Fantasia Monique Taylor (née Barrino; born June 30, 1984), known professionally by her mononym Fantasia, is an American R&B singer, songwriter, and actress. She rose to fame as the winner of the third season of the reality television series American Idol in 2004. Following her victory, she released her debut single, "I Believe," which debuted at number one on the BillboardHot 100. Subsequently, she released her debut album, Free Yourself, which went on to be certified Platinum by the RIAA and earned Fantasia three Grammy nominations in 2006.
In 2006, she released her second album, Fantasia, which featured the single "When I See U" which topped the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for eight weeks. The album was certified Gold by the RIAA and received three Grammy nominations in 2008. She then played the part of Celie in the Broadway musical The Color Purple, for which she won a 2007 Theatre World Award. Her third studio album, Back to Me, was released worldwide on August 24, 2010 and features the single "Bittersweet," which peaked in the top ten on the R&B chart. The single won her a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. As of February 2012, Fantasia has sold 2,842,000 albums and 1,425,000 tracks in the United States. In 2012, VH1 ranked her number 32 out of the 100 Greatest Women in Music.
On April 18, 2013, Fantasia returned to American Idol singing "Lose to Win." The performance dubbed "dynamic, passionate and powerful" won her fervent expressions of approval from the show's current judges and a wild ovation from the live audience. Moreover, she has received rave reviews in the media for the performance. In November 2013, Fantasia returned to Broadway in the musical After Midnight. On October 16, 2014, she was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.
Fantasia has been nicknamed "Baby Patti LaBelle" by her idol Patti LaBelle.
Fantasia Taylor was born Fantasia Barrino to Diane and Joseph Barrino and raised in High Point, North Carolina. She began singing at the age of five. Taylor cites Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle and Tina Turner as her biggest musical influences. Music runs in her family. R&B duo K-Ci & JoJo, formerly of Jodeci, are her first cousins. Her uncles, The Barrino Brothers, were a 1970s R&B band.
Despite the travels, she attended Andrews High School in High Point, North Carolina. Feeling embarrassed and harassed after she was raped by a classmate, she dropped out of high school. She became pregnant at 16, and on August 8, 2001 she gave birth to her daughter, Zion Quari Barrino, with her ex-boyfriend, Brandel Shouse.
2004–05: American Idol and Free Yourself
Taylor's show was a heartfelt staging of the Porgy and Bess standard "Summertime" that left her in tears from "feeling the song" and earned praise from the judges and was named amongst the AOL's 2004 list of greatest television moments.
For the final performance of the season, Taylor offered a second performance of "Summertime" that again drew praise from the judges; Simon Cowell remarked that she was the best contestant to ever compete in any competition, including the more than seventy Idolchampions crowned nationally and internationally since the show began its first global incarnations. On the finale, over 65 million votes were cast in order to determine the winner on May 26, 2004, up from 24 million in 2003. Taylor defeated runner-up Diana DeGarmo by 1.3 million votes. At age 19, she was the youngest American Idol winner until May 23, 2007, when then 17-year-old Jordin Sparks won the title.
Taylor participated in the U.S. tour with the other American Idol finalists and appeared in the 2004 Christmas special, Kelly, Ruben and Fantasia: Home For the Holidays as well.
Taylor's brother auditioned for the eighth season of American idol but failed to make it to the Hollywood round.
After winning American Idol, Fantasia signed to J Records with 19 Entertainment and began work on her debut album. In June 2004, she released her debut single, "I Believe", which later debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. This number-one debut made Fantasia the first artist in history to achieve this with a first single. On the sales chart, the single spent eleven consecutive weeks at number one, giving it the longest consecutive stay on top of that chart for an American Idol contestant. The CD single, "I Believe", went on to become the top selling single of 2004 in the U.S., and has since been certified double platinum by the CRIA. Taylor also won three Billboard Music Awards for the single.
Fantasia released her debut studio album, Free Yourself, in November 2004. It debuted at number eight on the Billboard 200, selling 240,000 copies in its first week. To date, it has sold over two million copies worldwide, and was certified Platinum in the U.S. The singles "Truth Is" and "Free Yourself" became R&B hits, reaching number two and number three respectively on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, while the controversial "Baby Mama"—which critics accused of romanticizing single motherhood—reached the top twenty. Taylor did even better on the Billboard Hot Adult R&B Airplay, where she was the first artist of any kind to simultaneously hold the top two spots of the top three, and "Truth Is" spent 14 weeks at the number one position. Taylor was named the number-one artist of the Adult Urban Contemporary format for 2005 according to the December 13, 2005 issue of Billboard magazine.
