What is your process for selecting your material?
I write a lot of it. The Boss was only the second remake that I’ve ever recorded. I don’t do many remakes, but I just loved that song.
Since you don’t do remakes, why did you choose that song, originally recorded by Diana Ross?
I knew I needed to start my own record label at that time, and I just felt it was time for me to be the boss. I had been with labels for 8 to 10 years and it was just time for me to try it [by myself], as hard as it was. Now I have my own record label called Fly Again Music.
The Power of Music was your first album in five years. What were you doing on your time off?
Mostly doing a lot of shows and recording. I did two albums during that time. I did The Power of Music and I also did a jazz album, which is probably going to come out in the fall. The jazz album was a huge undertaking because it’s a double CD with 29 tracks.
Your roots are in jazz music. Wasn’t there ever a time when you wanted to get away from dance music and do something different?
I guess not really because I have done so many different styles of music in my Vegas show, so I really have done it all.
Tell me about the jazz album.
We took some of my number one hits and put them with bossa nova and samba arrangements.
So, you’re not doing standards like Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra?
No, it’s very sexy, Latin jazz. "Save My Soul" is one we selected. We selected a lot of the hits and practiced them. If they worked [with jazz] we did it. If they didn’t, we tossed them. We did a jazzy gospel arrangement of "The Wonder of it All." We took "Stairway to Heaven" and you wouldn’t believe how sexy it is as a Latin-jazzy tune. It’s just absolutely stunning.
What’s the album called?
Straight Up with a Twist. It’s out in September.
Over the years you have developed a big gay following. When did you first discover you had core gay fan base?
It didn’t occur to me until I played the Sound Factory. There was like thousands of men with their shirts off, and I was like, “Wow!” I was thinking this was super, super hot and then someone said, “You know they are all gay, right?” I was like, “That’ll work. Let me take my shirt off and sing!” And I did! I took my shirt off and had a little rhinestone bra on with a tiny skirt and went out there and started belting it out!
You idolize Donna Summer --
She’s my hero!
Have you met her?
I waved to her through the glass at a recording studio. She was recording with a producer who produced my second album. So, I got to see her!
And what about Patti LaBelle? She recorded your song "Land of the Living."
We’re good friends. She’s good people.
In 1981 you were crowned Miss Washington. Then you went on to compete in the Miss America Pageant. How did you get involved with pageants?
I was like 17, and I didn’t have any hope of going to college because my mom was really poor and had four kids, so it was desperation basically. I was trying to get out of that little farm town.
I read that your mom once thought that she may have to split up the family because she couldn’t afford a family. What were you like as a child?
I was pretty rambunctious. I was singing all the time. I’d interrupt people and just bust out into a song. My grandmother taught me a lot of music because that was the only thing I was ever focused on. I had a pretty bad lisp, but when I sang I didn’t have one. So, I was much more comfortable singing than I was talking.
You don’t have a lisp now.
I did lots of speech therapy. Tons -- tons. That went on for years. I mean, it’s all good. People have much worse impediments than that.
Your father died when you were 3 years old. Did that affect you?
I think it affects everybody. I don’t care what they say. It’s really difficult to not have a dad.
Ten years ago you discovered you had leukemia. You have been in remission for eight years. How did you overcome that obstacle?
Just focus and determination. I have two little kids. I think if I was just fighting for me I would’ve given up. It was way too hard of a battle, but I wanted to stay alive for my kids. It’s so gruesome and difficult. Months and months of chemo. You’re in treatment for a year. Then there’s transfusions and stem cell transplants. You lose your hair time and time again. You just want to give up. I just could not imagine my kids without a mom. I had to go into the land of the living and start living the words I had written.
What would you say to people who are against stem cell research?Well, there’s a lot of us who wouldn’t be around without it. They basically extracted my stem cells and then infused them back into myself after months of chemo. It’s very interesting technology, and I think it’s going to save a lot of lives. It’s a part of science, and you can’t go backward. You’ve got to go forward with all this technology we have.
Are you really 6 feet tall?
Were you ever self conscious about that or did you embrace it?
I’m good. The only weird thing is people thought I was a man when I first started gaining fame from my music. They were like, “Look at that big ol’ adam’s apple. Look how big she is. She’s a man.” Then they’d grab my crotch during my show and feel my junk in my trunk -- and it was never there.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’d like to be doing dance and jazz shows all over the planet. I’m a Gemini and there are definitely two Kristine W's in there. I want people to listen to me when they are having their dinner and in their Jacuzzi, and I want them to rock it out with me after midnight.
To learn more about Kristine W, visit her official website here.
-- DUSTIN FITZHARRIS
Previously > Need To Know: Ben's Brother