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SWV Singer Coko Talks Being ‘Criticized’ By Gospel Community
For Secular Music Career
EEW Magazine Entertainment News

R&B “Sisters With Voices” (SWV) singer, Coko, real name Cheryl Elizabeth Clemons, 43, debuted her first solo
gospel effort,
Grateful, in 2006 and followed it up with The Winner In Me in 2009.

But the truth of the matter is, she felt like she couldn’t fully win over the faith community that, according to her,
“criticized” her secular roots.

In a Wednesday, Jan. 22 interview with
Power 105.1’s “The Breakfast Club,” the vocalist shared her feelings of
being judged and never fully accepted.

The topic came up after one of the co-hosts, Angela Yee, mentioned that Coko had not been satisfied with the
sales of her solo projects.

“[In] Gospel, I did well,” explained Coko, who is currently featured on a new WE tv reality show,
SWV Reunited
with fellow group members, Leanne “Lelee” Lyons and Tamara “Taj” George.

“I got nominated for a Grammy, so that was cool,” she said.

Co-host Charlamagne chimed in, “Now you back with Lelee filthy mouth, sinning,” suggesting that a Christian
woman has no place in an R&B group.

Coko responded, “Singing gospel, they just always kind of criticized me ‘cause, they never looked at me as
Coko—as Cheryl—the gospel singer, but it was always Coko from SWV and I was always criticized for that.”
JANUARY 22, 2014
The superstar group was ubiquitous in the 90s, touring the world with a string of top ten R&B hits including “I’m
So Into You,” “Right Here,” “Downtown,” “Weak,” and “You’re Always On My Mind.”

With over 15 million albums sold, a Grammy nomination, an American Music Award nomination and 11 Billboard
Music Awards nominations, SWV was a runaway success.

Shedding that image is next to impossible when such a high profile and public career is built.

Coko’s gripe is quite similar to Destiny’s Child’ s Michelle Williams, who is set to release her gospel comeback
album this year.

In a March 2013 radio interview with Lonnie Hunter on Philadelphia's inspirational radio station 103.9, a
frustrated Williams asked, “What do I gotta do to prove to people I’m saved? Do I gotta speak in tongues? Do I
need to froth at the mouth?  Saints of God, what do y’all need me to do?”

Gospel music, unlike other genres, is not viewed by its audiences as mere entertainment. Those who pursue it
as a career option are also expected to live a life that reflects the gospel of Jesus Christ.

For many, singing gospel and R&B is tantamount having one foot in the church and the other out the door, in
the club—something looked upon unfavorably.
(L-R) Cheryl "Coko" Clemons, Leanne "Lelee" Lyons and Tamara "Taj" George attend the "SWV Reunited" series premiere at
Jazz Room at the General on January 15, 2014 in New York City. (Credit: Getty)