Through the spring and winter of 2005, Fantasia made many television appearances to promote her album. She played Aretha Franklin in an episode of the series American Dreams, singing "Respect", guest voiced on The Simpsons episode "A Star Is Torn", and guest starred as herself in a cameo role on the sitcom All of Us. She appeared three times as a musical guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. On March 25, 2005, Fantasia performed at the thirty-sixth NAACP Image Awards in honor of Illinois Senator Barack Obama after winning the award for Outstanding Female Artist. In May 2005, Fantasia went on her first tour with her own live band, with soul singers Kem and Rashaan Patterson. She also appeared as a headliner at several music festivals including the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival and the Reggae Sumfest in Jamaica. In October 2005, she received good notices as an opening act for Kanye West's Touch the Sky Tour.
2006–07: Fantasia, acting debut and The Color Purple
In 2006, Barrino was nominated for three Grammy Awards for her debut album. Though she did not win any awards, she performed at the 48th annual telecast with several artists including Aerosmith, Joss Stone, John Legend, Maroon 5, and Ciara in an all-star tribute to Sly and the Family Stone during the Grammy Award show.
In August 2006, Fantasia played herself in a Lifetime Television film based on her autobiography Life Is Not a Fairy Tale. The film was directed by Debbie Allen and debuted on the women's cable network on August 19, 2006. The movie received nineteen million viewers throughout its debut weekend. The Fantasia Barrino Story: Life is Not a Fairy Tale has also become Lifetime's second most viewed program of all time.
Fantasia had many musical collaborations during the fall of 2006 including a remake of The Clark Sisters' "Endow Me" which featured Faith Evans, Lil' Mo, and Coko of SWV, a remake of Stevie Wonder's 1976 song "I Wish" with Patti LaBelle and Yolanda Adams for the soundtrack to the 2006 computer-animated film Happy Feet, and most notably her duet with Aretha Franklin which was recorded at that time and later released in 2007.
She released her self-titled second effort, Fantasia, on December 12, 2006. The album involved production by Missy Elliott, Swizz Beatz, Babyface, Diane Warren, and others, and has since spawned the singles "Hood Boy" produced by Tone Mason, "When I See U", and "Only One U" and went on to be certified gold.
"When I See You" became her first single to top the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, remaining at the number one spot for eight consecutive weeks. The single stayed on the chart for over a year and was named number eight on the Billboard Best of The 2000s R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.
In February 2007, Fantasia appeared and performed on American Idol, and announced that she would be starring in the lead role of Celie in the Broadway musical The Color Purple, the hit musical based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel of the same name by Alice Walker. After appearing on American Idol and The Oprah Winfrey Show, the musical received a boost of over two million in pre-ticket sales in one week. Leading up to her first performance on April 10, 2007 the play garnered a total of 6.5 million in pre-ticket sales.
While playing the role, Fantasia earned rave reviews for her performance. New York Post critic Clive Barnes said, "... there is some elemental quality to Fantasia that is either greatness or something close to it." Upon her warm welcome to the stage Fantasia was asked to perform at the 2007 Tony Awards in a tribute to Atlanta's Alliance Theater in which The Color Purple got its start. In recognition of an outstanding stage debut performance, Fantasia was given the Theatre World Award and the Best Replacement Star Broadway.com Award. Fantasia was initially scheduled for a limited six-month engagement ending in October 2007 but had her run extended until January 6, 2008. The Color Purple box office saw a thirty-four-million-dollar jump in sales since Taylor started in the show, a third of the play's 100 million dollar earning since its debut in 2005. The New York Post reported that Taylor missed nearly fifty performances in the show, causing the producers to give back tens of thousands of dollars in refunds. In the September 2008 issue of Sister 2 Sistermagazine, Taylor revealed that the reason for her absences in The Color Purple was because of the development of a cyst on her vocal cords. She was ordered to immediately undergo surgery which later revealed that she in fact had a tumor on her vocal cords. She now reports that after a successful surgery, the tumor was completely removed and she is now well.
2008–10: Back to Me and Fantasia for Real
Fantasia received two Grammy nominations for her sophomore release, Fantasia and subsequently began work on her third studio album in 2008. She stated on the red carpet of the 2008 Grammy Awards that the style of the new album would be a blending of the avenues she has touched musically, which include American Idol and Broadway. She also revealed that she would be writing some of the album's songs and would collaborate again with Missy Elliott, The Underdogs, and Midi Mafia, who produced one of her biggest hits, "When I See U".
