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Kiesza wearing a white crop top and grey sweatpants, standing onstage with her left arm raised, holding a microphone
Kiesza performing in 2015
Background information
Birth nameKiesa Rae Ellestad
Born (1989-01-16) January 16, 1989 (age 35)[1][2]
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • keyboards
  • Lokal Legend
  • Island
  • Reverse Psycho Logic
Military career
Service/branch Canadian Forces Naval Reserve[3]

Kiesa Rae Ellestad[4][5] (born January 16, 1989),[1][2] known professionally as Kiesza[6] (/ˈkzə/ KY-zə), is a Canadian singer and multi-instrumentalist from Calgary.[7] In 2017, she was involved in a car accident in Toronto, suffering severe injuries that required her to take several years off to recover.[8] To date, she has released the albums Sound of a Woman (2014) and Crave (2020).

Early life[edit]

Kiesza was born and raised in Calgary. Her last name, Ellestad, is Norwegian from her paternal side and her grandfather is from Fagernes in Norway.[9][10][11][12][13] In an interview with Metro, Kiesza claimed that she can trace her lineage to someone who fought alongside Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn, elaborating, "There's a lot of Scottish people in Canada. Tons. My grandpa was of Scottish heritage—he was of the black Douglases".[14]

At thirteen, Kiesza took a sailing class at summer camp,[15] and continued her interest past age 16, when she took part in the Sail and Life Training Society (SALTS)[7] program. She later became a sailing instructor at the Glenmore Sailing School in 2007. A year after, she joined the reserves[3] of the Royal Canadian Navy along with her brother,[16] becoming a NavCom (Naval Communicator).[7][16][17] It was while she was at crew singalongs at the Navy that she taught herself to play guitar.[18]

Meanwhile,[7] she also entered the Miss Universe Canada pageant.[19][16] She stated that her time in the Navy motivated her to give away 4,500 CDs to Canadian troops serving in Afghanistan in 2008.[6][7] Kiesza took part in the Young Canadians, where she trained in jazz and tap dancing, as well as theatre.[6] She also trained as a ballerina,[19] but a knee injury at age 15 ended her ballet career.[5][20] When Kiesza was 18, she said that her parents' divorce inspired her to write her first song as a way of expressing her feelings.[7] The same year, she heard a song of hers played on the radio.[16]

Music career[edit]

2006–2013: Career beginnings[edit]

Kiesza performing at Olympic Plaza in downtown Calgary, July 2007

In 2005, CKUA Folk Routes host Tom Coxworth selected Kiesza to perform for a live audience and to be broadcast live on his radio show.[7] Shortly after, she was accepted to Selkirk College in Nelson, British Columbia, where she studied keyboard, voice, and guitar;[6][21] she graduated in 2009.[22] Next, Kiesza won a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.[16] Afterward, she went to New York City in 2010[2] to advance her music career.[16] Although she started as mainly a folk singer,[16] after attending Berklee and then living in New York, she moved to a more "uptempo sound",[16] for which she worked with producer Rami Samir Afuni.[9] In 2010, she was selected to play at the Canada Day celebrations at Trafalgar Square in London to 30,000 people.[16][23]

In 2012, Kiesza released her first single after starting work with Afuni in New York, a "disco-infused pop" song titled "Oops", about a couple that had unprotected sex.[4][9][24] She labelled her style of music at the time as "SteamPop", described by AjanWrites as "a flaming brew of bold, boisterous pop filled with tongue-in-cheek lyrics".[9] In a later 2014 interview, Kiesza said "Oops" was made as a joke.[4][9]

In 2013, the singer was featured in the single "Triggerfinger" by Norwegian band Donkeyboy.[25] She has also written for other artists, such as Rihanna, Kylie Minogue, and Icona Pop.[4][26]

2014–2016: Sound of a Woman[edit]

Kiesza in Munich, 2015

In February 2014, Kiesza released the video for her new single "Hideaway" through the label Lokal Legend.[27][9][19] Idolator considered it unique for having a long take throughout the entire video, as Kiesza walked and danced through N 12th Street in Brooklyn, New York City.[27] John Gentile of Rolling Stone called the style "impressive".[28] Kiesza reported to Rolling Stone that she had trouble making the video, partly because she broke a rib just before filming, and "couldn't move for an entire month afterward."[28] It was premiered by Annie Mac on her Mac's Special Delivery segment on BBC Radio 1.[29] "Hideaway" debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart.[30]

Shortly after "Hideaway" charted, Kiesza released a new video for her cover of Haddaway's song "What Is Love".[31] Mike Bell of the Calgary Herald referred to her version of the song as a "jaw-droppingly gorgeous cover of Haddaway's 1993 dance smash What Is Love?"[13] She performed a slowed-down version, with a video showing her and others slowly revealed to be without clothes, to express "raw emotions".[13]

Kiesza's second single, "Giant in My Heart", premiered on Annie Mac's BBC Radio 1 show on June 13, 2014. It entered the UK Singles Chart at number four.

