Katherine Maria Jenkins OBE (born 29 June 1980) is a Welsh lyric mezzo-soprano singer and songwriter. She is a classical-crossover singer who performs across a spectrum of operatic arias, popular songs, musical theatre and hymns.
After winning singing competitions in her youth, Jenkins studied at the Royal Academy of Music, modelled and taught voice. She came to wide public attention in 2003 when she sang at Westminster Cathedral in honour of Pope John Paul II‘s silver jubilee. Since 2004, she has released numerous albums that have performed well on British and foreign charts. In both 2005 and 2006, her albums received Classic Brit Awards as Album of the Year. She has also been seen widely in concert, including concerts for British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; she has also sung at sporting events, on television shows and in support of many charities. In Spring 2012, she competed on the US television show Dancing with the Stars, finishing in second place, behind NFL Super Bowl champion Donald Driver.
Early life and education
Jenkins was born in Neath, Wales, where she and her sister Laura were raised by their parents Selwyn John and Susan.
She attended Alderman Davies Church in Wales Primary School in Neath, Dwr-y-Felin Comprehensive School and Gorseinon College. She received A grades in her GCSEs and A Levels and participated in productions such as Calamity Jane and Guys and Dolls. She attended singing lessons with John Hugh Thomas and passed her Grade 8 examinations with distinction in both singing and piano.
Between 1991 and 1996, Jenkins was a member of the Royal School of Church Music Cathedral Singers and passed the St Cecilia Award, the highest RSCM award for female choristers. She was also a member of the National Youth Choir of Wales for three years, won the BBC Radio 2 Welsh Choirgirl of the Year contest (twice), and the BET Welsh Choirgirl of the Year competition. She was also awarded the Pelenna Valley Male Voice Choir Scholarship for the most promising young singer. At the age of 17 she won a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music, graduating with honours and receiving a music teacher’s diploma.
After working as a freelance singing teacher, a tour guide on the London Eye and as a model, she entered a modelling competition and became the Face of Wales 2000. She then decided to follow a musical career. Universal Classics and Jazz heard her demo and she was invited to an interview at which she sang Rossini‘s “Una voce poco fa“. Universal offered Jenkins a six-album deal, the most lucrative in the United Kingdom’s classical recording history, reportedly worth £1 million.
Six out of seven of Jenkins’s studio albums reached number one in the UK classical charts between 2004 and 2008, selling a total of more than 4 million copies. After her first album, Premiere, made her the fastest-selling mezzo-soprano to date she became the first British classical crossover artist to have two number one albums in the same year. She is the first female artist to win two consecutive Classical BRIT Awards: her second album, Second Nature, reached number 16 in the UK Albums Chart, and was Album of the Year in the 2005 BRIT Awards.
Jenkins’s Italian-language version of Dolly Parton‘s “I Will Always Love You” (“L’Amore Sei Tu”), first performed live at Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire on 28 August 2005, was the first cut on her third album Living a Dream. After that album was released, uniquely, she held the top three positions in the classical crossover music chart. The album held the number one position for nearly a year and reached number four in the pop album charts. Jenkins repeated the success of Second Nature with her Living a Dream album when she won the classical BRIT award for Album of the Year for a second time.
Her fourth album, Serenade was released on 6 November 2006 and reached number five in the mainstream charts selling more than 50,000 copies in its first week, a record in the genre. The top four albums on HMV‘s classical charts were hers.
Her fifth album, Rejoice, was released on 19 November 2007 and included songs written specially for her, two by Take That‘s Gary Barlow. The album entered the pop album charts at number three, beating the Spice Girls and Girls Aloud. Jenkins commented “I never imagined when I was a young girl listening to them on the radio that I would outsell the Spice Girls and Celine Dion. It’s almost too much to take in. I can’t thank my fans enough for all their support.”
On 20 October 2008 Jenkins released Sacred Arias, which is her last album with Universal Music. On 19 October The Daily Telegraph stated that Jenkins had signed the biggest classical recording deal in history, for US$10 million (£5.8 million), with Warner Music.
