Tell Shelley Anne: Rev. Yolanda

| Jul 20, 2020
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An interview with Rev. Yolanda, spiritual trans femme, gender queer, interfaith minister, singer songwriter, and performance artist

Rev. Yolanda preaches it on stage.

Doing interviews provides me with an opportunity to contact people from all walks of life, but perhaps none as unique and talented as Rev. Yolanda.

I had heard about Rev. Yolanda years ago from my talented musical friend in Sydney, Australia, of all places. It just goes to show you that entertainers and musicians are like birds of a feather and flock together. As I have embarked on writing my TGForum column, our lovely Angela felt the Rev. Yolanda would make for an interesting interview. And she was correct.

When I asked the Rev. about her diverse creative and spiritual life, I did not realize she would be such an open book. I suddenly felt I was part of her world.

Rev. Yolanda talked a lot about New York City and how I miss visiting that great city. It was always on my travel agenda annually, until COVID-19 hit. She also referred to Keith Haring whose work I admired. Haring was an American artist whose pop art and graffiti-like work grew out of the New York City street culture of the 1980s. Much of his work includes sexual allusions that turned into social activism. He achieved this by using sexual images to advocate for safe sex and AIDS awareness.

So, my friends, I hope you enjoy getting to know Rev. Yolanda.


Rev. Yolanda is a singer, songwriter, trans-femme genderqueer performance artist and interfaith minister, originally from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, ‘The Hit Recording Capital of The World.’ Rev. Yolanda and husband Rev. Glen Ganaway are the founders of the monthly ‘spiritual happening’ Church With A 2 Drink Minimum. Rev. Yolanda’s ministry and body of musical work has been captured on film by Avaiya Media with the movie Rev. Yolanda’s Old Time Gospel Hour (available on Amazon), and she has been honored with induction into the GLBT Hall Of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame, and two MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) Awards. Rev. Yolanda is currently working on a full length, autobiographical musical theater piece entitled The Church Of The Alien Love Child Presents: The Passion of Rev. Yolanda.

By Shelley Anne Baker

TGForum: Please do tell about your diverse creative and spiritual life that includes trans femme gender queer interfaith minister, singer songwriter, and performance artist.

Rev. Yolanda: Born and raised in Muscle Shoals in 1956, I wrote a song and produced a video about growing up there and it can be found on YouTube.

I did not understand myself very well growing up. I read a Time magazine article about homosexuality when I was in the fourth grade and recognized aspects of myself, so I brought the article to school for show and tell and declared ‘I am a homosexual’ in front of the class. All hell broke loose and that started a string of events designed to make me a man. But I must laugh, they did not work.

Fortunately, I was and am an artist, so they allowed me to pursue painting, drawing, and music. I became good altogether of these disciplines and ran with them. I created a house full of paintings. Later, I joined a Gospel Bluegrass band and started playing and singing for audiences. I was interested in spirituality from a young age and moved into a Christian commune at age 18, right after high school, and lived there for my first two years of college. The commune was called Jesus Manor, and I became a part of the house band called The Amplified New Testament. I loved singing and writing spiritual music. I fell in love with one of the young men in the band, and had to leave the commune, and finish college without the support of the Jesus Manor community. This hurt very deeply, so I decided to throw Christianity away and become a musical theater major.

After college I moved to New York City (NYC) in the 1980s and lived in the East Village where Madonna, RuPaul, Lady Bunny, Keith Haring, and many others were living. It was also the start of the AIDS crisis and I was not careful sexually, so I contracted HIV. I grew as an artist and began writing and recording dance music. I got signed by Chrysalis Records, but it never went anywhere.

Two Radical Fairies.

In the early ’90s I met a group of gender bending, Mother Earth Spirituality-based folks called The Radical Faeries. The Faeries were starting a commune in Vermont, so I moved to Vermont to become a part of the Faerie Camp Destiny community.

The ‘90s were when Yolanda came to life. I always knew I was a different being than gay men were, but I did not really understand what a trans person was until I met The Faeries and moved to Vermont. As I was beginning to understand my trans self, I began to call myself Yolanda. a name I adopted in NYC before my move to Vermont. Suddenly, my life  exploded in a marvelous way. I was being true to myself and began to write songs about my experiences. I formed a band called Yolanda and The Plastic Family, created a ground breaking television show that helped open doors for visibility for Vermont’s Trans community, started an annual fundraiser for The Vermont People With AIDS Coalition called Winter Is A Drag Ball which is still going more than 25 years later, and generally had great success in the Green Mountain State.

In 2001, I decided to move back to NYC to see if I could make it in the blossoming downtown NYC Queer Music Scene. From then until this writing, I have had amazing experiences. I have won many awards, including GLBT Hall of Fame, Blues Hall of Fame, Fresh Fruit Festival Award, Stonewall Society Award, Out Musician of The Year, and 2 MAC Awards (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs). TGForum heard of me during this time, and I have had the honor of being favorably reviewed several times by the amazing Pamela DeGroff whose work I always admired when she was in the band PETRA.

TGForum: Moving back to the city must have been a big change from Vermont.

