The Divine Miss W
by Matt Kalkhoff
 


Kristine W’s glad to be alive, and in the land of the living. But she can’t believe that she’s survived, still in the land of the living. Considering everything she’s been through in the past 15 years, you might not believe it either. The seductive songstress and dance floor temptress has encountered many obstacles along the road to fame, but through it all, she has done more than just survive, she has influenced and entertained millions of people, while securing herself an impressive place in dance music history. Now she’s gearing up to do it all over again.

Kristine grew up in the small farming community of Pasco, Washington. Although her father died when she was a child, both he and her mother exposed Kristine to music at an early age through their careers as singers. Kristine followed in their footsteps by regularly singing in her church choir and at a few of her mother’s nightclub shows. She also mastered the saxophone, guitar, piano, drums, and timbales. This early exposure to the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry fueled Kristine’s desire to leave Washington to pursue her own dream of entertaining the world. To finance her relocation, the ambitious U.S. National Javelin Champion and all-around athlete took her natural good looks and voluptuous six-foot frame to the beauty pageant circuit where she was crowned Miss Washington in 1984. During the nationally televised Miss America Pageant, she won the talent and swimsuit competitions for which she was awarded a college scholarship.

Bright Lights, Big City

Scholarship in hand, Kristine quickly left Washington for the extravagance and opulence of Las Vegas where she attended college and obtained an as-of-yet unutilized Bachelor’s Degree in TV Production. Kristine knew she didn’t want a boring desk job though; instead, she took advantage of her surroundings and worked the Las Vegas strip. After honing her skills while performing in a multitude of hotel revues, she eventually created her own show for The Nightclub at the renowned Las Vegas Hilton. During her five years at The Nightclub, Kristine was voted Best Female Performer by several prominent Las Vegas publications in 1995, 1996, and 1997. In her spare time, she worked diligently on building a substantial catalog of songs, two of which she eventually recorded for the "Roadhouse" and "Indecent Proposal" movie soundtracks.

Shortly thereafter, Kristine achieved the breakthrough she had been hoping for when the intoxicatingly innovative "Feel What You Want" topped the Billboard dance charts. On the heels of her first major hit, Kristine’s dazzling debut album, "Land of the Living," was released by RCA Records in 1996. Subsequent singles, including the inspirational "One More Try" and the provocatively pulsating title track, stormed the charts and nightclubs around the world with the help of remix treatments by David Morales, Junior Vasquez (who has hailed Kristine as "The Donna Summer of the 90s"), and others. "One More Try" spent four months on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and garnered her Billboard Video and ASCAP Song of the Year awards. Kristine was disappointed, though, that the album never crossed over into the mainstream. "I kind of felt like I let my fans down because I didn’t make it as big as I wanted to," she regretfully reports. "Looking back, I realize [the album] was just a little too sophisticated for the U.S. at that time. Right now, it would be perfect."

Kristine spent the past several years writing over 70 songs with different collaborators, eight of which appear on her new album, "Stronger," which is slated for released by RCA Records on September 12th. "It’s the completion of a four-year odyssey since the last album’s come out," she explains. "I’m just trying to fuse the perfect combination of dance, pop, R&B, drama-ballads, classical, and jazz to make the ultimate dance/pop album."

Clubland

The album, which Krstine solely executive produced, has been a labor of love. Although she is shooting for mainstream success with "Stronger," Kristine does not discount the importance of club DJ’s and their audiences when it comes to the success of a record. "I always start with clubs – always, always – because they’re very honest," Kristine insists. "Actually, I developed this particular album in the clubs, trying out songs to see if they moved people, and then focusing on what hooked them."

The end result is a deeply soulful collection of infectious dance tracks, palatable pop tunes, and heartfelt ballads. The album’s funky title track will be the first official release, which has tremendous potential for both dance floor dominance and mainstream success. Remixes of "Clubland" and "Stand In Love" have already infiltrated the clubs courtesy of bootleggers, but there’s no word yet from the label as to when they will be officially released. According to its Associate Director of Publicity, Roger Widynowski, RCA is planning to "make Kristine W a household name by first working her gay fan base, then crossing it over into the mainstream Top 40 market, and eventually blowing her up internationally." We can only hope he means the latter figuratively.

Kristine, who credits George Gershwin, James Taylor, Donna Summer, and Chaka Khan among her influences, has developed a great relationship with the gay community. She didn’t realize at first how gay-based the dance community is, but it wasn’t long before she "thanked the Lord," and enthusiastically embraced the community’s support. "They [gays] understand what I’m doing," she says. "It was so liberating to be in an environment where I felt like I was understood. It made me want to create more – it made we want to push myself. The community’s been really good for me."

Her spirited passion for performing and deep devotion to her art is clearly evident when speaking with Kristine. She is hopeful that widespread acceptance of her music will further convince people to trust in her artistic abilities, thus allowing the creative process to flow more smoothly. If Kristine accomplishes her mission, which seems highly likely, hers will indeed become a household name. "I’m in this for the long-haul," she promises. "I’m not in it to make a million dollars on this album. I’m in it to be around for as long as I can. That’s more important to me – to be able to be with my fans and continue doing what I love, which is to perform."

Kristine is currently touring in support of the upcoming release of her album, and will be returning to the Miami area very soon. She loves to "cruise around" after the show and dance with the boys, so keep your eyes open. After all, that glamorous drag queen you see on the dance floor very late at night might just be Kristine W.

For updated news, photos, and other information, visit www.KristineW.com.


© 2000 Matt Kalkhoff

This article first appeared in Miamigo's August 2000 issue.