Canadian born singer Deborah Cox takes pride in portraying strong, confident women.
So when the sassy beauty was asked to play the legendary Josephine Baker on Broadway, Cox readily took on the challenge.
“Josephine Baker was a breakout African-American that set the tone for the times,” said Cox, 38. “I’m very focused and excited about playing her life. She was a woman who came against racism and she made her mark. That was her passion, to combat racism.”
Cox, who is originating the role for a Broadway musical set to hit the Great White Way in 2011, is preparing for the role.
She has watched HBO’s critically-acclaimed, “Josephine Baker” story, which starred actress Lynn Whitfield. Cox has also spoken to Whitfield, who won a Best Actress Emmy for her portrayal of Baker.
“I’m going to try and embody her spirit through the music. That’s going to be the hardest part. Josephine Baker was such a free-spirited woman. She did everything she could to break down the barriers of racism,” said Cox, chosen out of 1,500 actresses that auditioned for the coveted role.
Baker was the first African-American to star in a major motion picture, integrate an American concert hall and become a world-famous entertainer. She was born in St. Louis, Mo., and moved to New York City during the Harlem Renaissance. She performed at the Plantation Club and in the chorus of Broadway reviews. Baker became the first African-American woman to receive the highest French military honor, the Croix de Guerre. Baker adopted 12 multi-ethnic orphans that she called the Rainbow Tribe. She died in 1975 at the age of 68.
When she isn’t preparing for what could be a Tony-winning role for her, Cox is out sharing her beautiful voice with the all of us. The Miami resident made a stop in Pittsburgh June 12 to headline the “Pride in the Street” concert.
The concert was sponsored by the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh. Originally incorporated in 1996 as a spinoff of the Lambda Foundation, the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh has dedicated itself to improving the quality of life for and the visibility of the members of Pittsburgh’s gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual community. The initiative’s biggest yearly event is Pittsburgh Pride week, which took place June 4-13.
Cox began singing and acting in television commercials at the age of 12.
She made her splash on the music scene under the watchful guidance of Clive Davis in 1995. Right out of the starting gate, she came out with hot singles, “Sentimental” and “Where Do We Go From Here” from her self-titled album. The album was certified gold and made number one on the U.S. Heat Chart.
In 1998, Cox released the album “One Wish” and wowed audiences with the ballad “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here.” The song held the record for longest-running number one single on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart for 14 weeks. This record was held for nearly eight years.
A year later she and R.L. Huggar from the group Next released the ballad “We Can’t Be Friends,” which reached number one on the U.S. R&B charts.
Her 2000 effort, “The Ultimate Deborah Cox” spawned the hit “Same Script, Different Cast,” which she recorded with fellow label mate, Whitney Houston.
Two years later Cox released “The Morning After” on J. Records. The album, which peaked at number seven, spawned the singles “Up & Down (In & Out),” “Play Your Part” and the title cut.
“Something Happened on the Way to Heaven” in 2003 was her first remixed album. It peaked at number 95 on the U.S. charts. Later that year she released “Destination Moon” It was the last record she recorded for J. Records.
In 2007, Cox and her husband started their own record label, Deco Records.
“There was a huge fluctuation after ‘Destination Moon.’ The music business was different. There was a pull back from established artists and the companies wanted new artists. So that gave me the wings to do what I wanted. So I started Deco so that I could do what I wanted musically and artistically,” Cox said.
“The Promise,” released in 2008, was the first project released from Deco Records.
“I’ve been able to do some amazing things like travel all over the world and make music without restrictions. I feel like Ray Charles or Bob Marley. They did what they needed to do to get their music out there,” Cox said.
In addition to the Baker project, Cox is preparing to release another album sometime next year.
When she isn’t performing, she enjoys chilling at home with her husband and their three children.
“I’m usually doing kid-friendly things,” Cox said. “The biggest misconception about me is that I’m a diva. I’m not a diva I’m very accessible. I do normal things like everyone else.”