WHO'S THAT?: Anastacia Newkirk, 28-year-old Chicago-born pop singer who now resides in Los Angeles. A onetime dancer on Club MTV, she made the cut on MTV's The Cut and has sold more than 5 million copies of her debut album, Not That Kind, overseas. It's just been released in the United States.
WHAT'S IN A NAME:Believe it or not, Anastacia is her real name. COMPARISONS: Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summer, Sheena Easton, Teena Marie, Macy Gray
DID YA KNOW?: As a dancer, Anastacia logged appearances in several videos — most prominently in Salt-N-Pepa's "Everybody Get Up" and "Twist and Shout."
FIRST IMPRESSION: Not That Kind (Epic/Daylight)
Anastacia: My mother named me Anastacia. She thought it was such a beautiful name, and she says it's a great name because it ends up being the first name when they go from the front of the alphabet in the credits, the ones where they go in alphabetical order. She's an actress, too, so I'm like, "Oh, boy, she's really thought this out …"
Your career has almost taken off at several different points. Was it ever so frustrating you considered giving up? Anastacia: There were definitely times I felt like giving up, like when I was fired from a hair salon in L.A. [for being too loud] and could not really get a singing job to save my life. I just felt like I might as well stop and go for something I could have a career in; I was going to study psychology and social work for children. I thought if singing couldn't bring me joy, children could. But there was always a reason why I attempted to keep doing it — another situation, another opportunity, "OK, I'll try it." It's like, "Why don't you stop dating?" — because I know something's going to happen. It's not like I had big fantasy and dreams about it until one day when I wanted to give it up, and the opportunity I had to go on the MTV show [The Cut].
Michael Jackson called you when his MJJ Productions was bidding for you. What was that like?
Anastacia: We had a half-hour conversation on the phone about what he felt about me as an artist, what he thought about my career. And all I could think about was, "Here I am talking to Michael Jackson for half an hour. This is wild, man!" It was surreal for the very first second; then it felt real comfortable. He made me feel so at home, and after five minutes I was like, "Yo, boyfriend!" Really. He just laughed and we had a good time. But I sort of got very Anastacia on him; I said, "Hey, I don't want you to misinterpret the fact that I really know I'm talking to Michael Jackson on the phone and that's a wonderful thing, but I am an artist and looking for a deal, and the reality is you're the president of a record label and I have to be able to ask you what you would do with an artist like me and why you would want an artist like me. He gave one of those answers you'd sign to him in five seconds for; he told me he saw me as a worldwide artist and he believed the world would understand me. It was just nice to hear that from him.
You also sang with Elton John at his Madison Square Garden live-album taping last fall. How was that?
Anastacia: God, that was amazing; I can't even believe I was part of that situation. Elton John actually reviewed my album last year when it was going to come out here; instead, the album didn't come out, but Elton John ended up becoming a fan and started watching my career as it happened in Europe. He would call up my manager on very rare occasions to clue into what I was doing. All of a sudden in September he called up and said, "Hey, I was wondering if Anastacia wanted to sing with me at my Madison Square Garden concert as a duet." My manager was like, "Oh my God — are you trying to kill my artists? She's going to have a heart attack." After I had my heart attack, I said, "Yes, that would be fabulous." He let me pick the song, too, and I knew I had to come out with some real ball-breaking, ball-busting thing that would let me sass across the stage. I had to go there.