June 12, 2020
Music legend Ray Charles' daughter, Sheila, lived a problematic life consisting of drug abuse, sexual abuse, incarceration, and neglect.
Sheila Raye Charles went through a tough life. The singer was raised by her mother in Ohio and never met her father, Ray Charles until she was a teenager. The vocalist also faced challenges being in her own children's life.
Sheila was repeatedly abused as a child and eventually moved to Los Angeles to live with her uncle to establish a relationship with her long-lost father. However, the move did not go as planned as she moved back to Ohio less than 12 months later — before running away to North Carolina.
The troubled teen was also a victim of a ghastly motor accident that lodged her right eye into the back of her skull, requiring numerous years of recovery.
Shortly after, she moved back with her mother, this time in Los Angeles, in an attempt to follow her father's footsteps in the music industry. Sheila consulted with her father for music advice and tried to make a name for herself.
She toured with various artists and producers and was voted New Artist of the Minnesota Black Music Awards in 1990. However, despite her progress, the musician struggled with scars from her childhood. She recalled:
" For a variety of reasons, I was unable to break free from my troubled youth and fell further into a dependency on drugs."
Sheila endured rejection from her family and got addicted to cocaine, as she resorted to drugs to numb the pain. In her autobiography: "Behind the Shades," sherecalled that she used to steal presents
from underneath her family Christmas tree to sell in exchange for drugs.
The artiste also became a mother of five children — one of whom was born prematurely, with a hole in the 14-ounce child's heart.
Sheila's drug abuse cost the songwriter custody of all her children. The performer was also incarcerated three times and became estranged from her father.
Shortly after her mother passed away, Sheila went to prison for the third time — in what was the lowest point in her life. The singer then turned to religion, kicked her drug habits, and became a devout Christian.
She wed Michael "Tony" Steptoe in 2010, although she remained alienated from her children until 2011 when Tony arranged a reunion with them.
Sheila and her husband worked at the "One Way Up Prison Ministry," where they went from prison to prison and used their life stories to encourage inmates to improve their lives.
They also founded "No More Chains," a non-profit organization committed to the fight against addiction, incarceration, and human trafficking.
Charles ultimately reconnected with most of her children and spent every moment she could with her grandchildren.
She passed away in June 2017, at the age of 53, after a battle with breast cancer. Memorials were held in Sheila's honor in both her hometown, Ohio and Florida, where she lived with her husband.