Dance Diva. Beauty Queen. Vegas Showgirl. Gay Icon. Kristine W’s high energy music, soulful vocals, and live shows have been prominent features at gay clubs and pride events ever since her first worldwide hit “Feel What You Want.” While preparing for performances at an HRC Gala Dinner and HIV/AIDS fundraiser Broadway Bares, Kristine spoke with us about her acclaimed new album, “The Power of Music.”
With 13 No. 1 Billboard Dance hits, you have become one of the top 5 dance artists along with Madonna, Janet Jackson, Donna Summer, and Mariah Carey. All 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.
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’s already a Top Five Dance Album on iTunes its first week out. What were the biggest challenges building 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 touch.
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 blog?
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” come about?
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 anything.
“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.