Meet Michelle McKinney Hammond
Culture Shock: From London to Barbados to America
Michelle McKinney Hammond was born in London, England where her parents were pursuing their education. Michelle's father was from Ghana, West Africa and her mother was from Barbados, West Indies. After her parents separated, she spent her early childhood in Barbados with her grandparents and her aunts while her mother finished school. Michelle's mother eventually met, and married Mr. McKinney, a loving father who adopted Michelle as his own daughter.
Michelle's family then relocated to Muskegon, Michigan. Michelle traded the private girl's school and pampered island home for rough neighborhoods and rebellious peers. Michelle's Barbados education accelerated her through several class grades, not only did she feel culturally "different" she was the youngest among her schoolmates. Michelle learned to use humor to disarm her taunting peers and survive in a hostile environment. It was in grade school where Michelle began to devour books, igniting her passion for reading and writing.
Drawing Close to God
Eventually, Michelle's parents enrolled her in a Catholic school. "I became fascinated with the idea of God and decided I should be a nun," she laughs. Enjoying school again, she dove into the arts and began to write and sing, joined the choir, talent shows, dance squads and performed with the Western Michigan Civic Opera. Michelle's first blatant encounter with prejudice occurred after being selected as the first runner-up in the Miss Muskegon pageant for the second year in a row. It was later revealed that Michelle was the winner in the second pageant but this was concealed by the accounting firm because of Michelle's ethnicity.
One of the greatest blessings in Michelle's life was being reunited with her biological father. Michelle remembers childhood prayers to God to find her father. Her prayer was miraculously answered when her aunt, who was on an African safari tour, discovered Michelle's birth father was a regular visitor to the hotel where she was staying! Michelle was soon reunited with her birth father, George Hammond, a bank president who lived in Ghana, West Africa. Today, Michelle and her father have a close relationship and spend frequent holidays together in Africa.
Seeking Life in the Fast Lane
After graduating high school at 16-years-old, Michelle attended junior college. She then moved to Chicago to attend Ray/Vogue College of Design, now called The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago. After receiving her degree in commercial art, she started freelancing for Burrell Communications, the nation's largest African American advertising agency.
Working during the day at Playtique, the boutique store of the Playboy enterprise, while freelancing on blue chip ad accounts like Coca-Cola and Ford at night, Michelle's career and life sped into the fast laneóbefore coming to an unexpected stop.
Like many young women, Michelle began a cycle of unfulfilling relationships including one with a famous singer/musician, but when the relationship ended, Michelle was heartbroken but shortly thereafter fell in love and started living with her new boyfriend Scotty. But the relationship ended tragically when Scotty, while vacationing in California was shot and killed as an innocent bystander to an argument. Michelle recalls, "I was devastated and dealt with a lot of guilt, we had just had a heated argument before he left... it was one of the darkest moments in my life, finding a love that ended with death," she says.
Finding God in Mourning
Michelle soon fell into a deep depression, "Nobody understood the depth of my pain, isolation and helplessness." One sleepless night she found herself reading The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsay and it was then she dedicated her life to God. Soon after, she met a woman on the bus named Dorothy who would regularly invite Michelle to her church. Michelle decided to accept her invitation and during one Sunday service, the pastor met Michelle and told her God had big plans for her life. "I had a very drastic conversion, from wild party girl to a newly sanctimonious person. I beat the church doors down, voracious to know God and everything about him," she recalls.
Cutbacks at her job resulted in Michelle being let go. Thinking she could reconcile with her singer/musician ex-boyfriend, Michelle moved to Los Angeles, California where she was greeted with heartbreak when he expressed no interest in her newfound faith. "It was the best of years and the worst of years," she says. "I had to discover that God was all I needed ó my provision, my security and my identity. God was teaching me invaluable lessons about a personal relationship with Him first," adds Michelle. It was an intense time of learning to trust God as Michelle quickly ran out of money and had no place to live. At her lowest point and in the midst of questioning her faith God proved Himself to her once more.
Burrell Communications invited her back to work and Michelle returned to Chicago. Though spiritually rejuvenated, Michelle began to struggle with her singleness and began a revolving door of relationships. "I prayed and realized that I didn't want to get married until I came to a point where I could be happy with God alone. I didn't want to be a hypocrite telling people that God was enough if I did not truly believe it and live it... so I declared a "man fast," she says.
Michelle began writing a book about singleness, but put it on hold for a number of years. Eventually she was let go from the ad agency job, and began free-lancing and doing voiceover work. Four years later, on the way to an audition, she was hit by a car, forcing Michelle into surgeries and physical rehab. While she was bed-ridden, Michelle reconsidered the direction of her life. With the prompting of her mentor, P.B. Wilson and a close friend, she finished writing What To Do Until Love Finds You, and landed her first publishing deal.
Michelle's Career as an Author
"The first printing sold out within three weeks, and twenty-something books later, I'm still writing," she laughs. "I wanted to write books on relationships and dating that would answer the difficult questions." Michelle has published over twenty-seven books and sold over a million copies including her bestselling titles The DIVA Principle, Sassy, Single & Satisfied, Secrets of an Irresistible Woman, and 101 Ways to Get and Keep His Attention and her new release, How to Make Love Work.
In 1998 Michelle signed on as a co-host of the Emmy-nominated TLN (Total Living Network) talk show "Aspiring Women," that ran for nine years in over 100 markets in the U.S. and abroad.
The Next Oprah?
Michelle has cultivated an intimate relationship with her loyal readers, continually receiving life-changing stories of both single and married women. Michelle's hard-hitting approach and refreshing femininity even reaches men. "My message is not an attack on men. I strive to promote understanding and reconciliation between the sexes. After I speak, a lot of men come up to me and thank me," she says.
It's Michelle's combination of grace, truth, transparency and humor that has landed her in numerous media outlets, including Essence, Ebony, The Chicago Tribune, "Politically Incorrect" with Bill Maher, BET and The New York Times, which called Michelle "the most visible face of the evangelical advice industry for single men and women."
Today, Michelle is busy developing her own television talk show, recording a worship music project, while continuing to speak to audiences worldwide and write bestselling books. Her response to those who make the Oprah comparison, Michelle laughs, "There is only one Oprah, but then again there is only one Michelle McKinney Hammond."
On remaining single, Michelle keeps it in perspective. "I'm an all or nothing person and know the type of wife I'd like to be. I'm enjoying my life and when I meet the right person, I'll be willing to make the sacrifices needed to cultivate a healthy marriage," she says. For now, Michelle manages a busy schedule while caring for her two Shih Tzu puppies and living in Chicago.
For Michelle, life comes down to helping other people. "In the midst of it all the chaos of life around us, so many desire victory in their life and relationships and I want to share practical advice with a spiritual foundation for every aspect of life."