Girls Night Out: Deborah Cox leads all-female line-up for Pride’s SP2 concert

By : Jeremy Williams
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Cemented as an integral piece in the total St. Pete Pride package, the SP2 Concert kicks down the door to Pride weekend every year and raises the excitement decibels that carry the energy through the parade and festival.

The all-female line-up, which will take the stage June 24 at 26thand Central, will be headlined by legendary dance diva Deborah Cox, and she will be joined that night by St. Pete’s own soulful, powerhouse voice Jennifer Real and the rocking goddesses of Karmic Tattoo.

Cox took a few moments from her busy schedule to speak with Watermark about her upcoming music and theater projects, as well as why she has so much pride for the community.

You have been very busy in the Tampa Bay and Central Florida area lately. Besides spending a month in Sarasota on stage in Josephine, which I want to ask you more about in a minute, you just played the Parliament House for Gay Days and you are playing St. Pete Pride at the end of the month, both events you have played before. What is it about the area that keeps bringing you back?
The people. I mean firstly the interest that the people at the Asolo Theatre had in the Josephine property was just amazing. They were really forward in thinking as far as what needed to be the next phase of the show, so it was really nice that they came on board and allowed our production to take over the city. We had a sold out run there and I got chance to connect with a lot of really amazing people. Gay Days has become kind of a staple for me if it works out with our schedules. It is always a fun party to perform at and there is so much love there. I go back a ways with the LGBT community, so I just love to perform at Pride and give the fans a chance to see the show and hear the songs and come party with me.

You do play a lot of Pride and LGBT events. Why is it so important to you to perform at Prides?
I think it’s important to backup what I believe and feel passionately about, and that’s that I have always been a person that believes in equality and inclusion. This community has been a huge part of my fan base and supportive of whatever endeavors I’ve decided to do. So I try to find the opportunity where it can work and party with the fans. It’s a very special group of people to me. I have a lot of fan bases – the R&B fans, the ones who the jazz stuff I do – but the LGBT community is very, very close to my heart. I understand that struggle, so it holds a special place in my heart when I get the chance to perform at a Pride event.

The line-up that St. Pete Pride has this year is an all-female line-up, they have some amazing local female performers and then you are headlining. Is it more empowering or energetic knowing that the girls will be rocking it out that night?
It’s always great when you get to share the comradery. Years ago I did Lilith Fair with Sarah McLachlan,  Sheryl Crow, The Dixie Chicks, Missy Elliott; it was quite a moment. I love moments where we can celebrate being women in the craft. There can be a lot of hardships that come with the territory, you’re too bitchy if you stand up for yourself but if you don’t stand up for yourself then you get walked all over, so it’s wonderful to get into that space with a community of women who represent the same things I do so that is going to be fun.

A lot of people don’t realize this, but you are Canadian and you got to go home to Toronto and perform at World Pride when it was there in 2014. St. Pete Pride is putting in a bid for World Pride to bring it here in 2022 for our 20th anniversary. Any insight on what we can expect as someone who has been to one?
Oh man, it is just one of those moments where the whole world is on one chord, the essence of the festival is just a really moving experience. It’s like being at the Olympics, Mardi Gras and Pride all at the same time. You just feel the energy of the people and how much as a community they have progressed, so that energy goes into the performances, it goes into the parties, it permeates into the streets during the parade. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Then being able to do it in my hometown, Canada is already a pretty progressive country you know. We have kind of led the charge as far as equal rights and marriage equality, so it was just that much more celebratory because we were able to invite members of other countries to come celebrate with us and see the progress that can be made.