Midi Mafia produced the majority of Fantasia's third studio album. Also, hip hop duo Rock City were confirmed to be writing for the new project. At the time, they had recorded four songs together. She also worked with songwriter-producer Rich King which spawned two songs for her third release. KP, Eric Hudson and Raphael Saadiq are a few people that also became involved on the project. Fantasia confirmed that about 75 percent of the album was complete by mid-2009, and that fans should've expected a new single by the fall of 2009, with the album due to be released in early 2010. This was later delayed, and while recording her new album, Fantasia decided to do a great deal of it the "old fashioned way," inviting a live orchestra to record in the studio with her.
Fantasia was then cast by Oprah Winfrey as Celie in the film adaptation of The Color Purple musical, which began production after the release of her third album, as Fantasia confirmed to MTV News on March 5, 2008.
In June 2008, Fantasia parted ways with 19 Entertainment, but remained with 19 Recordings and J Records. She said that after the release of her third album, she plans to release a gospel album. She performed with her mother, Diane Barrino, in a Thanksgiving special on BET's Bobby Jones Gospel. Fantasia also appeared on Jennifer Hudson's self-titled album, on the song "I'm His Only Woman", which was nominated for a 2009 Grammy Award, though it did not win.
Fantasia reprised the role of Celie in the national tour of The Color Purple during its Washington D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles stops.
Fantasia also stars in a reality show produced by World of Wonder. Titled Fantasia for Real, it premiered on January 11, 2010, on VH1 to rave reviews and ratings. The show's first season ended in July 2010 with its second began on September 19, 2010.
"Even Angels", a song from Fantasia's third studio album, produced by The Stereotypes and written by Heather Bright, was never released to radio . She performed the song on The Oprah Winfrey Show on February 3, 2010. The album's first official single, "Bittersweet", was released on May 11, 2010 and has gone on to reach number seven on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart as well as number seventy-four on the Billboard Hot 100.
Fantasia's third studio album, Back to Me, was released on August 24, 2010. Fantasia cited Tina Turner, Queen and Aretha Franklin as influences, and like musicians she admired from their era, she recorded with a live band. The album has been promoted by appearances on Good Morning America and The Wendy Williams Show among others. On March 28, 2010, Taylor also performed "America the Beautiful" at WWE WrestleMania XXVI. To promote the album, Taylor embarked on her first solo concert tour, Back to Me Tour in the fall of 2010.
Fantasia appeared on Charlie Wilson's album Just Charlie, on "I Want to Be Your Man."
In the summer of 2010, she appeared as a guest judge alongside Wayne Brady, on episode 11, of RuPaul's Drag Race.
2011–13: Grammy Award, return to acting and Side Effects of You
On February 13, 2011, Fantasia won her first Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "Bittersweet".
In 2011, Fantasia was cast in her first film role, playing gospel singer Mahalia Jackson in a biopic based on the 1993 book Got to Tell It: Mahalia Jackson, Queen of Gospel. It was later reported that the film was fully endorsed by the Mahalia Jackson estate. Fantasia also would receive not only the top salary in the project but a percentage of the box office revenue the film creates. Production was originally planned to begin in October 2011 in New Orleans and Chicago with a release date of late 2012 and a premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. In August 2011, organizers of the International Hair Show in Atlanta, Georgia, said medical conditions requiring bed rest had forced Fantasia to cancel her scheduled performance there. Double Dutch Productions LLC, the production company behind Mahalia!, released a statement saying it "extends apologies to Fantasia Barrino for the inaccurate, non-factual and disparaging statements of Ms. Barrino's reputation, character and image."
In 2011, Aretha Franklin expressed interest in having Barrino play her in a planned biographical movie.
On October 7, RCA Music Group announced it was disbanding J Records along with Arista Records and Jive Records. With the shutdown, Barrino (and all other artists previously signed to these three labels) will release her future material on the RCA Records brand.
On February 13, 2012, VH1 named Barrino 32nd out of the 100 Greatest Women in Music.
Fantasia was featured on a cover version of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" with Kelly Price and Faith Evans from Evans' compilation album R&B Divas, which was released on October 2, 2012.
On December 19, 2012, Fantasia premiered her new single, "Lose to Win". During an interview on Steve Harvey's morning radio show, Barrino revealed that the album's release date would be March 13, 2013. However, on February 28, 2013, via her Facebook page, Fantasia announced that her album would be released on April 23, 2013. The album was available for pre-order on March 19, 2013.
