lot of exceptions. At 30 —
Shamerra: Your tolerance is lower?
Crystal: Not only is your tolerance lower, but making mistakes just isn’t an option anymore. I’m
talking about bad decision-making. That’s OK for 20s. If you didn’t know what you wanted to do,
and you couldn’t figure out, you get all that time to kind of play around in that. Thirty, you need to
know! So I would just say that if you’re beyond where you were at 25, you’re good. No one is
asking you to be perfect, just better! Just better; you think differently, and you are different.
Shamerra: OK, honey!
Crystal: Girl, this is a great time ... I’m not married and I’m happy. I am very happy.
Shamerra: You’re cool … not concerned about anything?
Crystal: Not at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m at a point now where — when I was in my 20s, I
didn’t really care to be married, funny thing. I dated [just] to date, have somebody, you know.
Everybody got a boyfriend, you got a boyfriend, OK that’s cool. But I wasn’t thinking marriage,
cause I was young. But when I got 30-something, now I’m like, I could be married. I’m cool with
that, I think I’ll be a good wife, so I’m working at that … but one thing I felt convicted and
persuaded in knowing was that I’d have an album out before he came. I always knew that.
Something would have spawned and I would have been somewhere and then I’d meet him. One
thing I always wanted to do was to be able to complete some things, without having my last name
changed. Big for me. So you kind of have to have your own goals.
[A “gentleman” interrupts the interview, asking some random questions and after he walks away,
Crystal and I laugh it off, lightheartedly passing his “pursuit” off onto one another.]
Shamerra: Now where were we? You can continue or I can go on. It doesn’t matter.
Crystal: You go ahead, we’re set.
Shamerra: I think you had done other contests before BET. So you go from having
maybe a few thousand people who know you, suddenly to millions. Not just watching
you, but actually admiring, being blessed by your gifts … it’s one thing to have people
like you, but when you are actually able to reach them, as a vessel for God, how does
that feel to go from that one level to such a vast place almost suddenly. Not really
“suddenly,” because I know that you had been ministering locally [in Washington] for
quite some time, but as far as the exposure, how was that relatively quick transition?
Crystal: In my hometown, I’ve been singing for a long time. … Then I started traveling and
meeting people; it’s kind of cool to go to another state and see people that know me. Now, it’s
definitely different because it’s not even just in the states. I just came back from St. Lucia, and
people recognized me in St. Lucia and that’s when it kind of hit home like —
Shamerra: That’s international!
Crystal: Wow, international. I was like wow, you know, I’m taking it in stride. I’m enjoying it. I
believe that God wants us to enjoy some things that He gives us. I recognize why He — not why
He put me here, but I recognize when people see me, what they are recognizing, or what they’re
seeing in me. It’s not like they're going, “Oh we like Crystal because she’s so cute .” They’re like,
“The reason I am attracted to you as a person is because of what you did on that show,” the
anointing they felt and they recognized … thankfully on the show, they got to lift their hands when
God used me, and that is greater than just shaking your rump on TV and people recognizing you
for your flesh, but more so recognizing you because the spirit of God is in you. So it’s nice that
He’s allowed this on a larger scale. I feel privileged, and I’m having fun; at the same time I feel like
fans feel when they see me, when I see Bobby Jones and all these other people and they say my
name. And I’m trying to be open to everybody, because I hate when I see artists get so — I don’t
know, whatever they get — too protective, that they don’t feel like they can be open to the
supporters, and I don’t want to be like that. You know you have your people who kind of pull you
aside, people who are keeping you timely, to get where you have to go. But I never want to feel
like that because I know I didn’t bring myself here.
Shamerra: Well, how are you going to keep that
attitude and not let things get to your head,
as your ministry grows?
Crystal: Actually I enjoy people.
Shamerra: OK, that makes a difference.
Shamerra: With a larger “supporter” base now, are there disadvantages to preparing
your debut album? Because it’s not like people don’t know you. It’s not like you’re
making your album and we don’t know you yet — we don’t have to be introduced to you
through a new project. And then you’ve got people anticipating your work. So how is
that for you, as you’re recording and selecting material?
