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Kristine W.’s triumphant return

Dance diva readies new album, Distrkt C appearance

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Kristine W., gay news, Washington Blade

Kristine W. (Photo by Bobby Black)

Distrkt C Pride
 
An indoor/outdoor music festival and concert
 
Saturday, June 10
 
10 p.m.
 
Official men’s party of Capital Pride
 
DJs Jared Conner and Joe Gauthreaux
 
Grind
 
Inaya Day
 
Sunday, June 11
 
5 p.m.
 
Outside: disco and classics with Billy Carroll
 
Concert starts at 8:30 p.m.
 
Crystal Waters
 
Kristine W
 
Kim English
 
Inside: T dance at 6 p.m. with Roland Belmares
 
10 p.m.
 
X Gonzalez
 
Twisted Dee
 
Morabito
 
Amuka
 
D.C. Eagle
 
3701 Benning Rd., N.E.
 
distrktc.com

 

Many artists who are lucky to chart hits on the Billboard charts at all often see the law of diminishing returns kick in gradually over time, even with consistently good material.

Somehow, though, Kristine W. has managed to maintain a staggeringly impressive record on the U.S. Dance charts. She’s had 14 no. 1 singles over a nearly 20-year period. Of the 19 singles she’s charted there, the lowest she ever peaked at was no. 4. She had another smash last summer with “Out There,” which made it to No. 3.

She’s in D.C. this weekend to headline at the Distrkt C Pride Indoor/Outdoor Festival & Concert. She spoke by phone with the Blade, her first interview with us since 2012, last week, from her home in Las Vegas. Her comments have been slightly edited for length.

WASHINGTON BLADE: How’ve you been?

KRISTINE W.: It’s been a challenging year. It just seems like a lot of people around me are going through some transition. It’s a time of change. It could be life, jobs or relationships. Last year I wrote the song “Out There” which is really strange because now I’m going through a divorce. It’s really strange how I keep writing this music and it ends up being real life. “Land of the Living” was one of those albums. It was like I wrote it then I had to live it.

BLADE: Are the songs more universal than you originally realized or do you have a sixth sense?

KRISTINE W.: I think they’re more universal than I really thought, although my grandfather had this gift of kind of seeing into the future and so did his mother, my grandmother, Elizabeth who I’m named after. I don’t know if I didn’t get some of that too. Sometimes I get certain signs in dreams or I’ll get this really weird epiphany. I fight it all the time but sometimes it just kind of overtakes me.

BLADE: What was your favorite remix of “Out There,” your latest hit?

KRISTINE W: I think the Moto Blanco mix. But I also like the original mix that’s going to be on the album because it takes you on a journey. That album mix as far as watching a crowd having a good time but … at a Pride event, the Moto Blanco mix is so uplifting, you can just see everybody get lifted up from it. It’s a very happy production.

BLADE: Do you collaborate on the remixes at all?

KRISTINE W.: Oh yeah. So many of them have known me enough years that we kind of know each other’s audiences, we play a lot of big events, we know what kind of works, we have personal relationships and it’s very cool. … I try to use the remixes to cover as big of a territory as possible. The Loop Soop version is like a tropical, Miami kind of vibe so that’s kind of like sipping cocktails and chilling at your house. If you pick ‘em right, they can afford you a chance of reaching a wider audience than if you just put out a couple versions.

BLADE: Tell us about your upcoming single “Stars.”

KRISTINE W.: “Stars” is really special. It’s a song I wrote a couple yars ago and kind of sat on but in a strange way, it’s kind of mirroring my life right now and what I’m going through. But not just for me, it’s universal. … Everybody who listens to it it’s like there’s a piece of them in it. You can just see it in their reaction. … We’re working on some really cool remixes of it right now.

BLADE: When will it be out?

KRISTINE W.: We’re shooing for Independence Day but it’s a little crazy right now. We have to get it in the queue. It’s gonna come down to how soon I can get pushed through the line.

BLADE: You were talking about a new album last summer when “Out There” came out. What’s the status on that?

KRISTINE W.: The album is finished. We’re probably going to put out a couple singles, then drop the album or maybe put it on pre-order. We’re looking into that right now. But it’s gonna be amazing.

