Disco Is Not a Dirty Word to Brit Dance-Music Diva Lisa Stansfield

updated 07/30/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/30/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Sporting greased hair and a black spit curl onstage, British singer Lisa Stansfield looks like a cross between Olive Oyl and Hercule Poirot. But when she sings in her bluesy, sexy alto, Stansfield is no comic figure. Her No. 1 single, "All Around the World," and Top 10 album, Affection, mix '60s soul and '70s funk into a rare cocktail—what one critic called "dance music you can listen to."

For Stansfield, 24, hailed at home as the new queen of disco, ultimate praise comes from that maligned genre's progenitor, Barry White, to whom Affection is dedicated. The Walrus of Love met with her recently and was smitten. "She's got a rich, sensual sound," White says. "We talked about working together. I think we'd do something mystical."

Which would thrill Stansfield, who began singing along to her mother Marian's disco records back home in Rochdale, near Manchester, at age 4. Her dad, Keith, a draftsman, used to play his favorite records too. "But I never sang Black Sabbath," Stansfield says.

A series of talent contests led Stansfield to her first paying gig, as teen host of a local TV variety show. "I was 14 and being dressed like Joan Collins on a bad day," she says. That show led to another, called Razzmatazz. "I was a minor celebrity getting £500 a week, just saying a few words and smiling a lot. I thought, 'This is scandalous!' "

In 1984 two school chums, Andy Morris and Ian Devaney, suggested she try music. "It was a revelation," she says. "I couldn't sleep. I was writing all the time." The three collaborated on many of her LP's songs; Devaney also doubles nowadays as Stansfield's beau.

Still living in Rochdale, the singer is wary of her widening fame. "It really freaked me out," she says of an encounter with a billboard in Liverpool. "I went, 'My God! That's me up there!' " But the neo-disco diva maintained a smidgen of cool. "I didn't pose for a picture in front of it," says Stansfield. "I'm not that tacky."

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