Crystal: You know what, I think it’s two-fold. I think the advantage is that you have an audience
waiting. And so the expectation is … the record label would think, “money,” because they can see
people buying the album.
Shamerra: You’re with Zomba, right?
Crystal: I am with Zomba. And so that’s the good thing about that — is that you have an
audience already there. Man, this show created an audience that … if I were just at home, and
never did the show … you know, I’d have my home audience and then I’d have to really push to
get people to know who I am. I’d have to really get that great hit out. But right now, people can
walk by me, and they kind of recognize me, so that can also make you stressed out. And I have a
song titled, “God Pleaser, People Pleaser.” I’m trying to make sure that I please God, so that I
can make sure that my mind stays sane. I’m learning to find my own way. You think of the show,
and all the songs I did on the show … I don’t know what that said about me, I don’t know what
people thought about this style or that style. I think I’m worried about style, just trying to find who I
am in the whole scheme …
Shamerra: Well I’m glad you went there. Was the music director building and creating
the arrangements around your style, or were you directing according to what you knew
you could bring to a song? Like with “Running Back to You” — what, who did that?!
Crystal: I did that.
Shamerra: Are you serious?
Crystal: Yeah, they gave me the song and I decided what part of the song I wanted to do, and
then “Shackles,” I did that myself.
Shamerra: You are going to be a wonderful arranger; you already are.
Shamerra: So they just went with whatever you said?
Crystal: They did. Actually, it was kind of cool because “Running Back to You,” I was allowed to
do and then Ray Chew goes [to the other contestants], “OK did you hear her, see she came
prepared, she knew what she wanted …” I was like, “OK, don’t get me in trouble.” But you know
“Shackles” was probably the hardest because the artists [Erica and Tina Campbell] are sitting
right there looking at you!
Shamerra: Oh gosh, what was that like?
Crystal: They’re like, OK you’re singing our song, that’s cool. You know I’m like, Aaaaah —
Shamerra: But then for Erica to say, “OK, you’re going to see that [vocal arrangement]
at a Mary Mary show,” what a compliment. When you got that [inspiration to arrange the
song that way], did you know it was going to move people like it did?
Crystal: Noooo. … God gave it to me. Even with “Even Me,” shortening that up, and having to
figure out how to get it condensed into a minute and 15 seconds. I’m telling you, you really have
to think, what part of the song do you want, what’s going on … what part of the song do you want
to really highlight so that people get that it’s that song, but that it’s you. I appreciate them
allowing me that liberty to be me.
Shamerra: Your relationship with God is apparent, your love for Jesus is evident …
how do you maintain your part for that to come across to other people, without you
having to say, “Look guys, I have an awesome relationship with God?” You don’t have
to say it. God is going to always, always do His part, that’s never a question; but what
are you doing to maintain your part to make it so effective when you sing … for other
people to feel it, experience it, know it, be inspired by it … what’s your role?
Crystal: Everything that happens behind the closed door. It’s not that you make it happen when
you’re outside, on the other side of the door, God does His thing. I believe that what you do in
private, God will showcase in public. I believe it, and I even say that for things that are not good.
When you do things that are not right and they’re sinful and you think that you’re hiding … I
believe that everything that I do behind closed doors — praying, reading my Word, crying out …
becoming naked before God is very hard for me. There’s a part of me that, I know He’s sovereign
and He’s all that and I get nervous to have to show Him how wretched I’ve been, or you know, I
was just telling Him last night, “Lord, you know my character is not perfect …” Even when I get an
attitude or I say the wrong thing, I feel like I’m a bad person, I say “God, why do You even use
me?” … I know I’m unworthy, and so I hope … I believe the only way to have self-confidence is to
have it in Him. Self-confidence really comes in Him, because you know your purpose, you can be
confident about who you are, and who He’s created you to be, and if He’s asked you to be
isolated, you can be confident in isolation, when He’s there. He’s your comforter. So, I’m finding
my self-confidence in Him. So I think that, when someone hears me sing … that’s one thing I’m
struggling with, you know you’ve been raised in the church and you look at little kids and they
sing and the audience goes, “Sing baby, you better sing …!” You’re so used to that type of
response, and everybody’s standing up, applauding you. So, whether you know that it’s
happening, you almost get used to the ritual of that response, ’cause it’s a ritual in church, OK?