On April 19, 2013, Fantasia revealed that her next single would be "Without Me," featuring Kelly Rowland and Missy Elliott.
In June 2013, Fantasia embarked on a five-date tour with Andrea Bocelli. In an interview on Today in that same month, she revealed that she will return to Broadway in October 2013.
Fantasia starred in the musical revue After Midnight which opened on Broadway on November 3, 2013, with previews beginning on October 18 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Her role ended on February 9, 2014. She had received rave reviews from critics for her performance. New York Post wrote "... although I admired Ms. Barrino's heartfelt performance in "The Color Purple," I was surprised at how smoothly and intuitively she slid into the vocal persona of a jazz singer." Taylor was the first of a rotating roster of special guest stars that also included k.d. lang, Toni Braxton and Babyface. On March 20, 2014, it was announced that Taylor will return to the production for a second stint for four weeks, beginning on May 13 through June 8. Fantasia performed alongside the cast and Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight at the 68th Tony Awards.
In August 2013, Fantasia co-wrote and recorded the theme song "In the Middle of the Night" for The Butler.
2014–present: The Definition Of... and Christmas After Midnight
On October 16, 2014, Taylor was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. Taylor appeared on Dave Koz's new Christmas album, December 25, which consisted of a collection of Christmas-themed duets. The album was released on September 30, 2014. In November 2014, Taylor teamed up with former Destiny's Child member Michelle Williams on the remix of Williams' "If We Had Your Eyes". In November, Taylor announced that she had started work on her next album. She posted a short clip of her and R. Kelly in the studio on her official Instagram account. "No Time for It," the first single from the album, was released on January 7, 2016. Taylor is working with music executive and producer Ron Fair.
Taylor toured with Anthony Hamilton beginning on April 21, 2016, in Buffalo, New York. The Definition Of... was released in the United States on July 29, 2016 and debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 Chart, selling 32,000 units The album also topped that week's Billboard R&B Albums Chart and was No. 2 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album's chart making it Taylor's fourth top ten album. The new album featured two top 10 singles on the Adult R&B Songs airplay chart: "No Time For It," which peaked at number six, and "Sleeping with the One I Love," which peaked at number 9.
After parting ways with longtime label home RCA Records, Taylor released Christmas After Midnight on October 6, 2017 via Concord.
In September 2005, Barrino published a memoir, dictated to a freelance writer, titled Life Is Not a Fairy Tale. In it, she revealed she was functionally illiterate and was unable to read the text of contracts she signed or to read to her then four-year-old daughter. In 2006, following the release of her autobiography, Taylor's father sued her for $10 million after she said unflattering things about him in the book that he claimed were false.
On December 9, 2008, Barrino's 6,600-square-foot (610 m2), lakefront home in Charlotte's Glynmoor Lakes at Piper Glen community was in foreclosure and would be up for auction. Her 4,500-square-foot (420 m2) home, also in Piper Glen, is unaffected. The home was due to be auctioned in January 2009 by the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office after the company Broward Energy Partners, which had paid over $68,000 of her taxes in 2006, said it had not been fully repaid. The auction earnings were to be used to finish reimbursing the company for the loan, on which Barrino had paid back $10,000. The auction was canceled after Barrino's attorneys and the lender reached an "eleventh-hour deal", the details of which were not disclosed.
An August 2010 divorce filing in Mecklenburg County District Court alleges that Barrino had a year-long relationship with Antwaun Cook, who was married, bringing up the subject of alienation of affection laws in North Carolina. Taylor claimed the two began dating after Cook and his wife separated.
On August 9, 2010, Barrino was hospitalized in Pineville, North Carolina, due to overdosing on aspirin and an unknown sleep aid. Dickens said, "'Her injuries are not life threatening ... she was dehydrated and exhausted at the time." The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department classified the incident as a suicide attempt. In transcript segments released the day before an August 24, 2010, interview on the VH1 series Behind the Music, Barrino confirmed the incident was a suicide attempt, saying, "I didn't care about anything. I just wanted out. At that moment I wanted out. I wanted it to be over with...." Taylor denied rumors that the incident was a publicity stunt.
Afterward, Barrino said, "Music saved me. When I went in the hospital, I went into the computer room, and I looked up artists who've been through things, artists who sing from their soul. I took my cues from them, and I just put my mind and everything into music." She also relied on her family, something she had not done earlier in her career. Taylor testified in court that she aborted her and Cook's fetus around the time of her failed suicide attempt.
