Singer Kiesza on Her Newfound Fame and Pageant Past

As a Miss Canada contestant, Kiesza was the only pageant queen who’d eat cake. Now with her throwback house hit “Hideaway” and her brand-new album Sound of a Woman (Universal) hitting shelves today, she’s getting her just desserts

Kiesza - Sound Of A Woman Album CoverYou never know when inspiration will strike. For Kiesza (pronounced KY-za), 25, it was as she was rushing to leave her studio to make a flight from New York to L.A., where the struggling songwriter was considering making a fresh start. But when she heard producer Rami Samir Afuni playing the chords of what would become “Hideaway,” she dropped her bags.

Ninety minutes later, Kiesza, born Kiesa Rae Ellestad in Calgary, had missed her plane, but had recorded the finished version of what would become her platinum-selling debut. On the eve of the release of her debut album Sound of a Woman (Universal), she talks about her whirlwind year.

All summer long I was hearing “Hideaway” playing in cars, playing in Dollarama. Have you had any memorable experiences hearing your own music?

I was in a hotel and this car outside was like BUFH BUFH BUFH BUFH and I was like, ARGH I hate cars like that! Just turn it down! And then all of a sudden I hear my voice, [sings] Get me higher than I ever been before. It was a weird feeling because I was half-asleep.

I thought it was so cool that your brother, Blayre Ellestad, directed your video, which went on to be viewed over 135 million times on YouTube. Were you creative children?

Very. We had a TV series called Cop Poodle. We had poodles, and we would send our poodles after random pedestrians. We would have a whole scenario, like, oh, someone just robbed a bank—there he is! Go get ’em, Cop Poodle! He would just jump on them.

What was most uncomfortable: dancing ballet, competing in Miss Universe Canada, or performing on Ellen?

Miss Universe Canada is the most uncomfortable. I did it mainly for my grandma. I was totally almost like a tomboy.

Why was it uncomfortable?

It was superficial. You didn’t know anybody until the competition was over and they stopped putting on those [mimes a frozen smile] friendly faces. As much as they make it try to sound like it isn’t, it’s based around physicality. Girls were taking diuretics to get rid of the water from their bodies and look more toned. And I didn’t. They’re giving us $200 meals and extra desserts. I was like, I’m not six feet tall! I’m just going to eat the dessert!

Your performance on Ellen was so killer! An Ellen-dance-inspired performance was genius.

People were like, what are you going to wear? My stylist was giving me all these ideas. I didn’t feel right about anything. And I was like, you know what? I’m going to dress like Ellen. Ellen and I totally connected. She was like “Can I own you?” She came to the rehearsal and sat in the audience and shook everyone’s hands. She has the brightest, happiest eyes.

I read you are interested in a clothing line. What would that be like?

I do surrealist painting and PhotoShop art and I wanted to print my artwork onto fashion. I am starting a partnership with Bad Bunch NYC. They have a thing where they print artwork on sports jerseys, so they are going to print some of my artwork on their sports jerseys.

Sound of a Woman drops Tuesday, October 21.