AA Legacy Series Spotlight on Della Reese

Continuing the AA Legacy Series for (Black) Women’s History Month, I want to highlight the actress and singer we know as Della Reese (clink the link for a video tribute). I was conducting research online and found the Della Reese dot com address but it’s not something she’s running. It’s more than a little creepy that someone other than Della Reese seems to own that domain name (they have it listed as a shell website) but at least they posted two videos of her.

I’m loathe to tout the 1st black to do x,y, z but in the case of these women trailblazers, the distinction is notable. I’m not going to do an entire career retrospective either. There’s a nice YouTube Channel that has her extensive archives. See the Della Reese Channel for video performances and clips that span her career. She has an autobiography, Angels Along The Way worth the read. In fact, I recommend everyone read all of the various career retrospectives, biographies and autobiographies of every black woman over the age of 45. There is much to learn.

In the 1950’s and onward she had established herself as a popular singer and actress.

In 1970, Reese became the first black woman to guest host The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. She has appeared in various roles on episodic television.

In the 1990’s Reese portrayed the angel Tess on the CBS drama Touched By An Angel which is probably what most of us may immediately recall.

Her career as an entertainer has been well-established. What many probably don’t know is that she has been an ordained New Thought minister for decades. Since 1987 Della Reese has led the UP Church (Understanding Principles for Better Living) in Los Angeles. This was why I wanted to feature her. Many readers who may be more familiar with a typical Black Church interpretation of Christianity might dismiss her practice as suspect.

Religious Science from Wikipedia

Religious Science, also known as Science of Mind, was founded in 1927 by Ernest Holmes (1887–1960) and is a spiritual, philosophical and metaphysical religious movement within the New Thought movement. In general, the term “Science of Mind” applies to the teachings, while the term “Religious Science” applies to the organizations. However, adherents often use the terms interchangeably. Ernest Holmes stated “Religious Science is a correlation of laws of science, opinions of philosophy, and revelations of religion applied to human needs and the aspirations of man.” He also stated that Religious Science/Science of Mind (RS/SOM) is not based on any “authority” of established beliefs, but rather on “what it can accomplish” for the people who practice it.

You might also be interested in researching:

  • New Thought
  • Metaphysics/Metaphysical Christianity

I’m mentioning this as something many black women who may not consider themselves religious, burned (or burned out by) religion, fake religiosity and the subjugation of women may want to explore this as an alternative or addition. There are many women leaders part of the New Thought practice. I also appreciate the emphasis on self-reflection and working on thought patterns.

There was a time I would have (and did) outright reject any such philosophies as (some form of) heresy, but now I think it was the long arm of indoctrination that influenced my refusal to even look into it. It’s something else to consider….

The Rev Dr. is also very good friends with Dr. Maya Angelou. I really wanted to share this particular podcast from her ministry radio show Hello, Reverend Della Speaking on Unity FM.

#5 Faith with Dr. Maya Angelou — The first 20 minutes are a goldmine!!

She discusses her early career, touring with Mahalia Jackson, wanting to advise the “young singers of today” and them rejecting it, her reciprocal and abiding friendship with Maya defined and other tidbits that had me at hello

If the good Rev. Dr. Reese-Lett wants to impart some wisdom at this forum, especially given she’s lived a full life, has had many experiences and at 81 years old is still energetic and vibrant, please do!


~~~Before commenting I seriously urge all of the readers to listen to the podcast. It was amazing.


You might be interested in:

It’s Black Women’s History Month Ya’ll!

AA Legacy Series Spotlight on Ethel Waters

25 comments to AA Legacy Series Spotlight on Della Reese

  • lois

    Somehow I missed this segment. I adore Della Reese. Ms. Reese is intelligent, has class and is still very well respected.

  • Nia

    Thank you for highlighting her and for providing the link to the Della Reese channel. She is an amazing woman who I have always admired.

  • Faith

    I also had to add a photo of her and her husband with Roma Downey's hubby Mark Burnett. Take notes….

  • Faith,

    I finished listening to the episode with Maya Angelou as the guest—it was wonderful, and the warmth one could feel between those two long-term friends was truly heartwarming. Not to mention that Rev. Della's tale about how she—through the foolishness and arrogance of being a teenager—mistakenly thought she was going to "best" Mahalia with her own singing was hilarious and spiritually deep.

    It's a shame, but as you noted, that sort of wisdom will soon be lost to the vast majority of AAs as AA women in that age group continue to pass away. In one sense, that's what AAs collectively deserve because nobody can tell most modern, new-school-type AAs anything. And new-school types will continue to suffer for their arrogance.

    The foolish colored girl music "artists" who refused to listen to Rev. Della will have careers that won't last even 1/4th as long as Della Reese's.

    I'm just thankful I've had the opportunity to listen while some of our matriarchs like Rev. Dr. Della are still around.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  • Jacquie

    The podcast, for whatever reason, is not playing on my computer SOOOO I subscribed to the podcast so I can listen at work!

    I remember hearing about Della Reese being a minister a few years back, but of course, it was by those folks that claimed she was a heathen and turned her back on God. Whatev. I didn't investigate further, unfortunately.

    Thanks for sharing Rev. Dr. Reese! I'm looking forward to reading more about her.

  • Part 2

    Over the past year, it finally sank in to me that the mindsets and mental habits I'm most comfortable with are what brought me and KEEP me in my present circumstances. That's fine and dandy for right now. But those habitual thought patterns are insufficient for the sorts of lifestyle changes that I want to make.

    So, I'm becoming more willing to expand my mental habit comfort zone. And more willing to investigate some other ways of viewing the world.

    I want to make a successfu, sustainable, and enduring transition from being an Overly Responsible Worker Drone to Digital Nomad-Free Spirit. That means making some deep-seated changes in my thought patterns. And I'm finding that some of the New Thought materials are helpful with that. So, I look forward to browsing through Rev. Reese-Lett's body of work.

  • Part 1


    Thank you for mentioning Rev. Dr. Della Reese-Lett's podcast. I had no idea that she had a ministry. I'm going to listen to several of her podcasts to see what sorts of things she's saying (including the specific episode you mentioned).

    And thank you for mentioning New Thought. Even though I'm usually quite resistant to even bothering to explore those sorts of materials, I've come to have a change of heart about that rigid posture.

  • Zoopath

    Faith, THANK YOU for sharing this resource. Ms. Reese has so much wisdom, wow. She's been here the whole time I didn't know. I've very recently been raising my standards of the blogs/media I consume and needed some new things/resources and this fit the bill perfectly.

  • Thanks for the information about her, she is a very lovely woman.

  • she looks gorgeous in that photo…i've never really looked into her life, this was interesting info and i'll have to find out more about her

  • […] blog post with the largest pageviews is still my tribute post to Della Reese. The 2nd is Surrounding Yourself With Light & Beauty. Note these have minimal comments. I find […]

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