One name that will always be synonymous with 80s pop music is Debbie Gibson. Breaking onto the scene in 1987 when she was still just 16 years old, Gibson became the quintessential mall girl pop star – although she famously had a serious rival for this crown in the form of Tiffany.
However, if you thought Gibson was purely a manufactured pop star who strictly followed the orders of her record company, think again. Believe it or not, she was the sole songwriter on every single one of her 20 singles.
Deborah Ann Gibson was born on the 31st August 1970. She studied piano under the pianist Morton Estrin, and after years of writing and producing her own songs, she managed to get one of her demos into the hands of an executive at Atlantic Records.
Based on this one song she was signed up and began a tour of various club venues around the United States. Following this, her debut album Out of the Blue was released in 1987. It was eventually certified as triple platinum, with the single Foolish Beat making Gibson the youngest ever female artist to write, produce and perform a US number one single.
Her second album Electric Youth, released in 1989, obtained double-platinum status, and also earned Gibson another US number one single with the song Lost in Your Eyes. The critics might not have been impressed by the young singer-songwriter, but the record-buying public couldn’t get enough – for a time, at least.
When her subsequent album Anything is Possible failed to repeat the success of her earlier work, Gibson gradually moved away from the pop limelight. 1992 saw her hit the Broadway stage for the first time as Eponine in Les Misérables, before playing Sandy in a touring production of Grease which went to London’s West End. Gibson has since appeared in many more stage musicals.
As an actress, Gibson has also made a number appearances on television, from a 1991 guest spot on Beverly Hills, 90210 to a 2021 episode of Lucifer. She’s also appeared a number of minor movies, including several low-budget sci-fi horror features for notorious mini-studio The Asylum; one of these, 2011’s Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, was a team-up with her supposed rival Tiffany. (In reality, the two alleged frenemies have always been on good terms with one another.)
On top of all this, Gibson has continued to make new music. In 2006 she reached number 24 in the American charts with Say Goodbye, a duet with former New Kids on the Block member Jordan Knight. Then in 2017 she earned her highest chart position in over 25 years with a song she featured on called I Am Peaceman.
Sadly, Gibson’s early fame brought her its share of trouble. During her career Gibson has been the target of stalkers, with convicted murderer Robert Bardo having had a wall in his house filled with pictures of Gibson, among others.
In addition to that, in 1998 another ‘fan’, Michael Falkner, was arrested outside a theater where Gibson was performing, after he had already sent her a number of threatening letters and emails. And to top it all off, in 2008 Gibson had to file a restraining order against taxi driver Jorge Puigdollers, who had been stalking her since 2002.
Naturally all this has taken its toll on Gibson’s mental health. She has admitted to suffering panic attacks since her teens, and has also had her trouble with substances.
In 2016 Gibson spoke about her drug use in the past, saying: “when I heard the news about Prince and the fact that it might have been prescription drug-related, I really had a moment of ‘that’s awful and that’s sad, and I can relate.’
“And, unfortunately, 90% of the entertainment community can relate. I remember being on the road at 25, touring with theater and doing my own cocktail of Tylenol PM and Xanax. I mean, it’s as simple as that, and that is how performers get in so much trouble.”
Now aged 52, Gibson was once engaged to Jonathan Kanterman, and since 2008, she’s been in a relationship with Rutledge Taylor. She has no children.
Her most recent album, Winterlicious (a mix of Christmas standards and original songs with a seasonal theme), was released in late 2022.