Chase the dream: Deborah Emmanuel

Inspired by her brief stint in prison, Deborah uses her experience to write and perform for a greater cause.

Charity Chan
Charity Chan

Published: 23 July 2015, 8:48 PM

It all started when Deborah Emmanuel was a 7-year-old in primary school. Growing up, she enjoyed studying English most. She spent hours glued to her books, penning her thoughts on paper. At 11, she dedicated her first poem to her mother as a birthday gift.

Deborah’s first collection Photo Credit: Deborah Emmanuel

Today, Deborah is busy chasing her dreams in the theatre and broadcast scene, while trying to make the world a better place.

But behind her bubbly personality, Deborah has a shocking past.

She has been to prison.

During our chat at her Buona Vista home, we learnt that like any other teenager, Deborah faced challenges such as rocky relationships and financial difficulties. When she was unable to pay her school fees after her first year pursuing an acting degree in LASALLE, she had no choice but to drop out.

Desperate for ways to end her sufferings, Deborah was caught for misusing drugs when she was 19, and was later sent to prison for a year.

“I was lost, and I was trying to deal with it by finding pleasure to make the pain go away,” said Deborah, 27, who currently works as an artist and performs for Wobology, a band that explores dub, reggae and electronic music.

She actively plays at gigs with her band. Photo Credit: WOBOLOGY

During her time in prison, the harrowing experience prompted her to turn over a new leaf, and to lead a meaningful life for herself and those around her. Prison was a paradox for the then teenager. Despite falling into a state of depression and anorexia, she managed to find a purpose behind her imprisonment, such as understanding the value of freedom behind bars.

“When I was sitting there in prison for a year to think of what I’ve done and who I had become, I didn’t like it,” said Deborah, who is working on a book that features a factual account of her prison experience.

Besides writing, the 27-year-old enjoys travelling, cooking and hiking. Photo Credit: Deborah Emmanuel

Immediately after her release in 2009, she worked hard to get a place at Singapore Polytechnic, pursuing a diploma in applied drama and psychology. After achieving the diploma, went to Australia’s Griffith University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Contemporary and Applied Theatre.

Fusing her qualifications and passions together, Deborah has been on various platforms to enlighten youths on the art of poetry, as well as share the valuable lessons she has learned.

Her work with poetry has been displayed at various TEDx events in Singapore for the past three years. She has also made her presence felt in the theatre and broadcast scene with her involvement with Singapore Repertory Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and acting in OKTO’s kids show Zoom Zim Zam, and Disney’s comedy series, As the Bell Rings.

One memorable event she treasured most was her involvement and interaction with students during the ‘Words Go Round’ school tour during the month of March this year, organised by National Arts Council (NAC).

Deborah enjoys interacting with young students. Photo Credit: Singapore Writer’s Festival

“Seeing how they found value in (the personal) stuff that I shared was very moving for me,” said Deborah.

At the moment, Deborah hopes to publish her book by the end of this year and set up a programme with her friend to teach people how to write.

What drives her to keep writing and performing?

She replied: “When I see something unjust or when I feel something strongly, that is when I am compelled to write.”

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