Like many a fabulous gay youth of the late 1980s, I, too, could be found on any given Friday night belting out pop hits on skates at the local roller rink. Deborah Gibson’s “Shake Your Love” and “Only in My Dreams” were two particular favorites. So, it was indeed a surreal treat when I had the chance a few weeks back to sit down with the musical diva, and catch up on the last 20 years of her amazing career.
First, the most important question: Are you someplace warm and sunny?
I’m in LA, so it’s kind of medium to warm. I’ve been there in those Minnesota winters, performing. It seems like every time I toured, I went through there right at wintertime. I used those skyways a lot!
Do you consider LA home now?
Where I live now—I love it. I feel that’s where I’m supposed to be now, but, who knows? I may be doing a musical in Singapore this summer, which would be a blast. One of the great things, maybe one of the only great things, about being 37 and single is, you get to pick up and go wherever you want whenever you want.
So, a musical in Singapore? Honey, you are crazy busy already this summer, starting in May with your gig in Atlantic City, and then Camp Electric Youth in July. How the heck do you keep it all together?
It’s nuts! This was me looking at the schedule thinking, can I really do this without hyperventilating? I’ve done harder. I’ll get in really good shape, get really healthy, take a deep breath, and hit it, because none of these opportunities are opportunities I want to turn down. There’s some Vegas stuff brewing, too.
Even though you’ve been in and out of the media spotlight, I bet people are often surprised to learn how busy you’ve been over the last 20 years.
It depends if people have been in touch with what’s going on with Broadway and the theater world. I’ve spent the better part of the last 15 years doing eight shows a week, and some other projects here and there. The truth is, I’ve actually never gone more than a month in the last 21 years without being on a stage, so there’s been a lot of stuff going on. I’m better when I’m busy, and just doing my thing.
Is there a certain level of performing you need to maintain in order to feel fulfilled as an artist?
There totally is. A lot of artists make an album, and then go away and retreat for a couple years. Then, they ramp back up, and get the vocal chords back in shape. I’d be petrified to do that. Maybe it would be healthier if I did take a break sometime, but I don’t see it that way for myself. Opportunities present themselves, and I feel like that’s my audience, I need to go do that, I want to go do that.
Where did you get that discipline?
I’m very lucky, because I have parents who were encouraging and supportive, but did not push. Nobody ever said, “You have to be in show business.” And anybody who knows me knows I live and breathe music, and I’m the driving force behind my own career and always have been.
You look amazing! What have you found that helps you stay healthy and fit?
I’ve always had a pretty healthy, athletic body. I do what feels good. If I feel mentally like I don’t want to eat well this month, I’m not going to eat well. If I feel like I’m eating a certain way for my vocal health, because spicy foods or coffee are affecting my voice, then I eat for that. If I feel I’m in an athlete mode, and I want to lose weight and work out, I eat for that. As for working out, I like to do interesting things. I hate the regular gym, so over this past year, I was doing the Olympic-size pool, and the track, and tennis, and all kinds of other things.
Tell me about Camp Electric Youth and how it came about. I love that it’s something you really feel passionate about, and it’s not just a marketing ploy.
I know! It’s not like a bunch of people running it with my name on the marquee. This is my baby. One of the things I’ve learned from being in the business so long is the difference between good training and scammy bad training. I really want kids to be able to have legitimate foundation technique that will last them a lifetime. We’ve put together some of my favorite creative people, like Cynthia Bain, who’s one of the top children’s teachers in town. Plus, there’s Howard Fein, who was Uta Hagen’s protégé, and has only taught adults until now. The kids we’ve been seeing have been freakishly talented. I mean, I think talent’s gotten better, because music and the process through things like American Idol. I think being a singer is more accessible now than even when I was a kid.
What do you think your biggest challenge has been when you look back over your career?
I think one thing I’m still learning is when you start at such a young age, and you come out with such a bang, people have a perception of you, be it good or bad. They have some preconceived notion. To let go of that, and try not to manipulate other people’s perception is an ongoing challenge.
What keeps you onstage and performing?
You need faith, and I think you just also need the sheer joy of it. If you always do it with joy, and you say, whether I’m performing for 20 people or 20,000 people, I’m going to love every minute of giving that group of people a great show. I just think that’s the key to everything. Just do what you love, and the rest follows.