Kierin Magenta Kirby (born August 15, 1963), better known as Lady Miss Kier, is an American singer and DJ.
Kirby was born in Youngstown, Ohio, and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She spent time in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where she attended Kempsville High School, and Washington, DC; in 1982, at age 19, she settled in New York City, New York to pursue a career in fashion design. She briefly attended the Fashion Institute of Technology to study textile design. She supported herself as a waitress, bartender, coat checker, bathroom attendant, go-go dancer, and art gallery receptionist while concentrating on design.
In 1986, Kirby met Ukrainian-born Dmitry Brill ("Supa DJ Dmitry") in New York, when she made him silver platform boots and a glitter blue spacesuit for his band, Shazork. That same year, she began experimenting with singing and writing music with Brill.
Shortly after their first show in 1986, Brill was introduced to local DJ Towa Tei, a Korean-raised Japanese man. Combining Kirby's vocal and writing talents with Brill's sampling skills and Tei's techno mixing, the three formed the band Deee-Lite. They had performances every month, with Kier designing new costumes for each one. When the band signed a seven-album deal with Elektra Records she stopped go-go dancing, which she previously had continued to do at Bentleys and The Copa.
Deee-Lite's sound was a unique mix of house, techno and dance elements. Deee-Lite shot to stardom in 1990 with the release of their first album World Clique, and the hit "Groove is in the Heart". In 1991 MTV nominated Deee-Lite for several Video Music Awards including "Video of the Year" "Best Dance Video" "Best New Artist" "Best Breakthrough Video" "Best Editing in a Video"
Kirby was very involved in the band's output: writing, producing, and performing the bulk of the band's songs. Kirby's sultry, feminine, and soulful voice backed up by the funky, catchy beats was unique for its time, and came to personify the club culture of New York City.
Known as much for their outrageous personae and costumes as for their music, the three took on larger-than-life alter-egos: Super DJ Dmitri, Jungle DJ Towa Towa, and Lady Miss Kier. Kirby is credited with designing and creating the look of the band, as well as much of the artwork accompanying the band's albums and marketing material. Her initial look relied on revamped and exaggerated retro '60s fashions, which was revolutionary at the time. Her signature look was a zip-up catsuit, platform shoes and flipped hair-do. At the height of the band's success, her style had a major influence on fashion trends, showing up in a variety of retail venues.
Deee-Lite followed their successful first album with a politically charged second album, Infinity Within, in 1992. Their third album, Dewdrops in the Garden, was released in 1994 and saw a return to house roots with a new, more naturalistic tone. Neither of the two follow-up albums matched the commercial success of their debut. The second and third albums were hampered by difficulties with the label, which refused to promote, support touring, or fund contractual videos. The band functionally broke up during the writing of their third album in 1993, but Kirby and Brill decided to finish the project and tour together to promote the album before going their separate ways. In 1996, a remix album was released, and a greatest hits album was released in 2001.
International DJ and songwriting solo career:
Brill's and Kirby's relationship fractured, and Deee-lite disbanded in 1995. "When Dmitry and I split up, that was the end of the band," Kirby said. "It was sad because I loved the band. I didn't want to leave the band and the music and I missed my writing partner, but we couldn't get along."
In 1995, after quitting the band, Lady Miss Kier moved to London where she began touring as a deejay and learning the technical end of production, recording, and engineering. In the late nineties, she collaborated on the albums of such artists as Bootsy Collins, I Kamanchi and A Guy Called Gerald. In 2002, she contributed an exclusive solo track called "I'm Not Staying at Home" to the compilation Straight Up & Dirty. Since going solo she has featured and co-written with artists such as Full Cycle, George Clinton, Junie Morrison, A Guy Called Gerald, Apollo Heights, and several P-Funk luminaries Outside of the studio, she continued to showcase her live performances with new material for various music, film, and art festivals, as well as headlining numerous Gay Pride events worldwide. In 2012 she began performing a Deee-Lite tribute for various occasions, including the 2013 Paris Fashion Week for Kenzo as well as a tribute to legendary NYC DJ Mark Kamins at Santos Party House.
As a DJ she has spun internationally for over 17 years at thousands of clubs and major festivals including Coachella Festival (2007), Berlin's Berghain (2010) and Sydney Mardi Gras (2012), as well as radio programs such as East Village Radio and Sirius XM.
