Florence LaRue, the original member of the legendary 5th Dimension, has one of the most impressive music careers in history, selling over 35 million albums, performing on stages across the world and winning six Grammy Awards.
Despite her success, it’s the moments where she’s shared God’s love, faithfulness and transforming power with those around her that the 77-year-old singer said give her the most joy.
“God has always guided my career and put me in places I never would’ve thought I’d be. My goal has always been to honor Him and follow His lead,” LaRue told The Christian Post. “I’d often thought of leaving secular music and singing Gospel music, but God told me in my spirit, ‘I want you to stay in the secular world and minister to people through your music. You don't even have to say ‘Jesus,’ and I will reveal myself through you.’”
Over her five-decade career, the artist said God has given her “quite a few opportunities” to minister to the secular world, from praying with fans struggling from past traumas to serving as the hands and feet of Jesus in her community.
“Once a young lady came up to me after the show and said, ‘I've never told anyone this, but I was molested,’” LaRue recalled, her voice breaking. “I brought one of the gentlemen from the group with me who was a Christian, and we prayed with her and ministered to her, letting her know that all men aren’t like that.”
“The older I get, the closer I become to the Lord, the more desire I have to share the Gospel with others,” she continued. “Being a member of The 5th Dimension is what I do; it’s not who I am. I’m a child of God. I am a woman who loves the Lord. And I believe He put me here for a reason.”
LaRue reflects on her award-winning career and shares the wisdom she’s gleaned over the years in her new book, Grace in Your Second Act: A Guide to Aging Gracefully. Now a great-grandmother of six, the “Sweet Blindness” singer embraces her seniority and shares how other women can find freedom and beauty in aging.
“As long as God gives us breath, we can live rather than exist. We can be productive. And even if we're not in good health, you can give someone a smile. If you don't have finances, you can give a smile. You can give encouragement. It doesn't necessarily have to be giving something material,” LaRue advised.
“I encourage young people to prepare for becoming a senior mentally, physically and spiritually, because those three things go together.”
With chapters on the topics of beauty, style and health, the artist shares how her perception of beauty has been shaped by her faith. Growing up in segregated Pennsylvania in the 1940s and '50s, LaRue said she was “always different” from those around her.
“I ended up going to an all-white school for most of my life, and on television and movies, I never saw anyone who looked like me. My idea of beauty was a cute little blonde girl like Heidi. I never felt beautiful,” she said.
But it was her God-fearing mother and grandmother who instilled the true meaning of beauty in her: “They encouraged me to not only look at the outer beauty of people and myself but to consider that God has made everything beautiful and we all have something to offer to the world that is beautiful, whether it be personality or talent or whatever He has blessed us with,” she said.
Still, LaRue said she grew up with a keen awareness of what society considered beautiful.
“For a while, when I was younger, I would try to adjust to what everyone thought was beautiful. However, the older I became, the more the prayers my mother and grandmother prayed over me impacted my heart, affecting my idea of what beauty truly is," she said.
As a young woman, LaRue moved to California, where she won beauty pageants and sought to be a “movie star and a teacher.” Through an unlikely series of events, she landed in The 5th Dimension. The group would go on to dominate Billboard charts with classics including “One Less Bell to Answer,” “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” “Wedding Bell Blues” and “Sweet Blindness.”
“I didn’t set out to be a singer, but that’s where God placed me,” she said with a chuckle. “I wanted to get into show business for fame and fortune. But when God answered those prayers, He then gave me a challenge: ‘What are you going to do with these gifts?’"
Today, LaRue is the only remaining original member of The 5th Dimension and continues to tour nationwide. She’s also an active member of The Church On The Way in Van Nuys, California. Everywhere she goes, the singer wears a ring, emblazoned with Jesus on the cross, given to her by an audience member years ago.
“I wear it to remind me — and I get emotional when I think about it — I wear it to remind me that, even when it’s hard, I’m where God wants me to be, I'm doing what He wants me to do,” she said.
As she enters her “second act,” LaRue is encouraging others to embrace their God-given destiny — something she believes God reveals in the stillness, through prayer. She expressed hope that her book will play a small part in helping readers discover that truth for themselves.
LaRue concluded: “My prayer is that this book will bless people. I pray that it will encourage whoever reads it to say, ‘Hey, whatever happens, I'm OK. I'm God's child. He made me, and I'm beautiful.”