Debra Stephenson - Biography
Debra started making an impression at the tender age of six with her impressions of the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Kate Bush and Shirley Bassey. She began following her dream of a career on the stage by going to dance, drama and singing lessons. Debra entered various talent shows and competitions with her comedy impressions routine and, by the time she was 13, began performing professionally in social and working men's clubs. Then in 1987, at the age of 14, she made her TV debut on Bob Says Opportunity Knocks. In 1990, Debra went "alternative" with a show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and a subsequent tour of student union bars, as well as other comedy venues, including Covent Garden's Comedy Store. She also began working in radio for the BBC comedy department in series such as Fantastic Voyage, Colin and Alan Davies Big 1. Around that time Debra also took part as an impressionist on ITV’s Spitting Image.
In 1993, Debra changed direction and embarked on training as a serious actress at the Manchester Metropolitan University. Upon graduation, she soon got her first break in Paul Abbot's ITV drama Reckless, starring Robson Green and Francesca Annis. She also co- presented the BBC1 children's show The Friday Zone. A higher profile started to grow with three series of the BBC 1 TV drama, penned by Kay Mellor, Playing the Field, in which she played the loveable but ditzy Diane Powell; and another three series of Bad Girls, for which Debra was twice nominated for Best Actress at the National Television Awards and won most popular actress at The TV Quick Awards, for her role as the evil Shell Dockley. Other shows continued to tap into her talents for comedy as well as straight drama, from Catherine Cookson's A Dinner of Herbs, to Spooks, from Midsummer Murders and Where the Heart Is to the BBC 1 sketch show TV to Go.
In 2004, Debra became one of the nation's favourite soap stars for her portrayal of Frankie Baldwin in Coronation Street, where she stayed for almost 3 years. Although the dramatic storylines kept her busy, Debra still found time to make regular contributions to Chanel 4's Friday Night Project.
Around this time Debra also took part in Comic Relief does Fame Academy - which gave Debra opportunity to release an album of songs entitled In the Sunshine. In fact she has enjoyed the honour of singing solo at many prestigious venues including The Albert Hall, Wembley Arena and her proudest moment was singing the National Anthem at Old Trafford in front of a full stadium - as well as the England Football Team! Around the same time Debra teamed up with Bernie Nolan in a weekly summer Season at the Blackpool Opera house, in a show called Soapqueens, in which Debra entertained audiences with her extensive range of vocal impressions.
Over the years Debra has enjoyed making appearances on many light entertainment TV shows such as Stars In Their Eyes, which she took part in twice, performing as Kate Bush and Kylie Minogue; we also saw her as Michael Jackson on Let's Dance for Sport Relief, and more recently she scored joint highest marks on the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special.
More recently Debra also had fun taking part in ITV's Get Your Act Together as Ray Quinn's mentor, teaching him to do impressions and together winning in the final of the competition.
Debra has also been known to turn her hand to presenting, for example the National Lottery Midweek draws and perhaps more interestingly an immersive style documentary called Prisons for Virgin TV, which involved Debra donning the regulation orange jump-suit to get ‘up-close and personal’ interviews with the female inmates of Alemeda County Jail, USA.
Debra likes to dabble in cookery and has enjoyed taking part in such shows as BBC's Celebrity Masterchef and Marco's Kitchen Burnout. She has had opportunity to put her skills to good use in the kitchen on ITV's Lorraine, regularly rustling up some of the meals which were included in her 28 day Bikini Diet, which featured as part of the show.
Debra combined her love of comedy and cookery in the genre-mashing, comedy cook-show, "Fanny and Friends", in which Debra brought Fanny Cradock "back from the dead" to host a brand new program for Channel 4. The pilot was screened on More 4 as part of a whole evening of Fanny's favourite recipes, entitled "A Night in with Fanny" for Channel 4's Stand up for Cancer charity campaign.
More recently Debra took part in Watch TV's travel and cookery programme Battlechefs, which was filmed on board cruiseship P&O Britannia with Marco Pierre-White and broadcast earlier this year.