… for people to be standing up, applauding you and going crazy. Well, I’m not saying “going
crazy,” but you know that very charismatic showcase of support that’s on display?
Shamerra: Yeah, I’m afraid so …
Crystal: Now when you get older, you’re like, is that what I’m looking for, because that applause
was for me, right? I want to see … if it’s about people getting on their knees, get on your knees.
If it’s about seeing tears … I’m having to really get myself comfortable with who God has created
me to be, and be confident in having a still voice or having … sometimes they’re waiting for that
squall, and that’s what they respond to. But when you’re still, and you’re more calm, sometimes
it seems as though they’re not as receptive. And you think you can “sang” and so you squall …
but I’m learning, it’s OK —
Shamerra: Right, and it’s not in that [squall] anyway —
Crystal: Well, we know that, but if you’re an artist and you’re trying to be … believe me, you’re
going to be looking for that response. You’re going to want people to agree with you.
Shamerra: Really …?
Crystal: Absolutely. That’s what everybody’s looking for. Because that’s what fits. I don’t go
anywhere seeking that, it just happens, so it trains you, in your mind, you kind of sing to the
audience to get that, because you think that that’s what’s going to happen. … I say now, “You
know what Lord, it ain’t about that." Because for me, I’m kind of a quieter … I’m realizing, I’m a
worshipper, because that’s who I am. And sometimes that causes you to be still, even with an
audience. I do praise and worship at my church, and so I’m learning how to hear God, hear the
shift in the atmosphere, hear the audience and where they are. You can tell when an audience is
very mental, not heart-set. So I’m learning that and that causes me to really be able to discern.
I’m just learning, because I was a church baby, the church baby that wanted to be the people
pleaser, and not always that God pleaser.
Shamerra: Did you used to feed off that?
Crystal: I used to understand that that was the response of the church, you know, “What do you
guys want to hear? What does the church want…?”
Shamerra: Like, how can I please you …?
Crystal: Right, because I’ve wanted to sometimes come to an audience and say, close your
eyes, don’t even look at me. I don’t want anybody looking at me, turn the lights down … change
the scene, so that it’s not about me. I’m telling you, flesh glorifies. I see it all the time, and that’s
not what I’ve ever wanted, but I’ve seen it so often. I’m more like, close your eyes, turn the lights
off, and just listen to the voice.
[Some “Crystal supporters” interrupt to ask for directions, but it’s highly likely by their response
that they ultimately just wanted to just greet the singer.]
Shamerra: When did you start getting close to God?
Crystal: I feel like I’ve always had a special place in God’s heart. Even as a child, I’ve always
been able to talk to God, a lot of times when I’m not saying it with my mouth, or thinking it in my
mind, or feeling it in my spirit, He answers me. I believe as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to
draw closer to Him. I have to say that I’ve been into praying and really reading, within the last five
years, and it’s been awesome.
Shamerra: Isn’t the Word awesome?
Crystal: The Word is powerful. It’s a cleanser, and a liberator. I’m learning that I don’t have to do
… or that I can do. Because you know, church will tell you what you can’t do, always bringing up
what I couldn’t do. Then I read the Word, and I’m like, hey, [look what] I can do and be happy —
Shamerra: Hey, there’s a lot that I “can do!”
Crystal: Can do! So I’ve had a close relationship with Him the last five years, reading the Word,
praying and it’s been good, really good.
Shamerra: Do you feel that you’ve had to give up anything that you thought was major,
to maintain your relationship with God, or maybe to get where you have come thus far,
with your leadership in church, the contest, making an album, etc.? Any regrets?
Crystal: I’d have to say, in some ways, with time. I do a lot at my church, so I had to give up some
of the time that I’d put in there because I’m gone a lot now. I love working with the kids, I did the
youth choir, the teenagers, so I’ve had to give that up, a little bit. I was doing the singles ministry,
so I’ve had to give that up. And I’d have to say, right now, I’m not holding on to anything going
into this as far as … I don’t want to give up my integrity, can’t do it. And I don’t want to lose
myself, so I don’t think that I’ve given up anything as yet. I miss my kids, my singles ministry; I quit
my job, so I’ve had to give up having security, that insurance … kind of just used to having things
that, through the eyes, you can see were security. But now I’m just trusting that God has got it all,
He’s got me.
