Actresses Tia and Tamera Mowry are best known as the stars of Sister, Sister, their 1994 to '99 sitcom about twins separated at birth who end up meeting each other in a shopping mall. The show had six successful seasons and continues in reruns on the Disney Channel. But the acting started much earlier in their lives.
When Tia and Tamera were 8 years old, they asked neighborhood friends Ron, Vanessa, and Tameya to come over and "play church." The twins sang songs like "Go Tell It on the Mountain"—music they learned from their mother who sang in the choir. Then it was time for the preaching. Tamera remembers her messages: Be good, and love your neighbors as you love yourself. "It wasn't anything deep," she says, "because at that age, of course, we didn't understand everything."
The Mowry girls might not have grasped the intricacies of adult faith, but they knew how to mimic what they were seeing at their own church. Their play-sermons would involve prayers and invitations to receive Christ as Savior. "Then we used to lay hands on people and they'd fall out," Tamera laughs.
Tia says her faith became more real in her teenage years. "I didn't know why I was going to church. I didn't know why I was reading my Bible. I didn't really know why I was praying," she told
Adds Tamera, "Our grandmother always taught us that you've got to know Jesus for yourself. You've got to get into that Word for yourself! But I think I was about 15 or 16 when I realized: You know what? I have to be real for Christ. And that's when you grow."
Unlike other professed Christians in the spotlight, Tia and Tamera remained close to the Lord during the height of their popularity. "My sister and I—not naming any names—run into so many people who say before they get famous, 'I will never [compromise],'" Tia says thoughtfully. But then they get famous, and "all of the sudden we see them taking their clothes off."
Fame is a strange phenomenon. Whoever sells the most magazines, records, and movie tickets gets treated like a god. And in Hollywood, the worship of celebrity even infiltrates the unlikeliest of places—church.
Tia and Tamera used to attend a large church in Los Angeles renowned for the famous faces that populate its services. "We started going there before it was a huge church," recalls Tia. But it later became "the place" for the stars to worship, and attendance boomed.
Soon, the sisters realized the church showed favoritism towards celebrities. "Yeah, you had special parking spots," Tia laments. "Some people got offended when they'd let that basketball player in [a special parking spot] and they'd been going to this church a lot longer." The sisters became uncomfortable with the lack of equality. "Jesus Christ wants everybody to see that whether you're rich or poor, a doctor or a janitor, God sees us all the same and looks at our heart," says Tia.
The parking situation was not all. The famous twins used to be escorted to the front for special seats. "My sister and I are not really that type of people. We don't see ourselves as celebrities," Tia insists. Still, she says, it wasn't just the church staff: "One time, I had my hands lifted up. I was crying and praising God, and then someone touched me on my left side and said, 'Can I have your autograph?' That was extremely odd—how someone could forget where you are."
Tamera says that although church is for fellowship, it's also personal time. "When I praise and worship God, I like to block everything out. To have 50 people stare at you while you're worshiping feels weird."