Jenkins released her next album, Believe, on 26 October 2009, the first with Warner Music. This album featured Andrea Bocelli and other musicians like André Rieu and Chris Botti. She made various TV appearances such as GMTV, Something for the Weekend and Piers Morgan’s Life Stories on 24 October 2009 and on The Graham Norton Show on 2 November 2009. She performed the theme from The Godfather, Parla Piu Piano at Children In Need Rock The Albert Hall with cellist Julian Lloyd Webber. Later in December 2009, she performed a cover of Evanescence‘s “Bring Me to Life” at The Royal Variety Performance. On 23 May 2010, she went to Argentina for the first time and sang Parla Piu Piano in the popular Argentinian show Susana Giménez.
In 2011, Jenkins released Daydream, with the Christmas album This is Christmas following in 2012.
After a move to Decca Records, Jenkins released Home Sweet Home in 2014.
In 2015, Jenkins provided the spoken word vocals to the track “A Perfect Life” on Steven Wilson’s album Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Jenkins first came to public attention when she sang at Westminster Cathedral honouring Pope John Paul II‘s silver jubilee in October 2003 and then supporting Aled Jones on tour. At the Rugby World Cup in 2003 she made her Sydney Opera House debut as a guest of fellow Welshman, Max Boyce and, in August 2004, her first USA appearance, supporting Hayley Westenra at Joe’s Pub in New York City.
Jenkins was the first person to perform the Home Nations anthem “The Power of Four” and began to appear regularly to sing the Welsh national anthem “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” at Welsh international rugby union matches, singing with Bryn Terfel at the 2005 Wales vs. England Six Nations match at the Millennium Stadium. She is now the official mascot for the Wales rugby union team.
On 22 January 2005 Jenkins sang in Cardiff at the Tsunami Relief Concert and in April and May of that year supported Irish tenor Ronan Tynan on his first US tour as a solo artist. That May she sang at Trafalgar Square to a 15,000-strong audience celebrating the 60th Anniversary of VE Day. At the Berlin stage of Live 8 in 2005, Jenkins sang the hymn “Amazing Grace“, and she later helped to launch The Royal British Legion‘s poppy appeal at Covent Garden whilst wearing a dress made of 2,500 poppies.
On 27 August 2005 Katherine performed “Abide With Me” at the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff which was attended by 74,213 spectators. During the anthem, BBC cameras captured the infamous moment of a Hull F.C. fan being brought to tears during the song. The moment is still shown in flashbacks on televised Challenge Cup games.
With the Blue Man Group, Jenkins sang “I Feel Love” in front of the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance on 21 November 2005. She performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, on 11 December 2005.
In November 2006 she performed before the Queen at the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall and joined fellow Welsh singer James Fox in the final verse of “Anthem” from the musical Chess.
In July 2007 Jenkins gave a concert at Margam Park in south Wales, performing alongside Paul Potts and Juan Diego Flórez. Jenkins extended a personal invitation to Potts to sing “Nessun dorma” at the concert.
In September 2007 Jenkins modeled at Naomi Campbell‘s Fashion Relief event for charity in a Julien Macdonald dress which was then bought by Sir Philip Green for £10,000.
In November 2007 she sang again at the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall and was named classical performer of the year at the Variety Club Showbiz Awards.
With Darcey Bussell she has appeared in a stage song-and-dance production, entitled Viva la Diva, paying tribute to stars including Madonna and the late Judy Garland (who died in 1969). The show opened in Manchester in November 2007. Jenkins learned to tap dance, spending eight hours a week learning the choreography and running three miles a day to get fit. She performed the Welsh aational Anthem on 17 May 2008 at the 2008 FA Cup Final between Cardiff City and Portsmouth, becoming the first person to do this at an FA Cup Final.
At the beginning of 2009, Jenkins performed in South Korea with Plácido Domingo. This was Jenkins’s third concert with Domingo having performed with him in Hong Kong in 2008 and Athens in 2007. They then performed together in May 2009 at The Classical Brit Awards.
On 8 July 2009 Jenkins performed at the opening ceremony of the Ashes Test Series between England and Australia at Sophia Gardens cricket ground in Cardiff. On Saturday 12 September 2009 she performed in Hyde Park for Proms in the Park. On Monday 21 September she performed at the memorial service for Sir Bobby Robson, singing “Pie Jesu” at the request of Lady Robson.
On 12 November 2009, Jenkins performed a duet with cellist Julian Lloyd Webber for Children in Need at the Royal Albert Hall. The same month, Jenkins performed “I Believe” (from Believe) with Andrea Bocelli on his PBS Christmas Special. The duet appears in his album, My Christmas. Jenkins was scheduled to do her first Arena tour in March 2010.
