"Growing up in a really small Southern town, I had a very typical upbringing. I just wanted to do something different with my life, so I always pushed myself to be in the limelight. Don't get me wrong, I liked living in the South, but I just wanted more..."
Not only has Debra reached her goals, she's surpassed them. within a very short time, she's become one of the most recognized performers in sports-entertainment, and one of the most popular. After several months away from the World Wrestling Federation, Debra recently made her comeback, much to the delight of fans around the world. Her trek into the limelight began in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where Debra grew up with three brothers, a father who worked in a foundry, and a mother who was a registered nurse. She says her most outstanding trait as a youngster was her competitive nature, which fueled her involvement in many activities.
"As a child I always had very good grades. I was always outgoing—a cheerleader and homecoming queen," Debra told RAW Magazine. "I was also one the track team. Most of my time was taken up with my studies, track and cheerleading. But, I always pushed myself to be the best that I could be."
After finishing school, Debra's desire for fame and success took her away from the South and sent her North to pursue her lifelong dream of an acting career. She first moved to Chicago and took acting classes while trying to make a living. Debra soon realized, though, that the place to be was the Big Apple.
Upon arriving in New York, Debra studied at the world-famour Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. Strasberg, who also founded the legendary Actors Studio, was the leading teacher of "method acting" and included among his top students Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Sidney Poitier and Dustin Hoffman.
"In Chicago, it was more on-camera stuff, your typical acting class. That's why I moved to New York. In order for people to take you seriously, you've got to put in your time," Debra explained. "I visited a lot of different schools, but found that Lee Strasberg's had a good name and would also help me reach my emotional side, which was my weak point. It did and now I can't stop!"
Debra continued, "During the day I would study at Lee Strasberg's, and two nights a week I auditioned for soap opera classes where directors from various soaps, such as One Life To Live, would direct. My nights off I would spend rehearsing."
While she never lost sight of her ultimate goal, Debra also began to compete in beauty pagents. True to her desire to always succeed, once she took to the pagent runway, she was nothing less than a star.
"I was Mrs. Illinois America and Mrs. Texas," Debra recalls. "I became involved with pagents more or less because it was something fun to do, dressing up and such. But it was also another way I could compete. I am very, very competitive. I don't like to lose!"
It should come as no small wonder that, given her physical beauty and dramatic skills, Debra would ultimately land in sports-entertainment and once again find great success. Her greatest inspiration when she entered acting school was to land a role on a soap opera, and she surely landed in one of the world's most dynamic soaps—the World Wrestling Federation!
Debra came into the World Wrestling Federation in October 1998 and took it by storm. A beautiful, but dangerous blonde, determined and demanding, Debra wooed Federation fans and Superstars alike with her strong personality and her assets—or "puppies"!
"Actually, I was shocked by how successful I became in the World Wrestling Federation," Debra said. "It shocked me because, while I pushed myself, you never can tell who or what the fans are going to like or dislike. So I went in with the attitude that all I can do is be the best this character can be and be as true as I can when I'm on camera, and just hope that the fans love it."
One often wonders just how similar Federation Superstars are to their characters off camera. Debra indulged us this curiosity:
"I would say the way Debra dresses, with the classy suits, that's more me because I am more of a tailored person," Debra confided. "But the real flirty and sexy side, that's a side that I have to pull out because the real Debra doesn't do that. It's a side of me, yes, but it's one that I have to reach in and pull out."
Debra continued, "At first when I began it was uncomfortable, but not when I hear my music, I turn into that character. The fans pay so much money to see the World Wrestling Federation and the Superstars that we need to give them their money's worth. And that's why I give it everything I have when I'm on camera—to make it entertaining for the people in the front row, as well as the people in the back row, as well as the people watching at home."
— Story by Laura Bryson
— Photography by Rich Freeda