Rev. Yolanda: NYC brought many changes. I met my husband, Glen, and it totally changed my life. He and I went to One Spirit Interfaith Seminary to become ministers and we created our own Church called Church With A 2 Drink Minimum. We have been meeting in a bar/cabaret space for five years now, and with COVID-19 we are online every Sunday at 5 p.m. ET. This part of the journey has been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Not only am I married to the love of my life, I also have the career I always wanted, as a music minister. When I lived in Jesus Manor, I decided that I wanted to become a music minister, and now I truly am.

For the future, Glen and I have purchased land in Vermont and intended to build our dream home and physical Queer ministry space called Gloryland. We are starting on the building this summer. I am truly blessed, and I believe in miracles. 

TGForum: You also have a storied career in television, film, and theater.

Rev. Yolanda: I have been fortunate to work in film, television, theater, and web-series. There is a movie about my ministry work called Rev. Yolanda’s Old Time Gospel Hour, available on Amazon.

I have also appeared on several television shows including 30 Rock, The Dave Chapelle Show, Kimmy Schmidt, High Maintenance, and The Discovery Channel’s show Family Stories where I portrayed Vivian Wheeler, who holds the Guinness Book Of World Records title for longest beard on a female. I played Vivian, and oddly enough, look very much like her.

I have been in NYC Theater in many productions including Stonewall — The Musical, Welcome To The Doll’s Den, a play with music about the first all-female radio station in America, You Sound Like A Girl, a musical, and my own autobiographical The Church of The Alien Love Child Presents — The Passion of Rev. Yolanda, a musical with my original music.

I am also a reoccurring character for five seasons, and still going, on the YouTube web series, Skeleton Crew. I play a trans character who started the show in Season 1 as Glenn and later became Glenda.

TGForum: Talk about your newest EP creation, YolandaNanda.

Rev. Yolanda: YolandaNanda is so exciting to me that it has its very own website. Over the years as a minister, I have become extremely interested in mantras, Sikh chants, kirtan and Middle Eastern music. The mantras inspire me and give me thoughts of hope, and self-empowerment. Over the years I have combined my love of old timey gospel music with my growing love for mantra and middle eastern sounds. I have experimented with this combination on the albums Rev. Yolanda’s Country Gospel Kirtan, vols. 1 and 2.

YolandaNanda takes this interest in Middle Eastern sounds and Sikh mantras to the next level. I have been very inspired by Belinda Carlisle’s 2017 album of Sikh chants performed by Carlisle in the Gurmukhi language. I am now creating music that features the Gurmukhi chants as the main character in my songs. I also interpret the chants in English and encourage you to sing along. The official release date for the EP is August 4, 2020, however, during COVID I have been releasing a few of these songs with videos that reflect my current state of consciousness. The song, Your Eyes is one of those songs, and it specifically addresses COVID. You can see all three songs and their corresponding videos at the official website.

TGForum: The award-winning Rev. Yolanda’s Old Time Gospel Hour which you perform nationwide must provide a stomping good time?

Rev. Yolanda: Oh yes it does. It is a blend of old-fashioned southern gospel with some lyric changes for inclusivity purposes — and my own original music. I love doing this show all over the country. It has opened so many doors for me. This was the show that garnered me two MAC Awards. I am grateful that it is part of my repertoire. This show is what the movie I mentioned above is based on. I am always available to travel to a church or center to share this experience with everyone.

TGForum: Do you sing in your car at the traffic light with foolish abandon?

Rev. Yolanda: That makes me laugh. If I had a car, I probably would.

TGForum: What do you consider your proudest accomplishments over the past 3-5 years?

Rev. Yolanda: Church With A 2 Drink Minimum. Creating church in a bar is amazingly welcoming to folks who usually will not go to a church building. It gives us a chance to celebrate life in an Interfaith InterSpiritual, God Optional Transtastic space.

TGForum: How do you continue to find inspiration in your work?

Rev. Yolanda: Everything is an inspiration to me. I can write a song or create a painting about all of it. If it is good, or bad, I draw inspiration from it. Sometimes I am in a deep funky depression like lately during COVID-19 and racial injustice coming to the fore. I believe this time we are living in is a major time of human transformation. We are creating a new world to live in, where all life is valued.

TGForum: What do you value most in your day-to-day life?

Rev. Yolanda: My husband.

TGForum: Do you have a morning ritual?

Rev. Yolanda: Yes. I have a daily spiritual practice of reading the daily lesson from a book called A Course In Miracles  and singing mantras. This enlivens me and grounds me and prepares me for whatever comes my way. Also, I drink a lot of coffee every morning.

TGForum: What is the best way for TGForum readers to learn more about your work and reach out to you for any spirituality needs?

Rev. Yolanda: To learn about my work, it is The home page provides links to follow for info on my music, and ministry as well as my archives of what I have done. I am always available for spiritual counseling and bookings for anyone wants to contact me. I have a lively spiritual counseling practice which uses wisdom from many traditions, not only Christian. I will be happy to connect with anyone who needs me via email.

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About the Author ()

Shelley Anne Baker has been part of the transsexual and transgender community for six years. Wandering about the California BDSM community, she finally found her stride in making the transition to dresses and high heels. Today, her women’s apparel, and shoes outnumbers her male apparel (that she just has to have for certain occasions, but such is life). She has seriously considered HRT, but now feels life has passed her by on that count. She is a professional writer and experienced corporate brand marketing and public relations consultant. For interview consideration and participation email Shelley Anne at

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  1. RevYolanda RevYolanda says:

    Thank you so much Shelley Anne and TGForum!