On 24 May 2010, as part of the Argentina Bicentennial she performed the Canadian Anthem at the Argentina VS. Canada World Cup warm-up football match in the River Plate Stadium at Buenos Aires. On 11 June 2010, Jenkins performed a live comedy routine with Armenian comedy pianist Kev Orkian for a private birthday party at which Motown legend Lionel Richie performed, along with the LSO (London Symphony Orchestra) and comedians Bobby Davro and Jethro. The comedy sketch was an updated version of an old Victor Borge routine which Orkian had written and developed with Jenkins. In her official blog, Jenkins mentions that she may one day perform the routine in public. On 3 July 2010, Jenkins took the stage at Cheltenham Racecourse, with the National Symphony Orchestra. She was supported by violinist Diana Yukawa.
Jenkins performed at the opening night gala Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in July 2010. Her performance was very well received by an appreciative full house. She is booked to return there in July 2016.
During March and April 2013, Jenkins went on tour with Il Divo for their first and only European and UK tour. She also participated in the 2013 U.S. Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C., singing a selection from Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s Requiem and You’ll Never Walk Alone from Rodgers and Hammerstein‘s Carousel.
On 9 May 2015 she performed at VE Day 70: A Party to Remember in Horse Guards Parade, London.
In spring 2017 Katherine starred as the romantic lead Julie Jordan in Rodgers and Hammerstein‘s Carousel in a limited run at the English National Opera directed by Lonny Price, opposite musical theatre star Alfie Boe.
On 23 December 2006, Jenkins appeared on ITV‘s Parkinson show, backed by the Froncysyllte Male Voice Choir and a brass band.
She made a cameo appearance in two episodes of Emmerdale which saw 11.6 million viewers tune in to find out who killed popular character Tom King, who was murdered on Christmas Day. She also appeared in the show on 16 and 17 May 2007, which saw her opening the village pageant.
In July 2007, she performed live on Saving Planet Earth on BBC 1 to raise money for the BBC Wildlife Fund.
On 12 August 2007 she appeared on ITV’s Britain’s Favourite View, nominating Three Cliffs Bay on the Gower Peninsula as Britain’s favourite view. She commented; “I grew up on the edge of the Gower, but it was still a holiday place for our family. We’d go on weekend breaks to Three Cliffs Bay – six miles down the road! That’s how gorgeous it is.”
On 21 October 2007 she sang “Time to Say Goodbye” on the Strictly Come Dancing results show. Jenkins and Darcey Bussell performed a segment of their show Viva la Diva before the Queen at the 79th Royal Variety Performance, televised on 9 December 2007. On 15 December, Jenkins performed on The X Factor final with contestant Rhydian Roberts, performing the song “You Raise Me Up“. Jenkins made an appearance on Saturday Kitchen LIVE in December 2008. She has presented the BBC television programme Songs of Praise.
Jenkins appeared in episode 3 of the fifth series of The Apprentice, performing Leonard Cohen‘s “Hallelujah” as part of a private recital to winning team Ignite. The programme was aired on BBC One on 8 March 2009. 2009 saw Jenkins performing on a large number of TV shows – The Royal Variety Performance, Children In Need Rocks The Albert Hall, The Alan Titchmarsh Show, This Morning, GMTV, Something for the Weekend, The Paul O’Grady Show, presenting for the BBC the week-long series The Week We Went To War, Piers Morgan’s Life Stories for ITV1, Strictly Come Dancing, The Graham Norton Show and The Andrew Marr Show.
Jenkins started 2010 by appearing as one of two mentors on ITV1s prime time Friday night show, Popstar to Operastar. Later in the year, she appeared on the ITV1 game show Magic Numbers, acting as magician and show host Stephen Mulhern‘s assistant in the UK TV premiere of an illusion in which she was sawed in half inside a clear box. She also appeared in the 2010 Christmas Special of Doctor Who, “A Christmas Carol“, in which she played Abigail Pettigrew—her first major acting role. Jenkins appeared as the featured singer on 11 April 2011 episode of ABC‘s show Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) singing “Con te partirò” (Time to Say Goodbye) and “O mio babbino caro“. She later sang “The Flower Duet” with DWTS regular Beverley Staunton.
On 23 October 2011, Jenkins appeared live on US television network, FOX from Wembley Stadium, performing “God Save the Queen” before the NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Chicago Bears.
