Mama Cheetah: Deborah Gregory Creator of “Cheetah Girls”

Monday, 07 November 2011 03:29 Written by  Brittany Rodgers

Deborah Gregory is the mastermind behind “The Cheetah Girls,” a cheetah-licious series and Disney Channel original movie. She is originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., but grew up in foster homes in the Bronx. She never really had the passion for writing, but it was a part of who she was growing up as a child.

“My foster mother was illiterate and couldn’t read or write. My purpose was to read and write correspondence for her and that shaped me more than anything,” says Deborah.

She explains that her foster mother couldn’t do anything by herself, and it was Deborah’s job to get things done. She says it had a purpose and put value on something in her life.

“I basically started writing poetry and then wrote a book around 10 or 11 years old,” says Deborah. “It was a novel, and one day my teacher read it and said it was horrible, and I put the book away. One of the foster kids took it, and it disappeared.”

Not only was she a young writer, but she also had a passion for fashion, making her first dress at 11 years old. “I graduated from Fashion Institute of Technology so that’s a part of my background,” says Deborah.

“Growl Power Forever”

Deborah was a contributor writer for Essence magazine and assigned to interview girl groups. In 1998, she was assigned to interview the girl group Destiny’s Child (DC) in Houston. “I hung out at the Galleria Mall, and they took me to eat at Pappadeux and that was the gem of creating the idea of a singing group,” she admits.

Because of that meeting, she says that is why two of the characters in "Cheetah Girls" are from Houston and the lead character’s name is Galleria. The book wasn’t based on DC, but they did give her a quote that was on the back of the first edition of the first book.

“I’ve written a lot of articles on girl groups and that was part of it. I also wanted to be a singer when I was little and always wanted to wear cheetah clothes,” she admits. She joked and said if she could come back, she would be a singer and not a writer.

Deborah got the idea developing a story about a singing group that wasn’t real, had records and would go on tours while she was watching MTV’s “Where Are They Now?” The episode was about the sitcom, “The Partridge Family,” when she discovered they weren’t a real family.

Rip the Catwalk

Recently, Deborah Gregory has launched her new 920-page book, Catwalk Trilogy. The book follows students over one year as they compete and prepare for the annual Catwalk fashion show competition.

“I only pray that I get this book made into a TV series or film. This is what I did with the Cheetah Girls, and it’s very hard to get these kind of projects created with black characters in the teen/children’s market,” Deborah admits, although she remains optimistic.

Her advice to people who want to get in the publishing business is that writing should be a passion. She said writers should figure out if they want to write for TV or if they want to write books.

“Ten percent of the population reads books. Know the numbers and information and then make the choices,” she says.

“In Cheetah Girls, I always love making up words, symbols and phrases that only the group understands. ‘Growl power’ is the phrase for encouraging your friends to do whatever.”


Deborah can be reached on Twitter, Facebook and her website


Brittany Rodgers

Brittany Rodgers

Brittany Rodgers is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism. She has written for a variety of publications, including The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Defender newspaper. She also is a blogger and enjoys social media.

Brittany can be contacted at