Photographer: Darren Bell
For the next Have You Met interview we meet tapping sensation Debbie Paul, who after a very successful career in the industry is lending her skills to a new and exciting career path. Find out more about her journey and how the skills you learn as a perform can transition into other areas of employment.
So Tell us, What’s your name, where do you come from and where do you live now?
My name is Debbie Paul, Deborah is my full name but I go by Debbie, Deb or Debs. I am currently living back where I grew up in a small village called Crowthorne near Ascot.
Can you tell the readers who you are and what it is you do ?
What I do? Well… currently I’m a jack of all trades and this year so far I have worked as dancer, dance teacher, choreographer, hostess, club promoter, cleaner, flag installer,dog walker , house sitter , chaperone, babysitter, event builder, retail assistant and leafleter! Hilarious really, but the main reason for this being I’ve decided to hang up my dancing shoes and have been waiting to start my new career as cabin crew for British Airways.
My life is pretty varied but in general I walk my dog in the local woods and if we are talking about a typical day where I’m not working I am usually seeing friends. I’m very lucky to have lots of brilliant ones.
People may have seen you in such shows as White Christmas, 42nd Street, Top Hat and Elf. All of these shows have tap in them, which is great. Tap is sadly an underrated dance genre, what has it been like tapping away in all of these great shows?
Tap has always been my favourite dance genre since I was very little and specifically more traditional tap ( I’d be a car crash in say ‘Stomp’) there’s just something about tap that feels classy and sophisticated and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to perform in some iconic tap musicals/shows.
Did you have a particular favourite musical out of those shows?
My experience on Top Hat was without a doubt the best year of my life in every way. Not only was it my West End Debut but we had so many incredible add ons like performing at the Olivier awards and making other TV appearances. The show itself was just beautiful and I felt on top of the world every single day, but I must mention when I was 14 I performed in 42nd street with my local amateur dramatic society and this became my ‘dream show’ and was the first professional musical I performed in. So 42nd street will also hold a special place in my heart.
You have also travelled the world on tours and cruise ships. Do you prefer touring or being in one location with a production?
That’s a difficult question because I think it depends where you are in life. I flew off to Miami for rehearsals for my first cruise contract aged 17 and was beyond excited to go away and see the world for 10 months, but as I’ve got older having a bit more stability and being able to make a home has become more important to me. Tours are brilliant fun, but completely personally I think they are better suited to young care free performers. I do however know plenty of older friends who still tour and love it.
What did 5 year old Debbie want to be when she grew up?
Haha I always wanted to do something creative or with people but was never one of those kids who had a specific goal. I did always love dancing and singing.
Can you tell us your best and/or worst audition?
Best…hmmm probably 42nd street. It was one song of 32 bars, a few bars of tap and ballet and then a huge whack kick and that was literally it!
Worst…This is actually hilarious looking back. My scholarship audition for Laine Theatre Arts. I was young and inexperienced and thought it would be smart to attempt a hard song so I sang……Defying Gravity! It went terribly and I cried the whole way home in the car with my mum!
Any advice for aspiring performers?
Don’t do it, go make some money!!!…..just kidding. Honestly, it’s so tough but SO rewarding! Listen to everyone you meet and learn from their successes and failures and also KNOW YOUR CASTING, don’t ever try and be something you’re not because there will always be someone else who is that. Finally my favourite quote “If it’s not fine…it’ll be funny” even when things go badly at the time, you will look back and have a brilliant story to laugh at one day.
Agent or no agent?
Depends entirely what work you want to do Cruise ships/ work abroad/ show girl stuff and theme parks =No agent
Musicals /plays =Agent
Where would you like to be in 5 years time?
Hopefully higher up in British airways but still with teaching and theatre being a huge part of my life.
As you mentioned your passion for teaching, what is it you love about teaching?
I have always loved teaching. There is nothing better than being able to help someone improve and seeing them achieve great things. I also love to choreograph. When you are in the studio and you have a vision in your head and it becomes alive in front of you, it’s honestly magic!
How do you feel your career as a performing and the skills you have learnt have prepared you for a second/different career?
I believe Performing is amazing preparation for lots of other careers as it gives you confidence, improvisational skills and a thick skin. It’s actually very similar to the flying world. The plane is your theatre, the passengers are your audience, you must look fabulous at all times and have a smile on your face even when times are rough.
Any quotes you live by?
“Your worst is someone else’s best” – “More is always more” – “If it’s not fine ,it’ll be funny”
Well there you have it folks, the very talented Debbie. Make sure to check her out online and if you happen to fly British Airways in the future keep an eye out for her.