Also Credited As:Fantasia, Fantasia Monique Barrino
|Fantasia Monique Barrino on June 30, 1984 in High Point, North Carolina, USA|
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Fantasia Monique Barrino was born on June 30, 1984 in High Point, NC to Joseph and Diane Barrino. She was brought up around music; her family performed gospel and R&B music locally and frequently traveled around the Southern states. Barrino was also the cousin of R&B singers K-Ci and JoJo, who fronted the hit '90s singing group Jodeci. She attended Andrews High School in High Point, but later dropped out after she was raped by a classmate and shunned by her peers. Barrino became pregnant at 16 and gave birth to her daughter, Zion Quari Barrino, on Aug. 8, 2001. Aside from her daughter, Barrino's other true love was music. In 2004, she traveled to Atlanta, GA to audition for "American Idol" and wowed the judges with her take on Tina Turner's 1971 cover of "Proud Mary."
"American Idol" showcased Barrino's unique vocal prowess and commanding stage presence. Throughout her season, she outshone and out-sang the other finalists with heartfelt performances, including a rendition of the "Porgy and Bess" standard "Summertime" (1935) that left not a dry eye in the house. It was a moment that "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson described as one of the best performances in the show's history. In May 2004, Barrino beat out Diana DeGarmo to win the third season title. That year, the singer released her inspirational debut single, "I Believe," which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, followed by her album Free Yourself. Barrino's album did well on the pop and R&B charts, in large thanks to the singles "Truth Is" and "Baby Mama." The latter stirred up some minor controversy as some people criticized it for romanticizing single-motherhood. In September 2005, Barrino released her tell-all book Life Is Not a Fairy Tale, where she revealed, among other things, that she was functionally illiterate and often asked her daughter to read contracts and other paperwork to her before she signed them. The book reached No. 7 on The New York Times bestseller list and was turned into the TV film, "Life Is Not a Fairy Tale: The Fantasia Barrino Story" (Lifetime, 2006). Barrino played herself in the film, opposite critically acclaimed actresses Loretta Devine and Viola Davis. Not everyone, however, was a fan of the memoir. Her father, Joseph Barrino, sued publisher Simon & Schuster for $10 million, alleging "false, exaggerated, sensational, intentional and malicious untruths" in the book.
Barrino released her sophomore album, Fantasia in 2006, with singles such as "Hood Boy" and "When I See You" that did well on the R&B and hip-hop charts. The singer also impressed Hollywood with her acting skills, including a 2005 guest appearance on "American Dreams" (NBC, 2002-05) where she played legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin. Barrino was reportedly in the running to play Effie White in the musical drama "Dreamgirls" (2006), a role that eventually went to her former "American Idol" competitor Jennifer Hudson. While Hudson went on to win an Academy Award for "Dreamgirls," Barrino had her sights set on Broadway. In 2007, she joined the cast of "The Color Purple," a musical theater adaptation of Alice Walker's 1982 novel and the 1985 Steven Spielberg-directed film. Barrino starred as the abused and enslaved Celie (originally played by Whoopi Goldberg in the film), and earned rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. In the middle of her "Color Purple" run, Barrino underwent surgery to remove a tumor from her vocal cords. She missed several performances, but her surgery was successful. Barrino reprised her role for the Los Angeles run of "The Color Purple," which played at the Pantages Theatre in 2010. Producer Oprah Winfrey cast Barrino to star as Celie in a feature film adaptation of the Broadway musical.
Balancing her career, being a single mother and caring for her family was the focus of Barrino's reality series "Fantasia for Real," which premiered on VH1 in 2010. The show followed the singer as she worked on her third album while struggling to provide for six family members living in her North Carolina home. Much of the drama derived from her unemployed older brother Teeny, who often wasted his sister's earnings on useless luxuries while their home was at risk for foreclosure. That same year, reports surfaced that Barrino was involved in an extramarital affair with a man named Antwaun Cook. Cook's wife accused the singer of being "the other woman" and claimed there was videotaped evidence of their sexual escapades. A few days after the announcement, Barrino was hospitalized in Charlotte, NC due to overdosing on aspirin and sleep aids. Even though her representatives primarily said Barrino's hospitalization was due to dehydration and exhaustion, she revealed to "Good Morning America" (ABC, 1975- ) on August 24, 2010 that it was, in fact, a suicide attempt. Barrino confessed it was more than just the extramarital affair that drove her to her breaking point; fame and financial troubles also contributed to her downfall. "I just wanted to be away from the noise," Barrino shared. The singer also spoke about her strained relationship with her father, who blamed the way she dressed as the reason she was raped in high school. On the same day her "Good Morning America" interview aired, Barrino released her third album, Back to Me. The first single, "Bittersweet," landed in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.