A GoPride Interview

Deborah Cox

“Here” and now: an interview with Deborah Cox

Thu. June 13, 2013  by Gregg Shapiro

I'm looking forward to Pride Fest. I'm thrilled that I'll be back and doing some new music, too.
Deborah Cox
In her own way, Deborah Cox has redefined the modern soul diva. The Canadian singer got her big break stateside with the release of her eponymous debut album, containing the hit single "Sentimental." But it was with her second album, One Wish, that Cox achieved superstar status. A pair of the disc's ballads, "Things Just Ain't The Same," and especially "Nobody's Supposed To Be Here" underwent a transformation at the hands of remixer Hex Hector to become instant dance-floor classics. In addition to recording a couple of more modern R&B albums, Cox turned her attention to the work of Dinah Washington on her tribute disc Destination Moon. Cox, who could also be seen acting on TV and in movies, made another major career move when she performed the lead role in the Elton John/Tim Rice musical Aida and most recently in the Frank Wildhorn musical Jekyll & Hyde. I spoke with Cox, who is performing at Chicago Pride Fest on Sunday, June 23, about her career and gay audience in May 2013.

GS: (Gregg Shapiro) Deborah, almost 20 years into your career as a recording career, what would say was the high point, so far?

DC: (Deborah Cox) There have been many high points. Because I've learned over the years not to take anything for granted, I've made a point to acknowledge all of the moments along the way. Getting the record deal and being in the studio with Whitney Houston. Presenting at the Grammys and being nominated for a Grammy. Landing my first time on Broadway in Aida, originating a role and re-originating a role on Broadway in Jekyll & Hyde. There have been many moments that have been really monumental and career building. I think there are different moments and pinnacles in every stage of your life. I don't like to say it was just one moment.

GS: Your hit single, the ballad "Nobody's Supposed to Be Here," was one of the most successful dance remixes in history, when the ballad was transformed by Hex Hector, elevating you to full-fledged dance diva status. Do you recall how you felt at that time about the changes being made to the song?

DC: I remembered hearing the song for the first time and completely feeling like that song was going to be one that changed the game and changed my life. It was one of those songs that really resonated -- the way it was written, the style. I felt like if I gave it the right vocal performance it was going to be one of those songs that stood the test of time. Then we talked about doing the remix for the song. At that point I had to remain open-minded. If you remember, there were still a few hits that led up to that point. There was "Things Just Ain't The Same" and "Who Do U Love" preceding that. So it was important that we lived up to the expectations of what the dance community wanted. When Hex Hector played the track, we were all in LA at the time, we felt really good about it. Once I went in and started to sing it and give it this "new life" [laughs] it took on a life of its own. So that version really became its own stand-alone version along with the ballad version. There are people who only know the dance version and had discovered that there was a ballad version. That's how strong the dance version was and how much that song anchored worldwide success for me, putting me in a different lane. I feel so blessed by it because it allowed me to be taken seriously as one who could do both, sing in all styles.

GS: As someone who has a history of topping the Billboard Dance and Club charts, when did you first become aware are you of your following in the gay community?

DC: The moment I noticed it, the moment for me was during a Pride weekend in New York City. I was standing on a huge stage at Palladium at 5:30 in the morning [laughs] and I was looking at a sea of gay men [laughs]. That was the moment when I realized that this is something that is not ever going to change. It's something that is going a part of my life and part of my legacy forever. I embraced it [laughs] and after the show went and had breakfast [big laugh].

GS: That's great! It's been about 5 years since your last studio album, is there a new one in the works?

DC: There is a new album in the works. I would like to have a nice vacation first before I go full on into recording. I really haven't had that much time off, so I'm really looking forward to lying out at a beach, really relaxing. The studio and music and records will always be part of what I do.

GS: You've been very busy in recent years performing in Broadway musicals such as Jekyll & Hyde and Aida. What do you like best about your stage acting career?

DC: The stage acting and dancing is what brings me back to what made me fall love with this business in the first place which was being a part of a huge production and singing songs with an orchestra. Seeing the audience being moved and taken on a journey during a show and leaving with an amazing message. That's what it's always been about from me. It's always been about connecting with people and moving people in a way that'll motivate them in a positive way. That may sound cliché but it's really that simple to me.

GS: You have also acted in movies. Are there any upcoming movie roles of which we should be aware?

DC: I haven't been actively seeking that, but it's something that I definitely want to keep in the equation. I've got my agent looking at that as well.

GS: You are performing at Chicago's Pride Fest in June. What does performing at Pride Fest mean to you?

DC: Chicago is such a great city. I performed at (Northalsted) Market Days a couple of years ago. I remember it was really hot [laughs]! That was a really fun experience. We were in Chicago for Jekyll & Hyde back in March (2013), but it was so cold I didn't get a chance to really do much because of the schedule then. I'm looking forward to Pride Fest. I think it's going to be a really fun show. It will connect me with the audience that discovered "Nobody's Supposed To Be Here." In Chicago, WGCI was the first radio station to play the ballad version. The very first station that believed in the song and decided to play it. It's always, again, a moment I recognize and appreciate because you guys were the ones that heard it and got it first. I'm thrilled that I'll be back and doing some new music, too.

GS: Minnesota just became the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage and Illinois may become the 13th. If a same-sex couple asked you to sing at their wedding, what song would you sing and why?

DC: [Laughs] Usually that's a personal thing. I always ask the couple. I've done one (same-sex wedding) already. Sometimes it's one of my songs and sometimes it's other songs that have brought them together. I'm an advocate (for same-sex marriage). To me love is love, and that's it, love is love.

Chicago Pride Fest is Saturday, June 22 and Sunday, June 23. The 44th Annual Chicago Pride Parade is Sunday, June 30. For more on Chicago's Pride events in June visit the ChicagoPride.com Pride Guide. Follow ChicagoPride.com on Twitter @GoPride.


Interviewed by Gregg Shapiro. Gregg Shapiro is both a literary figure and a music and literary critic. As an entertainment journalist, his work appears on ChicagoPride.com and is syndicated nationally.