Looking back at 2013, TheBlaze spoke with many fascinating news-makers, religious leaders and entertainers. Among the common themes addressed in these exchanges were faith, American culture and overcoming and coping with personal challenges.
Below, we've selected 10 of the most fascinating interviews of the year (in no particular order). While not all of the individuals featured are "celebrities," each has an informative or inspirational message or story worth revisiting as we begin the new year.
Dr. Ben Carson, Neurosurgeon
Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon renowned for his stellar medical career, received an elevated level of attention after he delivered a pointed speech at the National Prayer Breakfast back in February, addressing a plethora of social and political issues from a conservative perspective just feet away from President Barack Obama.
Dr. Benjamin Carson speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton February 7, 2013 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama reportedly used the occasion to call for unity and common ground Washington politics. (Credit: Getty Images)
In an interview with TheBlaze last year, Carson shared his motivation for delivering that message, the presidentâ��s reaction to it and his views about the purportedly unspoken rule that African Americans should refrain from criticizing Obama. Read the entire interview here.
Joel Osteen, Christian Preacher
Famed preacher Joel Osteen is oft-times criticized for being too soft on theology, but he made it clear to us that he believes embracing Jesus is essential. Just being a moral person, Osteen argued, isnâ��t enough â�� in the end itâ��s all about the connection one has with Christ.
Televangelist and best-selling author, Joel Osteen, right, and his wife, Victoria, left (Credit: AP Photo/Jessica Kourkounis)
â��To me, itâ��s very good to be a moral person â�� thatâ��s very commendable. But our message is about a relationship with Christ,â�� he said. â��You know, to me, thatâ��s when you have salvation, your connection with the Creator of the universe.â��
Experiencing God and the love of Christ, he says, opens up the human heart and allows people to enjoy â��a new level of really being able to love people.â�� Read the full interview here.
Jason Roy, Lead Singer of Building 429
Singer Jason Roy is anything but coy when it comes to speaking his mind on a wide array of issues. The lead voice behind Building 429, a Christian band that has quickly become known as one of the most successful and popular in the faith-based music industry, spoke with TheBlaze last year about his groupâ��s latest record, â��We Wonâ��t Be Shakenâ�� and he also shared his candid social and political views.
Building 429 lead singer Jason Roy (Image source: @JasonRoy429 on Twitter)
â��I heard Rick Warren say that he doesnâ��t have a problem [with gay people] having the same rights as a married couple. I completely agree with that. I donâ��t understand why someone who lived with someone else [for] years â�� [why] they cant inherit their belongings," he said of gay marriage. "While I do believe that the Bible specifically says that the act of homosexuality [is a sin], Iâ��m not going to cast a stone, because I sin a 1,000 times a day."
Ann Romney, Wife of 2012 Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney
Ann Romney, 64, spoke with us this past fall about her book, "The Romney Family Table," her family and life following the contentious 2012 presidential campaign.
Former Republican presidential candidate and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and wife Ann Romney sit ringside before Manny Pacquiao takes on Juan Manuel Marquez in their welterweight bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on December 8, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Credit: Getty Images)
She described how "The Romney Family Table" grew from a personal project to a much larger endeavor.
â��I wanted to leave a legacy for my children and grandchildren. It started off as just a small project and kind of grew,â�� she told TheBlaze of the cookbook and family story. â��It started off as just being a collection of recipes, and then it changed to a story.â��
Romney, a devout Mormon, also told TheBlaze about the importance of her religious views in her everyday life and the parenting process. Read what she had to say here.
Steven Sharp, Ex-Wrestler and Inspirational Dad
He was once a tough guy â�� a wrestler who hoped to make a career out of throwing other guys around the ring. Now, Steven Sharp is a stay-at-home dad and a loving caregiver.
Sharp during his wrestling days (Image credit: Twitter/@disableddad)
Due to a medical error, his daughter, Samantha, experienced a lack of oxygen to the brain during her delivery on Feb. 2, 2006. His wife, too, had complications during the natural birth when the baby became â��stuck,â�� resulting in a condition called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Now, he delivers around-the-clock care to the young girl.