Shamerra: He does have you. OK, well what’s been the most memorable thing that has
happened to you or biggest lesson that you’ve learned since winning? Good, bad …
Crystal: One lesson that I’ve learned from the other contestants, is just making sure that you
stay yourself, you know. Not becoming like the chameleon, just really staying true to who you are.
That’s what I loved about the show, you know, everybody had their own style and their own
sound. Just stay within your lane, and not be derailed. And to go for it; I’ve had people tell me to
have fun and to really take the time to enjoy this time. Because you can get so busy.
Shamerra: Yeah, how has that been for you? Have you been overwhelmed?
Crystal: I was when I had the job. I was not getting sleep, very tired and trying to buy a house. It
was just too much and so once I let the job go … I believe it was time. So I’ve learned that, and
people always let me know, keep God first, So that’s been a big thing. What I love about CeCe
[Winans], I love Tye [Tribbett], those are my two favorite artists right there ...
Shamerra: I was just with Tye this weekend.
Crystal: Oh you hung out with him?
Shamerra: They had a show, and we met with him and Shante [Tribbett] afterwards.
Crystal: Cool. You know what I love about the two of them — CeCe and Tye — I feel like, even
with all of Tye’s energy and his talent, there’s still such a selflessness in him. CeCe, when I listen
to her album, I don’t hear her on the album. Her voice is wonderful, but I hear a purity and a
selflessness. And so to me, those two stand out. Because I found out that it’s not about having
the best voice. So Tye will probably think, “I’m not the best singer.” CeCe has such a unique style
to her voice, that it’s lovely, and you can listen to all day. But it’s so selfless, and it’s the words of
[their] songs that stick with me. I thank God because I think he put the spotlight on both of them in
my life — not to emulate, but to see the jewels in all of that, you know, the integrity, the
selflessness, the transparency, and you can tell that they’re worshippers. What I love about Tye
is that when the music stops, that boy has so much Word coming out of him —
Shamerra: He can go on and on, and with the Word I don’t mind.
Crystal: He can tell a story about that Bible. He has learned lessons from the Word that He is
able to convey to the youth, convey to the adults, convey to the kids. I thought, man, that is more
important than just the melody of a song.
Shamerra: When he came to the [Sunday Best] show, did he work with you all?
Crystal: Yeah, he did. But I mean, he didn’t really give a lot of “advice,” he said, “What do I give
these guys? They can all sing!” But I admired him, what you hear on the CD is what you see
when you actually get to meet him in person. I have come out of the experience with Tye & G.A. a
better person. I feel the same way when I hear a CeCe album.
Shamerra: You’re traveling every weekend now?
Crystal: Uh, it seems like it! [Laughs]
Shamerra: What do you want to say to the world about Jesus, believers and
nonbelievers, what would be your one message?
Crystal: I would say, when you read the Word —
[Another passerby, walks up and exclaims, “It’s you!” To which a comical, yet gracious Crystal
replies, “It’s me!”]
Crystal: I would say this about Jesus, when you read the Bible … what I’ve found out is that I love
the Bible and how when you go from the Old Testament to the New Testament, you see God as a
judge, with all of His power. You see God — He is God! When you go to the New Testament, you
see Jesus and He comes on the scene and His personality is different. He’s got a different style
about Him when He walks the earth and talks to people. To me, I feel like He has a lot more
patience, where God is [more] like, ‘Listen, I said it, and I’m asking you to do it and you don’t want
to do it, I’ll take you out!’
Shamerra: Like, ‘Am I not God?’
