October 13, 1980
Glen Cove, New York, United States
Possessing a sweet, soulful voice and innocent good looks, singer-turned-actress Ashanti (born Ashanti Douglas) exploded onto the music scene in 2002 and quickly became one of the top selling R&B artists in the industry. Originally from Glen Cove, Long Island, NY, Ashanti was raised in a musical family-her dad used to sing and her mom was a dance instructor. At six years-old, she began singing gospel in her church choir, and in 1994, while performing at a local talent show, she attracted the attention of industry players. Meanwhile, the singer had other talents: she was a track star at Glen Cove High School, where she was the youngest member on the team after impressing them with her speed in the 100- and 200-meter dash. But it was her skill at the triple long jump that attracted the attention of scouts from Princeton and Hampton University, both of whom offered her scholarships. She turned them down, however, to focus on music-thus the potential derailing of her fledgling music career was averted.After landing a gig as one of Jennifer Lopez's backup singers, Ashanti was signed by top producer Irv Gotti at Murder Inc. Records. Though wary at first of signing with a label of that name, Ashanti added a sultry R&B voice to the predominantly rap label. She soon began collaborating with some of the company's other talent: she was featured on Ja Rule's smash hit "Always On Time," which received wide radio and video exposure. She also sang duets with Fat J on "What's Luv" and the Notorious B.I.G. on "Unfoolish." After the success and exposure from these collaborative singles, she put out her first album, Ashanti. Much to Gotti's delight, the record entered the charts at number one, selling 500,000 copies its first week, and the first single, "Foolish," became a Top Ten hit. Her second album, Chapter II, fared just as well-it hit number one on The Billboard 200, as the hit single "Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)" also entered the Top Ten. The album's success, however, was overshadowed by an FBI investigation of Gotti for an alleged money laundering scheme. Though the investigation strained relations behind the scenes, Ashanti kept a strong public front, saying that the crisis had brought her and her partners closer together. Meanwhile, the singer began to appear on television and in movies. After brief appearances on "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" (WB, 1996-2003) as herself and on "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" (WB, 1996-2003) in a fictional role, she played a young Dionne Warwick in an episode of "American Dreams" (NBC, 2002-05). Though technically she made her film debut in 1997 in the French-made "Alice on Stage" from director Jerome Cornuau, movieg rs in America first saw her alongside Samuel L. Jackson in the inspirational sports drama, "Coach Carter" (2005). As Kyra, the pregnant girlfriend of a college-bound basketball player (Rob Brown), Ashanti was given critical kudos for playing her role with charm and excitement. She next held her own against no less than Miss Piggy when she took on the role of Dorothy for the enchanting ABC telepic "The Muppets' 'Wizerd of Oz'" (2005).