Military Teen Stays Grounded Despite Fame
August 14, 2008
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas --- Spensha Baker has been making a joyful noise since she was 7 years old and belting out Gospel music in front of her bedroom mirror.
Eight years and countless performances later, the military teen is still singing, but for a slightly larger audience these days.
The daughter of Master Sgt. Wayne and Marcy Baker has sung for everyone from Soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, to the president of the United States. Her powerful voice and inspirational music has wowed national audiences all across America. At just 12 Spensha landed a record deal with Geffen Records. She is the first Christian artist signed to the prestigious label.
"I love being an inspiration to both the young and old," said the 15-year-old singing sensation, who is currently on the road with her mother promoting her newly released album, "OutLoud." "I've been truly blessed with these gifts and opportunities to share with the world what God has given me."
Her father said he had no idea where she got her talent, since "neither me nor her mother could sing."
"She's never had voice lessons or formal voice training. Her voice is an absolute gift from God," said Wayne, the installation senior career counselor at Fort Sam Houston.
While her parents were in awe of her natural ability from the start, Spensha didn't gain outside acclaim until she graduated from singing at home to starring in a Christmas play at her preschool. At age 7, she belted out a Whitney Houston song and "floored everyone," her father said.
When Spensha was 9, the Baker Family moved to Fort Hood, and the budding talent gained the attention of their new church worship leader, who worked with her one-on-one to foster her gift. At age 10, she garnered a spot on Inspiration Network's Christian Artist Talent Search, and made it to second place.
"We knew she was incredibly talented and were curious about where her talent could take her," said Marcy, who began searching the Internet for auditions and competitions for Spensha.
At age 11, Spensha earned a spot on the CBS hit show Star Search, along with current American Idol runner-up David Archuleta. Spensha advanced to the final episode for a shot as the junior singer champion but wound up in second place.
"After Star Search was over, Spensha was crying because she had lost, but then Ron Fair (chairman of Geffen Records) looked her in the eye and told her she was going to be a superstar," Wayne said. Fair called soon after and offered Spensha a contract with Geffen Records.
"A record deal was never my goal, I just always wanted to cultivate my craft," Spensha said.
Spensha released her album, a contemporary Christian mix, nationwide Aug. 5, and embarked on a whirlwind promotional tour. Wanting to pay tribute to her military roots, she and her Family dedicated "OutLoud" to Soldiers and their Families.
"My mom was in the Army for 13 years and my father has been in for 22," Spensha said. "I love the Army and wanted to thank Soldiers and their Families for all their tremendous sacrifices."
Although busy with her album promotional tour, Spensha also managed to find time to audition and score a starring role in an upcoming Tyler Perry production called "Georgia Sky."
"She wants to cultivate her acting skills as well as her natural singing talents," Wayne said.
So much fame at a young age can lead to a troubled path, as evidenced by today's young stars in the tabloid headlines. But Spensha's parents believe their military background and church roots will keep their daughter's feet firmly planted on the ground.
"Spensha knows her gifts are not for her, but for the world," Wayne said. "We encourage her to be an example for young teens that they can do the right things and still be cool."
On the road, Marcy said the key is to treat Spensha like she does at home.
"We'll be traveling and she'll ask me to hold her water bottle. I tell her to hold her own," said Marcy. "Spensha carries her own bags, and while back home, she does the dishes, takes out the trash and feeds the dog. We treat her like a normal 15-year-old."
In a few weeks, Spensha will be back off the road and ready to start her sophomore year at Judson High School in Converse, Texas. Her classmates may be somewhat surprised to hear Spensha's summer highlights.
"Most of my classmates don't know about my career," she said. "I try to keep my career and school separated."
By doing so, Spensha's parents hope she can avoid most of the high school drama.
"We just want Spensha to go to a school and be a happy teenager; we want her to enjoy her youthfulness," Wayne said.
Marcy joked that Spensha was like a real life Hannah Montana, a TV character who also keeps her superstar identity under wraps. "When someone sees Spensha on TV, she plays it off and says it wasn't her. We don't want her to be under the microscope."
The secret may be tough to keep this year with Spensha poised on the brink of singing and acting fame. But Spensha said she is ready for anything.
"I've learned to surround myself with positive people who believe in me," she said. "My advice to others is to learn from your mistakes and believe in yourself."