It seems like only yesterday when an adorable, kindergarten-aged DeLeon Richards was wowing crowds as “The Young Gospel Sensation,” singing before thousands and appearing on major network TV. Now, with 20 years of experience in her repertoire, seven CDs and 2 DVD’s to her credit, DeLeon has spread her wings as an award-winning gospel artist, actress and television host. The petite beauty is also the wife of baseball superstar Gary Sheffield and the mother of three rambunctious boys.
Raised in church, DeLeon grew up in a family of pastors and ministers including her Gospel-singing mom, Debbie Richards. Her spiritual upbringing helped launch the Chicago native into music ministry at the tender age of five when she first stepped onto a major stage at the Chicago Gospel Festival, performing before 20,000. She went on to tour the world, opening for the legendary Mighty Clouds of Joy in Japan and traveling throughout the U.S., Europe, Asia and the West Indies including regular performances for the USO. She also performed for numerous religious and political leaders including the late President Ronald Reagan. By age nine, DeLeon became the youngest person ever to be nominated for a GRAMMY® Award with the previous record holder being the late King of Pop Michael Jackson.
Early in her career, DeLeon began an exciting season of film and television appearances with TBN, CBN, NBC, CBS, ABC, WGN and a variety of cable networks before she landed a regular role on ABC’s television drama “Brewster Place,” which starred Oprah Winfrey. She also has been featured in almost every national magazine including People, Sports Illustrated, InStyle, Ebony, Billboard, ESPN The Magazine, Vibe and USA Today, to name a few.
DeLeon has shared the stage with award-winning artists including: Patti LaBelle, Shirley Caesar, Israel Houghton, The Winans, CeCe Winans, Sandi Patty, Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Yolanda Adams, Al Green, Joni Eareckson Tada, Pastor Joel Osteen and many others. Most recently, she served as worship artist traveling across the globe with prominent pastor Paula White.
DeLeon, who writes much of her own music and is president of her own company, DeMari Music and and Entertainment and DeMari Publishing, has had the opportunity to work with prolific writers and A-List producers who have been great influences in her career. That list includes the likes of Stanley Brown, Warryn Campbell, Nate Butler, Jerry Peters, Brian McKnight, Tim Minor, Fred Hammond, Percy Bady, Tonex and the late WaymanTisdale with Tisdale Productions.
The latest additions to this amazing artist’s discography are Here in Me, an inspirational 11-track CD, and DeLeon “Here In Me Unplugged” a moving DVD that features live performances from her latest project.
While being a wife to prospective Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Gary Sheffield for 14 years and a mother to 3 active boys is no easy feat, DeLeon balances family life and career with poise and strength. “Keeping God number one is the glue that keeps it all together,” DeLeon says. “Raising three boys is no joke! I pray every day that they don’t fall victim to the woes of the world… hoping they turn out to be respectful, God-fearing men.”
In her spare time, DeLeon makes time to support organizations that help underprivileged children in underserved communities. One of those organizations, the Gary Sheffield Foundation, was established by her husband to provide financial support and encouragement to organizations promoting education and good health in urban areas. The foundation is dedicated to rebuilding the spirit of America’s youth, a subject dear to DeLeon’s heart. She is committed to using her extraordinary voice to give God praise and to benefit those whose voices often go unheard.