In late August 2010, the ex-wife of Antwuan Cook, Paula Cook, accused Barrino of knowingly pursuing a relationship with her husband despite knowledge of their existing marriage. In December 2010, a North Carolina judge ruled in Barrino's favor, stating the Cooks' separation date was September 14, 2009, and not June 2010 as Paula previously claimed.
On August 1, 2011, Barrino announced a second pregnancy during a charity concert event in Jacksonville, Florida. She did not reveal the name of the father. On September 13, 2011 it was confirmed that the singer would be having a boy. On December 13, 2011, she gave birth to a son, Dallas Xavier Barrino. On July 18, 2015, she married Kendall Taylor, a businessman.
She dated former NFL player Michael Clayton, who was at the time playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. From 2008 to 2009, Taylor dated rapper Young Dro.
Barrino's voice has been described as raspy, gritty and soulful.
Barrino has said from childhood she has been influenced by soul singers Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan and Tina Turner, as well as jazz singers Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway and Nina Simone. Barrino has drawn many comparisons to her idols. LaBelle affectionately calls Barrino "baby Patti." "[Fantasia's] just a baby me...when you see yourself in someone else, you say, 'God I'm 70, she's 30,' so she's like the Patti Labelle from back in the day and everything and she's so raw," LaBelle stated in an interview. She always credit her church upbringing and cites The Clark Sisters as one of her influences. Taylor is also an admirer of rock music and was influenced by Queen and Elton John. Her fourth album, Side Effects of You introduced a new and much edgier rock-inspired sound which she coined as 'rock soul'. During an interview with Billboard.com, Barrino has stated that she would like to go in more of a rock direction for her fifth studio album. "This whole rock soul direction has been on my heart. I'll always be soulful: I started singing in the church at the age of five. So that will never go anywhere. But there's a certain side of me that wants to tap into that whole rock world. It's hard to come from R&B to that. But it's something I believe in and will fight for," Barrino said in the interview.
Genres and songwriting
Barrino's music is mostly contemporary R&B, heavily rooted in soul music and gospel music. Her lyrics speak of love, pain and resilience. She also incorporates pop, funk, reggae and hip hop into her music. Side Effects of You demonstrated the versatility of Barrino's voice. Barrino introduced a new and much edgier rock-inspired sound which she coined as 'rock soul'. Gerrick D. Kennedy from the Los Angeles Times praised the album as "sumptuous contemporary R&B dipped in vintage rock and soul". Andy Kellman from Allmusic called it "her finest album yet". Barrino further showcased her versatility and expanded her range while starring in Broadway musicals The Color Purple and After Midnight, as well as her mini-tour with Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.
Barrino has received songwriting credits on Side Effects of You. She wrote majority of the tracks along with Sevyn Streeter, Emeli Sandé, Andrea Martin, Al Sherrod Lambert and many others. Aside from her own project, Barrino co-wrote the theme song to the movie The Butler entitled "In the Middle of the Night", which she also performed, as well as a song called "In the Middle" for American Idol twelfth season winner Candice Glover's debut album, Music Speaks.
Since winning American Idol in 2004, Barrino has sold over three million records and won numerous awards and accolades, including a Grammy Award, three Billboard Awards, three NAACP Image Awards and two ASCAP Awards. Her first single, "I Believe" topped the Billboard Hot 100 at number-one, making Barrino the first artist in history to achieve this with a first single. I Believe remained at number-one for eleven consecutive weeks, giving it the longest consecutive stay on top of that chart for an American Idol contestant. In 2005, Barrino was named the number-one artist of the Adult Urban Contemporary format, according to the December 13, 2005 issue of Billboard magazine. In 2012, VH1 ranked her number 32 out of the 100 Greatest Women in Music. Barrino was the first artist of any kind to simultaneously hold the top two spots of the top three on the Billboard Hot Adult R&B Airplay. Her song, "Truth Is" spent fourteen weeks at the number-one position. Barrino's American Idol performance of the Porgy and Bess standard "Summertime" was named amongst the AOL's 2004 list of greatest television moments.
Over the course of her career, Barrino has inspired other artists, including American Idol season eleven contestant Joshua Ledet who was dubbed "Mantasia" by fans, the media and even Taylor herself. Actress Amber Riley revealed her admiration for Taylor in an interview on The Arsenio Hall Show and cited her as an "inspiration."
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