Born and raised in North Carolina, Fantasia is cousins with K-Ci & JoJo of Jodeci. As she worked to find her voice by singing with her family, Fantasia's style combined the gospel tinges of Shirley Caesar and The Clark Sisters with the soulful power of Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan.
After dropping out of high school and becoming a teen mother, Fantasia made her way to the Atlanta auditions for AI where her rendition of Tina Turner's "Proud Mary" put her in good standing with the judges and fans. She further solidified that standing with her reading of the Porgy and Bess standard "Summertime." The singer was left in tears and judge Randy Jackson proclaimed it the best performance in the show's history. The Emmy Awards even dubbed it one of the greatest moments in television.
When Fantasia replicated her performance for a second time later in the season, judge Simon Cowell said he considered her the best performer they had ever seen on the show. Votes during the 2004 finale topped 65 million, up from only 24 million the year before. Fantasia was only 19 when she was crowned champion.
She followed up her win by participating in the AI concert tour and a Christmas special, Kelly, Ruben and Fantasia: Home For the Holidays. Signing a deal with J Records, Fantasia then set to work on her debut album, led by the single “I Believe” which debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. She was the first artist ever to have a debut single enter the charts at number one. The song was the best-selling single of 2004 and won Fantasia three Billboard Music Awards.
With that groundwork in place, Free Yourself was issued in November of 2004 with a number eight entrance on the album chart. Subsequent singles, "Truth Is" and "Free Yourself," both did well on the R&B charts earning Fantasia the title of top artist in the Adult Urban Contemporary format for 2005.
A few television appearances and a headlining tour all helped push Fantasia further into the limelight, as did four Grammy Award nominations.
For 2006, Fantasia portrayed herself in a Lifetime Television biopic based on her own memoir, Life Is Not a Fairy Tale. It became the network's second most-viewed program ever. The singer also took time in 2006 to collaborate with artists like Aretha Franklin, Faith Evans, Patti LaBelle, and more, before her second studio album was released in December of that year.
The self-titled collection included contributions from Missy Elliott, Babyface, Swizz Beatz, Tone Mason, Diane Warren, and others. Three singles -- "Hood Boy," "When I See U," and "Only One U" – all did pretty well for the young artist. Three more Grammy nominations followed.
During a 2007 appearance on AI, Fantasia announced that she was set to portray Celie in the Broadway musical The Color Purple. Her staging of Celie won the favor of critics and fans alike, in addition to a couple of awards. Fantasia's casting sent ticket sales through the roof and caused her limited-run engagement to be extended, although she developed a tumor on her vocal cords that required surgery and missed more than 50 shows.
Recruiting Midi Mafia to handle most of the production duties for her third album, Fantasia went back to the studio and eventually emerged with Back to Me in the summer of 2010 after a handful of setbacks. Other contributors to the project include Rock City, The Stereotypes, and Rich King. The first two singles were “Even Angels” and “Bittersweet.”
During her downtime, Fantasia reprised her role as Celie in the national tour of The Color Purple and was also cast in the film adaptation of the musical. She also starred in a hit reality TV show on VH1, Fantasia for Real.