â��She doesnâ��t speak. She never will. She doesnâ��t walk, she doesnâ��t laugh, she doesnâ��t cry,â�� Sharp told TheBlaze.
Read his harrowing story.
Elizabeth Smart, Kidnapping Victim and Advocate
This year, Elizabeth Smart for the first time shared all of the grisly details about her nine months in captivity after she was abducted from her bedroom a decade ago. Of particular note, she told TheBlaze about the surprisingly positive impact the horrific scenario had on her faith.
In this May 7, 2013, file photo, Elizabeth Smart talks with a reporter before an interview in Park City, Utah. (Credit: AP)
â��My parents have always raised me believing in a kind and loving God who cares about each of his children here on earth,â�� she told TheBlaze. â��When I was kidnapped and being told that all of these things were done because God commanded it â�� it made my personal faith stronger, because I knew God would never demand these things.â��
Read more about her story here.
Frank Newport, Editor-in-Chief of Gallup
With so much talk of faith in America being on the decline, Frank Newport's views on the matter provided a more positive assessment of what is actually going on when it comes to theology in the U.S.
Part of the intrigue surrounding Newportâ��s research comes from his assertion that religion in \ America is actually much healthier than many critics allege.
Gallup's editor-in-chief Frank Newport (Photo Credit: Frank Newport)
In an interview with TheBlaze, he spoke about Gallupâ��s intensive research, as presented in his book, â��God Is Alive and Well.â�� Rather than agreeing with some critics that faith is dying, Newport took a very different view.
â��Faith and religion is very much alive and well â�� a key point is, itâ��s changing,â�� the researcher told TheBlaze. â��The wayÂ people manifest theirÂ religiosityÂ has changed over time. Thatâ��s not unusual.â�� Read his perspective here.
Rion Paige, Singer
Thirteen-year-old Rion Paige captivated the country when she showed up to audition for "The X Factor." Rion suffers from arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a disease that has left her wrist joints deformed. Sheâ��s also nearly blind in her right eye. Singing, though, has been her therapy, as she is using it to both confront and process her struggles.
Singer Rion Paige (Photo Credit: Rion Paige's Official Facebook)
TheBlaze spoke with her last year about her faith and how she stays so positive.
â��It sounds like itâ��s really complicated, but not, honestly: I go to church,â�� she said. â��I let God do it through me. Itâ��s not something I try to do â�� itâ��s something that comes out of me.â��
Read Rion's full story.
Tullian Tchividjian, Christian Pastor
Tullian Tchividjian,Â senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church inÂ Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is forcing Christians to take a profound look at the way theyâ��re living their lives â�� and embracing faith. His latest book, â��One Way Love,â�� even encourages readers â��to get drunk on grace.â��
Pastor Tullian Tchividjian (Credit: Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church)
Sure, that phrase may sound odd on the surface, butÂ Tchividjian, grandson of famed evangelist Billy Graham, believes that Christians need to recapture the heart and soul of the faith. Rather than focusing on rigid rules and a tough-to-cook-up recipe for â��being good,â�� he hopes to see the church return to its grace-centered roots.
â��I think the main premise is that we are exhausted people. Everybody Iâ��ve talked to is exhausted. People are exhausted spiritually, theyâ��re exhausted relationally, theyâ��re exhausted emotionally, theyâ��re exhausted physically,â�� he said. â��And theyâ��re not exhausted because their life is busy; theyâ��re exhausted because, through their busy life, theyâ��re trying to secure meaning, worth, significance, purpose.â��
Read Tchividjian's complete interview here.
The Barbi Twins, Former Playboy Models
Shane and Sia Barbi, both 50, became familiar faces after posing for Playboy Magazine in 1991. Their meteoric rise tossed them into the Hollywood limelight, as they were regularly seen with A-list actors and were among the most famous models of the 1990s. But where are they now?
The Barbi Twins (Image source: YouTube)
In an interview with TheBlaze, the twin sisters opened up, sharing their past struggles with bulimia and self-image and, perhaps most shockingly, they detailed their views on the Christian faith and the nationâ��s political schema. While they were once pop culture icons, they are now involved, to varying degrees, in animal activism and current affairs.
Read it here.