THROUGH tears, a man recently told Deborah Cox that her music gave him the confidence to come out when he was younger.
“He said my music was the soundtrack to his life, and that he remembered the song he was listening to when he met his partner, and when he first made the decision to come out,” she recalled.
“A number of people have said they’ve come out to my music and it feels very empowering… it’s important for people to feel accepted.”
A string of RnB hits dating back to the mid-90s sit comfortably within Cox’s canon, with each championing themes of self-acceptance, love, and female empowerment.
Speaking to the Star Observer via telephone, Miami-based Cox said many of her gay fans cite the anthemic Absolutely Not as staples in their playlists because it instils a sense of pride and courage within them.
“Earlier in my career a lot of people felt shame for being who they were, and had tough times with their friends and families,” she said.
“You just don’t understand the impact you’re able to have and how you can be such an influence in people’s lives.”
To help celebrate Australia’s sexuality and gender diverse community, she will head to Sydney to take part in Mardi Gras festivities — a festival she believes is critical in helping LGBTI people feel accepted.
“A lot of my friends had a hard time coming out in their early years, so this is really a moment for them as well,” the Canadian-born singer said.
“It’s huge for the community to feel free to be themselves and to be accepted for who they are, and that’s what Mardi Gras is all about.
“It’s huge because we’ve come so far as a culture, and Australia has sort of been at the forefront in celebrating and promoting diversity.”
Despite this increased visibility and acceptance around the LGBTI community, Cox believes there’s still a long way to go.
In June 2015 the US Supreme Court enacted marriage equality across the country, a feat yet to be accomplished by Australia’s federal government.
“I think sometimes we get so caught up in our own lives, that we don’t realise the civil rights we have and we take them for granted,” she said.
“I’m married and I know the rights that I have, and I feel very fortunate.
“But when I’m in conversation with my friends who have same-sex partners, they’re just not afforded the same civil rights and it’s disheartening.”
Cox believes the law shouldn’t discriminate against same-sex couples.
“Your partner is your partner — you choose to love who you choose to love and that should be your right,” she said.
After Australia Cox is slated to star in two upcoming productions, Josephine and The Bodyguard, the latter of which will see her take on Whitney Houston’s iconic role from the 1992 film.
She said The Boydguard’s soundtrack helped to inspire her own music career.
“I’ve always been in love with big voices and big ballads,” she said.
“It’s part of my DNA, they’ve always been the types of voices that I’ve gravitated towards — Whitney, Aretha, and Chaka.
“The songs in [The Bodyguard] are just so beautiful and iconic, and when I think about the early 90s I think about that soundtrack.
“Songs like I Have Nothing, Run to You, and I Will Always Love You are iconic songs that will stand the test of time.”
Growing up, Cox’s mother surrounded her with that kind of music.
“I remember the classic jazz singers like Diana Washington and Ella Fitzgerald playing on my mother’s turntable,” she said.
“She loved that classic music, she loved jazz.”
Cox is currently working on a new album, which she hopes will be ready later this year.
“The album’s not quite done but I wanted to make sure I had The Bodyguard in place because I’ll be on tour with that anyway, so my plan is to have the album ready then as well,” she said.
Having performed at Mardi Gras before in 2002, Cox sees her impending return to Australia as a bit of a homecoming.
“This is going to be one of those performances that’s really going to be a moment, because I think the last time I was there it left such an impression,” she said.
“It was one of those legendary moments… and I particularly remember all the drag queens in vintage Chanel performing with me.”
The Mardi Gras Party is on Saturday, March 5. For details and tickets, visit mardigras.org.au
The Star Observer is a proud media partner of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
For all of Star Observer’s Mardi Gras coverage, click here
**This article was first published in the March edition of the Star Observer, which is available now. Click here to find out where you can grab a copy in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.
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