Debelah Morgan may be a former beauty queen, but nothing has been handed to her on a silver platter. She works hard for the money.
The singing sensation, who has a striking five-octave range, has a second chance at stardom with her debut VAZ/Motown album, “It’s Not Over,” out Oct. 27, shortly after the release of her leadoff single, “Yesterday.”
“I had another album and another record deal, and I was dropped,” Morgan said recently. “It’s only through those experiences that you dig deep and get even better and climb even higher. Of course, it’s not the best feeling in the world to be told you’re dropped and you have people laughing at you and you have your moments of desperation and despair.
“But I just remember saying to myself, ‘I’m not going to be a victim by this, I’m going to be a survivor, I will survive this somehow someway.’ It helped me keep going. It also showed me you can never relax and feel like you’ve reached as high as you’re going to get, because you never know what life is going throw you. You could get a curve ball and end up over here or over there. Then you get over there and something else happens. It’s a part of life. Accepting it in stride and knowing that it’s not personal, that it’s how life is, you can focus on what positive things you have.”
“It’s Not Over” has it all: tender love songs, old-school R&B, dance, even a twinge of alterna-pop. Morgan, who followed in Ce Ce Peniston’s footsteps as a former Miss Teen Black Arizona and Miss Black Teenage World, wrote or co-wrote seven of the album’s 15 tracks and co-produced with Grammy-winning producer Vassal Benford (Toni Braxton, Oleta Adams).
“We wanted to reach a wide variety of people,” Morgan said. “I really didn’t want to be pigeonholed or stereotyped into one particular type of music. I really wanted to reach the world and for the focus to be the music and the melodies and the words, for people to focus on that instead of ‘She’s that kind of singer, so we won’t listen to her.’
“Myself, I love all types of different music, so I couldn’t really only be strictly very urban or just a pop singer. I needed to really express myself in a lot of different ways.”
With such an absorbing voice, it wasn’t hard for people to overlook the beauty-queen stigma and take her seriously, Morgan said.
“The pageant experience was really only secondary,” she said. “Music was always my first love, performing was always my emphasis. When I did the pageant, it was a fun experience and I got to perform more, and I was always involved heavily in the community.”
Morgan isn’t taking anything for granted. She feels blessed.
“I’m honored to be an artist on a label that’s had a history of such classic performers, people who are part of our musical history,” she said. “I feel so lucky to have a wonderful job like this, and I just want to do my part and no matter what happens, I will be a survivor and continue to write, perform and sing. Whatever the impact is, we’ll deal with that.
“I just want to join the ranks. There’s room for everyone.”
BWF (before we forget): “Yesterday” debuted at No. 79 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart in late September.