Debra's role as ambassador for the Red Tractor British Food Assurance body also involved Debra demonstrating cooking, with different recipes being demonstrated each day on the internet, at the same time promoting British farming. This was along with a campaign on TV and radio shows including The Alan Titchmarsh Show and The Write Stuff.
Debra is no stranger to PR, of course, having been attached to campaigns for a wide range of products including Dolmio, Nelson's Homeopathy and The Woodland Trust.
Debra has also volenteered her services to charity throughout her career, lending support to various high and low-profile charities by helping them with thier PR and awareness campaigns and making appearences at countless events. Currently Debra is a patron of OPSA (Overseas plastic surgery appeal), Julia's House children's hospice as well as Lewis Manning Hospice and is an official ambassador for Variety as well as Missing People.
A popular guest on many TV sofas Debra has been fortunate to have had the opportunity to promote her charities and her work on a great many television shows including Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, This Morning, Loose Women, The One Show and The Aled Jones Show. And, going back to earlier years, The Paul O Grady show, The Alan Titchmarsh Show, Sharon Osbourne's show, Des and Mel, The Brian Conley Show and The Frank Skinner Show. Debra has also made a good few appearances on "talking heads" programmes over the years and apeared on various TV game shows such as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Pointless and Tipping Point.
Keeping it in the family, Debra also took part in Celebrity Driving Academy with her son Max and more recently Big star Little Star, on which she appeared as a contestant with her Daughter Zoe. And Debra even made an appearance with her Chocolate Labrador, Biscuit, earlier this year, as guest presenter on More 4's travelogue programme Roams with a View.
Debra is probably best known for her impressions of the likes of Davina McCall, Ann Robinson and Cheryl Cole in The Impressions Show with Culshaw and Stephenson, in which she starred in 3 series for BBC1, along with her comedy counterpart Jon Culshaw.
However, she kept her hand in with straight acting by following up with serious roles in dramas such as ITV's Waterloo Road, Channel 4's Upfront: The Postcode Lottery and CBBC children's drama Rocket Island and Channel 4's My Mad Fat Diary.
In 2014, Debra played all three female roles in The Last of The Red Hot Lovers, along side Steven Pinder at the Theatre Royal,St Helens, to rave reviews.
Not that Debra is a stranger to theatre, having played principal roles in numerous pantomimes over the years.
In fact, Debra's biggest passion is entertaining live audiences. She has in recent times entertained passengers aboard P&O cruise ships and regularly travels up and down the country and abroad to entertain at corporate dinners as well as hosting award ceremonies.
What else is happening now?
Debra is now a regular part of the team of impressionists on the highly acclaimed radio series Dead Ringers for BBC Radio 4.
She is also one of the principal voices on ITV's satirical comedy puppet show, Newzoids, currently showing on ITV's prime time Saturday night slot, just after the X Factor.
Also on primetime recently, over on BBC1, was the well received, brand new pilot comedy, Young Hyacinth, in which Debra played the part of Dulcie. This prequel to Keeping Up Appearances was part of the BBC's Classic Sitcom Season and may still be seen on BBC iplayer.
As well as being an impressionist, Debra is a busy voice-over artist currently playing an assortment of different characters on the animated CBBC series Scream Street, along side John Thompson, and her voice may also regularly be heard on various radio ad campaigns.
2016 saw Debra embark on a national tour of theatres with her one-woman show "Debra's Night of a Hundred Voices", where she "wowed" audiences by paying tribute to the worlds favourite female singers and celebrities with her vocal and comedy impressions, accompanied by her six piece band.
Debra was fortunate enough to have been invited to promote her tour on radio shows such as BBC Radio 2's Steve Write in the Afternoon, The Clare Teal Show and The Dermot O'Leary Show (also Radio 2) and TV Shows such as ITV's Lorraine, Channel 5's The Saturday Show and ITV’s The Write Stuff - thus winning her good audiences at all of her tour venues.
Debra hopes to continue earning standing ovations with the second leg of her tour in 2017.