In 2005, motivated by the invasion of Iraq, she began internationally performing live new unreleased music, including the DFA release of the anti war song "Bulletproof". She has headlined numerous festivals and gay pride events as well as opened for James Brown's last tour at the Good Vibrations festival in Australia.
Style icon and costumes:
In 1990 she was on the cover of Vogue. In 2010, Elle named her one of "Music's 25 Most Influential Style Icons" along with Grace Jones, Beyoncé, Debbie Harry, and M.I.A. In 2010, Glamour also named Lady Miss Kier as one of the "Top Influential Music Style Icons" ever, along with Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Gwen Stefani. In 2012, Vogue quoted her experience with John Fluevog and the rise of the "The Munster" which was made famous as a symbol of the '90s house/club underground DJ scene. In 2012, respected shoe designer Jerome Rousseau, was not only inspired but named a shoe after the singer. The shoe was called "Kier Iredescent". In 2013, W cited Lady Miss Kier along Chloë Sevigny and Twiggy as current fashion influences. In 2013, Ladygunn magazine featured a full spread on the singer in their "Legends" issue and was asked by Kenzo to be the performer for their Paris Fashion week party.
From 2007 to 2012, the house of Mugler used her song for their website campaign. She was also the model for Pucci's Lifetime Achievement Awards at the CFDA Fashion Awards.
Movies and books:
Her music has been used in a multitude of movies including The Heat (2013),House of Versace (2013),Crazy Sexy Cool: The TLC Story (2013),Charlie's Angels (2000),Wigstock (1995), Party Girl (1995), Dumb and Dumber (1994), Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) and several television episodes.
In 1995, Lady Kier was featured in Wigstock: The Movie which included live footage of her performing and a song on the soundtrack. In 2001 she was included in Summer Love: The Rave-umentary. In 2005, Lady Miss Kier was the featured artist on the podcast Ron-Kat-Delic Show. Her words were also shared through a number of published books, Some of which include Verbal Abuse - No 3 by Chi Chi Valenti,Creative Time: The Book: 33 Years of Public Art in New York by Anne Pasternak,Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling by Kembrew McLeod and Peter DiCola and All Music Guide to Electronica: The Definitive Guide to Electronic Music by Vladimir Bogdanov.
Panels and appearances:
Lady Kier used her popularity as a platform to promote social and environmental awareness. With the release of Deee-Lite's second album, Infinity Within, they were the first group to release an EcoPack, which reduced plastic packaging more than 50% and became the new norm, winning her the Environmental Media award by the World Wide Fund for Nature. In 1991 Kirby was featured in "The Most Exciting Woman in Music (1991)" public service announcement which promoted women's rights to choose when and whether to have children, alongside music icons such as Kate Pierson (The B-52's), Crystal Waters, Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads), Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth), and MC Lyte. In 1991, Lady Miss Kier was an award presenter at The Reebok Human Rights Awards.
Lady Miss Kier has spoken at Princeton University's "Youth Music and Youth Culture",Cooper Union's multimedia presentation "Hiccup" in 1993, Apple's 1995 "Future Arts Panel" with Peter Gabriel and Electronic Frontier Foundation founder, John Perry Barlow, George Washington University's Law School Summit Future of Music Coalition in 2007 and New York University's "NYU Panel Nelson Sullivan: Vlogging in the 80s" in 2013. In 2013 she was featured in an exhibit entitled "NYC 1993", which was presented through New York City's New Museum. Beyond the installation, her voice recording was played via pay phones throughout the New York area. In 2013, Lady Miss Kier was the featured voice over artist in The Jazz Foundation Of America's animated promo for the event "A Great Night in Harlem"
Space Channel 5 and lawsuit:
In 2003, Kirby sued video game company Sega, claiming that the character of "Ulala" in their game Space Channel 5 was an unauthorized use of her likeness. Kirby claimed that Sega offered to pay her US$16,000 to license her name, image and songs for the game, though she rejected their offer. Kirby alleged that the video game maker later went ahead and used her resemblance anyway (including the name "Ulala" - referencing the trademark phrase "Ooh la la" of Kirby in her recorded and live performances) and at which point she decided to initiate the lawsuit. She ultimately lost the suit and a later appeal, based on the appeals court's finding that the character was developed by designers who were unaware of Kirby or her persona. In court it was noted that the animated character looked more like another 90's pop star, Michaela Dornonville de la Cour from the Swedish band Army of Lovers.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license