Raising her Voice: Local named gospel superstar
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Since she was 5, Joanna Hale-McGill of Picayune has shared her musical talents with those around her.
On Sept. 6 of this year, thousands heard Hale-McGill’s voice when she was named Walmart’s Next Gospel Superstar at the Essence Festival held in New Orleans.
Hale-McGill moved to Picayune from New Orleans with her mother, Georgia, when she was 8.
“It was different and definitely a culture shock,” she said. “As I grew up, I appreciated my mom bringing me here. Picayune was the best place for me as a young child. My mom always brought me to church and she sang with three gospel groups in New Orleans. She encouraged me to sing with those ladies and they used to call me her shadow. The gift of singing came from her.”
In 1992, when she was in the sixth grade, Hale-McGill sang with the choir during a graduation ceremony. She only had 24 hours to learn the song.
“I sang it and knocked it out of the park,” she said. “That’s when I knew I could really sing.”
At 12, she was asked to join Leo Jones’ One Plus Production, which was made of a group of teenagers who aspired to be artists, singers and dancers, Hale-McGill said. As a participant, she sang at Jazz Festival in New Orleans.
She graduated from Picayune Memorial High School in 2002 and earned a bachelor’s degree in public health sciences and physical therapy from Dillard University in 2008. She obtained her master’s degree in public health from Walden University, an online Minnesota school, soon after.
In addition to her career as a health inspector, Hale-McGill also serves as the praise and worship leader at His Will Worship Center in Slidell.
Initially, Hale-McGill said she had no plans of entering Walmart’s first Next Gospel Superstar program.
“I had already auditioned for ‘American Idol’ and ‘The Voice’ and didn’t want to do this one,” she said. “However, one lady at church told me ‘the Lord told me to tell you to do one more competition.’’’
On the last day to submit an entry, Hale-McGill received a phone call from her sister, Catrena, who reminded Hale-McGill about the deadline. When she got off work, Hale-McGill looked at the website and decided to submit her video rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
Five were selected to participate in the program, which was held this summer in New Orleans during the Essence Festival.
Deitrick Haddon, Tamela Mann and Phil Thornton, all members of the gospel music industry, judged the superstar hopefuls.
When she was named the winner, Hale-McGill said she was surprised.
In addition to being named the first Next Gospel Superstar, Hale-McGill was also invited to the Gospel Explosion at Tom Joyner’s Family Reunion in Orlando, Florida. During the event, she attended seminars and workshops.
“I also recorded a new top of the hour jingle for the Tom Joyner Morning Show,” she said. “In November, my song, “Open Door,” which was written by Deitrick Haddon, was released on the Yolanda Adams radio show.”
Hale-McGill said winning the competition opened many doors for her in the gospel music industry. It also gave her confidence.
“Even though I’ve sang in churches, I was still fearful about singing on stage,” she said. “But, it gave me the confidence to know that whatever I think I want or think I can’t do, I can when I put my mind to it.”
Hale-McGill said her husband, Jarmell, and two daughters, Jayla and Ja’miya, are very supportive of her pursuit of a musical career.
“For Christmas, Jarmell got me a mobile recording studio,” she said. “He’s been very supportive. One of my goals is to record a gospel album, but my ultimate goal is to be able to encourage and motivate people through song. You can be feeling down and a simple song can bring you up. That’s what I want, to be that encouraging voice.”