BLADE: What’s it like? When did you make it and how long did it take? 

KRISTINE W.: We started about six months after “New & Number Ones” so like mid-2012 we were working on it. We’ve written a lot of songs. I’m thinking it’s actually going to be like two back-to-back albums and not wait as long to put another one out because we have like 15 or 16 tracks total. Then we’re recording naked versions, you know, stripped-down versions of the songs because people really enjoy those. I’ve worked with a lot of songwriters from all over the place. I just finished a song with Chris Cox and Lee Jagger called “Found a Home.” “Next to You” is being produced right now. I think it’s gonna be a little bit different the way we release this next batch of music.

BLADE: Are you of the opinion that the song has to work acoustically first or not necessarily?

KRISTINE W.: Well obviously like with the Chainsmokers, a lot of their songs are just a big, fat hook and then maybe a lyrical a hook. Maybe half a verse or something. They’re not making very complicated songs. They were just on “Saturday Night Live” and were with a band … and I noticed they’d added more structure. For me, it’s better to just write a song. Then if you want to do a stripped-down version, you can. I’m a songwriter, I’m a fan of songs, but I respect the fact that a lot of people have ADD.

BLADE: You were recently named the No. 8 dance artist of all time by Billboard. How did you feel?

KRISTINE W.: I thought somebody had made a mistake at first. It was so overwhelming. I just sat in my kitchen and cried. It was weird but very cool.

BLADE: Is it easier to chart a dance cut if it was a pop hit first or not necessarily?

KRISTINE W.: Everybody’s going to the dance chart now because the pop charts are so expensive to try to compete in. … To get airplay now is just so expensive. It’s like seven grand a week to get into rotation so the labels are all going to the dance club. So that geets really tough too because you have these independent artists like myself trying to compete with the Chainsmokers on the dance chart and every other pop person who’s crossed over, so it’s really crazy right now, really difficult. That’s why so many people you used to see having records, they’re not putting them out anymore because it’s so hard to get a No. 1 or even a top 5 hit now, it’s crazy.

BLADE: How have you managed to keep it going for so many years?

KRISTINE W.: I just try to keep writing good songs and try to work with the best people possible that I can afford (laughs). Just keeping my eye on the songs, focusing on the messages and hoping they connect with people. And also what I said before about the different styles. You might be able to get on a different Spotify list with a Frank Lords Miami tropical mix then you can doing a Hans Milan EDM mix. Now that everything is streaming, Spotify, Pandora, blah blah blah, that’s gonna be the future, so getting on those playlists is no small feat. So you might get on two playlists with two different mixes but the labels are freaking out because they don’t want to spend the money on a bunch of remixes either necessarily. If you’re not friends with these people, like a remix by Ralphi Rosario or whatever is like 10 grand, you know. It’s very expensive. So the labels are stepping back going, “Oh shit.” Ralphi doesn’t kow any of those guys. They’re just suits to him so he can demand whatever. On the flip side, there are a lot of great young remixers who are the future. I know a lot of them and have given a lot of them their shots, like the Perry Twins for example. They did “Be Alright” for me and then they blew up. I don’t want to call myself a major artist, but they needed a big artist to give them a shot. … I tell them if it’s crap, I won’t put it out but if it’s great, I’ll promote the crap out of you in press and everything and tell everyone to hire them. So then you can go back later and say, “Hey guys, you mind doing me something solid,” and they’re like, “Yeah sister.” It’s like a really crazy family.

BLADE: How are your two kids? What’s it like being a mom to two teens?

KRISTINE W.: They’re super cool. I’ve got two great kids. Everybody goes, “Oh, you just got lucky,” but I don’t think it’s luck. I think it’s just trying to be there, you’re annoying as heck. A very wise lady, my mother-in-law who passed away in 2013, she said you better be there because if you’re not, somebody else will be and you won’t be happy with the outcome. I never forgot that.

BLADE: Have your gay fans reached out to you at all since your divorce?

KRISTINE W.: I haven’t really talked about it much. It’s tough enough going through it, I don’t dwell on it. I have to get up there and make the world a happier place one song at a time so I haven’t talked about it too much.

