Many young, up-and-coming musical sensations get their start thanks to overzealous parents forcing them into the industry. Not so for chart-topping singer and actress Deborah Cox. Her interest in the business came from a genuine love of music.
Cox was born in Scarborough, Toronto, and she was singing in TV commercials at age 12 and performing in talent shows. In her teens, Cox began performing in nightclubs and was writing her own music. For a short period of time in the early 1990s, Cox continued her musical career as a backup vocalist for Celine Dion. In 1994, she realized that to advance her career, she would need to move to Los Angeles with her producer/songwriting partner, Lascelles Stephens.
The legendary Clive Davis signed her to Arista Records in 1995 and she released her self-titled debut album that year. It wasn’t until 1998 that the release of her album “One Wish” brought Cox huge pop success with the release of the album’s first single “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here.” The song spent 14 weeks at #1 on the Hot R&B charts in the U.S., as well as eight consecutive weeks at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album went platinum, becoming Cox’s biggest-selling album to date.
Deborah Cox has enjoyed a career that has produced multiple chart-topping hits and a Broadway debut in the Elton John-Tim Rice musical “AIDA” in 2004. In addition, she has shown her commitment to her gay fans as part of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors Tour” in 2008 and she performed at last year’s Delaware Pride celebration in Rehoboth. Cox will be making a not-to-be missed appearance at Town Danceboutique, 2009 8th St., N.W., for the Cherry Fund sanctioned event “Town Presents Deborah Cox w/ DJ Ed Bailey” on April 10. The event starts at 9 p.m. with an entry fee of $25 and the event is for ages 21 and over.
The DC Agenda talked to Cox about her career and her musical influences.
DC Agenda: You started your career at age 12. What was the pressure like starting at such a young age?
Deborah Cox: I don’t remember there being much pressure. When I started, I was having a lot of fun, working with a lot of great people. I always found the business part to be the most challenging; like when it came time to find people to represent me, it was about finding people to trust, who had the same vision. Fortunately, I found those people at an early age and I was able to move forward.
DC Agenda: You began writing music as a teenager. What was your source of inspiration?
Cox: I have always listened to a lot of different artists. I have been greatly influenced by gospel music and artists like Yolanda Adams, Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston. Those were the ones who really stood out in my mind; they really provided inspiration.
DC Agenda: What was your impression of Los Angeles having moved from Canada to pursue your career?
Cox: My initial impression of Los Angeles was that everybody was really nice. It wasn’t a genuine nice though, it was the kind of nice that you could tell there was a motive behind it. Friendly with a motive you could say. Fortunately, I was able to sift through everyone and find the real genuine people. Now that I’m away from L.A., I have so many friends I miss back there, and some great memories of the city.
DC Agenda: What was your impression of the legendary Clive Davis and how were you treated by Arista Records?
Cox: To me it was like the law of attraction. Throughout my career, so many things have happened to me based on what I’ve focused on, what I believe in, so teaming up with Clive Davis on the first go around made perfect sense. My mentor growing up was Whitney Houston and I believed so much in her talent, her gift and her voice; Clive must have heard something similar in me as he did with Whitney. Clive is a consummate song man; he lives for the music, and is totally driven by the people and vocalists that he loves. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn a lot of this business from him.
DC Agenda: “Beautiful U R” peaked at #3 on the Canadian Hot AC Chart in January 2009 and hit #1 on the U.S. dance chart, becoming your 10th song to do so. It included lyrics such as, “It takes time/Don’t have all the answers/No matter how hard it gets/Hold on to what’s inside” and “Don’t never let nobody tear your world apart/Look in the mirror and see who you are/Beautiful U R.” Why do you think the song proved so popular?
Cox: I think “Beautiful U R” was one of those songs that really resonated with the core of women. It came from the perspective that I’ve felt for a long time that during hard times you sometimes need to lean on yourself, and try and find a way through any negativity going on and really love yourself no matter what. You can’t wait for validation from the world, and that is hard sometimes for women because we are expected to do and be so much for so many people that at times we forget about ourselves. I also believe “Beautiful U R” branched off beyond women and spoke to everybody. Anyone can find a song that they can totally relate to.
DC Agenda: What projects are you working on now?
Cox: I’m currently working on my new album and I’m also preparing to be on Broadway in the role of Josephine Baker in “JOSEPHINE.”
DC Agenda: You made your Broadway debut in the Elton John-Tim Rice musical “AIDA.” What was that experience like?
Cox: I’ve been a fan of Elton John’s music for a long time; I love his songs, the lyrics and music. Elton has had a very colorful career, and I think his music is very diverse. I’ve always clung to artists who have an amazing time being very diverse, and Elton definitely is. Playing the role of Aida was definitely the opportunity of a lifetime because the songs are just so moving and I felt a lot of passion singing them.
DC Agenda: You will be appearing in D.C. at Town Danceboutique. What should your fans expect?
Cox: It’s definitely going to be high energy. I haven’t been to D.C. in a while so it’s going to be really exciting to see all my fans and reconnect with all of them. I really do love my fans so it is so exciting to get to connect one on one. I get such an adrenaline rush from performing in front of an audience, so I can’t wait to be back in D.C.
Deborah Cox lives in Miami. She is married to her manager, Lascelles Stephens. They have three children, Isaiah, Sumayah and Kaila Michelle.
Cherry Weekend event schedule
Cherry Weekend, the annual charitable lineup of gay parties and other events, arrives next week and runs from April 8-11. For full details and to purchase tickets, visit cherryfund.org. Events benefit HIV/AIDS youth service organizations. Full coverage in next week’s DC Agenda.
A partial schedule of events:
April 8: Opening party with DJ Jason Royce at Mova, 1435 P St., N.W., 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Admission is free, 21+
April 9: Dark Cherry emceed by Tim Woody at EFN Lounge, 1318 9th St., N.W., 5:30-9:30 p.m. 21+
April 9: Friday Night Party w/ DJ Alyson Calagna and opening DJ Jason Horswill at Apex, 1415 22nd St., N.W., 10 p.m.-4 a.m. Cover is $11; 18+
April 10: Moody Mia (Moody’s Birthday Party) with Joe Gauthreaux at Town, 2009 8th St., N.W., 2-7 p.m. 21+
April 10: Town Presents Deborah Cox with DJ Ed Bailey at Town, 2009 8th St., N.W., 9 p.m.-4 a.m. Cover is $25, 21+
April 11: Sunday Morning Party with DJ Susan Morabito at Cobalt, 1639 R St., N.W., 4:30-9:30 a.m. Cover is $15, 21+
April 11: Sunday Closing Party with DJ Abel and opening DJ tim e at Town, 2009 8th St., N.W., 8:30-1:30 a.m. Cover is $20, 21+