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Multi Media Journalist and Personality Sheilah Belle Uses Life’s Ups and Downs to Motivate and Inspire Others

When Chaka Khan first sang, “I’m Every Woman”, she probably had someone like Sheilah Belle in mind. In the realm of media, she’s literally done it all. Over the last 25 years, she’s earned her stripes as a TV news editor, a newspaper publisher, an on-air radio personality and the founder of the influential music trade newsletter, The Belle Report, which reaches almost 400,000 readers daily. Therefore, it’s no surprise that a woman who got her start on the staff of Bill Clinton’s kitchen cabinet member, attorney Vernon E. Jordan, and went on to interview public figures such as former South African President, Nelson Mandela, would also be a 2005 inductee into the Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame.

As the old adage heralds: each one, teach one and The Belle, as she is affectionately known among friends and colleagues, uses her own life’s experiences to motivate others – through her radio commentary, prolific writings and speaking engagements – to reach for their dreams. Her tireless zeal to inform stems from her parents’ teachings. They were both high achievers. Her father was one of the first black firefighters in Richmond, VA. He became lieutenant and, in spite of passing the necessary examinations, was always passed over for the job of fire chief because he was black.  Belle’s mother was a school teacher who planted the seed that birthed her passionate love affair with words.

“My mom is the one who had me on the front porch reading out loud, when other kids were playing,” the Belle remembers. “She would tell me, `stop putting a preposition at the end of your sentences’. My mom pushed me to read. Along the way, I enjoyed putting together my own books, collecting stamps, drawing pictures, poetry.” The Belle was 16 when her mother died from cancer but she recalls, “After her passing, I know God implanted boldness within me to move forward and get things done.”

The Belle’s first media job was delivering newspapers throughout her high school years. She later enrolled at Howard University and upon graduation, returned to her native Richmond. “One day I called WKIE radio and requested a song,” she recalls. “Before hanging up I asked, `do you guys by chance have any job openings’?  The guy on the other end said, `what to you want to do?’  I said, `News’”.  He told her to come in at 6 a.m. the next day and within the week; she was formally hired – with no formal news experience. She studied news anchors and read books on the subject and over the next few years, zig zagged between various TV or radio stations between New Orleans and Richmond until her father fell ill with diabetes and she returned to The River City to be close to him.

Back in her hometown, the Belle set up Ma & Popop Productions, Inc, in 1993. “I did it with the idea of honoring my mom and dad along with a promise to myself to never produce anything that would be a disgrace to my parents,” she says. One of her first ventures was launching The Gospel Times newspaper, a self-esteem building periodical targeting the African-American faith community. From this enterprise, grew The Belle Report, a daily newsletter boasting the latest happenings of the gospel music industry and the mainstream entertainment industry at large. Over the last decade, it’s swelled from an initial 500 email addresses in 2003 to nearly 400,000 daily readers today. It’s often been nicknamed as the “CNN of Gospel News.”

The Belle Report’s influence on the gospel music industry cannot be exaggerated. Record labels have come to depend on it to get the word out about new music and to also inform the gospel music consumer of news that it may not hear via mainstream media. For instance, when various media reported that the prominent singing pastor, G.E. Patterson, had died; the Belle Report was the first media outlet to report that Patterson was actually still alive. When Rev. Timothy Wright was reported to have died on vacation with his wife, he personally called the Belle to say, “Baby they killed me again. Can you bring me back to life?”

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As a journalist, the Belle was the first to interview the controversial artist who once was known as Tonex (B. Slade) at the start of his career when his outlandish stage costumes and edgy statements had church folks labeling him a heretic. The Belle also conducted one of the first in-depth interviews with Donnie McClurkin when he broke through with the megahits “Stand” and “We Fall Down.” Over the years, the Belle has also fused journalism and marketing to boost promotional campaigns for platinum artists such as Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary. She’s done similar media outreaches on behalf of rising artists Troy Sneed, Zacardi Cortez and Earnest Pugh, among others. A daily radio news actuality of The Belle Report airs on 51 radio stations in the USA and Canada.

Having conquered the world of media, the Belle now has her eyes set on a new challenge. “I want to run the 10k from the beginning to the end without walking,” she laughs. She’s managed to work some light training into her action-packed schedule that includes hosting the five-hour afternoon show on Praise 104.7 FM in Richmond. “I feel like God has just about put me in second gear, with three more gears to go and what He continues to unfold in my life, makes me realize there are no limits to what God can do!”

To book Sheilah Belle, The Belle as a Guest Speaker, Emcee or for your next Conference, e-mail your request to [email protected] or at [email protected]  


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