Long Island's Debbie Gibson talks about helping teens through her...

Long Island's Debbie Gibson talks about helping teens through her Gibson Girl Foundation. Credit: troysmithphotography.com

You may remember Debbie Gibson from her chart-topping hits like “Electric Youth," "Foolish Beat” and “Lost In Your Eyes.”

But these days, you'll find the Long Island-native and pop icon helping and encouraging teens to pursue their dreams.

The Gibson Girl Foundation is based upon helping teens succeed in music and recently, she launched her first video with HooplaHa.com, a website that aims to connect the world by sharing positive and inspirational video stories.

Gibson's first video features 17-year-old Leilah Ali and the production of her first record. Two years ago Ali attended the Debbie Gibson Electric Youth Performance Camp and bonded with Gibson who saw a special talent in Ali. When Ali reached out for help, Gibson embraced the opportunity to help support Ali's dream as the producer of her first record.

I had the opportunity to talk to Gibson about her foundation, her favorite Long Island spot and more.

Q. Can you tell me a little more about the Gibson Girl Foundation and why you decided to work with teens?
It was instilled in me early on as both a teen and a female that it was possible for me to compose and produce music. Many young artists, especially girls, are made to be puppets and are creatively at the mercy of more seasoned producers and record execs. I wanted to send out an army of youth into the world armed with technical knowledge and the knowing that their creative ideas were unique and as good as anyone else.

Q. I'd love to learn more about Debbie Gibson's Electric Youth music boot camps. Are they on Long Island? How can teens get involved?
I had to skip last summer because I toured with Tiffany and I was preparing for “Apprentice,” but I hope to do more soon. I've done summer camps in both Manhattan and L.A. and hope to do them around the country. I bring in A-list vocal teachers, as well as acting teacher Howard Fine to work with kids and teens. A lot of professional songwriters won't work with up-and-coming artists unless there is something in it for them monetarily. I like being the person who says yes to these kids. And being a strong role model for them is very rewarding. I like being able to give a kid their first break. You can find more information on DebbieGibsonOfficial.com.

Q. You grew up in Merrick. Can you tell me some of your favorite things about growing up on Long Island?
My favorite kid-friendly spot was always Nunley's. I used to love getting the brass ring on the carousel ride. I also loved doing community theater on LI. It's always been great for the arts. I spent summers rehearsing with the Town of Hempstead teen repertory theater in the golf clubhouse. I recently paid a visit to Galleria Pizza in Merrick and it's still the best on the planet. My boyfriend, Rutledge, is from Mississippi and he loves the pizza.

Q. What's the best advice you have for young kids looking to pursue their dreams?
Get tons of training in whatever field you're interested in. But also get tons of experience, especially if you want to into performing. Don't take rejection too personally. I can't tell you how many “no's” I got before the first yes!

Q. Young girls today are constantly battling with their self-esteem. What advice do you have for teen girls to help them boost their confidence?
Girls should know that just being who they are is just enough. Self-esteem should not be confused with ego or appearance. Girls should know it's just as noble to grow up and become a stay-at-home mom as it is to become a rock star. It's about being the best you possible.

Check out the video with Debbie Gibson and Leilah Ali.