Crystal: ‘Am I not God?!’ So I saw Jesus, and the grace that He had. So then the Holy Spirit
came, and you’ve got His power in people, and Paul and the disciples and how they carried
themselves. So what I learned through the Word is that They’re all different, but They’re one in
the same. And what I would say to anybody is to not live up under just the New Testament where
there’s grace and you feel you can do what you want. The Bible says, “Shall we continue in sin
that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6:1)
Shamerra: “Certainly not!” (Rom. 6:2)
Crystal: God forbid. And so I would say to not take Christ for granted, but to remember that God
is still sovereign and He’ll take you out … people don’t look at it like that, at how serious God is,
because they want to just look at Jesus for all that He’s done. And yes, He has redeemed, but if
you don’t live with the thought of His redemption and live with Him as Savior, and as Lord, and
[instead] take Him for granted … I mean come on. So I would say, just really read your Word and
live with a life of appreciation. That’s the biggest thing I can say. I am so grateful that God kept
me and that I got to know Christ in the pardon of my sins, and that I have a Savior who is praying,
interceding on my behalf and who loves me. And I feel special, that He cares about me, and I’ll tell
anybody, “He loves you, He really loves you. He loves you enough that He went and died on the
cross, when you weren’t even thinking about yourself.” I am so appreciative. I would say, walk with
a place of gratefulness, gratitude and humility. I was listening to Dr. Stanley earlier, do you know
Shamerra: Charles Stanley? Yeah, love him!
Crystal: Dr. Stanley is amazing. He talked about, today, a successful person. He was talking
about how you walk with three things: You walk with thankfulness; you walk with compassion; and
you walk with humility. And those things will make you successful in your walk with Christ. When
you are thankful, then you are gracious. Then you are able to, through humility, be
compassionate on the person who may not have it together. Because you look at your own
gratitude for where you used to be, and what He’s done for you, so you can look at the next
person and not judge, but be compassionate and be open to them. And when you’re humble, you
know you didn’t do it yourself anyway, so you can’t even become pompous or arrogant in it,
because you know, if it hadn’t been for the Lord thy God, where would you be? So then you look
at the other person who’s doing other things, and you’re like, “Come on, come on, there’s a Lord
that I know and a Savior that I know, who can free you … because He did it for me!”
Shamerra: What are you studying?
Crystal: I have been studying, actually two things: I’m in Psalms, [Chapters] 35 and 91. I was kind
of going through some things where I felt like I was under attack from people. And those two
Scriptures, David was talking about the enemy, and letting God basically take care of it, and
[David] not being first to take care of it. I’ve kind of been in that, and just been able to stay quiet
and let God do the work. And then I had decided that I’m going to start — in our church, my
pastor challenges the leadership to read the Word in totality, annually. So I started — I know I’m
in the middle of the year — in Genesis and I’m back there in creation, just seeing how awesome
God is. God is amazing and just with His own voice, He can create, “Let there be … and there
was … ” (Genesis 1)
Shamerra: How great is that? And how great is our God? The world will see! … What’s
the street date they’re projecting for the album release?
Crystal: We’re looking at, from my understanding, September. [Production of] the show should
be going on, because they’re doing an ’08 Sunday Best.
Shamerra: Are you going to participate?
Crystal: I hope that I get to make another appearance or something, that would be nice. And
hopefully be able to sing a song of my own.
Shamerra: Oh, I saw you on … when you did the uh —
Shamerra: Yes, thanks dear, Celebration of Gospel. I said, “Look at her [singing] with
Crystal: Aaaaah, standing next to Fred Hammond man, he’s not only tall, but he has an
authoritative presence about him.
Shamerra: I know, I experienced that. A bit overwhelming, it is!
Crystal: I love it! I mean you are looking up at the man, but there’s just a presence about him as
well. It’s grand.
Shamerra: What was the winning moment like?
Crystal: Mmmmm … emotional. It was emotional for me.
I felt like it was a moment of a chapter closed. I had done
other competitions and may not have been the winner. You
know, when you’re in a competition, you don’t have to have
a competitive attitude, as far as trying to win and hurt somebody
else, not at all. I’m grateful that God allowed me to be here to
receive that. Because I don’t think I would have perceived a career
in this. You know, people have always been like, “Where’s your CD,
Crystal … What are you doing?” I have been very slothful.
