The Return of Deepa Soul
By Dustin Fitzharris
Deepa Soul had everything going for her. After years of struggling to make it in the music business, superstar DJ/producer Junior Vasquez walked into the New York City record store where she was working as a cashier and discovered her. Together they turned out the club smash 'Nowhere Love' and it seemed Deepa Soul had finally arrived.
Then it all came crashing down. Deepa Soul was rushed to the hospital for emergency cervical spine surgery. The procedure required doctors to enter her neck and move her vocal chords in the process and the rising star was told she may never sing again.
Four years later Deepa Soul is back. At 41, the woman born Diedra Meredith is more than an artist -- she's the CEO of OUTmusic, an independent networking company for LGBT artists and supporters. She also says she's happier than ever and has no regrets about once turning down a record deal for hundreds of thousands of dollars because it would have required her to go back into the closet. Deepa Soul sat down with us a week before she's due to take the stage at OUTmusic Presents Stonewall -- The 40th Anniversary Commemorative Concert and Benefit and chatted about her new album, how she got her name, and why she wishes she was Tina Turner's daughter.
Out: When you perform at OUTmusic Presents Stonewall -- The 40th Anniversary Commemorative Concert and Benefit, what can the audience expect?
Deepa Soul: They're going to get four years of pent up energy that's going to explode!
You have your first CD coming out. Up until now you've always appeared on compilations. Tell us about this project.
It's a triple-disc set. I spent a lot of time when I couldn't speak just writing and composing. Now I've got so much material. I started in dance music, so I said if I'm going to do an album, I would hate to have my dance fans feel as if I broke away. I'm a house hit until the end. I'll always love my boys. Without my boys I wouldn't have gotten to where I am.
Who are your boys?
My gay boys! My queers, honey! They love their diva Deepa Soul. They call me a diva, but I don't know about all that.
You wouldn't consider yourself a diva?
I can just say I'm Deepa! I'm so humble about what's going on in my life.
But your CD set is called Ego Trippin --
How funny, right? It comes from a poet who inspired me, Nikki Giovanni. She wrote a poem called 'Ego Trippin'.' It's a poem my class was given by a professor when we graduated from an African American college. She told us that African American women have it a little tougher and wanted us to know that we will have to ego trip at times to get through.
Have you found it tough?
Oh, yeah. I have three strikes! I'm African American, a woman and I'm a lesbian. We're fighting for equal rights as a nation of queer people, but to me it's all the same. I'm human. I'm a woman. I'm black. I'm a lesbian. The whole governing system has been set up for some people to have privileges and others to have less. So what we are fighting for is equal rights of privilege.
There is a debate among African Americans who say the struggle for Civil Rights can't be compared to the fight of LGBT equality. As an African American, what do you say to other African Americans who don't see the comparison?
I think they are full of it. As Coretta Scott King said before she passed away, 'It is a human right.' It's not a black right. It's not a gay right. It's a human right. The bottom line is that no American or any human being should have less privilege over another group of people.
Can you explain the comparison?
I tell black people all the time that I understand my skin color can't be changed, but I also want you to know that I can't change my sexuality. I was born this way. I've known since I was three years old that I've loved women. I've never been attracted to men. I never had sexual desires to have sex with men. No, I was not molested. No, I was not in bad relationships with men. I'm gay. I made a decision in my life not to be ashamed. That's what coming out is all about. I'm not going to change my life so you can be okay. If you have a problem with what I do in my bedroom, then that's your problem. If you want to fight about it, we'll fight about it.
How did you arrive at a point where you could be so comfortable in your own skin?
I had no choice. My mother didn't make it easy for me to be a dyke. She was one of those parents who would put you out -- and she did. I grew up in the Bible Belt in New Orleans. When I speak to kids today I tell them that sometimes all people can see is the belief system of what the church teaches.
Thankfully you had your grandmother, Mildred, to turn to.
You've got that right! She said, 'I'm your grandmother and nobody is going to tell me that I'm going to hate you or disrespect you.' I tried to commit suicide at 13 because I felt like I was an abomination based upon what was being preached in the church. She said to me, 'What on God's green earth made you want to take the best gift anyone could give you?' She said, 'Your mother didn't give you life.' She made me understand who gave me life. She made me understand that no one on this Earth is worth that life.