After years of struggling to make it in the music industry, Deepa Soul was discovered when world-renowned DJ and producer Junior Vasquez walked into a NYC record store where she was working as a cashier. Soon after the pair turned out the club smash Nowhere Love and the singer felt she had finally arrived.
Then everything came crashing down when the rising star was rushed to the hospital for emergency cervical spine surgery. The procedure required doctors to enter her neck and move her vocal chords and she 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: shes also the CEO of Outmusic, an independent networking company for LGBT artists and supporters and on June 27 she will return to the stage at OUTmusic Presents Stonewall: The 40th Anniversary Commemorative Concert and Benefit.
We caught up with Deepa to chat about the upcoming show, how she got her name, and why -- if she had her way -- shed be Tina Turners daughter.
Out: When you perform at OUTmusic Presents Stonewall: The 40th Anniversary Commemorative Concert and Benefit, what can the audience expect?
Deepa Soul: Theyre going to get four years of pent up energy thats going to explode!
You have your first CD coming out. Up until now youve always appeared on compilations. Tell us about this project.
Its a triple-disc set. I spent a lot of time when I couldnt speak just writing and composing. Now Ive got so much material. I started in dance music, so I said if Im going to do an album, I would hate to have my dance fans feel as if I broke away. Im a house hit until the end. Ill always love my boys. Without my boys I wouldnt 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 dont know about all that.
You wouldnt consider yourself a diva?
I can just say Im Deepa! Im so humble about whats 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. Its 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! Im African American, a woman and Im a lesbian. Were fighting for equal rights as a nation of queer people, but to me its all the same. Im human. Im a woman. Im black. Im 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 cant be compared to the fight of LGBT equality. As an African American, what do you say to other African Americans who dont see the comparison?
I think they are full of it. As Coretta Scott King said before she passed away, It is a human right. Its not a black right. Its not a gay right. Its 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 cant be changed, but I also want you to know that I cant change my sexuality. I was born this way. Ive known since I was three years old that Ive loved women. Ive 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. Im gay. I made a decision in my life not to be ashamed. Thats what coming out is all about. Im not going to change my life so you can be okay. If you have a problem with what I do in my bedroom, then thats your problem. If you want to fight about it, well 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 didnt 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.
Youve got that right! She said, Im your grandmother and nobody is going to tell me that Im 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 Gods green earth made you want to take the best gift anyone could give you? She said, Your mother didnt 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.
Were you always so open with your sexuality?
No! I went deep into the closet, honey. I was so deep in the closet I got me a boyfriend and I played the whole double-standard thing -- Oh no, we cant have sex until we get married. All the while I had a girlfriend on the down low. I was also homophobic. I was a part of a group who would talk about gays.
How are you feeling about whats happening with LGBT equality and Proposition 8 in California?
Im at a place now where I cant be distracted by my anger. Now its about celebrating our accomplishments and showing the good we have to offer the world. If we pay attention to what they are trying to do and not what we want to do, we are going to lose. When you dont want something to come to life, dont give it energy. My philosophy is pay them nooch!
Youre very spiritual. Whats your sign?
Leo. August 16. I was born on the same day as Madonna. But Im not a narcissist like Madge. I better stop it! Gotta love Madge!
How did the name Deepa Soul come about?
I was working as dance instructor and choreographer with professional theater children in California. I had a private lesson with a student and she was complaining about her private area burning. Then she told me she had little things growing down there. I knew this was something she had to get from somewhere. I learned she got it from the 27-year-old son of one of the women who owned the school. Kids trusted this guy. As a teacher I reported it to Child Protective Services. Her mother needed to be informed too, but I had to say it to CPS first because sometimes parents will try to sweep it under the carpet and their children wont get the help they need. Well, I was fired, and it became a huge scandal. My yoga teacher sent me in the mail this beautiful, multi-colored piece of paper that said Deepa -- Instrument of Devine Light and Truth. On the flip side was a letter inviting me to meet the Dalai Lama. Although I lost my job, I gained so much in spirit.
Though you are known as a dance artist, if you could sing something different what would it be?
[Singing] We dont need another hero We dont need to know the way home! If I could come back as Tinas daughter in the Thunderdome, I would gladly do it.
So, Tina Turner is one of your biggest inspirations?
Yes! Im hoping I get a chance to meet her. Ive met a lot of people, but thats the one I want to meet. Growing up with this voice the little girls in the choir said I sounded like a garbage lady. Tina she was one of the artists my daddy played for me. He said, Youve got a voice like this. Its called grit.
You have always been an openly gay artist. What are your thoughts on Adam Lambert from American Idol?
Why did he even have to talk about it? Why couldnt it have been about his music? I dont know who his publicity team is, but I wouldve encouraged him to say, Its not any of your business, but since you want to make it your business, this is who I am, and Im proud of who I am. I hope he embraces himself and doesnt play that middle of the road game. That absolutely killed Clay Aikens career. It wouldve been much better if Clay wouldve said, Yes, honey, Im queen! Then he shouldve put a crown on his head and brought it! But he or his team didnt use that momentum. They tried to sell him off because it worked for Luther Vandross. How miserable was Luthers life?
But, wait, we dont know for sure if Luther was gay.
Of course we do! We all know our sisters! That was a big, old girl. We know our family! If you dont want to talk about it, thats fine. But, I dont feel good about trivializing what people have gone through so that I can even have the right to have a girlfriend.
One record company wanted to pass me off as the next Gladys Knight. I was like, I dont want to be the next Gladys Knight. I want to be Deepa Soul!
Before we go, whet our appetites. What we can expect from your upcoming album, Ego Trippin?
I am singer/songwriter who has no boundaries or particular genre. I just create music. Im about to give you Feva [the upcoming dance single] now! I have a ballad called I Want You Tonight. We did a video where I have a leading lady. I think its going to be one of the first music videos to show African American women actually hooking up. Im feeling very sexy right now. Im at the point where Im going to give it to you, and Im going to keep giving it to you until I make your love come down.
Deepa Soul performs at the OUTmusic Presents Stonewall The 40th Anniversary Commemorative Concert and Benefit June 27 at the NOKIA Theater in Times Square. For more info and tickets, click here.
For more information on Deepa Soul, vist www.deepasoul.com.