Shamerra: So if you hadn’t entered the contest, you would have still been a nurse, back
Crystal: I would have still been a nurse, and comfortable with that. When I say “comfortable,” I
mean comfortable in an awkward way. Because I know that there was always more I was
supposed to be doing, but I wasn’t doing it. So I believe that this was the “hit on the head” that
this was what I was supposed to be doing.
Shamerra: Did you feel from the beginning, at the time of the audition, did you have a
gut feeling that you were going to be the winner?
Crystal: No, I did not! But I have to tell you this, honey, [contestant] Emily Gomez said this to me,
I think she even said it after the show, she said, “When I met you, you came over to me …” (We
were at the audition and she looked fabulous and we were talking) … she said she looked in my
eyes and said [to herself], “That is the winner of the show.”
Crystal: She said I was the winner of the show.
Shamerra: Crystal, you had no idea? But did you hear yourself?
Crystal: I was nervous the whole way through.
Shamerra: I know you’re not looking at it like that, and you didn’t even have the aura at
the audition that you had “arrived,” but you had the presence and there was
something, obviously unintentional and clearly beyond you, that exuded “special,” or
“winner qualities.” But, I mean, did you not know how wonderful you sound?
Crystal: I really appreciate the creativity I was given, to make a song “my way,” but I have to tell
you, I am an insecure person, with my voice.
Shamerra: OK. That, I get. A lot of singers actually are.
Crystal: You know, I’m not the scatter, I feel like my voice is plain. And so, I love the people that
can just do anything they want to do [with their voices]. Jermaine [Sellards]! He just effortlessly …
Emily … then there’s Tasha [Collins], the grit and the depth in her voice ...
Shamerra: Yeah, but “Crystal” …
Crystal: And Sheri [Addison] …
Shamerra: We give them all that, but then there’s Crystaaaal. I’m saying your name like
Erica said your name on the show, “Crystaaaaal!”
Crystal: Let me tell you …
Shamerra: What are you saying?
Crystal: Well, you’re going to always be critical of yourself.
Shamerra: OK, then keep that … it’ll keep you humble!
Crystal: OK! But I’m being so serious. If somebody were to put me onstage with a bunch of
people, I’m like, what am I about to do differently than what they’re about to do? Because when
you’re a praise and worship leader, it’s really not about you. You don’t rehearse the runs, you
don’t rehearse the riffs, you just sing to convey the message to get people to focus on God. So I
don’t think about trying to have this voice of excellence. I just don’t practice to make sure all my
runs … that’s just not who I am. I’m a message-bearer.
Shamerra: OK, I that’s fine, dear.
Crystal: So when you enter something where they’re kind of critiquing your voice, that’s nerve-
racking to me, even though I was like, “Well I hope I can win, I would love to get a record deal,”
you know, but it’s just like I don’t have this [Crystal does some runs and riffs]. To me, you hear
what I’m saying?
Shamerra: I hear you. Well, as you go from “glory to glory,” how do you want to be
referred to: psalmist, singer, minister of music?
Shamerra: Oh, give me something.
Crystal: I’d say all of it, wrapped in one. I honestly see myself as a psalmist, person who sings,
but a prophetic singer. I believe that the Word will come through a song in me, and a word from
God for other people’s lives. Shamerra, I might have to sing a Word to you, God said …
Shamerra: Do you see yourself “ministering in talk,” I don’t want to say “preacher.”
Crystal: Yes, I do. I speak at my church.
Shamerra: Oh, you do?
Crystal: No, not like that. I speak during praise and worship.
I have been asked to speak at churches, so I do that.
Shamerra: Do you accept all of the invitations?
Crystal: I have taken the ones that I’ve gotten.
Shamerra: What’s one thing people will be shocked
to know about you?
Crystal: That I fell off a stage, back in 1997/1998.
I was singing in a group called SOUL and I was
singing my part, and next thing I knew, my foot slipped!
I slipped and fell, I think, into some salad, and glasses
and dishware. All I heard was [crashing noise].
Shamerra: I'm sorry, did you say salad?
