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Jaci Velasquez: 1979—: Vocalist

Debuted At Age 16

Velasquez's debut album, Heavenly Place, was released in May of 1996 and immediately went into the top ten on the Christian music charts, while its first single, "If This World," became her first number-one single. Eventually Heavenly Place topped the sales charts as well and earned a platinum record for over one million copies sold. Velasquez was also honored with the Gospel Music Association's Dove Award for New Artist of the Year and became the youngest-ever recipient of the award.

While a constant round of concerts, recording dates, and personal appearances kept the teenager busy, Velasquez also became involved with a number of social issues. A proponent of sexual abstinence before marriage, Velasquez served as national spokesperson for the True Love Waits campaign. Using her visibility to help other teens take responsibility for their actions and avoid making poor decisions, Velasquez nevertheless took a realistic view of the pressures teens faced. "Don't get me wrong," she explained to the Dallas Morning News in October of 1999, "I like guys. I have a lot of guy friends and I date. But I use common sense and I don't get into a situation I can't get out of and end up giving something away to a person who doesn't deserve it." The young singer promoted the message in her 1998 book A Heavenly Place, published in English and Spanish by Simon and Schuster, which gave Christian teens some advice about making the transition to adulthood with their values intact. In 1998 Velasquez also took on the role of national spokesperson for the National Christian College Athletic Association. Although she did not intend to pursue a college education, Velasquez enjoyed touring colleges to promote a Christian-oriented message to students.

Velasquez proved that the success of her debut was no fluke when her second album, Jaci Velasquez, was released in 1998. The album quickly topped the Christian music charts and sold over 500,000 copies. One of the album's singles, a testament to the power of prayer called "On My Knees," earned Velasquez her second Dove Award in as many years, this time for Song of the Year. One of the few dark spots in her life was the breakup of her parents' marriage; David and Diana Velasquez separated in 2000. Velasquez turned to her religious faith to help her cope with the experience. As she told Today's Christian Woman in a May 2001 interview, "I realized I'm not responsible for other people's choices. Through this situation, I learned the only One I can count on is Jesus. He doesn't leave."

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Theodosius I to David Watmough Biography - David Watmough comments:Jaci Velasquez: 1979—: Vocalist Biography - Christian Entertainment Background, Debuted At Age 16, The Latin Market And Continued Success