by Jhanaya Belle, Alana Seldon
September 9, 2022
Photo by: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
On what marks the 12th anniversary of Dr. MaLinda Prince Sapp’s passing, TV One reflects on her life, legacy and contributions to building one of most iconic gospel music careers of all time.
The late Dr. MaLinda Prince Sapp was a force to be reckoned with. She was a devoted wife, mom, licensed therapist and all-around super woman!
Dr. MaLinda and Bishop Marvin Sapp are a true testament that Black Love can be stunning, motivating and even vital. They are proof that love can persevere as long as both individuals stay true and support each other no matter what.
Following a battle with colon cancer, which she fought into remission after her initial diagnosis, MaLinda sadly passed away on September 9, 2010 – not long after learning the cancer returned. She was 43.
Dr. Sapp was born on March 1, 1967, in Mobile, Alabama, to Barroneece and Cornelius Prince.
Marvin and MaLinda met at Grand Rapids’ Alexander Elementary School, where they both attended.
“I met MaLinda in the third grade,” Marvin told TV One. “I saw this light-skinned girl running around across the street playing tag. So, I’m walking across the street to the school, and I see her, and I said, ‘I’m going to tag that up!’”
They went on to attend the same middle and high schools and sing in the community choir together. Marvin revealed that she was even his boss at their first job at Baskin Robbins!
The pair was married for 18 years before her death. MaLinda was a true treasure to her family and her community.
She and Marvin were always connected. Even prior to dating, they were great friends until she returned home from college.
“She went off to college and came back. And when she came back, immediately I saw her in a different light. And she saw me in a different light,” he explained.
After asking him where he saw himself in five years, Marvin explained that MaLinda sparked his urge to write down his five and 10-year plans.
As her husband’s manager and executive producer on numerous albums, Mrs. Sapp actively participated in his musical career. In fact, the powerful and iconic song “Never Would Have Made It” has a lot of significance and would’ve never been heard by the world had it not been for MaLinda.
According to Bishop Sapp, the single was created through a worship experience, but was never a complete song.
“It was the Sunday after I buried my father,” he shared. “That Sunday, for some strange reason, I actually thought that I was going to be strong enough to come in and just preach, like a regular Sunday service. I walked in the door, and everything was normal. Everybody was functioning normally, and I broke down.”
While his church service is typically closed out with an original up-tempo song, Marvin told us he walked up to the pulpit on that particular Sunday, stopped them from doing everything and started singing those words: “I never would have made it.’”
The 55-year-old revealed that he didn’t want to record the song, but MaLinda pushed.
“I actually wrote two verses and a bridge to it because my wife kept nagging, nagging, nagging about me recording the song,” Marvin said. “Those two verses and that bridge people will never hear because it’s not necessary, I guess. She told me when I showed it to her, she said, ‘you done took the oil off the song. You done took the oil off the song.’ But it was a moment, and that moment happened 16 years ago.”
Thanks to Dr. MaLinda Sapp, music lovers from the worlds of gospel to hip-hop were blessed with a song that continues to impact countless lives and touch every culture.
Also endowed with the gift of teaching, MaLinda spent many years working as a college professor of psychology at Grand Rapids Community College and was a National Board-Certified Counselor.
MaLinda also served in ministry for more than 20 years, including her time as the beloved First Lady of Lighthouse Full Life Center in Grand Rapids for nearly a decade.
The Sapps founded the church in 2003 and Marvin remained Senior Pastor for 9 years after MaLinda’s passing. In 2019, Bishop Sapp announced his retirement from the ministry they birthed together and transitioned to Fort Worth, Texas to assume the role of Senior Pastor of Chosen Vessel Cathedral.
MaLinda was an active member of her community and frequently received awards for her volunteer work. She played a significant role in establishing the Grand Rapids Ellington Academy of Arts and Technology (GREAAT). Before its closing in 2017, the school was a bold initiative that offered city children practical learning opportunities.
Rhema Bible Institute, a center affiliated with Friends International Christian University, was also created by her.
After MaLinda’s passing, because of her psychological background, Bishop Sapp shared that he and their children were able to deal with and process her death as a family.
“I have a therapist, and my children had a therapist. Still do have a therapist,” he said.
He added: “it’s great to have someone to pray to, but it’s also amazing to have someone to talk to. Somebody that can help you navigate through the hills and the valleys of life. To teach you how to manage emotions, especially when your emotions can possibly be out of control.”
The Sapp’s share three children: Marvin II (now 27), Mikaila (now 24), and Madisson (now 23).
In TV One’s latest original film Never Would Have Made It: The Marvin Sapp Story, actress Ambre Anderson (“Power Book II,” “Manifest Evil”) portrays Sapp’s late wife. According to the film’s production crew, her performance got a special sign-off from MaLinda’s children.
Marvin remembers his childhood friend and life partner as “the closest thing to perfection” he’s ever seen.
“She was an amazing woman in every aspect,” he shared.
During and after the premiere on Sunday, August 21, viewers flooded social media with rave reviews about the movie, sharing that they laughed, cried, shouted, sang, and cried some more! Many also spoke to how inspiring it was to learn more about MaLinda and her role as the rock of her family.
One user wrote: “#TVOneMarvinSapp was a good tribute to the late MaLinda Sapp, wife of international gospel icon @marvinsapp. Wow! My condolences to the Sapp family as they face another September Ninth. Her legacy still thrives in Marvin II, Mikaila, and Madisson after twelve years. #GoodIsGod”
Another said: “The Marvin Sapp Story on TVOne is very touching & inspiring… MaLinda Sapp was a beautiful soul, RIP 🕊 #TVOneMarvinSapp.”
The biopic shares not only the journey of a young man who overcame personal adversities to become a worldwide gospel icon, but also the beautiful love story between him and the woman who helped him reach those heights.
We respect the legacy of the late Dr. MaLinda Prince Sapp. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Sapp family as they continue to honor their beloved wife and mother’s memory, 12 years later.
If you haven’t seen Never Would Have Made It: The Marvin Sapp Story yet, watch anytime On Demand or on the TV One app. Click here to download the app.
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