BLADE: Of course a song is gonna sound great on the huge speakers in a big state-of-the-art dance club but people listen on their phones, with these crap ear buds and so on. How do you make something that’s gonna work across the board? Are you conscious of compression without losing fidelity when you record?

KRISTINE W.: It’s a huge issue and you really have to be conscious of that in mastering so the track doesn’t sound too digital. If everything sounds too teh-teh-teh (makes a thin-sounding percussion effect), you can only stand to listen to it for so long. You just want to turn it off, it’s too much for the ear. All the classic artists, that was all cut on 2-inch tape so it’s all analog which is very warm sounding to the human ear. You could listen all day and love it. But the way we’ve gone digital with everything so you have to really be conscious of that in mastering.

BLADE: What do you have planned for the Distrkt C event? You’re co-headlining with Crystal Waters and Kim English.

KRISTINE W.: Those girls are super cool. I don’t think I’ve ever met Kim English so that will be a thrill. Crystal and I are good buddies so I’m really excited to be spending time with her and getting to meet Kim English because I’ve heard her name for many years now. It’s gonna be great energy, the three of us. It will be fun and celebratory and just making it another great summer. We’re all here and kicking and in the land of the living. We’ll just get out there and make a joyful noise.

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Rodriquez scores historic win at otherwise irrelevant Golden Globes

Award represents a major milestone for trans visibility

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Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, on right, and Billy Porter in 'Pose.' (Photo courtesy of FX)

HOLLYWOOD – Despite its continuing status as something of a pariah organization in Hollywood, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has managed to cling to relevance in the wake of last night’s behind-closed-doors presentation of its 79th Annual Golden Globe Awards by sole virtue of having bestowed the prize for “Best Leading Actress in a Television Series – Drama” on Michaela Jaé Rodriguez for her work in the final season of “Pose” – making her the first transgender performer to win a Golden Globe.

The ceremony took place as a private, no-press-or-audience event in which winners were revealed via a series of tweets from the Golden Globes Twitter account. No celebrities were present (not even the nominees or winners), although actress Jamie Lee Curtis participated by appearing in a video in which she pronounced her continuing loyalty to the HFPA – without mention of the  longstanding issues around diversity and ethical practices, revealed early in 2021 by a bombshell Los Angeles Times report, that have led to an nearly industry-wide boycott of the organization and its awards as well as the cancellation of the annual Golden Globes broadcast by NBC for the foreseeable future.

While the Golden Globes may have lost their luster for the time being, the award for Rodriquez represents a major milestone for trans visibility and inclusion in the traditionally transphobic entertainment industry, and for her part, the actress responded to news of her win with characteristic grace and good will.

Posting on her Instagram account, the 31-year old actress said: 

“OMG OMGGG!!!! @goldenglobes Wow! You talking about sickening birthday present! Thank you!

“This is the door that is going to Open the door for many more young talented individuals. They will see that it is more than possible. They will see that a young Black Latina girl from Newark New Jersey who had a dream, to change the minds others would WITH LOVE. LOVE WINS.

“To my young LGBTQAI babies WE ARE HERE the door is now open now reach the stars!!!!!”

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As You Are Bar and the importance of queer gathering spaces

New bar/restaurant poised to open in 2022

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As You Are Bar had a pop-up venue at Capital Pride's "Colorful Fest" block party in October. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than just a watering hole: As You Are Bar is set to be the city’s newest queer gathering place where patrons can spill tea over late-morning cappuccinos as easily as they can over late-night vodka-sodas.

Co-owners and founders Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike built on their extensive experience in the hospitality industry – including stints at several gay bars – to sign a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row, replacing what was previously District Soul Food and Banana Café. In a prime corner spot, they are seeking to bring together the disparate colors of the LGBTQ rainbow – but first must navigate the approval process (more on that later).

The duo decided on this Southeast neighborhood locale to increase accessibility for “the marginalized parts of our community,” they say, “bringing out the intersectionality inherent in the queer space.”

Northwest D.C., they explain, not only already has many gay bar options, but is also more difficult to get to for those who don’t live within walking distance. The Barracks Row location is right by a Metro stop, “reducing pay walls.” Plus, there, “we are able to find a neighborhood to bring in a queer presence that doesn’t exist today.”

