Meet the Utah teen who helped write Vanessa Williams' new single

Kjersti Long is a teenager from Eagle Mountain who wrote Vanessa Williams' new single.

Kjersti Long is a teenager from Eagle Mountain who wrote Vanessa Williams' new single. (Jeremy Long)

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EAGLE MOUNTAIN — American singer and actress Vanessa Williams just released her first single in more than a decade, and one of her songwriters is a 17-year-old Utah girl.

Williams initially became famous when she was the first Black woman to be crowned Miss America in 1984. She went on to become a grammy-nominated singer with her ninth studio album on the way, won a Tony for her performance of the witch in "Into the Woods" on Broadway in 2002, and was nominated for an Emmy three times for her work on the TV show "Ugly Betty."

Kjersti Long, originally from New Jersey and now lives in Eagle Mountain, has been spreading her musical wings while living in Utah. She was one of three songwriters for Williams' newest single "Legs (Keep Dancing)" which debuted No. 3 on Billboard's Dance/Electronic chart.

"It's a catchy tune. I wanted to do something at 61 ... It's like, I'm still here. I'm still relevant. I still got stuff to say and do and act. So, during our actors strike, I recorded an album," Williams said on the TODAY show.

Williams wanted to be relevant in the pop space and thought utilizing a younger writer could be beneficial, so her producer sent her some of Kjersti's music since he had worked with Kjersti before, her father Jeremy Long said. Williams was impressed and asked Kjersti to write a song for her album.

Kjersti said she didn't know much about Williams when her producer first approached her about writing a song since Kjersti usually stays in the rock and punk genres of music. But after learning about her Broadway roles, Kjersti went down a rabbit hole of Williams' artistic endeavors, began listening to Williams' music and got really excited to work with her.

"We got to have a Zoom call with me, my dad and Vanessa and then our producer and a friend of hers, and we essentially were like, 'What do you want the song to be about?' And her ideas were insane. They were so cool and so deep, and it was very fun getting to write down the ideas," Kjersti said, adding that she knew it was going to be a fun song to write based on Williams' ideas.

Williams talked about the phrase: "The legs are the last to go," from actress Diahann Carroll and how she always loves seeing older female celebrities who still had great-looking legs despite their age.

"We decided that that was what we were going to focus the song on," Kjersti said. "It's all about how she may be a little older, and she might not be like super current, but she is still here. She's got things she's got to say. Her legs are still working, and she's still killing it."

Kjersti said she loved getting to watch Williams' creative process as they worked together.

Kjersti's father said her song was meant to just be a filler, but after recording "Legs," Williams decided to make it the single and lead with that song instead.

"Every time I think about it, it just makes me smile," Kjersti said. "It's very gratifying to know that someone with that much oomph in the industry thought that your stuff was impressive enough. ... It makes me very happy."

Kjersti was able to be in the booth in Los Angeles when Williams recorded the song and said it was an incredible experience.

"You know that thing where, like, you can almost reach out and touch her, but it almost didn't seem like it was real? She was a very, very impressive artist," she said.

Kjersti is aiming to release an EP at the end of the year, and she is excited for more people to hear her music.

Jeremy Long said it's so crazy his daughter gets to have such an experience at 17 years old, especially when there are so many talented artists in the state, but he couldn't be happier for her.


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Cassidy Wixom covers Utah County communities and is the evening breaking news reporter for


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