Childhood & Early Life
Debra was born Debra Renee Wilson, on April 26, 1962. She grew up in the neighborhood of Ozone Park, Queens, New York City. She graduated from the 'New York City High School of the Performing Arts' and then continued her studies at 'Syracuse University.'
While at 'Syracuse University,' Debra simultaneously worked on TV and radio. She also taught at the 'All Saints Church' pre-school in Sunnyside, Queens, during the 1980s.
From 1988 to 1991, Debra performed in ‘off-Broadway’ productions with the improvisational comedy troupe 'Noo Yawk Tawk' at ‘The Village Gate.’
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Debra made her acting debut with the TV pilot of 'The Apollo Comedy Hour.' In 1992, she played various roles on the show 'The Uptown Comedy Club' and co-hosted 'Can We Shop?' with Joan Rivers.
Debra also guest-appeared in an episode of the 'Fox' police-procedural drama 'New York Undercover' and continued to make TV appearances and working as a 'Burger King' spokesperson. Shortly before she started her stint with 'MAD TV,' Debra made her major feature-film debut with 'Let It Be Me.'
In 1995, Debra was selected as one of the eight original cast members of the series 'Mad TV.' She continued to be on the main cast from the first to the eighth season and then guest-appeared in seasons 10, 13, 14 and 15.
Debra’s strong background in sketch comedy, “improv,” and TV made it easy for her to garner fame in 'MAD TV,' which was her third TV series. Many of the characters she created in the series have been iconic. Some of them are Latina bimbo ‘Melina’ (‘Lida and Melina’), ‘Kappa Kappa Kappa' sorority sister ‘Hayden Brooks,’ ‘Tovah McQueen’ of 'Reality Check,' ‘Stick Chick Autumn,’ and blaxploitation actor Cocoa Latette. However, the most prominent of them was the fast-talking "Black American Princess" ‘Bunifa Latifah Halifah Sharifa Jackson.’
Among Debra’s best-known impressions on the show were those of Oprah Winfrey and Whitney Houston. She impersonated Oprah so impeccably that she recreated the character in some of her later projects, too.
Debra taped four sketches for 'MAD TV' Season 10, but only three were aired. The remaining bit was a new parody sketch on Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown.
While working for 'MAD TV' in 1995 and 1996, Debra appeared in brief roles in 'Blue in the Face,' 'Girl 6,' 'Gridlock'd,' 'B A P S.' In 1997, she had prominent roles, as ‘Jennifer Williams’ in the drama 'Soulmates' and as ‘Belinda Davis’ in the horror–thriller 'Asylum.'
Debra voiced ‘Queenie Sweet Potato,’ an anthropomorphic sweet potato, in 13 episodes of the 'Fox Kids' animated series 'The Mr. Potato Head Show,' loosely based on the 'Hasbro' line of toys of the same name (1998–1999).
On February 15, 1999, Debra appeared in an episode of 'WCW Monday Nitro' that featured a wrestling match between her 'MAD TV' cast member Will Sasso and Bret Hart.
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Debra provided voice to the character ‘Great Grandma Fran’ in the Christmas animated TV special 'Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa' (2002). She also voiced various characters in the 'Fox' animated sitcom 'Family Guy' (six episodes 2000–2001, 2008–2011) and the 'UPN'/'Comedy Central' show 'Gary & Mike' (13 episodes, 2001).
Debra voiced Oprah Winfrey in two episodes of the 'Disney Channel' animation 'The Proud Family.' She voiced Whitney Houston in the 'Fox' animation 'American Dad!' (2005–2016).
Debra co-hosted the 'TV Guide Channel' show 'TV Watercooler,' along with John Fugelsang, until Teresa Strasser replaced her in October 2006. She wrote the 2005 short 'Bringing up BayBay,' also starring in it as ‘Pam Wilcox’/‘BayBay Girl.’
In 2006, Debra voiced the characters ‘Sister Buzzard’ in 'The Adventures of Brer Rabbit' and ‘Debbie’ in 'Over the Hedge.' She portrayed Oprah Winfrey in the fourth release of the horror–comedy franchise of 'Scary Movie.'
In 2009, she started co-hosting the ‘Game Show Network’ live-interaction show ‘GSN Live.’ She continued co-hosting the show until January 2010. She voiced several characters in 17 episodes of the 'Adult Swim' animation 'Black Dynamite' and in 21 episodes of the 'Netflix' animated series 'All Hail King Julien' (2014–2016).
Debra provided voice to the fictional superhero ‘Storm’ in 'X-Men: The Official Game' (2006). She also voiced multiple characters in the video game 'Fallout: New Vegas' (2010). She lent her voice to the 'DC Comics' character ‘Amanda Blake Waller’ in the episodic point-and-click graphic adventure video game 'Batman: The Enemy Within' (2017–2018).
Debra played ‘Apocalypta,’ a character who tried to train zombies, in the 2016 'SyFy' post-apocalyptic zombie horror Western feature 'Dead 7' (previously titled 'Dead West'). She appeared as ‘New Bryan’ in the 2018 'SyFy' science-fiction comedy–disaster TV movie 'The Last Sharknado: It's About Time.'
Debra starred as ‘Leona’ in the 2016 drama movie 'Caged No More' and as ‘Adah Allen’ in the movie adaption of the stage play 'The Summerland Project.'
In 2017, Debra voiced ‘Grace Walker’ in the action–adventure first-person shooter video game 'Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.' Later, in 2019, she lent her voice to ‘Addison “Addy” Walker’ in 'Days Gone,' ‘Grace Walker’ in 'Wolfenstein: Youngblood,' and ‘Cere’ in 'Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.’
Debra has featured in commercials for 'Sierra Mist,' the lemon-flavored soft drink introduced by 'Pepsi' (2005).
She produced the 2018 series ‘Laugh at LA’ and wrote the short ‘Bringing Up BayBay’ and the series ‘The Uptown Comedy Club.’
Family & Personal Life
Debra was married to writer-director Cliff Skelton from April 2006 to 2010. They separated citing irreconcilable differences.
Debra is an avid animal lover. She previously owned two boa constrictors, two cats, and two scorpions. Debra has never been without an animal companion in her life to date. She even owned a Columbian tegu lizard named ''Lizard."
Debra has many tattoos on her body. One even extends from her wrists to her back. She has gone bald since April 2012.
A deeply spiritual person, Debra finds solace in spiritual counseling, life coaching, motivational speaking, and massage therapy. She has been associated with a number of non-profit organizations and charities, as a volunteer, for over a decade.
Apart from spirituality, Debra has a strong affinity and fascination for the paranormal, various forms of psychic phenomena, the forensic sciences, and cultural anthropology. She has even been associated with a celebrity paranormal team in the 'VH1' special 'Celebrity Paranormal Project.’
One of Debra’s favorite pastimes is riding a motorcycle. She has been doing this since 2008.