Kiesza collaborated with Skrillex and Diplo (working together under the name Jack Ü) on the song "Take Ü There", which was released as the first single from the producers' collaborative 2015 mixtape, Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü. She co-wrote Gorgon City's "Go All Night", featuring Jennifer Hudson singing her lyrics, which was on the British duo's debut album, Sirens.

Kiesza appeared as a guest on Duran Duran's album Paper Gods on the song "Last Night in the City", released September 11, 2015.[32]

She wrote several songs for Rihanna, which were considered for the Barbadian artist's eighth studio album, Anti.[33] She also worked with Loreen on the 2015 single "I'm in It with You".

2017: Dearly Beloved, Malinkiesza, Phantom of the Dancefloor, and second album[edit]

Kiesza released the single "Dearly Beloved" on January 6, 2017. An accompanying music video, which showcases her with a white guitar, was posted on YouTube the same day through the KieszaVevo channel. According to the artist, the song and her future material were inspired by her "best friend Alice [who] passed away nearly a year and a half ago [as of 1/6/17]". The friend in question was Alicia Lemke, who had died in November 2015 from leukemia.[34] On March 17, 2017, Pitbull released Climate Change, featuring a collaboration with Kiesza titled "We Are Strong".[35] At the same time, Cerrone released the album RedLips, featuring a collaboration with Kiesza titled "Ain't No Party".[36]

2017–present: Hiatus and return to performing in 2019[edit]

Nick Krewen, writing in the Toronto Star, reported that Kiesza was involved in a car accident in 2017 in Toronto, when an Uber vehicle she was in was struck by a taxi in a side collision.[8] He reported that part of her recovery, from what she described as a traumatic brain injury, required her staying in a darkened room for six months.[8]

After a two-year hiatus following the car crash,[37][38][39] Kiesza released a new single, "Sweet Love", and returned to touring in June 2019. Paper magazine referred to the new song as being a "blend of genres".[40] In 2020, she released her second studio album, Crave.[41]

According to Paper magazine, Kiesza is working on a musical.[40]

Other ventures[edit]

Kiesza in 2014

In 2014, Kiesza was selected to be the face of a new line of fashion eyewear called "Color Block" by retailer Fendi, appearing in a promotional video shot by Ruth Hogben.[5][42][43][44] The video "features Kiesza strolling on a treadmill against a painted skyline, while singing and donning the double-framed, colourful sunglasses."[45] She announced plans to release her own line of fashion under the name "SteamPop" sometime in 2014.[43]




  • Sound of a Woman Tour (2015)

Opening act

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Awards Category Work Outcome
2014 UK Music Video Awards Best Pop Video – International "Hideaway" Nominated
MTV Europe Music Awards Best Video Nominated
Best New Act Herself Nominated
Best Push Act Nominated
Best Canadian Act Nominated
BBC Music Awards Song of the Year "Hideaway" Nominated
MTV Video Music Awards Best Choreography Nominated
2015 ECHO Awards[46] Female Artist Rock / Pop internationally Sound of a Woman Nominated
Newcomer international Nominated
Juno Awards Single of the Year "Hideaway" Nominated
Video of the Year Won
Breakthrough Artist of the Year Herself Won
Dance Recording of the Year Sound of a Woman Won
YouTube Music Awards 50 Greatest Artists and YouTube Performances Herself Won
MTVU Woodie Awards Cover Woodie Nominated
Co-Sign Woodie "Take Ü There": Jack Ü feat. Kiesza Nominated
Canadian Radio Music Awards Best New Group or Solo Artist: CHR "Hideaway" Won
Best New Group or Solo Artist: AC Nominated
Western Canadian Music Awards Electronic/Dance Recording of the Year[47] Won
International Dance Music Awards Best House/Garage/Deep House Track Won
Best Music Video Nominated
Best Rap/Hip-Hop/Trap Dance Track "Take Ü There": Jack Ü feat. Kiesza Nominated
Best Breakthrough Artist (Solo) Herself Nominated
Much Music Video Awards Video of the Year "Giant in My Heart" Nominated
Best EDM/Dance Nominated
Most Buzzworthy Canadian Sound of a Woman Nominated


