Chicago singer De'Borah finds soul sister in Xtina

After her blind audition for NBC's singing competition "The Voice," Chicago native De'Borah became one of the show's most talked-about acts, both for her visceral rendition of Train's "Hey Soul Sister" and her coming-out declaration. RedEye talked with the chic 24-year-old about her nerve-racking audition, working with her coach, Christina Aguilera, and growing up in Rosemont. "The Voice" begins its battle rounds at 7 p.m. Oct. 8 on NBC.

What made you want to sing "Soul Sister" during your audition?
Well, it's fun. It's really fun. I know I can enjoy myself. It kind of describes this shy yet conceded person who, you know, uses his music to get the woman, so it really fit me perfectly. And I had fun singing the song.

The judges waited a long time to turn around for you. What was going through your head?
Great question. Nobody ever asked me this. I was like really nervous, you know? It's nerve-racking. We only had 90 seconds to sing, and in those 90 seconds they turned around for me in the last like six seconds. So I went from being extra confident to just staring at the chairs like, "C'mon, man." And then the moment I gave up I was like, "Well they didn't turn around." I'm like, "Well, might as well go out with a bang." So I screamed "Hey!" And when I screamed that "hey," they turned around. It was like, "Oh, OK." I actually freaked out up there in my mind.

Did you do anything special to prepare for "The Voice?"
Well, mostly I do a little. I pray first, then I have this song list that I play just to keep me pumped. The last song I heard on it before I went up there was "Moves like Jagger." So it was good because the two coaches I wanted to turn around besides Adam turned around for me. So it was cool. It would have been awesome, though, if it was Adam and Christina. Oh, that would have made my day.

I read that one of your reasons for choosing Christina was her song "The Voice Within." Can you talk about her as an artist and the other reasons behind picking her as coach?
I used to sing some lyrics. Her style of music, it tends to go minor. I don't know if you know music lingo, but it tends to go minor, and in the church, we usually sing minor. ... I knew that she would understand my type of singing more than anyone.

What has it been like working with her to prepare for the battle rounds?
Well, working with me as an artist, I'm still in shock mode. I'm in fan mode. Going into the battles, I was more staring at her like, "Oh my God, it's you." The songs that are coming up, I believe she knows who I am. She really took time to learn who I'm ready to become. So working with Christina so far has been student towards professor. You know, I'm just sitting in class right now.

You came out for the first time at the audition. What made you do that then and has that changed anything?
I felt like the time was needed. Nobody ever asked me if I was gay, you know, you could just look at me and assume. Actually uttering those words, that was my first time uttering the words. I have definitely been in relationships with women, but I've never used those words. Well, I've never had to use those words. You could look at me and tell. Since then, since it's been aired and stuff, a lot of church stuff has come to reconcile with me, come to apologize and say they're sorry for the way they treated me. And then there are some churches that feel like, "Ugh, stay away from her; she has seductive spirits." I mean it's a lot of things. It's bittersweet, I'll tell you that. Very bittersweet.

Can you tell us about your Chicago background, where you grew up and all that?
I grew up in the Rosemont area off 102nd. My father was a pastor, and we sang all through Chicago, all around the U.S. Growing up in Chicago was rough. I had no idea how rough it was because I was kind of restricted from most of the things. But I was very active in school, basketball, chorus, band, all those things. Chicago, I know it like the back of my hand. I ran around when I got of age, you know, just to see what was really out there. [I had] a lot of fun. I spent most of my time around Riverdale and Harvey, which is kind of like Chicago, you know? Very urban; so I spent my life in the hood. It kind of shaped who I was.

What are some of your favorite spots to hang out or eat or do whatever in the city?
One of my favorite spots to eat is Harold's Chicken Shack. My God. Oooooh! They've got the best chicken. ... Definitely Giordano's is the No. 1 pizza in the world. I have to say that. In the world. Gino's comes second. But I spend most of my time hanging out at karaoke bars, well not karaoke bars, but I do karaoke for Spotlite. They're just karaoke.

You have a gospel background. Can you talk about some influences or favorite artists or songs?
Who influenced me big in gospel is The Hawkins Family and The Clark Sisters. They helped shape my voice, my creativity. They sing to be out the box, you know? When they were younger, they were the eccentric group, you know? They didn't sound like traditional gospel. ... Kirk Franklin is one of my favorite gospel [singers] right now. He's like the only gospel [singer] I listen to actually.

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