The legendary Deborah Cox will be in town in November headlining Phoenix Pride fresh off her sold-out show with DJ D-Nice at the Hollywood Bowl, and rave reviews for her role as Regina on The First Wives Club series — not to mention the hotly-anticipated Station Eleven on HBO Max this December.
We caught up with one of our favorite, most powerful and multitalented R&B divas to hear what she has planned for her Phoenix appearance.
You’ve performed in Arizona and Phoenix before. What is your impression of the people and the culture here?
Deborah: I’ve performed in and around Phoenix and Arizona a few times throughout my career. My last show was with The Bodyguard and the audiences were incredible. Every time I visit, I’m reminded of the welcoming energy and the infectious positivity that all of the audiences and fans here hold.
You are headlining Phoenix Pride — what does Pride mean to you and do you have a message for the Arizona LGBTQ community this year?
Deborah: The opportunity to headline Phoenix Pride is, and has always been, so special to me. I first headlined Phoenix Pride in 2009, and I remember feeling so inspired by the members of the audience and their own individual stories and strengths. I’m so excited to be back to connect with the community in Phoenix, and I hope that they feel the love and support that I have for them through my performance.
How far back does your connection with our community go?
Deborah: My connection with the LGBTQ+ community goes as far back as when the norm was to be in the closet and underground. I’m amazed and inspired by the persistence and resilience that the community has continuously shown since then. I feel so grateful to have such a longstanding connection with its members, who aren’t afraid to live their truths and speak their minds. Their rawness and ingenuity are traits that I really admire.
The pandemic has been hard on everyone but especially I think for live performers. How have you spent your time away from audiences and how does it feel to be performing live gigs again?
Deborah: I took a lot of time during the pandemic to reset, refresh, and spend time with my family. Amidst the hardship, I think it was a unique opportunity for many of us to connect with our loved ones on a deeper level. I was also thankful for the extra time that the pandemic gave me to work on new music and acting projects to continue connecting with fans when physical performances weren’t possible. But, after over a year apart, it’s comforting and so exhilarating to be back doing what I love most with fans all over the world.
You did a duet with Whitney Houston called "Same Script, Different Cast" - what was the story behind that song and how do you look back on that experience working with such a legend?
Deborah: We recorded “Same Script, Different Cast” for Whitney’s Greatest Hits project in 2000. I have always looked up to Whitney, long before our collaboration, so to get to work with her on this song was nothing short of a dream. The song, itself, is incredibly special to me, and since Whitney never performed many duets, I feel so blessed to have gotten that one-on-one moment with her and to have learned so much from her throughout that experience and the friendship that followed.
You also worked early on with Céline Dion — what did she teach you as a performer?
Deborah: Working with Céline Dion was amazing. She gives the audience everything she has and connects with them on such a deep level. Because of that, she really instilled the importance of discipline in taking care of your voice. It’s something that I’ll take with me forever and has obviously been an essential part of my career and my health, and I’m really thankful to have been able to learn from someone as talented as her.
You are such a strong voice in contemporary R & B and I personally feel you helped open the door to singers like Alicia Keys by helping to keep that genre of music so powerful and vibrant. What do you like particularly about this type of music and how does it fit with your own soul?
Deborah: What I’ve always admired about R&B is the soulfulness and rawness that it portrays to its audience. The emphasis on honesty and transparency is something that I try to place at the forefront of all of my music, and my hope is that fans feel it, can relate to it, and might be comforted by it during a time when they might be feeling like they’re the only one who has ever felt a certain emotion. To me, the backbones of R&B are complementary—comfort combined with strength—and I think that’s why the genre has the unique ability to inspire, uplift, and unite.
You are originally from Canada — how have you viewed these last few years in American politics and do you have any views or beliefs as an outsider that this country can unite and get over some of its wounds and struggles?
Deborah: No matter the situation, I think that reminding ourselves of the importance of love and acceptance is crucial. I think that we are far less divided than we are led to believe, and that our politics are one of the main vehicles that continue to drive us apart. Sometimes, it’s easy to get wrapped up in political issues and debates but, at its core, unity can only be achieved if we accept one another for who we are.
It doesn’t mean that we always have to agree, but it does require a certain degree of respect for differing opinions. I think that’s one of the many reasons why I’ve always held the LGBTQ+ community in such high regard and believed that they have so much to offer the rest of society—their attitude and the way that they go about life is what we need more of to achieve the social environment that we are striving for.