Deborah Magdalena was born into a very talented musical family. As the sister of Latin Grammy winner Nestor Torres and grandniece of legendary Puerto Rican singer Ruth Fernandez, it was in her blood to entertain friends and family from an early age with her spontaneous comedic sketches and dance numbers.
In the early nineties Deborah enjoyed a three-year stint as a student and apprentice for renowned actor and mentor Michael Beckett,under Uta Hagan’s direction at Herbert Bergdorf Studios in New York City. Immediately after, she quickly accumulated TV and film credits, including Sesame Street (CTW), Apollo Comedy Hour (Tribune Entertainment), The Newz (Columbia-Tri-Star), Safe Harbor (Warner Brothers), Striptease (Castle Rock), Holyman (Caravan), and For Love or Country (HBO) Billboard Latino (Azteca America).
Hollywood was at her doorstep literally and figuratively on September 11, 2001, when a phone call from her best friend Tanya drastically changed the course of Deborah’s life. She felt like her spirit was about to jump out of her body when she learned that Tanya’s firefighter fiancé, Sergio Gabriel Villanueva, was down at the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
During the yearlong journey of yearning to heal while learning to accept her family’s loss, Deborah turned to writing poetry and launched a new career of performing her spoken word with vigor and pain at open mics across the country. The process proved to be cathartic as she was reminded of how much she enjoyed the immediate audience response and impact, and subsequently, Deborah released her first chapbook, Heartbreak Haikuto rave reviews and three spoken word CDs- Spoken Soul: A Survival Kit of Poetry, Deborah Magdalena LIVE and FUNKdalena.
Originally setting out to complete just an album, FUNKdalena organically evolved into a trilogy of works consisting of a short play “LOVE ADDICT”, one-act play “FUNKdalena – The Goddess of FUNK”, and “DIOSA” a musical.
Deborah’s short play “LOVE ADDICT”, FUNKdalena’s prequel, premiered to rave reviews during MICROTheater Miami Season 3 – fall 2012. Her one-act play FUNKdalena was awarded The Jenny Duany Light Bulb Fund Award from The Miami Light Project 2012.
Nominated by the Poetry National Awards 2013 as best album of the year, FUNKdalena is not just a mix of poetry and FUNK music– FUNKdalena sets out to poetically inspire positive growth and change in the human soul, the stage, and dance floor.
In 2007, Deborah combined her bilingual hosting style with comedic and musical skills alongside DJ / Producer The Brass King, created a unique poetic cabaret show called The Alma Lounge which had a SOLD OUT six-month run at the notorious Miami Beach hotel, The Raleigh.
Understanding the power of the written and spoken word, Deborah’s goal became to not only entertain but inspire others’ self-healing through poetry with a comedic twist, and South Florida’s arts community welcomed Deborah with open arms. In between her busy shooting and performing schedule she stayed true to her goal and found a deep passion for working with kids and women artists. With poetry in one hand and music in the other, Deborah set out to work with kids in after school programs funded by Arts For Learning, and personally authored an original poetic program called After School Zen, which she taught in front of 200 kids from first thru sixth grades. She quickly became one of South Florida’s most sought after teaching artists and became a beloved and respected Community Outreach Ambassador.
In the spring of 2009, Deborah co-founded with The Dranoff 2 Piano Foundation Piano Slam, a classical performance and education program, one of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami Dade County community signature outreach programs. Piano Slam hosts an annual poetry and Spoken Word competition throughout title one Miami-Dade County middle and high schools. Not only did she produce and direct Piano Slam in 2009 and 2010, but she went on to become Piano Slams Education and Community Outreach Director from 2016-2019 coordinating school tours, field trips, writing workshops and show rehearsals impacting over 2500 students. The program culminates with a performance by poetry contest finalists accompanied by renowned pianists such as the internationally renowned piano duo Jeroen & Maarten Van Veen and Susan and Sarah Wang at the John S. and James L. Knight Music Hall in Miami, FL.
Continuing her work with high school students, in 2010 Deborah was commissioned by National YoungArts Foundation, the sole nominating organization for the U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, to be one of their in-school presenters for their core program YoungArts. Since then she has inspired more than 10000 young artists and helped supervise various master classes led by the likes of Bill T. Jones and Robert Redford. In the summers of 2013 – 2019 Deborah was commissioned to work as the Creative Communications Instructor for the award winning and nationally recognized Ailey Camp Miami by The Alvin Ailey Foundation and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami Dade County. There she taught underserved middle school students how to find their life’s purpose through the art form of Spoken Word.
With a continued poetic force, Deborah was inspired by the healing power of the arts in women’s lives and founded Spoken Soul Festival in 2008, an annual three day festival whose mission is to spotlight South Florida women artists and vision is to make South Florida women artists a household name. SSF coincides with WomenArts’ international holiday SWAN Day (Support Women Artists Now Day). WomenArts has recognized the Spoken Soul Festival – SWAN Day Miami as one of the top five SWAN events worldwide because the festival is one of the largest SWAN events and one of the most effective in training and supporting the participating women artists. Since its launch in March 2008, the festival has been awarded proclamations from the City of Miami Beach, Miami Dade County and the City of Miami as well as a City Of Miami special City Seal. Featured artists have been commissioned or featured for shows during Art Basel – Miami, Gibson Guitar Showroom, New York Fashion Week, and Gen Art’s Fresh Faces Miami.
During the Winter / Spring of 2017 Deborah was the artist in residence at Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami. She facilitated and curated their ICA Narratives Winter / Spring Exhibition. ICA Narratives is an offsite arts program at ICA Miami that works with underserved community organizations. Deborah worked with organizations such as Citrus Health Center for Adolescents, the Detention Center for Juvenile Justice, Lotus House, Pridelines, and South Florida CARES Mentoring Movement at Williams Park. This residency culminated with an open and free to the public exhibit #SpokenSocial Spoken Word That Is Meant To Be Retweeted.
Deborah was awarded the prestigious TAFARI Award 2013 for her work with women artists alongside the Mayor of Miami Beach Matti Herrera Bower and Founder of the First Modeling Agency in Miami Michele Pommier. In 2014 she was nominated for the Troy Poet Lewis Community Outreach Award by the National Poetry Awards.
Deborah has become a veteran arts educator and producer who has developed educational programs that inspire and empower underserved youth and women. She has and continues to do Cultural Curating by cultivating impactful community programming and castings for partners such as P.A.T.H, ICA Miami, CCE Miami, PhilanthroFest, Women’s International Film Festival, The Arsht Center, Little Haiti Cultural Complex, Exile Books with De La Cruz Collection, and The Miami Design District Performance Series.
Wanting to lead by example, Deborah still continues to create and bare her poetic soul.
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