"THEY CALLED ME PAT THE Rat, because I was so skinny," says Christian singer Patty Cabrera of her tomboy years in Riverside, Calif. "I wasn't bodacious in any way." What a difference a few years can make. Now 27, the 57", 126-lb. Cabrera has a broad smile and compassionate brown eyes that make her a sensational billboard for the spiritual life. Says Christian music star Michael W. Smith: "Her real beauty is her character and integrity and who she is as a person." That inner person needed time to blossom too. In 1991, Cabrera, the daughter of a Cuban father and a Puerto Rican mother, had a slow-moving album of Christian music. But, unhappy with the direction of her life and work, she took five years off to meditate. The answer: use her own Latina-pop musical roots to celebrate the faith. Since then, Cabrera has revved up crowds at Billy Graham revivals, and in March she issued a CD, Always and Forever
(in English and Spanish versions), which draws from such influences as Janet Jackson
and Miami Sound Machine. With new enthusiasm, she says, "I feel like I'm on God's freight train to wherever He's going." On the journey, Cabrera cares for herself with a minimum of makeup and a maximum of healthy living. Some things, though, are beyond earthly control. Her hair "has a mind of its own," she says. "It reminds me of a rebellious teenager."