Kirstin Maldonado Redefined
Pursuing a career in the music industry is the modern-day equivalent to an Olympic sport. In essence, it's not as simple as it seems and requires immense dedication and patience. Luckily, for Kirstin Taylor Maldonado, when you’re accompanied on your journey by close friends, there’s a bit more room for fun. Maldonado is a member of three-time Grammy-winning Pentatonix, who has taken the world over by storm since their big win on NBC’s The Sing-Off. The multi-platinum-selling group has sold nearly 10 million albums worldwide and performed for hundreds of thousands of fans at their sold-out shows across the globe.
Although born in Fort Worth, Texas, Maldonado was raised in Arlington by her tremendously supportive mother, who she credits as her “biggest mode of success.” Adds Maldonado, “I had a really amazing mother who gave me so much support and such a great foundation of believing in me and grounding me in so much love. She was so selfless and did everything to make sure that I was taken care of and could go to music lessons and achieve my best.”
“The high school and local theaters around [Arlington] had so many gifted people so I was always surrounded by talented and great individuals, including Scott and Mitch who are in Pentatonix with me,” she explains, referring to Scott Hoying and Mitch Grassi, who she sang with all the time when they were in high school together and further fostered her artistic growth.
While studying musical theater at the University of Oklahoma, Maldonado decided to drop out and pursue a music career, thus birthing Pentatonix with Hoying and Grassi (the trio discovered Kevin Olusola and Avi Kaplan on YouTube to complete the group). Shortly after, the group made the move to L.A. – which she describes as “the worst.” “It was so hard, and I wasn’t at all ready,” she recalls. “All of a sudden, it was like, a whirlwind of things were happening.” Fortunately, though, she had the support of her group which really helped her with the transition:
“There are so many things that are going to come into your path so staying resilient and grounded is essential; that’s why it was great to have 4 other people with me – I couldn’t imagine doing that alone.”
2017 was also a year of challenge and dramatic change. On May 12, 2017, Kaplan announced his departure from the group, discussing how much he loved Pentatonix but how difficult it was to keep up with the fast-paced nature of the group. A week later, Maldonado faced her fear of “doing things alone,” releasing her first solo single “Break A Little,” and then the EP called L O V E – EP followed in July. To the surprise of many, she had dropped her last name and rebranded herself as kirstin™, with the trademark symbol instead representing Taylor Maldonado (“It’s authentically me”). She had considered her options with a solo career in the past, especially since her other group members had already released their own solo work, but was adamant on waiting for the right time. “I think the reason it took me so long is because I finally had something to say,” she clarifies. “I learned so much about myself, and it was really cool to find myself and learn how I best operate. It's so refreshing that we can go out and pursue individual projects and sounds, but still come together and flow and make music.”
In early 2018, moreover, she realized one of her childhood goals and made her Broadway debut in the critically acclaimed Kinky Boots as Lauren. “To start off the year of 2018 with Broadway by myself and feeling like a success was such a return for me,” she shares.
Maldonado has undoubtedly achieved loads and has checked many entries off her bucket list – all at 26 years old. However, she still has more planned. “My next solo single will be coming out in 2019 which is really exciting,” she reveals. “I feel like I’ve grown so much as an artist especially with what I want to say and communicate so that’s another exciting chapter that I’m excited to return to.”
Writer: Mike Varius
Photographer: Catherine Asanov (@catherineasanov)
Stylist: Candice Lambert
Stylist Assistant: Birta Epstein
Hair: Sara Tintari (using SEVEN haircare & Enzo Milano)
Makeup: Dillon Peña (for TheOnly.Agency - using M·A·C Cosmetics)
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to B Twenty Four (@btwentyfourla - www.btwentyfourcafe.com)