cecewinans_web.jpgNEW YORK (AP) — At a time when scantily clad female socialites are powerful enough to influence everything from pop music to presidential elections, it can be difficult to tout the virtues of a lower hemline and a life of purity.

But for gospel vocalist Cece Winans, a multiple Grammy and Dove award winner, it is a passion — and a responsibility she takes seriously.

“I have to teach people what I know worked for me. I’m responsible. But what they poured into me, how they blessed my life — the older generation — now that I’m a part of ‘the older generation,’ it’s my responsibility to pour into the generation that’s come after me.’’

In 2005, Winans launched her first annual “Always Sisters’’ Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. The conference targets women aged 13-26 with seminars like “The Power of a Princess.’’ Invited guests have included Whitney Houston and Maya Angelou.

The first conference hosted 600 young women. The 2007 conference drew well over 3,000 for two days of teaching on teenage pregnancy, building self-esteem and dating. This year’s conference had to be rescheduled, but they were planning to accommodate 5,000.

Winans current dream is to take the conferences across the country. She recently held a Q&A session for teens throughout the New York City area at Brooklyn Tabernacle Church.

“It’s about saving our youth. … A lot of our youth don’t understand their value. They just accept the lies that the enemy has told them about their worth, about what they can accomplish and about what they should settle for,’’ Winans said. “I’m fired up about firing up young people to understand their power and their worth.’’

Winans, 43, lives in a suburb just outside Nashville with her husband of nearly 25 years, Alvin Love II. She was raised by two of the most famous parents in gospel music, David and Delores Winans, also known as ‘Mom and Pop Winans.’ She and her nine brothers and sisters are among the first families in Gospel music.

Winans’ career first took flight as one-half of the brother-sister duo “BeBe and CeCe Winans.’’ From 1988’s “Heaven’’ to the 1996 release “Count on Me,’’ Bebe and CeCe Winans released a steady stream of albums, many that are now certified gold and platinum.

Their R&B-flavored gospel was criticized for producing genre-crossing romantic ballads with lyrics like “I’m lost without you/so don’t ever go away’’ where the subject of affection wasn’t always clearly divine. Since then, R&B and Contemporary-styled Gospel has come to dominate the charts and crossover appeal has become the goal for many top artists.

After a nearly 10-year break, the two are working on a new album to be released sometime next year. Tour stops are planned in the U.S and Africa.
“I love singing with Bebe, we have a great time on stage, in the studio. … We have a great time, we do what we do, and so, it’s not something that’s weird, I think I’m more at home with that than even by myself.’’

Though Winans says she’ll be singing until she “takes her last breath,’’ her passion for helping young women will always play a major role in her career. Last year she released a devotional journal for young women titled “Always Sisters: Becoming the Princess You Were Created to Be.’’

“I could do these girls’ conferences full-time, because it’s just life-changing. When you take out time and you see those faces and you see the encouragement, and you get them to realize who they are and whose they are, it’s just nothing else compared to that to me.’’

On the Net: http://www.cecewinans.com

Photo: Gospel vocalist Cece Winans