Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Stronger Than Ever: Cult Dance Princess Kristine W Whipped Leukemia on Her Way to a Triumphant New CD and Tour. Next Stop: Dinah Shore Weekend

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Stronger Than Ever: Cult Dance Princess Kristine W Whipped Leukemia on Her Way to a Triumphant New CD and Tour. Next Stop: Dinah Shore Weekend

Article excerpt

"My mother said, 'Well, your first two albums were called Land of the Living and Stronger. You wrote the words. Now it's time to walk the walk,'" explains dance diva Kristine W. She's talking about her three-year battle with acute myeloid leukemia, an illness that nearly took her away from the nightlife she helped shape during the past decade.

Kristine has always written and arranged her own hits, solidifying her status as a dance-floor force to be reckoned with. Though her songs never hit the pop music Top 40 in the United States, they became dance chart smashes and house music classics the moment their beats caught clubgoers' ears. Singles like "Feel What You Want" (her first club hit, from 1994) and "One More Try" revealed the Las Vegas-based singer-songwriter as that rare commodity in electronic music: a critic's darling and a fan favorite.

In fierce style, W juxtaposed a drag queen's glamour, drama, and wig-selection prowess with dance music for fans who didn't even know they'd needed smart, meaningful songs to get down to. Still, she had no way of knowing that the words she wrote for her 1996 album's title track ("I'm glad to be alive / And in the land of the living / Oh, I can't believe that I survived") would take on new meaning.

Diagnosed in 2001, Kristine kept quiet about her illness at first. "It was me and my whole family--we just didn't want to believe it was true," she says. "You hold everything in and pretend everything's OK. I thought, If I talk about it, I'm never going to get a new record deal. They don't want anything that's broken. When no one wants to talk about being sick, you think you'll lose your mind."

The treatment Kristine describes as "horrendous" included three rounds of chemotherapy. (In a bold bit of art direction, the butterfly pin stuck in the cocooned singer's chest on the cover of her new album, Fly Again, is in the same spot as was her chemo catheter.) A painful stem-cell transplant happened to be scheduled for September 11, 2001. "I was in the hospital at UCLA, and a nurse began yelling about [the terrorist attacks]," Kristine recalls. "I thought he was joking at first, trying to give me some perspective, but then they turned on the TV. …

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