As a self-described odd duck, k.d. lang has always done things her own unique way. Thinking outside of the box shows in her use of small-case letters for her name, her music, acting, and lifestyle. The Grammy award-winning singer has successfully crossed several musical genres, and added acting to her repertoire of talents.
The Canadian-born Kathryn Dawn Lang began performing in the early '80s as k.d. lang with her band, the Reclines. The singer left Edmonton for New York, where she cut her first CD in 1984 and gained a following. With her voice, reminiscent of her inspiration, Patsy Cline, lang parlayed her country sound and a cover of Roy Orbison's "Crying" into stardom and two Grammys in 1988 and 1989. Switching gears to popular rock, she won a Grammy in the Pop Vocals category in 1992, a year after she began her acting career.
Fame brought her personal life into the spotlight. Most notable has been lang's work with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and for gay rights. lang grew up knowing she was a lesbian, but gave notice to the world in an interview in the Advocate in 1992.
Her 1991 acting debut in Percy Adlon's film Salmonberries foreshadowed her public stance as a lesbian. lang plays a woman of Anglo and Inuit heritage, who finds love with a German woman (Rosel Zech) who has come to Alaska after her husband's death. Life has not been particularly kind to either woman; they find compassion and solace in each other's company. lang's sensitive portrayal of an Alaskan pipeline worker, who forms a deep bond with the town's new librarian, drew critical acclaim.
lang's involvement in films also included work as a singer, songwriter, and musical scorist. Among her credits are songs in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997) and Sweet November (2001). lang's lyrical musical score for Even Cowgirls Get the Blues won accolades, even though the movie was not well received by critics or the public. She also produced a musical score for the 1995 documentary Celluloid Closet, which chronicles the treatment of homosexuality in the early days of the film industry.
Since the making of Salmonberries, lang has appeared in several other films. She played Michelle in Teresa's Tattoo, a quirky comedy that combines elements of crime and science fiction. lang also co-starred in a television movie adaptation of a Mario Puzo book. The Last Don profiles the Chicago mob family of Don Domenico Clericuzio, with lang portraying a lesbian film director. In Stephan Elliot's thriller Eye of the Beholder, lang plays Hilary, the assistant to a detective on the trail of a serial stalker and killer. Hilary watches her British Secret Service boss (Ewan McGregor) morph into stalker, murderer, and lover.
At the turn of the 21st century, k.d. lang continued to explore film and music, while speaking out for those on society's fringes, a place she herself has always called home.