1 of 3
Deborah Gibson

Former pop rock star Deborah Gibson posed nude for Playboy magazine in 2005. She starred at recent gay pride events and cruises. On Thursday, she was announced as a star of Sen. Orrin Hatch's upcoming annual Utah Women's Conference.

When asked if Hatch knew about Gibson's nude poses and actions as a "straight advocate" for gays, conservative Hatch said he did not — but said Gibson is coming anyway to share what he calls her "inspirational story."

"I was not aware of some of Ms. Gibson's personal activities. I was aware that she has devoted herself to speaking to groups across the nation about the mental health issues she has faced, in particular anxiety disorder, which women can relate to from all walks of life," Hatch said in a written response to Deseret News questioning.

"Those who attend the conference will enjoy hearing from Ms. Gibson and see that she has overcome a lot in her life and has a truly inspirational story to share," he said.

"While I may not agree with all Ms. Gibson's actions or opinions, I believe her message on how to deal with anxiety disorder and other challenges will be important and helpful to many," Hatch said.

Gibson may be best known as a former teenage pop star. At age 16, when she used Debbie as her first name, she became the youngest female ever to write, produce and perform a Billboard No. 1 single, "Foolish Beat."

In recent years, she has starred in Broadway and other productions including "Les Miserables," "Grease," "Funny Girl," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."

But her recent work also included those nude pictures and gay events — which would appear at odds with what Hatch would normally seek for his women's conference.

Gibson's nude pictures in Playboy in 2005 coincided with the release of her single, "Naked."

She told People magazine at the time that at age 34, "You realize that you are allowed to break the rules." She said it also showed she was not quite "this all-American girl from Long Island" that many of her fans imagined.

She also told People that "my mom loves the pictures" and said her dad was supportive.

Of note, Hatch once called pornography available on the Internet (as Gibson's nude pictures are) a "clear and present danger to children and families."

Also of note, in an interview at Playbill.com (with stories that appear in theater playbills), Gibson talks about how much she enjoys performing on gay cruises. "I'm a big advocate of the gay community, and I love doing those cruises," she said. She also has appeared at many gay pride parades and events in recent years.

Gibson is not the only singer who was invited to the women's conference that Hatch co-sponsors with his wife, Elaine. Also coming is country music star Collin Raye.

About the two singers, a Hatch press release says, "Both have inspiring stories of dedication to help others, and I know conference attendees will be uplifted by their presentations."

A press release said the conference will have many other speakers and workshops dealing with topics ranging from fiscal fitness to dealing with stress, mastering change and pornography on the Internet.

The annual conference — the 24th that Hatch has sponsored — is scheduled for Oct. 6 at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City. Registration costs $25, and includes lunch. Those interested in registering may call 801-413-9133.

E-mail: [email protected]