Deborah Cox is in North Carolina. She’s been in Durham for a few days and just bounced from California to Texas to Florida to New York to Raleigh, N.C., to D.C., back to Texas, then to Philadelphia, Rhode Island, and now Durham. The Grammy-nominated singer and theater actress is on tour with Jekyll & Hyde, playing a lady of the night in the dark musical, which begins a Broadway run in April. Before getting to New York, Cox needs to finish the show’s tour, which means trekking through Oklahoma, California, Iowa, and finally West Palm Beach, Fla., not far from her home in Miami.
“Life on the road is drama,” Cox says. She’s tired but friendly and engaged. “The pace is really intense. We have to keep up an eight-show-a-week schedule, a Broadway schedule, while we’re traveling. There’s a day off, and the day off is a travel day and you try to get whatever you have to do outside of theater done. It’s very much a juggling act.”
The stress of the tour is made harder by the fact that Cox has to go weeks without seeing her three kids: Isaiah, age 9; Sumayah, 6; and Kaila, 4.
“Luckily, with technology I’m able to Skype and iChat and text and stay very present in their day-to-day,” she says. “I tend to worry a lot, but I have an amazing support system. My husband is amazing, my mother and mother-in-law help. We have a real family structure that helps tremendously.”
Even though the Canadian-born Cox starred as Aida on Broadway, is a multiplatinum-selling recording artist with 11 number 1 hits on Billboard’s dance charts (including “Beautiful U R”), has won a Soul Train Award and a Lady of Soul Award, and has been nominated for Billboard and American Music awards, it’s easy to see an everyday, 30-something working mom dimension to Cox. That relatability may be why she was asked to be part of the Break the Silence campaign, which works to bring HIV back into the national conversation.
“Did you know that a woman tests positive for HIV every 35 minutes in this country? It’s the leading cause of death for black women ages 25 to 34, and we make up for 66% of the new cases of HIV,” Cox says in the 2012 Break the Silence video. “I was shocked when I learned of this recently, because I thought for sure that with all the information that’s out there, for as long as we’ve been talking about this, that we would have been moving in a different direction. But instead women are at a greater risk. I’m Deborah Cox and I’m a mother and I was a friend to three beautiful souls who have passed away from HIV.”
Cox has chosen HIV awareness as her charitable mission, devoting her time to educating women about the disease. Aside from Break the Silence, Cox recently participated in public service announcements for Lifebeat, a music industry–affiliated nonprofit that educates people about HIV. “Get educated, get tested, and get involved,” Cox says in the promo.