Dance diva Crystal Waters returns with a new CD to launch Dallas Pride Weekend
SCOTT HUFFMAN | Contributing Writer
Dance diva Crystal Waters is no stranger to the club circuit. With crowd-pleasing singles like “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)” and “100 Percent Pure Love,” the Washington, D.C.-based singer/songwriter has established herself as a perennial gay favorite. If it weren’t for a chance visit with a psychic, however, Waters — who found employment with a parole board after attending Howard University — might still be working a routine desk job.
“They hand you this sheet that tells you what you will make over the next 12 years by grade,” Waters says of her former employer. “I thought, ‘I’m never going to make any money.’ [My mother] told me to go to this psychic who said I wasn’t doing something with my voice. I didn’t know what she was talking about. I thought she wanted me to be a speaker or something.”
Soon afterwards, Waters learned through a friend of an opportunity to sing backup. They auditioned and they got the job. The moment was an epiphany for Waters as she connected the gig to the psychic’s advice.
“It was like a light bulb went off,” Waters says. “I made, like, $600 for singing two songs. I thought, ‘This is where I need to be.’”
In hindsight, it is surprising that Waters — who will appear with Dave Audé on Sept. 18 at It’ll Do Club — did not find her calling sooner. Her father is celebrated jazz musician Junior Waters, and she’s also related to famed vocalist Ethel Waters. It seems natural that musical talent would be a part of her genetic code.
“I’ve tried to go and do other things, but I always come back to the music,” she says. “I have to write that song. You get the lyrics in your head and you get a melody. It’s just like it’s really in my DNA. It’s just there. I guess it’s what I was born to do.”
Waters’ first hit was 1991’s “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless),” inspired by an actual homeless woman she encountered who changed her political viewpoint. Today Waters jokes that the song — one she endearingly calls
“Miss Gypsy” — has taken on a life of its own. Yet Waters has not forgotten the first time she heard the song played on the radio as she walked to work one morning.
“I had my Walkman and my headphones on,” Waters says. “I heard the DJ say, ‘Crystal Waters.’ I took the headphones off like someone had called me. I put them back on, and it was ‘Gypsy’ [on the radio]. I was in the middle of the street. I was so happy I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I was in a dream.”
“They were there in the beginning,” Waters says. “Even when the songs weren’t going mainstream anymore, they kept me alive in the gay community all these years.”
Despite her recording successes, Waters considers herself just an entertainer trying to please her audience.
“It’s all about making the crowd happy,” Waters says. “You are there to make these people happy, not there to feel good about yourself. I talk to my dancers about that a lot. They are busy worrying about steps. It’s not about the steps, it’s about being on the stage. That’s the fun that I have.”
Waters admits that living in the spotlight was not always easy. She managed to balance her life by heeding sage advice from Ed Eckstine, former president of Mercury Records.
“He said there has to be two Crystal Waters,” she recalls. “There has to be the Crystal Waters that is for the audience, and there has to be the one at home so you can turn it all off and have Crystal to yourself. When I came home I just had to be mommy.”
Today Waters is as busy as ever, dividing her time between the studio and road. She recently released “Synergy,” a new single recorded with producers and DJs Sted-E and Hybrid Heights. She is also venturing into new territory as an entrepreneur. Waters is in the final stages of achieving her longtime dream of launching a cosmetics line — one aimed not at women, but at gay men.
“I’ve been working all summer,” Waters says. “I’m doing an anti-aging line geared toward gay men. That’s my audience. I’ve been working with a marketing consultant. I started out for women, but the market is really crowded. I said, ‘These are my people.’ It should be launched by the end of the year.”
If she hadn’t found her calling as a recording artist, Waters is not exactly sure what she would have done instead. She does, though, have a strong idea of what she wouldn’t want to do.
“I know I would have been trying to reach for something,” Waters says. “I tell my children and friends that you are never going to be rich until you are working for yourself. I would never be happy working for someone else.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 11, 2015.