Crystal: I think so. And I got back up and I was
[singing] “I’m OK, I’m OK!” [laughs]. People told me
I was the first Kirk Franklin, cause you know when —
Shamerra: He fell —
Crystal: The first thing I thought was that I was so glad this didn’t happen in Washington. I was at
the GMWA (Gospel Music Workshop of America), actually. And how about, on the day of the
[Sunday Best] win, some Zomba staff were in that room and saw the fall! It came back to me, so
when I was standing in front of the car [that I won] outside, they came up to me and they song the
phrase [“I’m OK”] like I sang that night.
Shamerra: Did you fall out laughing?
Crystal: We fell … I was so embarrassed, humorously. But I was like, “Are you for real?” I thought
people had forgotten this! So I’ve had some embarrassing moments. What else? I used to have
eczema. So I’ve struggled a lot. You struggle with your outward look, your appearance.
Shamerra: You had that as a child?
Crystal: A kid, I had it even in college, and the Lord healed my skin. I’ve dealt with that. So I
understand when someone feels different, when they don’t feel beautiful.
Shamerra: Who or what inspires you?
Crystal: My inspiration is my mom. I think she’s a fabulous lady. There with me the whole way,
since I was a kid. She’s just a beautiful person, she’s a stable person, mentally, emotionally,
spiritually consistent. And she supports her kids.
Shamerra: What upsets you?
Crystal: When expectations are not met.
Shamerra: When your expectations are not met?
Crystal: Yeah, and that’s of myself or of people. It upsets me, more so hurts me; I take it
personal. That’s big. It’s just disappointing, makes me a little frustrated.
Shamerra: Your favorite artist? CeCe ...
Crystal: And Tye. That’s so crazy, because they’re so different.
Shamerra: I know. What’s your favorite song?
Crystal: There’s a song I sing all the time, it’s “Total Praise,” that is a song that sticks with me.
But truthfully, my favorite song is, [Crystal sangs!] Because the Lord is my shepherd —
Shamerra: I have everything I need, He lets me rest in the meadow’s grass —
Crystal: He leads me beside the quiet stream … "Safe in His Arms."
Shamerra: Wow. You took me back. With the new season of the show coming, what
advice would you give to someone looking to go in a path similar to yours?
Crystal: I would say to really, really appreciate who God created you to be. Appreciate all your
uniqueness. I would say appreciate when it’s time for you to be isolated, appreciate the quiet
times, appreciate that place. When God calls you to that, when you’re young, you just don’t
understand what that’s all about. You want to be with the crowd. Here I was as a kid, feeling
isolated having this skin problem and being a smart kid, we went to private school, you just felt
different all the time, in every situation. So, if someone were to try to follow in my footsteps, I
would say to be content with who He really created you to be. And when God is keeping you —
because I’m the kid who didn’t go out and take all the risks, I’m the kid, you know, I wasn’t out in
the streets, I went to church all the time. I’m that kid that wants to keep herself until marriage, I’m
that kid. But a lot of times, it looks so un-fun, it looks so boring of a life. And so I tried to create a
life, because I thought Jesus keeping me was [too] boring of a testimony. You know, in church, it
seemed like the person who went on drugs and came back, everybody [celebrated], and the
person that did this, messed up and then came back … and then I’m like, “But He kept me …”
[The response is like] “Yeah, that’s cool — but you ain’t been through nothing.” And so I’m saying
this: It is OK, to not have done what everybody has done. It’s OK to not do what everybody is
doing and you can still be confident and comfortable in who God created you to be. Sometimes
sin just isn’t your appetite and it is OK.
Shamerra: That is just fine!
Crystal: It is OK. There are some people who just don’t have the appetite to take the risk of sin.
And it is OK!
Shamerra: What do you do in your spare time?
Crystal: I do crossword puzzles. I’m a driver, I love long drives, long trips, just [turning the] music
Shamerra: You have the Camry from the show, right?
Crystal: I do have the Camry and I drive that. You know I was telling someone, when I was
younger I used to have the music loud all the time, everywhere I went, loud, loud, loud. Television
all the time, but you know the older I got, the quieter I like my environment to become, and so now
I’m at a place where I don’t mind being in the car by myself. I used to always have somebody with
me, or be taking somebody somewhere. Now I’ve become more of a loner. Not in a bad sense, I
like my personality and I’ve gone places, to a movie and it’s funny when I see my own klutzy
behavior and my own mistakes, and I just laugh. I think I’m funny.