  1. ^ a b "Talent: KIESZA | Interview" (in German). July 25, 2014. Archived from the original on August 20, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Verdot-Belaval, Athony (April 29, 2014). "25 ans, la chanteuse canadienne vient de dévoiler en France son premier single "Hideaway". Portrait d'une ancienne militaire devenue reine des charts". Paris Match (in French). Archived from the original on May 23, 2014. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  3. ^ a b Cull, Alex (March 25, 2014). "Introducing: Kiesza". Planet Notion. Archived from the original on April 19, 2014. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d Cragg, Michael (April 27, 2014). "One to watch: Kiesza". The Observer. Archived from the original on April 27, 2014. Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c Szmydke, Paulina (May 28, 2014). "Kiesza Gets Into the Groove". Women's Wear Daily. Archived from the original on May 28, 2014. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d "Self-styled and self-titled". Calgary Herald. December 30, 2008. Archived from the original on August 18, 2014. Retrieved March 20, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Wilton, Lisa (June 19, 2009). "Kiesza life stories written in strings". Calgary Sun. Archived from the original on September 27, 2016. Retrieved March 20, 2014.
  8. ^ a b c Nick Krewen (July 5, 2019). "Brain injury from Toronto crash derailed Kiesza's pop career: Now she's back". Toronto Star. Retrieved July 5, 2019. Not only did the accident put Kiesza — who plays her first, sellout Toronto gig on Saturday night at the Drake Underground since the accident — and her career in limbo, but that wasn't the worst of it: it took her another six months to realize the full extent of the injury.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Hot New Pop Alert: Watch Kiesza's Lyric Video for Debut Single "Oops"". ArjanWrites.com. September 6, 2012. Archived from the original on October 14, 2013. Retrieved March 20, 2014.
  10. ^ "Hør 90-tallsslageren i "naken" versjon". Vg.no. April 25, 2014.
  11. ^ "VG-listeshowet: Kvinnelige stjerneskudd til Rådhusplassen". Vg.no. June 13, 2014.
  12. ^ "Donkeyboy-vokalist mot toppen i Storbritannia". Vg.no. April 15, 2014.
  13. ^ a b c Bell, Mike (May 3, 2014). "Calgary singer Kiesza taking the pop music world by storm". Calgary Herald. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
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  18. ^ This Week's Fresh Music Top 20, 4Music, August 10, 2014
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  20. ^ Rayner, Ben (June 14, 2014). "Kiesza at the MMVAs: Hideaway no more". Toronto Star. p. E8. Archived from the original on June 13, 2014. Retrieved June 14, 2014. ...since a knee injury at 15 cut her ballet career short...
  21. ^ Schafer, Timothy (April 7, 2009). "Music, Environment & Passion; Before heading off to the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston, Selkirk College Music Grad Kiesza Ellestad is taking the Capitol Theatre stage in support of the West Kootenay EcoSociety and her future career". Nelson Daily News. p. 3.
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  23. ^ Parker, David (July 9, 2010). "Rainmaker brings the party to London". Calgary Herald. Archived from the original on March 22, 2014. Retrieved March 20, 2014.
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  25. ^ Triggerfinger (inlay). Donkeyboy ft. Kiesza. Warner Music Norway. 2013.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
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  29. ^ Herr, Lindsay (February 13, 2014). "Kiesza takes it to the streets in her debut video for lead single "Hideaway"". EarMilk. Retrieved March 20, 2014.
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  32. ^ Oakey1973 (March 16, 2015). "Kiesza is expected back in the Studio for a few days to do a bit more work". Duran Duran Official Site. Retrieved March 16, 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
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  36. ^ "Cerrone embrasse le funk avec l'album " Red Lips "". Blog.mothershaker.com.
  37. ^ "Kiesza Wrote Her Comeback Single With an Opera Singer". Papermag.com. June 20, 2019.
  38. ^ "Brain injury from Toronto crash derailed Kiesza's pop career. Now she's back | The Star". thestar.com. July 4, 2019.
  39. ^ "'I couldn't wait any longer': Kiesza releases single while recovering from brain injury". Cbc.ca. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  40. ^ a b Brendan Wetmore (June 20, 2019). "Kiesza Makes a 'Sweet' Comeback". Paper magazine. Retrieved July 5, 2019. Her new single, "Sweet Love," is a blurring of genres unlike her other dance-pop anthems.
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  43. ^ a b "Kiesza: I design clothes I can't find". Belfast Telegraph. May 28, 2014. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  44. ^ Tortora, Laura (May 28, 2014). "Kiesza X Fendi". Vogue Italia. Archived from the original on May 28, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  45. ^ Ciobanu, Madalina (May 27, 2014). "Kiesza Named as New Face of Fendi Eyewear". Harpars Bazaar. Archived from the original on May 28, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  46. ^ "Germany's Echo Awards 2015: All the winners – Music Business Worldwide". Musicbusinessworldwide.com. March 27, 2015.
  47. ^ "2015 Western Canadian Music Awards Winners Announced | Breakout West". Archived from the original on February 5, 2016. Retrieved January 18, 2016.

External links[edit]