In 1987 Della Reese-Lett, world famous singer, actress and television personality, was ordained as a minister by the Universal Foundation for Better Living, an organization of twenty-two member churches and study groups worldwide, founded by The Reverend Doctor Johnnie Colemon. Reverend Della, as she is lovingly called, founded Understanding Principles for Better Living Church (UP) in Los Angeles, California in order to provide others with the opportunity to know members of UP Church are able to share the wisdom, revelations, and inspirations of one of this country's great spiritual leaders. Her lesson/sermons, based upon the teachings of Jesus Christ, give all who are seeking practical ways to learn and apply the Principles that will allow them to have a better life.
Singer and actress Della Reese, was born as as Delloreese Patricia Early in Detroit, Michigan, on July 6, 1931. Reverend Della's walk with God started when she was a child in Detroit, Michigan. She began singing in church when she was six years old. Through those formative years she was involved in gospel singing. At the age of 13, she was hired by the Late Mahalia Jackson to tour and perform with her. As Reverend Della recalls, "This opportunity to sing with the 'world's foremost gospel singer' was a thrilling experience." Later, while majoring in psychology at Wayne State University, in Detroit, Della formed her own female gospel group, "The Meditation Singers", which is listed in the "Who's Who of Gospel Music".
While her roots were still in gospel Music, Della developed an individual popular style that took her to national prominence. In 1953, she made the move to New York City, became a vocalist with the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra. Her early recordings include: "In The Still of The Night", "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm", and "Time After Time". Della had her first major hit with "And That Reminds Me (of you)". In 1959, Della enjoyed her biggest hit, a tune adapted from puccini's "La Boheme", entitled "Don't You Know?" and was nominated for a Grammy as best female vocalist. This led to Della performing for the next nine years in Las Vegas on the famed "Strip". In the thirty years that followed "Don't You Know?" Della Reese has continued her string recordings and was again nominated for a Grammy in 1987 as best female soloist in Gospel.
A generous amount of television exposure followed Della's first recording successes. In the late '50's and early '60's, she appeared on many television shows that are now considered classics. She was also the first female to host "The Tonight Show". She was soon asked to host her own talk show, "Della", (making her the first Black woman to host her own show) which was syndicated nationally in 1969-70.
Television, which became the major medium of the '70's and '80's, saw a lot of Della. Later she was to star in her own series, "The Royal Family" with Redd Foxx. Della's received an Emmy nomination for her work in the television movie "Nightmare in Badham County".
The most recent of her television pursuits is the CBS dramatic series, "Touched By An Angel" which is in it's seventh season, and where her two talents are combined as she also sings the theme song. Della's television work was honored in 1994, as she received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Despite the demands of filming a television series in Salt Lake City, Utah, Rev. Della continues to make the trip to Los Angeles weekly so that she can continue to teach, instruct and inspire. Through her devotion, dedication and determination, what began with eight (8) people around her dining room table has grown into a Love and Spirit-filled ministry which now has a weekly attendance of close to 300. Rev. Della's message of Practical Christianity has been an inspiration to so many and the church is growing so rapidly that plans for UP's new church home are underway.
Della Reese is more than an entertainer, more than an actress, more than a minister - Della is living proof that with God as your partner, you can dream larger dreams and watch them come true.