McDaniel points out that the area has a deep queer bar history. Western bar Remington’s was once located in the area, and it’s a mere block from the former Phase 1, the longest-running lesbian bar, which was open from 1971-2015.

McDaniel and Pike hope that As You Are Bar will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture. We want people of all ages, gender, sexual identity, as well as drinkers and non-drinkers, to have space.”

McDaniel (she/her) began her career at Apex in 2005 and was most recently the opening manager of ALOHO. Pike (she/they) was behind the bar and worked as security at ALOHO, where the two met.

Since leaving ALOHO earlier this year, they have pursued the As You Are Bar project, first by hosting virtual events during the pandemic, and now in this brick-and-mortar space. They expressed concern that receiving the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) liquor license approval and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, or ANC, approval will be a long and expensive process.

They have already received notice that some neighbors intend to protest As You Are Bar’s application for the “tavern” liquor license that ABRA grants to serve alcohol and allow for live entertainment (e.g. drag shows). They applied for the license on Nov. 12, and have no anticipated opening date, estimating at least six months. If ABRA and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board give final approval, the local ANC 6B and nearby residents can no longer protest the license until the license comes up for renewal.

Until approval is given, they continue physical buildout (including soundproofing) and planning their offerings. If the license is approved, ABRA and the ABC Board can take action against As You Are Bar, like any bar, at any time if they violate the terms of the license or create a neighborhood disturbance that violates city laws such as the local noise ordinance.  In the kitchen, the duo snagged Chef Nina Love to develop the menu. Love will oversee café-style fare; look out for breakfast sandwiches making an appearance all the way until close. They will also have baked goods during the day.

McDaniel and Pike themselves will craft the bar menu. Importantly, they note, the coffee bar will also serve until close. There will be a full bar as well as a list of zero-proof cocktails. As with their sourcing, they hope to work with queer-, minority-, and women-owned businesses for everything not made in-house.

Flexible conceptually, they seek to grow with their customer base, allowing patrons to create the culture that they seek.

Their goal is to move the queer space away from a focus on alcohol consumption. From book clubs, to letter-writing, to shared workspaces, to dance parties, they seek an all-day, morning-to-night rhythm of youth, families, and adults to find a niche. “We want to shift the narrative of a furtive, secretive, dark gay space and hold it up to the light,” they say. “It’s a little like The Planet from the original L Word show,” they joke.

Pike notes that they plan on working closely with SMYAL, for example, to promote programming for youth. Weekend potential activities include lunch-and-learn sessions on Saturdays and festive Sunday brunches.

The café space, to be located on the first floor, will have coffeehouse-style sofas as well as workstations. A slim patio on 8th Street will hold about six tables.

Even as other queer bars have closed, they reinforce that the need is still present. “Yes, we can visit a café or bar, but we always need to have a place where we are 100 percent certain that we are safe, and that our security is paramount. Even as queer acceptance continues to grow, a dedicated queer space will always be necessary,” they say.

To get there, they continue to rally support of friends, neighbors, and leaders in ANC6B district; the ANC6B officials butted heads with District Soul Food, the previous restaurant in the space, over late-night noise and other complaints. McDaniel and Pike hope that once nearby residents and businesses understand the important contribution that As You Are Bar can make to the neighborhood, they will extend their support and allow the bar to open.

AYA, gay news, Washington Blade
Rachel Pike and Jo McDaniel signed a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row. (Photo courtesy Pike and McDaniel)
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Need a list-minute gift idea?

Books, non-profit donations make thoughtful choices

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‘Yes, Daddy’ by Jonathan Parks-Ramage is the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune, who schemes to meet an older man.

You knew this was coming.

You knew that you were going to have to finish your holiday shopping soon but it snuck up on you, didn’t it? And even if you’re close to being done, there are always those three or five people who are impossible to buy for, right? Remember this, though: books are easy to wrap and easy to give, and they last a while, too. So why not head to the bookstore with your Christmas List and look for these gifts.

And if you still have people to shop for, why not make a donation to a local non-profit in their name? A list of D.C.-area suggestions follows.

