Clomping around her New York City apartment in a slinky black blouse, tight leather pants and five-inch platform heels, Debbie Gibson, 25, isn’t shy about admitting that she’d like to put her teenybopper past behind her. “When you start young, people find it hard to let you grow up and change,” laments the singer who rose to fame with the late ’80s pop confections “Electric Youth” and “Only in My Dreams.” “It takes a long time before you’re known as an adult.”
But Gibson, who moved out of her family’s Long Island home three years ago, isn’t content to sit back and wait. Although her last three albums have met with little acclaim—and less airplay—she has found new musical mountains to climb. For three months in ’92 she starred as doomed waif Eponine in Broadway’s Les Misérables, then she headed to London, where she played virginal Sandy in Grease! Last fall she took the role of bad girl Rizzo in that show’s U.S. touring company. “Broadway was my first dream,” she says. “I love the challenge and the tradition.” In the past year, Gibson has also written songs for an animated film she’d like to produce and made her TV debut on an episode of ABC’s Step by Step. Now she is negotiating for her own sitcom.
“TV is a great way of reaching a lot of people, and she needs to rebuild her image,” says her agent Richard Weitz. “And she looks great on-camera. She really has all the right qualities.” Still, Gibson, who at 17 became the youngest performer ever to write, produce and sing a No. 1 hit (“Foolish Beat”), would like a second chance at the pop charts. She has written several songs for an album (due later this year) that she describes as “a little more sensual, less formula.” When not working, Gibson, who is single, bikes around Manhattan and visits with her parents, now divorced, and three sisters. “If I’ve one major struggle, it’s learning to relax,” she says. “I really have a hard time doing nothing.”