There comes a time in one’s life when you need to trust your gut, not let others mold you into something you’re not, take charge of your life, and show people who you really are. For Kristine Elezaj, the twenty-something pop bombshell who Billboard magazine called a cross between Britney Spears and Rihanna, that time is now and the album she’s making that mark on is her forthcoming EP, Loved By You, which features a mix of powerful urban-influenced pop anthems mixed with a newfound vulnerability only found when you decide to truly be comfortable with trusting yourself.
“My first record wasn’t really me,” she admits two years later. “I shied away from showing people who I really was, what I was about, and the things that I went through. Instead, I made a fun feel-good pop record and blocked the world from the truth. But, a lot has happened to me. I had hit a few emotional rock bottoms that made me stronger and made me decide if I’m going to do this, I’ve got to get real. I’m not afraid anymore to be vulnerable and open myself up and that’s what I’m doing on this new EP. It’s funny, my CD record was titled No Questions Remain, but really the big question that remained was – who I am and what am I all about? I tried to answer that question on Loved By You.”
A recent photo shoot she did for Loved By You explains her transformation well: “I’m wearing this veil-like mask and it’s almost like a shedding of a skin. I’m covering and forgetting the old with the veil and I’m naked in the photo to represent the new vulnerability I’m showing on this record. I also got a new tattoo that says, ‘She flies with her own wings.” That’s about me taking control and reminding myself to listen to my gut, to not be afraid, to be a leader. I’m in charge now and it feels great.”
Her newfound attitude was born out of a few dark periods over the past several years: the heartbreaking breakup of an abusive relationship that left her in an emotional rock bottom and a music business deal gone south that had her nearly giving up on her dream. It’s a dream that Kristine, born in Yonkers, New York, raised in Westchester, and of Albanian, Italian, Irish, German, and Scandinavian descent, had since she started dancing at age 3, singing at age 5, and then combining the two by creating plays and choreography for her dolls and stuffed animals at age 6. From there, Kristine got into musical theatre and from grade school to post-high school, she played such lead roles as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Annie in Annie, and Anna Leonowens in The King and I, among other key roles.
“I always loved to sing and dance and I loved performers like Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Prince who combined both so well,” explains the L.A.-based singer/songwriter/dancer. Also a fine artist (oil paintings, drawings, et al), Kristine had contemplated going to art school after high school until she pleaded with her parents to let her give singing a try. Luck struck at one open-mike night at the famed Sugar Bar in New York City when legendary duo Ashford & Simpson were in the audience and began singing backing vocals on Kristine’s rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” “After the show, Nick came up to me said he wanted to help me and he ended up being my mentor. He encouraged me to write and I took his advice and worked really hard,” explains Kristine, whose friends and fans call Kebe for her initials: Kristine Elizabeth Bernadetta Elezaj.
Her writing skills have fully blossomed on her new batch of songs where she’s finally tackling her true emotions over her past losses and embracing her newfound take-charge attitude. Her five-song EP ranges from powerful to vulnerable. For example, the first single, the fired up “Monster” is a beast of a pop song with a strong female empowerment point of view that shows a grittier side of pop music. “Monster” is her shout-out to past business associates who tried to hold her back. It’s her way of saying, “It’s my turn to be in control!” Likewise, “Make it Pour” is also about past associated telling her that she can’t make it without them. And, the urban-influenced “Sucker Punch” packs another powerful pop punch with lyrics about being blind-sided by love.
On the flip side, Kristine, who co-wrote all of the songs, slows it down a bit with two of her most vulnerable tracks, “Love Kills” and the title track, “Loved by You,” which offer up more of a confessionary tone about love and loss. “There’s a real ying and yang to my personality where I can be very quiet and introspective but then very fiery and outspoken and you hear that on these songs,” says Kristine, who also describes her fashion style as a mix of hard and soft. Her keen style has landed her in the fashion pages of such publications as Ok!, Life, Radaronline.com, and many others.
And that’s exactly who Kristine is musically, lyrically, and personally – a complex mix of hard and soft. On the one side she’s confident, bold, sexually expressive, and a self-described tomboy, and counts among her favorite things gun-shooting, paintball, horror films, and rally car racing (a lifelong hobby, in fact). And, on the other side she’s vulnerable, introspective, admittedly “super-sensitive,” and oh-so-girly and loves dressing up, watching musicals, and lights up when talking about her favorite designers Rick Owens, Vivienne Westwood, and Helmut Lang which, not coincidentally are designers that also offer up a creative mix of hard and soft, tough and sweet, edgy and contemporary.
“It feels free to finally let people in on what I’m all about and I think Loved By You does just that,” she adds.