BOOKS: NONFICTION

If there’s about to be a new addition to your family, wrapping up “Queer Stepfamilies: The path to Social and Legal Recognition” by Katie L. Acosta would be a good thing. In this book, the author followed forty LGBTQ families to understand the joys, pitfalls, and legalities of forming a new union together. It can’t replace a lawyer, but it’s a good overview.

For the parent who wants to ensure that their child grows up with a lack of bias, “Raising LGBTQ Allies” by Chris Tompkins is a great book to give. It’s filled with methods to stop bullying in its tracks, to be proactive in having That Conversation, and how to be sure that the next generation you’re responsible for becomes responsible in turn. Wrap it up with “The Healing Otherness Handbook” by Stacee L. Reicherzer, Ph.D., a book that helps readers to deal with bullying by finding confidence and empowerment.

If there’s someone on your gift list who’s determined to get “fit” in the coming year, then give “The Secret to Superhuman Strength” by Alison Bechdel this holiday. Told in graphic-novel format (comics, basically), it’s the story of searching for self-improvement and finding it in a surprising place.

So why not give a little nostalgia this year by wrapping up “A Night at the Sweet Gum Head” by Martin Padgett? It’s the tale of disco, drag, and drugs in the 1970s (of course!) in Atlanta, with appearances by activists, politics, and people who were there at that fabulous time. Wrap it up with “After Francesco” by Brian Malloy, a novel set a little later – in the mid-1980s in New York City and Minneapolis at the beginning of the AIDS crisis.

The LGBTQ activist on your gift list will want to read “The Case for Gay Reparations” by Omar G. Encarnacion. It’s a book about acknowledgment, obligation on the part of cis citizens, and fixing the pain that homophobia and violence has caused. Wrap it up with “Trans Medicine: The Emergence and Practice of Treating Gender” by Stef M. Shuster, a look at trans history that may also make your giftee growl.

FICTION

Young readers who have recently transitioned will enjoy reading “Both Sides Now” by Peyton Thomas. It’s a novel about a high school boy with gigantic dreams and the means to accomplish them all. Can he overcome the barriers that life gives him? It’s debatable… Pair it with “Can’t Take That Away” by Steven Salvatore, a book about two nonbinary students and the troubles they face as they fall in love.

The thriller fan on your list will be overjoyed to unwrap “Yes, Daddy” by Jonathan Parks-Ramage. It’s the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune, who schemes to meet an older, more accomplished man with the hopes of sparking his failing career. But the older man isn’t who the younger thinks he is, and that’s not good. Wrap it up with “Lies with Man” by Michael Nava, a book about a lawyer who agrees to be counsel for a group of activists. Good so far, right? Until one of them is accused of being involved in a deadly bombing.

For the fan of Southern fiction, you can’t go wrong when you wrap up “The Tender Grave” by Sheri Reynolds. It’s the tale of two sisters, one homophobic, the other lesbian, and how they learn to forgive and re-connect.

NON-PROFIT GIVING

Like nonprofit organizations throughout the country, D.C.-area LGBTQ supportive nonprofit groups have told the Blade they continue to rebuild amid the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted their fundraising efforts while increasing expenses, at least in part by prompting more people to come to them for help.

This holiday season, if you’re looking for a thoughtful gift, consider making a donation to one of our local LGBTQ non-profit organizations in someone else’s name. This list is by no means exhaustive, but a good place to start your research.

Contributions to the LGBTQ supportive nonprofit organizations can be made via the websites of these local organizations:

• Blade Foundation, which funds local scholarships and fellowships for queer student journalists, bladefoundation.org

• DC Center, our local community center that operates a wide range of programming,  thedccenter.org/donate

Food & Friends, which delivers meals to homebound patients, foodandfriends.org

HIPS, which advances the health rights and dignity of those impacted by sex work and drugs, hips.org

• SMYAL, which advocates for queer youth, smyal.org

Wanda Alston Foundation, which offers shelter and support for LGBTQ youth, wandaalstonfoundation.org

• Whitman-Walker Health, the city’s longtime LGBTQ-inclusive health care provider, whitmanwalkerimpact.org

Casa Ruby, which provides shelter and services to youth in need, casaruby.org

• Us Helping Us, which helps improve the health of communities of color and works to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Black community, ushelpingus.org/donate

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