You mentioned earlier that you just wrapped up a run at the Asolo Theatre as Josephine Baker in Josephine. Why was it important to you to play this role?
There are so many parallels between the two of us. My focus has always represented equality and essentially that has always been at the forefront of her life as well; being an activist, being a trendsetter, being someone who has broken down that glass ceiling and to do it in that time, during the 1920s and 30s, a black woman to deal with what she had dealt with, it’s something that I think needs to be told. She is one of our American heroes and icons, and she deserves to be celebrated. We hear so many stories, but this is one that needed to be exposed so that’s why I signed on to be a part of this team to get this story to Broadway. It’s just a long process with so many moving parts. You are working with the theater owners and the producers and investors, as well as they creative team all trying to come together to find the right time and place to showcase it. So yeah, it’s a long process but it’s worth it and this project is really worth fighting for.

So I want to ask you, because you have been in movies, on Broadway and of course perform your music. I don’t want to ask which one you enjoy doing the most, because I assume you enjoy them all since you do them, but is there any part of the process that rattles the nerves more than the others?
I feel more comfortable when I’m doing a live performance. I get the most joy out of that aspect of it I guess you could say. I mean I love to sing and enjoy singing in the studio and getting new songs done and recorded, but my passion is being in front of the audience, performing and being a part of that bigger picture. What a lot of people don’t realize is I got started in musical theater before I was a recording artist, so theater isn’t something that was alien to me or that I just got into. As an artist you just do whatever the gig calls for and it wasn’t until my husband and I moved to Los Angeles that we started attracting the attention of people in the recording business. That’s how we ended up meeting Clive Davis and then that’s when the recording started but theater was there before all that.

Lady Gaga said the same thing earlier this year when she won a Golden Globe about acting being her first love but the music thing just happened first.

[Laughs] It’s so true, we’re not one dimensional. I think that’s part of what can be so hindering when you become a recording artist, you become this one dimensional character. One of the things that bother me about the music industry is that you get labeled and pigeon holed as a person who can only do one thing, which is one of the reasons I try to keep so many things going. I think it’s important if you want to be a multi-faceted artist that you get out there and try to do it all.

Is that why there is such a gap between albums for you? Your last album, The Promise, came out in 2008, and I know you are working on new music, but the new album still hasn’t dropped.
Yeah, that is a part of the reason it has taken a while to complete the album and put it out. I think at the time I would have been expected to tour with the album as well and I was trying to concentrate on having a family too. So the timing of touring didn’t work out as I was also pregnant with my baby, you know it’s an interesting journey when you’re a woman in the business. Also the fans can get a little frustrated when they don’t see or hear from you, but the great thing now is with social media I can connect with the fans and let them know what’s going on a moment to moment basis.

Is there an estimated release date on the new album?
There isn’t no. While I’m doing The Bodyguard I am going to be trying to finish up some new music by then as well [Cox will be hitting the road this Fall as the lead in the stage adaptation of the 1992 hit Whitney Houston film The Bodyguard]. So the music is a little bit in flux. There will definitely be some singles though.

As a Canadian, a group of people known as very passive and friendly all around the world, what was the adjustment like moving first to L.A. and then taking up residence in Miami?
It was quite the adjustment. L.A. is well known as the land of [laughs] fluff and Hollywood. It’s a very transient city, so it seems like no one is from there and they are all grinding and hustling to get to the next audition, but during those years I was traveling and touring a lot so I was never there and one day while we were coming out of a club in Miami, it was like five in the morning and it was just beautiful and still and the ocean, I just looked at my husband and said we should be living here. I want to experience Florida every day, so we moved here in 2000. When you travel so much in your life when you are home you want that feeling of home and that’s what living here has provided. It’s also closer to New York and Toronto.

With this being a very strange political year for the U.S., as a Canadian do you sometimes look at it and think what the hell is wrong with some of these people?
[Laughs] It’s just a different mentality politically. We need to get away from the shock value and get back to the substance of what is best of the country, and now being a mother and having kids it’s even more important to stay on top of what those issues are as well because it’s not easy raising a son and two daughters and I want to make sure I give them perspective and give them hope and pass on what they need to be good citizens and good human beings. That’s all a parent wants.

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