Metro Weekly

Kirsten Wyatt on Tammy Faye Bakker and “Born For This”

Kirsten Wyatt plays late pro-gay televangelist Tammy Faye in Arena's "Born For This"

Born for This - Photo: Greg Mooney
Born for This – Photo: Greg Mooney

“The thing I love about Tammy,” says Kirsten Wyatt, “is that her heart was true. Despite all her outrageousness and her makeup and her clothes and just sort of the way that she was, she was never disingenuous. She really did believe that God is for everyone, no matter who you are.”

Unlike most other prominent Christian conservatives, televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker Messner had an accepting view of homosexuality, even appearing in gay pride parades in the years before her death in 2007. “She was the first person on Christian television to interview someone with AIDS,” Wyatt says. That was in 1985, a time when the Reagan Administration had yet to publicly recognize the disease. Tammy and her then-husband Jim Bakker were also the first to integrate Christian television in the ’80s, which is why they feature in the musical Born For This: The BeBe Winans Story, now having its world premiere at Arena Stage.

“There would be no BeBe and CeCe without Jim Bakker,” Wyatt, who plays Tammy in the show. “Jim is the one who put them together as a duo.” The Winans were teenagers when they moved away from Detroit to join the Bakker’s Praise The Lord network in North Carolina as the only African-American PTL Singers. “[The Bakkers] really understood the responsibility that went along with it,” Wyatt says. “They spent a lot of time protecting BeBe and CeCe,” to the point “they became like parents to them.”

The inspirational musical doesn’t go into detail about Tammy Faye’s pro-gay stances, since those mostly took shape after the Winans had left PTL and became Grammy-winning recording artists in their own right. But it does convey the tolerance at heart. “It’s about family and what family means,” Wyatt says. “We have our blood family and then we have the family that we create. I love the fact that Jim and Tammy and BeBe and CeCe in no other circumstance would ever probably be together, but they became a family because of it.”

A West Virginia native, the New York-based Wyatt says Tammy Faye is one of her favorite roles she’s yet played on stage, right up there with Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls and Agnes Gooch in Mame. And she couldn’t have had a better cast with which to make her D.C. debut: “Our cast consists of gay, straight, black, white. It’s been a really incredible experience and really wonderful group of people.”

Born For This runs to Aug. 28 at Arena Stage’s Kreeger Theater, 1101 6th St. SW. Call 202-488-3300 or visit

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