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Kamaliya :: From Russia With Love (and Plenty of Talent)

by BeBe Sweetbriar
Friday Dec 14, 2012

When I think of Russia, I think of Olga Korbet, Nureyev and Barishnkov, Chernobyl, communism and dissolution of the unification, and a not-so-gay friendly government.

The things I don't think of are pop music and pop stars. Well, the Russian-born pop star in-the-making Kamaliya is hoping most Americans don't think as I do. And, if the worldwide response to her current "Butterflies" music video is any indication, I am well on my way to becoming in the minority with my thinking. I mean 35-million viewers can't be wrong, now can they?

Regardless of where she is from, Kamaliya definitely has the formula to successfully get to where she is going, and that is to top of the U.S. music charts if she has anything to do with it. With high charting singles already in the everso challenging UK market, the former Mrs. World is showing the world she has what it takes to make it, talent, beauty, determination, and patience.

When watching the Russian beauty in her music videos, it is apparent that Kamaliya loves the camera, loves what she is doing, and has been able to transfer her acting ability in film and television to her music videos. With respect and admiration for world artist like Madonna, Whitney Houston and Sarah Brightman, you can see where she gets that Kamaliya-touch by mixing theatrics, pop melodies, and technical vocalization in her music and videos. I hope she has enough room on her passport, because mark my words, Kamaliya is about to bring it to the universe from Russia with love!

35-million viewers

BeBe: Congratulations on the success of your ’Butterflies’ music video which has amassed 35-million views on YouTube. Why do you think the music video has such appeal to the public across the world?

Kamaliya: I think it might be because it’s both timeless and yet fresh. Introducing opera to a new generation of fans in an accessible way for opera in its time was actually pop music aimed at the masses! And everyone loves a costume! Beautiful girls and boys wearing cute theatrical numbers always goes down well!! I like show-stopping visuals and LaChapelle inspired colors!

BeBe: I couldn’t help but be reminded of Madonna’s ’Vogue’ performance at the 1990 MTV Awards when watching the video for ’Butterflies’ with its Victorian-time period references. Has Madonna been an influence for you during your recording and performing career? Have any other artists influenced you?

Kamaliya: I totally respect Madonna for being able to maintain her career over three decades. What an incredible achievement that is. She is a true chameleon who moves with the times. My favorite artists, however, are those who inspired me vocally, with Whitney Houston and Sarah Brightman both being at the top of my listening list.

British appeal?

BeBe: You have had two singles chart in the top 15 on UK music charts over the past 12 months. What, if any, plans do you have to capitalize on your British appeal?

Kamaliya: Dahhhhhlin’! I’ve just had my first number 1 in the UK. How could you have missed it (laughs)!

BeBe: Oops!

Kamaliya: ’Butterflies’ went to the top of the UK club chart, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. My dream came true. Now it’s onto the album! I am also supporting the fabulous girl band Little Mix on their first tour of the UK. Their single ’DNA’ is a smash so I think we’re going to have great fun.

BeBe: Unlike the American appeal for ballet dancers and opera singers, it is rare to have a Russian pop star cross over into U.S. mainstream music. What do you have that will make your shot at U.S. stardom different from perhaps previous Russian artist attempts?

Kamaliya: I am not just a singer/writer and performer. I am also an actress who had the luckiest break filming a movie with Sharon Stone and Andy Garcia this year called ’What About Love.’ It will be on general release in 2013, so watch me go! I aim to be the first (Russian pop star) and break the mold. (And) Can’t wait! Besides on the 18th of January my first Hollywood movie ’Officer Down’ will have limited theatrical release in Los Angeles movie theaters, and then released nationally on the 23rd of January.

Worth waiting for

BeBe: Though you have been making music since 1997, it hasn’t been until late 2011 that you gained notable success with singles released beginning with ’Crazy in My Heart.’ Why do you think it has taken 14 years to get to this point?

Kamaliya: Anything worth having is worth waiting for if you’ve worked hard enough, and that goes for everything in life. Having said that I can only add that I only started tapping the Western markets since November of last year, before that I was just another local star in Russia and the Ukraine with lots of hit Russian songs and a large following.

BeBe: With 4 singles released in 2012, you are putting out music at a fast pace. Is this the pace we should expect future releases to come from you?

Kamaliya: Just try and stop me!

BeBe: Here in the U.S. beauty queens are not always taken seriously in their pursuits out of pageantry. Was being Mrs. World 2008 a help or a hindrance to your career in music, and how so?

Kamaliya: It (the beauty pageant) was just something else I did. It was, however, a defining moment for my confidence. And, in Eastern Europe it isn’t quite viewed in the same way it is in the U.S. I loved every minute of the process and to win was a massive bonus. I feel very blessed to have had opportunities that many only dream of. But they say, ’if you have a dream, that dream will come true.’

Gay appeal

BeBe: The song and music video ’Butterflies’ has gay audience appeal written all over it. Is the gay market one in which you plan to target your music to?

Kamaliya: I am so happy for anyone to be listening to my music, young, old, gay, straight, whatever religion or creed. It just so happens that the colorfulness of my performance and staging coupled with the positive energy of my songs seems to have an automatic and natural home with a gay crowd who I have found to be loyal, loving and super-fun. How lucky am I!?

BeBe: How was your experience performing at the Mr. Gay World event in South Africa earlier in 2012, an event you found important to interrupt your tour with STEPS to do?

Kamaliya: It was simply unmissable!

BeBe: You have done a lot of charitable work in your homeland and in Pakistan over the years including participating events to help children with AIDS. As you become an international star, will you broaden your charity efforts in other countries, and what charities are of particular interest to you?

Kamaliya: Absolutely. I suffered with cancer as a direct result of being in Chernobyl’s path, so for anyone in a similar situation I have the greatest empathy. My other passion is animals and animal welfare and I do a lot of work and plan to continue to help rescue those who are in danger.

BeBe: What image of you do you hope the public walks away with?

Kamaliya: A positive one...

For more tour and music info on Kamaliya, visit her website.

Based out of San Francisco, BEBE SWEETBRIAR is the Omni Present Drag Chanteuse. As an entertainer and hostess, BeBe can be scene every week hosting and performing at countless events and parties in the San Francisco. One of the few drag personalities to sing live while performing, BeBe has literally graced every notable stage in San Francisco, bridging many gay sub-community gaps. She has also been the opening act for Destiny’s Child Kelly Rowland, "Ugly Betty’s" Alec Mapa and Dance Diva Kristine W. Adding recording artist to her list of performance accomplishments in 2008 with the release of her first single "Save Me", Ms. Sweetbriar will soon release her fifth dance single in 2012 called "Show It Off"..
As an actress, BeBe was introduced to film with a lead role in the independent film "Under One Sun" with her character dealing with religious, racial and gender issues. Additionally, she appeared in the campy musical "Devious, Inc" (Australian Film Festival, San Francisco Short Film Fest) also adding additional vocals to the musical soundtrack. Both of these performances led to her selection for a lead role in Aisha Media’s next short film series, "" to be released in 2012.


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