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Jaci Velasquez sticks to her beliefs

While most 18 year olds are preparing for college and venting at “Scream” movies, Jaci Velasquez has her hands full with her self-titled second Myrrh/Word/Epic album and holding on to her reign as the leading Christian pop female artist.

Whether mainstream radio looks beyond the seemingly loaded phrase “Christian music” and latches onto such instantly accessible pop tracks as “God So Loved the World” and “Glory” is the big question.

“I’m going to continue doing songs that are important to me, songs that have important messages, whether it’s my faith or spirituality or real-life issues,” Velasquez said recently. “If they become popular, that would be cool, really very cool, but that never would’ve entered my wildest dreams for that to happen.”

Velasquez never imagined herself as a successful singer – her 1996 debut album, “Heavenly Place,” was certified gold and her latest album is at No. 97 this week on Billboard’s pop chart – or as young America’s version of Amy Grant. In fact, the Nashville-based singer never imagined singing for a living, period.

“As a little child, I wasn’t trying to be a singer,” she said. “Mom and Dad would sometimes make me get up and sing, then one day I was kind of at the right place at the right time, the right person heard me and brought me to this record label. I knew that I loved to sing, and I was like, ‘Okay, whatever.’

“When I recorded the first album, I was hoping people would like it, that it wouldn’t be a disappointment to the record label or a disappointment to people around me. After the success of the first record, I went, ‘Okay, what happened?’ Everything’s happened so fast. I’m barely catching my breath now, and I put out the second album and it’s kind of in the same place, I was hoping it wouldn’t disappoint anyone, but knowing that I can’t please everybody, it made it easier.”

Velasquez’s youthful R&B counterpart, Brandy, recently told TV Guide that she wished she could smudge her own goody-two-shoes image every now and then. Like Brandy, Velasquez said, she’s human, too, and she has likes and dislikes.

“I know I’m a good girl,” Velasquez said. “I do have my wild side, not a hard-core wild side or anything, but I’m a good girl. I have things I believe in. I believe in God, and I sing about it. I believe in sexual abstinence. I’m one person who’s made a commitment to keep myself pure and not have sex until I get married. People go, ‘That’s weird,’ but that’s something I did because it’s something I believe in.”

Being a role model for kids comes with the territory, and Velasquez accepts it, with reservations.

“I have little girls coming to me,” she said, “and going, ‘Jaci, I want to be just like you when I grow up.’ I’m like, ‘No, you don’t. Don’t say that, that’s too much pressure on me.’ That means I have to do everything right, and in actuality, I can’t do everything right, but I’m going to try my best.”

BWF (before we forget): There’s a heavenly place for Jaci Velasquez on the Web @

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