Coming out isn’t the easiest process. So imagine how challenging it would be if you grew up in a Pentecostal Holiness church, were a preacher’s kid and belonged to an award-winning gospel group with your siblings.
This was DeJuaii Pace’s reality and factored into why she ignored her same-sex attraction for so long. In fact, the 45-year-old, who’s also a virgin, never discussed her lesbianism with her family, including her eight sisters — seven of whom, along with her, make up gospel’s the Anointed Pace Sisters. That changed during a taping of the new OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network show Addicted to Food, which premieres Tuesday night.
Pace, a compulsive overeater, is one of eight eating disorder patients (both over- and under-eaters) at treatment facility Shades of Hope in Buffalo Gap, Texas. With the help of therapists, the patients try to find the root of their food addiction, heal it and become mentally and physically healthier.
Pace, who started gaining extra weight when she was 21, says that her big secret contributed to her overeating and that food was a substitute for intimacy. The gospel singer talks to The Root about her weight-loss journey, her virginity and homosexuality in the black church.
The Root: Before you taped Addicted to Food, had you ever shared with anyone that you were attracted to women?
Dejuaii Pace: When I joined my church about 15 years [ago], because I wanted to be up front with my pastor, I told her that the attraction was there but I was denying that I was attracted to that [gay] lifestyle. I acknowledged it to myself in 2006 when I really took a deep evaluation of my life.
I was not married, was not dating and had not dated. And I was like, why is it so? And I just took a deep look at myself and realized that I’ve not been attracted to men ever and had just been friendly with them. At the end of the evaluation, I told myself that I had to acknowledge it.
I didn’t tell anyone [in my family] I was a lesbian until December 2009, when I felt sick and tired of my life and wasn’t happy. And I told one of my friends. I said, “Listen, I need you to help me to come out, because If I’m going to be happy, I’ve got to face this thing.” About 98 percent of my friends are in “the lifestyle,” and they knew I was struggling with it.
TR: DeJuaii, just speaking frankly, if someone in our family is gay, we typically know it. None of your sisters talked about it with you?