In 1988, Debbie Gibson became the youngest artist to produce, write and perform a number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Foolish Beat"and holds that crown to this day. Songs like "Only in My Dreams" and "Shake Your Love" kept her in the spotlight and became staples in her live shows.
Her Broadway debut in Les Miserables led to more musicals such as Grease, Gypsy, Cabaret and Company. She made a cameo in the musical film Rock of Ages and will reprise her role in 2014 for Syfy's Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark.
Gibson competed on the fifth season of The Celebrity Apprentice for her charity Children International.
Windy City Times caught up to her after she performed at the Festival of Lights on Michigan Avenue.
Windy City Times: Last time we talked face to face was during Pridefest in your trailer.
Debbie Gibson: Yes. Oh, my gosh!
WCT: Someone was just mentioning to me what a great job you did there performing.
Debbie Gibson: You know, I thought about that the other day, wishing I had said more to that audience. It was a long street and packed. The audience was, pardon the pun, electric!
WCT: You have always been great with your gay fans.
Debbie Gibson: Thank you. Well, they have always been great to me. I probably have said this to you before but so many people may not realize that I started in gay clubs. "Only In My Dreams" was a gay club hit. Little did I know when I wrote that song at 13, I wasn't targeting anyone in particular but now I have a kinship with the gay audience and I love it!
One of the last events I did in Chicago was at Pride and I was in the tiniest miniskirt and top.
WCT: And some feathers...
Debbie Gibson: Right. It was completely sweltering and it is cold now. I only come here when it's extreme weather! I was here recently for the Hollywood Show, which is an autograph show. I was just thinking about all the times I have been here. I sang the anthem, I did Cubby Bear, I performed in Cinderella, Joseph and Grease. This is probably one of my most frequented cities and I am glad about it.
WCT: You looked cold out there opening the holiday shopping season on Michigan Avenue.
Debbie Gibson: When I watched it back I could hardly move my mouth! I had done that half-hour show during the day and by nighttime it was so taxing on my voice to sing in that cold, but it was fun.
WCT: How has your trip to Chicago been?
Debbie Gibson: Well, I broke my phone and went to the Mac store so I was kind of a local. I went to the movies.
WCT: What did you see?
Debbie Gibson: About Time. I would have made it a little more dramatic but they wanted it to be nice. Rachel McAdams is amazing and the lead guy is adorable.
This trip has been very relaxing. We went to Lawry's and sat in the bar. Chicago, to me, is about food and walking around.
WCT: Your phone is fixed?
Debbie Gibson: It is all fixed and was just a SIM-card issue.
WCT: Talk a bit about Celebrity Apprentice. I am talking with Lisa Lampanelli next week.
Debbie Gibson: Tell her hello! She and I got along so well. I think people on the show expected me to be more precious but on the show they edited me without showing all my manual labor so they could later [say I was] "not a team player." I was running down the street with bags and picture frames, but that was not shown. Ninety percent of it was what you see is what you get. We were stressed a lot of the time.
I won $50,000 for Children International. They transferred a family that I sponsor that was living in the Philippines from living in a cemetery to living in an apartment with a storefront. They even taught the woman to sell her own groceries. They are now a self sustaining family.
After being a people pleaser my whole life I learned to carry through a vision you are not going to be liked. I had to drop the desire to be liked when I did that show. That saved me a lot of money in therapy!
WCT: There is all this talk about your past dancer recently.
Debbie Gibson: There was just an article about Buddy Casimano in Newsday that I provided some quotes for. He teaches, choreographs and trains people.
WCT: What are you planning for the 25th anniversary of Electric Youth?
Debbie Gibson: I will be celebrating and embracing my past while giving a new perspective to my past from where I stand now. This will be in a recording sense and possibly a TV special. I will always own it and not think of it as an image that was put on me. That was me then and this is me now.
I am working on a book. It will not be a tell all but instead about lessons I have learned to navigate life. I live in the real world. I will relate back to anecdotes that I think people will be interested in. Sometimes when you are on top of the world you may not have the best perspective.
WCT: What advice do you give young artists just starting out?
Debbie Gibson: One thing to remember is not to become a slave to the record company's itinerary. Some things might look [good] on paper but it might not be something you can actually handle. There should not be a need to be super boy or super girl.
I went through a period of anxiety attacks and a year of fatigue. It was just moving too fast. I think kids now can move a little slower because everything is Internet and gets projected. For me, I had to play clubs four nights a week to get momentum for the song to jump on the charts. Pressures are higher now though with awards shows every two weeks. When I started there were three award shows in a whole year.
I think kids should stay true to themselves. It is not a race. If you miss one opportunity the world doesn't end. If you have the goods that window will be there again.
WCT: You are very active on social media, I noticed.
Debbie Gibson: I love interacting. I find that I have generally very respectful fans. I think back to when I was on a tour bus and there was no texting. All I had was me, my sister, some backup dancers and Scattergories! That was my social life there. There was no outward reach and I was living in a bubble. It is amazing that the whole world is the bubble now.
WCT: How do you maintain looking great?
Debbie Gibson: There are like two to three years of trying to figure out on how to lose weight. My boyfriend, who goes by Dr. Rutledge, is an anti-aging doctor who has a program called Better Than Lipo. We actually had one of my fans do it recently. I cleaned up my diet. When I am on a performance day, I know I will be going all day with a singular food and protein.
It is a myth to eat five times a day, and I think people overeat. You need to digest and get a little hungry again. That is what the program is all about. People need to realize they are not going to die if they get a little hungry. I am not saying to starve to lose weight, but just not to [overdo it] with food. I have become a scientist with my body and the food.
When you eat a pizza and wake up feeling bad, you don't know if it's the olives, pepperoni or the carbs! Before how I felt [involved] emotional ties to the eating and now I have a clarity.
WCT: Have you seen any good musicals recently?
Debbie Gibson: The last thing I sawyou are going to laughwas Newsies because my nephew was in it. He finished his run so I think it was in the spring. I thought it was great and heartfelt, not just because I am a proud aunt!
My nephew is like a film actor so he is so still and boys are doing backflips all around him. He was just reacting and you couldn't take your eyes off of him. I think that is fascinating because I was an overacting kid. I joke that in these Syfy movies I am projecting to the hundredth row!
For more on Gibson, visit debbiegibsonofficial.com .