Ashanti was born on October 13, 1980, on Long Island, New York. After an introduction to show business in 1980s and '90s via appearances in television commercials and music videos, Ashanti made her recording debut as a featured artist on Big Pun's song "How We Roll" in 2001. The following year, she released a single of her own, "Foolish," from her self-titled debut album, which dominated the charts and made a name for the R&B newcomer. Ashanti has since branched out into TV and film, having made appearances on shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2003) and Army Wives (2013), and in films like John Tucker Must Die (2006).
Singer, songwriter and actress Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas was born on October 13, 1980, in Glen Cove, Long Island, New York, to Tina Douglas, a former dance instructor, and Kencaid Thomas Douglas, a former singer. Ashanti's mother, who enrolled her in various forms of dance classes, including tap, jazz and ballet, nurtured her gift of dance from a young age. But it wasn't until later that her singing talents were revealed.
At the age of 12, Ashanti was following the usual routine of doing chores while listening to music on her headphones and singing along, when her mother told her to turn off the music while she worked—not realizing that what she thought was the radio was actually her daughter singing. What followed was the revelation of a pop star. After realizing her daughter's talent, Ashanti's mother entered into talent shows, where the future singer placed first.
Early Music Career
Ashanti went on to actively pursue a music career, but she got off to a slow start. She first signed to the well-known Jive Records, but decided not to release an album with the recording company because she wanted to write her own music. By age 17, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in an attempt to sign with another well-established record label, Epic. That goal would fall though, however.
It wasn't until Ashanti met with Irv Gotti of Murder Inc. that her singing career finally began to take off. Although the label was known for its hardcore rappers and aggressive music, the R&B singer offered a more soulful sound to the label without losing its edge—a musical style that was inspired by singer Mary J. Blige. Ashanti first debuted her vocals as a featured artist on the late rapper Big Pun's single "How We Roll," which made its way to the top of the Billboard charts in 2001. Thereafter, she signed with Murder Inc. and began work on her debut album.
Before releasing her debut album, Ashanti made her presence known by being featured on several songs by rappers signed to Murder, Inc. She collaborated with rapper Ja Rule—the first of many collaborations between the two artists—on the song "Always on Time," and later lent her voice to the chorus of Fat Joe's single "What's Luv." With the success of those singles, it wasn't long before Ashanti was ready to release a single of her own, introducing her solo vocals to the world with the song "Foolish." All three of these songs were hits, simultaneously making their way to the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the Top 10 slot, with two of the three singles holding the No.
1 and No. 2 spots.
Not only did her debut, self-titled album break records after its release in 2002—selling more than 500,000 copies during its first week, setting a SoundScan record for the greatest-selling debut album from a female artist and earning Ashanti a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records—it was widely critically acclaimed. Ashanti garnered eight Billboard Awards, a Grammy Award (among five Grammy nominations), two American Music Awards, and the Soul Train Aretha Franklin Award in the "Entertainer of the Year" category.
Ashanti followed the immense success of her debut album with Chapter II (2003), which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. While her subsequent studio albums, Concrete Rose (2004) and The Declaration (2008), failed to live up to the success of her debut and sophomore albums, they still made their way onto the Billboard 200 chart.
Outside of singing, Ashanti has made a name for herself as an actress. Though she had played smaller, uncredited roles prior to her success as a solo artist, in films such as Spike Lee's Malcolm X (1992), she began to land more prominent roles after breaking into the music industry. She has played parts on television series such as The Proud Family (2001), American Dreams (2002) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2003), and landed roles on the silver screen, in films like Coach Carter (2005) and John Tucker Must Die (2006). More recently, Ashanti secured a recurring role as Latasha on the series Army Wives (2013).