In February 2012, Jenkins was announced as one of the contestants on the fourteenth season of the American celebrity ballroom show, Dancing with the Stars. She was partnered with two-time champion Mark Ballas. Jenkins and Ballas came runners-up in the competition.
On 20 and 21 July 2012, Jenkins sang in concert with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City, Utah at the annual Pioneer Day Concert 2012 broadcast on BYU-TV and various PBS television stations worldwide.
Dancing with the Stars performances
During her run on the 14th season of the show, Jenkins continually scored ceiling-high scores, enabling her to top the weekly judges leaderboard more time than anyone else on the season (six times out of ten). Her foxtrot in the first week of the competition was rewarded 26 points, matching the record for the second-highest score given in week one at the time. Her waltz in week 3 was tremendously praised and Jenkins was rewarded 29 points, which was the record for the highest score ever given in week three at the time. Jenkins made her way all the way to the semifinals, getting at least 27 points of judges’ score for every dances but two occasions only.
During her salsa in the semifinals, Jenkins’ partner Mark Ballas accidentally kicked her in the back, leading to a spasm that made Jenkins mess up her final moves, but she advanced to the finals nonetheless, along with Donald Driver and William Levy. Jenkins bounced back in the finale, getting perfect score 30 out of 30 for all three of her dances, and eventually finished as a runner-up to Driver. Her performances average was 27.9, the third highest ever in the show’s history at the time.
In 2010 the Wales on Sunday newspaper commissioned Welsh food artist Nathan Wyburn to create a portrait of Jenkins made from hazelnut spread.
Her father, Selwyn, died of lung cancer at age 70 when she was 15. She has dedicated each award she received to him. Jenkins, a Christian, says she believes “in heaven. I believe my dad is somewhere doing something nice.” While Jenkins was studying at the Royal Academy of Music, at 19 years of age, she was attacked, beaten and robbed by an unknown assailant who attempted to rape her, but she fought the man off.
After Jenkins and Dame Vera Lynn were together at centre stage at the 60th Anniversary of VE Day in 2005 during the song “We’ll Meet Again“, the newspapers dubbed Jenkins “the new Forces’ Sweetheart“, a nickname given to Lynn during World War II. Lynn had said to Jenkins that she ought to “go out and entertain the troops,” which Jenkins promised she would. In December 2005 and 2006 Jenkins travelled to Iraq to entertain the soldiers for Christmas. On her first visit to Iraq in 2005, when travelling to Shaibah, the largest British base in Southern Iraq, the helicopter she was travelling in was targeted by missiles. Anti-missile flares were deployed and the group landed safely.
In November 2008 Jenkins revealed to the Daily Mail that when she was a student she had taken class A drugs (cocaine and ecstasy) and cannabis. She noted that she was introduced to them by people she socialised with at the time and that she stopped taking them after signing her record deal in 2003. In the article Jenkins said “taking drugs is the biggest regret of my life”.
Jenkins’s autobiography, Time to Say Hello, was released on 28 January 2008, and was also serialised in The Mail on Sunday.
At the start of 2007 Jenkins made her first appearance in the British young people’s Sunday Times Rich List which ranked her as the sixty-second richest young person in Britain with an estimated wealth of £9 million. In 2010, the Sunday Times Rich List placed her at joint 11th in the Top 20 Young Millionaires list alongside Leona Lewis and Charlotte Church with an estimated wealth of £11 million.
In April 2013, Jenkins attended the funeral of Baroness Thatcher in St Paul’s Cathedral. It was believed she was invited because of her charity work with the armed forces.
Jenkins ran the 2013 London Marathon, raising £25,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support in memory of her father. She finished the course in 5 hours 26 minutes.
Jenkins was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to music and for charitable services.
In July 2010, Jenkins was reported to have bought a house with TV presenter Gethin Jones. In February 2011, they became engaged, but on 30 December 2011, Jenkins and Jones announced that they were no longer together. In October 2013, she began dating American artist and film actor-director Andrew Levitas. Jenkins and Levitas later announced their engagement in April 2014. The couple married at Hampton Court Palace on 27 September 2014. Later, a religious blessing was conducted by a Vicar from her hometown. On 13 April 2015, Jenkins announced that she was expecting her first child with her husband Levitas. Jenkins gave birth to their first child, a daughter called Aaliyah Reign, in New York City in September 2015.