Shamerra: You’re able to be alone a lot now, with all that’s going on?
Crystal: I am, on my own time. Absolutely, I create my own alone time. Hello! You have to stand
up for yourself, for your own sanity. I take it. I’m really not a phone person, I hate being on the
phone. I don’t mind texting, I love texting. It’s the best, say what you got to say —
Shamerra: And we’re done! I love texting, I don’t really want to be on the phone with
people. Sometimes you have to be, though.
Crystal: I mean, we were on the phone today, we had to talk —
Shamerra: We had to talk, but let’s get it out of the way!
Crystal: I love this, I love being face to face. If I can get to you, I would love to be able to share
that time. I love being with people that I care about, and that care about me.
Shamerra: That’s nice; same here.
Crystal: That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is. I have decided that I want to do a lot more
vacationing now while I’m young. You know, you make your money and people wait until they’re
60. By that time they’re on an oxygen tank, or on a cane, or have arthritis and can’t enjoy it. So
I’ve decided I’m going to take advantage now and go places that I want. People go to a lot of
conferences, a lot of different states, but they don’t enjoy the area. I want to enjoy life, take in the
flowers, take in the water …
Shamerra: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Crystal: In five years … married.
Shamerra: You want children?
Crystal: I do, a couple. So yeah, I see myself either seriously involved or married.
Shamerra: Is there someone you’re involved with now?
Crystal: No, I’m single, for the sake of focus and purpose.
[More supporters pass by, asking if Crystal is the singer from Sunday Best … Crystal graces
them with her smile, chats a bit and returns to the interview like a pro. Then a manager checks
our progress; patiently waiting to take us back inside. Crystal assures him that the interview is
Crystal: … The only thing that I have more so been concerned with, sometimes when I look at
people that I’ve dated, and just thought, man I’ve really made bad decisions sometimes.
Shamerra: With them?
Crystal: Just in the choice of … because you think, awe this is a good guy … and then
sometimes it’s a bad guy. But you’re like, well he didn’t have it together, really. He didn’t really
have it together. You know, you think they have it together, and then they didn’t have it together.
And I think the disappointment has been when you find that there’s ... I don’t know how you’ve
dated … but I’ve met a couple of guys in the course of my life, and they were great people and
then I thought that it could have been a little bit more; that it was going to go somewhere, and
then it didn’t. That’s disappointing, because now your emotions are out there and you were
thinking it was going to go somewhere and now you’re hurt. Not because in the hope of, man I
was ready to … no, because I thought that I had found the person that I could spend my life with,
because I like this guy, or I think he’s a phenomenal person, but then it’s really not going to work
out … Or you meet that one person, and you click as friends, but then the attraction isn’t really
there, but the friendship makes the attraction ... and then you realize, oh we’re just really friends.
So that’s disappointing sometimes, but then it fades and you go on.
Shamerra: I know exactly of what you speak. All too well, Crystal.
Crystal: Yeah, so I’m enjoying this time right now. … You need to get the friends that are doing
exactly what you’re doing, progressing just like you’re progressing, and successful like you’re
successful, and healthy like you’re healthy. It’s hard to find a lot of that. But you really want to get
that crew that’s doing what you want to do. If you want to start traveling more, you’ve got to find
the crew that got money to travel, and do the things that you really want to do. I want to take a
road trip in an RV, that’s big for me. I don’t know why I want to do that. I’ve seen too many movies
with RVs, I guess. And then I want to take some girlfriends, where you can really enjoy it. You can
take turns driving, you don’t have to get a hotel.
Shamerra: Girl, call me!
Crystal: Would you like to do something like that? Oh my God!
Shamerra: Yeah, that might be fun.
Crystal: I would like to do that.
[The manager comes back over to check our time, and to take us into the concert. We finally
give up, letting the interview officially end … Plus, Crystal let everyone know that CeCe was on!]
Some photos provided courtesy of CRA Ministries.
BET’s Sunday Best Winner Crystal Aikin Dives in Deep
The singer discusses
the memory of her dad,
the challenges of dating,
and the road to her destiny
By Shamerra T. Brown