Gospel singer Kelontae Gavin first made national headlines at age 15 after a video of him singing the Rev. Paul Jones’ hymn “I Won’t Complain” to a cafeteria worker at his former high school in Summerville, South Carolina. Now 21, Gavin is opening up about the long-term sexual abuse he wrestled with as his star was rising.
“One of the things about me was that I went viral. My start happened from the cafeteria but the thing about viral [is] when you see somebody go viral, one thing we don’t know is where they come from. Their story. How they were brought up or whatever,” he said in a recent interview with The Willie Moore Jr. Show in which he alluded to his upcoming album as well as a documentary he says will highlight his story of abuse.
“I am 21 years old. I went viral at 15. But the documentary gets to take you before the cafeteria video. How it was growing up from 5 to 12, 13, 14 and you’re going through life as a kid being molested by a boy cousin in the family. Like how do you maintain that and the preacher say that the hand of God is on your life but somebody else’s hands are in your pants,” Gavin said. “It took a couple of years man for me to see that what had felt good from being 5 – 13 and then you’re making up this, this is ok for same-sex attraction. It’s ok to operate and still sing in church.”
After going viral with the “I Won’t Complain” cafeteria video in 2014, Gavin would go on to sign a record deal with Marquis Boone of MBE Enterprises. His debut album release “The Higher Experience” reached #1 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart and earned him four Stellar Gospel Music Award nominations. His new single, “Hold Me Close,” follows his Billboard Top 5 breakthrough radio hit, “No Ordinary Worship,” which spent 53 weeks on Billboard’s Gospel Airplay Top 30 chart and crossed over onto mainstream radio.
His success however did very little to help him navigate the impact of the abuse he suffered in his early life.
“I was broken. I was sinning in church. I was slipping in church because I didn’t want to confront an abuse sexually that happened to me from 5 to 12. So it was a hard thing. It was hard to confront. It was hard to go through life it was hard man trying to sing to people and you see their tears fall out of their face because they are feeling the anointing and the presence of a God that you can’t feel?” Gavin told Moore.
Gavin said he began seeing his abuse as something wrong around the age of 13 and when he finally began to confront his struggle later in life, his father cried when he learned that he was molested.
“I can say that he weeped (sic),” Gavin said.
He explained that he believes by sharing his story in the documentary will help others in the church who have struggled with abuse.
“This documentary is going to be so inspiring, so enlightening but also I believe it’s going to challenge many of the believers out there who are anointed, who are gifted but they also have a story,” Gavin said.
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