By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Media Services
September 25, 2012
Best known for his music, R&B/gospel vocalist BeBe Winans has won six Grammy Awards, 10 Dove Awards and three NAACP Awards. He’s also worked with artists such as Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the late Whitney Houston. It was his 28-year friendship with Houston that inspired him to write the book, “The Whitney I Knew” (Worthy Publishing, $19.99). He has just released his latest CD, “America America,” and fans may follow the 50-year-old musician on Twitter @bebewinans.
Q. For you and your family, what is the importance of traveling?
A. I love culture and meeting people. I think showing children how others live and seeing how large the world is is the greatest gift you can give them. You learn various lessons from travel, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to share that with my children.
Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?
A. I was born and raised in Detroit, so my mother would take us to Chicago quite a bit. We went to Chicago so much that I thought it was just our backyard. The trip I’ll never forget was when she took us to California by car. We saw so much of the United States on that trip. I made up my mind that I was going to go back to California, but not by car. But it was a wonderful adventure. I’ve been able to go back to a lot of the places we saw on that trip, and that brought back fun memories.
Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. I love Rio de Janeiro, but if I had to choose just one place, I’d pick Hawaii — any island. It’s just a place that I fell in love with years ago. I have enjoyed going there for the past 20-something-plus years. I go about three to four times a year. I have such close friends there who’ve become my family. Hawaii is still paradise to me. More so than just the beautiful scenery, the people really do make the difference in destinations for me. I find that Hawaiians are just lovely people.
Q. If you were to pick something negative about Hawaii, what would it be?
A. I love you all, but I’m not a fan of your food! (Laughs) I should point out that I’m not very adventurous when it comes to food. But everyone in Hawaii seems to like Spam. I had enough Spam when I was growing up. I will not eat it anymore. I am allergic to Spam! Hawaiians love mayonnaise with everything, too.
Q. Where did you eat the best meals?
A. Italy! When it comes to Italian food, I’m just crazy about it. I find that eating it in Italy is a little more heavenly. I sometimes act like I was born in Italy.
Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?
A. Both South Africa and Israel, which I know doesn’t seem to make sense. But I’ll tell you, both were magical, and I don’t use that word a lot. I’ll tell you why they both made me think of home. I was raised in a Christian home to love God and honor people. That, to me, really sums it up for my family. There was something about when I first landed in South Africa and Israel that caused me to think of my upbringing and history in general. The scriptures leaped off the pages when I walked into Jerusalem, which made me think of home. It was an incredible place. I had that same feeling in South Africa.
Q. In what city were you surprised to be recognized?
A. Honestly, it always catches me off-guard when people know who I am; when people say, “Bebe?” I’m always wondering how they know who I am. But I remember being in downtown Warsaw in Poland and a man called out, “Bebe!” He couldn’t say anything else in English, but he was telling me in Polish that he loved our music. Music can really travel places like nothing else can.
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. The number one place I’d like to visit is Australia. I’ve had so many invitations to go there, but with my scheduling, it’s difficult. The last time I had a few days off, the choice was to go to Australia or Hawaii and it was tempting to pick Australia. But you know how I feel about Hawaii, so I was like, “Oh, let’s go to Hawaii!” I’ve been to Indonesia and New Zealand, so I should’ve hopped over to Australia then. Someday, though, I’ll get there. I’m also curious about seeing Alaska. I want to go when they have those white nights.
Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. The first thing I pack is my gym clothes. Years ago I was getting out of the shower in L.A. and I looked in the mirror and said, “Who are those people?!” I made up my mind then to get to the nearest gym and take better care of myself. That’s 17 years now. So I work out wherever I am. I wasn’t going to allow excuses to stop me from my destination. The truth of the matter is it’s fine to keep weight off, but I’ve found that exercise is therapeutic for this crazy business that I’m in. If they came out with a pill tomorrow that was safe and made you healthy, I’d take it. But until then, I’ll exercise and eat right.
Q. How disciplined are you about what you eat when you’re touring?
A. If I get hit by a bus, then all my friends know not to cry too much because they can honestly say, “He enjoyed life.” I don’t diet at all, because I don’t believe in them. I believe in food control. Oprah Winfrey was cracking up about my motto: “I might be fat, but I ain’t REAL fat.” And I’ve lived by that for a long time. Then it changed to, “If I declare war on my middle, then the rest of me will be little.” I live by my quotes. If it’s worthy of the calories, then I’ll eat it. If I want to eat chocolate cake, it has to really taste like good chocolate cake.
© 2012 JAE-HA KIM
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