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It’s been more than 35 years since the world first met singer/musician/songwriter/arranger/producer Debbie Gibson. She took over radio airwaves and MTV with the single “Only in My Dreams” (named one of the “500 Best PopSongs” by Billboard).

Her debut album, Out of the Blue, produced multiple hit singles, including “Shake Your Love” and “Foolish Beat” (which landed her in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest artist to ever write, produce and perform a number one hit song, and she remains the youngest female to hold that record) and solidified Debbie Gibson as the face of late 1980s teen pop in magazines and on MTV.

Since then, Gibson has used her talents to grow into a multi-faceted entertainer. In addition to hit albums and singles of her youth, she has starred in more than 15 stage musicals, including Grease and Les Miserables, starred in the 1999 film My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, guest-starred on Lucifer, and created, executive produced, and starred in Hallmark TV movies, among other projects.

Last year, Gibson signed a deal with Gallery Books to release a memoir “which reflects my hard-won journey in, not only the entertainment world, but all aspects of my life,” she said as she shared the news on Instagram. As a testament to her enduring influence, Debbie was honored earlier this year with the Trailblazer Award from The Women’s International Music Network at the 12th annual She Rocks Awards. 

That she has a diverse and enduring career should surprise no one, as Gibson was a musical prodigy who was working in theater as well as doing television commercials when
she was young.

Once I started writing music, I knew that that was my unique gift,” Gibson tells SoundExchange. “I knew that that was going to be the most fulfilling thing that I ever did.”

Gibson credits her late mother, Diane, with fostering her talent and, as her manager, guiding her career. 

“I wrote and demoed a song a day and I gathered about 100 songs,” she says. “We sat at the kitchen table, my mom and I, sending out a headshot – and I imagine these commercial headshots, I probably had pigtails and glasses in one, and they were not very rock and roll – we sent out headshots, demo tapes, and a cover letter, and got a lot of rejection letters.”

Eventually, Gibson’s music caught the ear of Atlantic Records, and she recorded “Only in My Dreams” and started performing in clubs to generate buzz. 

“My mom was like, ‘OK, what do we have to do to separate ourselves from the pack from this stack of 12-inch vinyl that’s sitting in this office right now?’” she says. When the advice was to hire a club booking agent and get out on the road, “that’s what I did, and we were up all night, all over the country. It was me, my two backup dancers, and my sister doing sound and lights. That’s what jumpstarted everything.”

“We, and by we, I really mean my mom just really used her intuition,” Gibson says. “One thing she always instilled in me was to trust your intuition. There is no path, you have to make the path. And we did carve a path.”

At the time Gibson was coming up, “there were no young female singer-songwriters, let alone singer-songwriter-producers at that time,” she says. It was Diane’s tenacity in the face of resistance that gained her the ability to also produce some of her songs on her debut album.

“The suit jackets were up in arms. ‘Oh, she wants to produce her own record,’” Gibson recalls. “And it turns out my two No. 1s are songs that I wrote and produced solely. That’s because an audience recognizes purity. That was my direct way of communicating with my audience. My mom really fought for that creative freedom and vision. And it went on from there. The important part of the story is that foundational moment.” 

Diane Gibson, who died in 2022, was a self-taught artist manager and certified “badass,” according to her daughter. “She did it the way she did everything: she took the leap and then figured out the rest,” Gibson says. “It was her passion that led the way, and her knowledge of me. You have to know the business of the ‘you.’”

Music remains Gibson’s passion, and performing, writing, and recording remain top priorities for the now 53-year-old artist. She continues to tour, with recent dates celebrating the 35th anniversary of her sophomore album, Electric Youth, and she has continued to write and record new music. 

Gibson released a holiday album, Winterlicious, in 2022, that followed a new pop album, 2021’s The Body Remembers. The latter featured the single “Love Don’t Care,” the video for which has racked up more than a million views since its release. 

“The sexism and the ageism in this business are real. I can’t tell you how many people were like, ‘Really, you want to compete with a dance pop album?’” Gibson says.

I don’t think everything great was done yesterday. I think everything great is ahead of us. The proof is those streams and the Instagram numbers going up and the people gravitating to what we’re doing now.”

The music world is very different now from the one that existed when Gibson had her biggest successes. These days she’s no longer on a major label but has embraced the independence of this stage of her career, as well as the streaming a place where she can thrive.

“I am an analog girl in a digital world, and I am a former ‘big machine’ mainstream artist, but with an independent spirit who’s now independent,” she says. “That, to me, is what streaming is perfect for. It’s the discovery and the rediscovery.”

“Yes, you have that romance to the time when you had to wait online and buy an album, but I’m not a very patient person personally, so I want things at my fingertips,” Gibson admits. “It’s been amazing too for younger artists to have so much access to so much music. For someone like me who was trying to arrange and produce and write, what I had access to was so limited compared to what young people especially have access to now.”

Throughout her career, Gibson has managed to continually grow her fanbase, which notably includes a substantial LGBTQIA+ audience.

“Growing up in the theater world, I always had, an openness – I don’t even like the word acceptance – I always had a celebration of people,” she says. “That was my attitude. I celebrate everybody and everybody’s authenticity.”

“When I do meet and greets, I hear from a lot of my gay fans. And I have a lot of fans who are transitioning currently in my community of The Diamond DebHeads, who are my diehard fan community,” Gibson continues. “I love that people come up to me and they say your music held my hand during a time when I felt alone, and I was looking to come out. Similarly with my mom, everybody was welcome in my mom’s space in that way. It’s so important to me.”

Gibson carries that passion through in her film and television work, notably last year’s Notes of Autumn for Hallmark.

“It was a very important thing to me because I remember when the commercial highlighting a gay wedding was on a couple years ago, and it was very controversial on Hallmark,” Gibson says. “I remember [actor/singer] Jack Wagner and I stepped up and spoke out. And Hallmark made the shift to include all kinds of families. I was thrilled to be a part of that.”

In September 2024, Gibson will be honored with the Equality Awards’ Ally Leadership Award for her decades of activism and support of the LGBTQIA+ community.

I’m so grateful the gay community and I have a very special relationship, and there’s a loyalty. I don’t feel it’s like fair-weather friends who kind of jump on and off trends. It’s a very important part of my life.”

Find out more about Debbie Gibson at and Instagram, X, and Facebook.