Dance Diva. Beauty Queen. Vegas
Showgirl. Gay Icon. With 13 No. 1 Billboard Dance hits since her
first worldwide hit, "Feel What You Want," Kristine W’s
soulful vocals have been among the most popular soundtracks at gay
clubs, bars and pride events the past decade. Kristine spoke to us
about her acclaimed new album, “The Power of Music,” while
preparing for performances at an HRC Gala Dinner and the annual
HIV/AIDS fundraiser Broadway Bares in NYC.
You have become one of the top 5
Billboard dance artists along with Madonna, Janet Jackson, Donna
Summer, and Mariah Carey (and she’s tied at No. 2 with Beyoncé for
hits since 2000). Like those artists, you have a strong gay fan base.
When did you first become aware of your gay following?
Kristine W - I first found out I was a
gay icon when I flew from the UK to NYC and performed for a party
being DJ'd by Junior Vasquez. I walked onto the stage in front of a
few thousand hot, shirtless men and thought, “Wow, I have died and
gone to heaven.” Then I quickly figured out none of them were
interested in anything other than my voice (Kristine laughs)!! I have
been in love with gay audiences ever since.
In addition to 14 new songs, the new
CD features your 4 most recent No. 1’s, “Walk Away,” “Never,”
“Love is the Look,” and your remake of Diana Ross’ classic “The
Boss.” Since you write many of your songs, including winning an
ASCAP Award for co-writing “One More Try,” how did you decide to
take on Miss Ross and make “The Boss” and “I’m Coming Out”(a
bonus iTunes track) your own?
Kristine W - My idols growing up in
Washington state were Donna Summer and Diana Ross. I just loved them
and was always singing their songs and studying them. When I decided
to start my own record label in January of 2008, I knew "The
Boss” would be the perfect first single to put out. I was taking
control – being "The Boss" of my music, sink or swim –
and I put all I had into that single and those remixes. It was so
well received globally that I was really a bit taken back by it.
In addition to the singles, you
independently released “The Power of Music,” and it is already a
Top Five Dance Album on iTunes in its first week out. What were the
biggest challenges releasing the singles and CD on your own label and
being both businesswoman and artist?
Kristine W - The big challenges are
always the same: time and money.
Like Diana, there are quite a few
Kristine W drag queens. Who are your favorite drag performers?
Kristine W - That is why I featured
Crystal Woods in "The Boss" video. I just wanted to pay
homage to Crystal and those like her that bring so much joy to us all
with their performances. I have so many favorites and there are so
many talented drag queens across the US that the list would be a mile
long. I have so much respect for drag queens because it is so
demanding if you are a true artisan. RuPaul is the godfather, of
course, and always amazes me, Chad Michaels (Cher) in San Diego, who
is a friend and confidant, Crystal Wood (Miss Ross) in Las Vegas, and
Laritza Dumont in Orlando. I make a point to watch them when I can
because they inspire me.
Speaking of videos, the video for
“Walk Away” is pretty hot, including the hunky male model. Did
you cast him personally or did famed gay director/photographer Mike
Ruiz find him?
Kristine W - Mike Ruiz found Matus
Valent, and yes, he is a gorgeous man. We actually still keep in
How do you like making videos
compared to recording?
Kristine W - Videos are very demanding
and time consuming. Honestly, I don't really enjoy doing them but
they are a necessity and a time capsule for the music. They are a lot
more work then anyone knows and usually very unglamorous.
Did fighting leukemia earlier this
decade and having friends with HIV/AIDS impact the themes of your
songs and the many causes you support and actively promote in your
Kristine W - Having battled leukemia
for a few years, I understand what people with AIDS go through,
waiting for your blood counts, hoping that you will stay healthy and
not go backwards. AIDS and diseases of all kinds are an ongoing
uphill battle for humanity. I am always humbled by how fragile life
really is, and yes, it is always a part of my music.
Your new single, “Be Alright,”
is an uplifting summer song, and the overall album is a great
antidote to the current state of the world. How did “Be Alright”
Kristine W - I actually wrote "Be
Alright" four years ago with my guitar player Tommy Cameron
while I was getting better and trying to stay in remission from
leukemia. My grandfather died a few months after I got out of the
hospital, and I was able to see him and spend time with him before he
passed. I wrote the first verse after his funeral, and I was really
missing him. He was failing while I was at the UCLA hospital. A huge
fear of mine was that he would die before I got back to Washington to
see him. I never told him I had leukemia and told everyone else not
say anything. He was too frail and that would have put him over the
edge. I would call him from UCLA and tell him I was fine, and I was
actually terrified. That is the only time I ever lied to him. We were
very tight, and I always wondered if he knew but didn’t say
“Be Alright” features dance
mixes by Hex Hextor, Offer Nissim, the Perry Twins, and more,
including exclusive remixes on Masterbeat. Your songs are remixed by
the top dance producers and DJ’s in the business. Are you ever
surprised by the results?
Kristine W - I am always surprised by
remixes, and that is why I love them so much. It is so fun to write a
song and then hand it over to someone and have them bring their own
interpretation. I am currently in love with the Perry Twins’ “Los
Angels and Demons” mix of "Be Alright." That mix is so
full of emotion and takes me on a journey.
Your landmark show at the Hilton Las
Vegas led to several “Entertainer of the Year” awards and even
“Kristine W Day” on June 28th in Nevada. You just performed again
in Vegas at the Miss USA pageant. As a former winner of the Miss
America talent competition, did performing during this year’s Miss
USA show bring back any crazy beauty queen memories?
Kristine W - Oh, yes!! I immediately
remembered how cutthroat the pageant world is but that is life. It is
a good but painful education.
What do your two young kids think
when they see Mom turn into the larger than life performer you become
on stage – singing live, playing instruments, wearing outrageous
costumes, surrounded by a team of dancers?
Kristine W - They always ask when I am
going to turn into Kristine W again. I am like Wonder Woman to them.
One minute I am driving them to school, the next minute I am driving
an audience crazy. I love it!! I am a true Gemini.
Copyright 2009 Scott David