Tonight, American Idol continues it’s journey to Hollywood as we take a look at the Milwaukee auditions. As so, we will continue our special showcase on previous Idol winners (check out our Ruben showcase here). Today, we’ll be taking a look at the eccentric Season 3 winner, Fantasia Barrino. Fantasia won over many hearts of Americans with her touching story of being a single mother, after being raped in high school and dropping out of school due to embarrassment. Defeating Diana DeGarmo after reaching the bottom 2 twice over the course of the season, Fantasia was crowned the next American Idol as the only champ who was in the bottom group on more than one occasion. Let’s dive in and take a look at Fantasia’s journey to the crown and life after Idol.
Making her an early favorite in the competition with her highly convincing audition of “Proud Mary,” Fantasia wanted to make her mark from the very beginning. Over the course of the show, Barrino had to stand out among the likes of Jennifer Hudson (who later went on to win an Oscar for her role in Dreamgirls) and LaToya London, as the season’s theme shifted to “Battle of the Divas,” especially among these three powerhouse voices. Fantasia’s strongest standout performance of the season is likely her rendition of “Summertime,” earning her praise from the judges and obviously support from America thanks to her emotional connection with the ballad. Simon Cowell even went so far as to remark that Fantasia was the best contestant to compete in any competition, including the more than 70 Idol champions crowned nationally and internationally since the show’s inception. Now that is a compliment! That compliment likely led to Fantasia’s success, beating Diana DeGarmo by only 1.3 million votes of 65 million cast on finale night, the highest number of votes in an Idol finale until season 6. At 19, Fantasia was the youngest American Idol winner until 17 year old Jordin Sparks walked away victorious. What you might not know is that the Barrino family had plans to regain the Idol name. In season 8, Fantasia’s brother auditioned for the show but was rejected during the early audition rounds.
Just months after being crowned champion, Fantasia released her first single, “I Believe,” which later debuted at #1 on the Billboard 100. This debut earned Fantasia the distinction of the first artist in history to achieve this with a first single. The single even went on to become the highest selling single of 2004. Later that year, Fantasia released her debut album, Free Yourself, certified Platinum in the United States. Fantasia’s celebrity was seen beyond the record studio. She went on to play Aretha Franklin in an episode of American Dreams, guest voiced on The Simpsons and made a cameo on the sitcom All of Us. Fantasia even went on to open for Kanye West’s Touch The Sky Tour in 2005.
Fantasia went on to pick up three Grammy nominations for her work on Free Yourself. She also went on to star in her own Lifetime Original Movie, Life Is Not a Fairy Tale: The Fantasia Barrino Story, which later went on to become Lifetime’s second most viewed program ever. At the end of 2006, Fantasia went on to release her second album, Fantasia, which involved production by the likes of Missy Elliot, Diane Warren, Babyface and others. “When I See You” was arguably the album’s biggest hit, remaining #1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart for more than eight consecutive weeks. Fantasia received an even bigger break in 2007 when she picked up the role of Celie as part of Broadway’s production The Color Purple, an announcement that likely led the play to pick up more than 6.5 million pre-ticket sales. Her original 6-month engagement was extended until January 2008. The show’s box office saw more than 34 million dollar jump in sales since she starred in the show. Not a shabby feat from an Idol winner that hasn’t been center stage like others. During this time, Barrino had to miss more than 50 performances of the show, causing speculation on her absence. Fantasia later mentioned that a cyst had been discovered on her vocal cords, prompting immediate surgery which successfully removed the tumor.
In 2008, Fantasia went back to the studio to work on her third album, Back to Me. By mid 2009, she confirmed that much of the album was complete and a single should be released by the end of the year. This was later delayed for her role in Oprah’s film adapatation of The Color Purple, which began production in 2008. An interesting factoid regarding this album was that Fantasia chose to have a live orchestra in the studio with her. Fantasia also went on to reprise her role for the touring of The Color Purple in stops around the country. By 2010, Fantasia’s third album finally made it to surface, prompting the release of her first single, “Bittersweet.” 2010 was also the year Fantasia returned to the small screen, starring in a VH1 reality show, Fantasia For Real.
It seems as if bittersweet was a self-proclaimed theme in Fantasia’s life, especially as of late. In her 2005 memoir, Life Is Not a Fairy Tale, Fantasia revealed that she is functionally illiterate and was unable to read texts of contracts she has signed. Not long after the release of her New York Times best seller, her father sued for $10 million after he claimed she said unflattering things about him that were untrue. Three years later, Fantasia’s lakefront home in Charlotte was also facing foreclosure. In 2010, the decision was made to not put her home up for auction. Then it seemed that life would really hit rock bottom for this songstress.
In early August of 2010, a divorce filing alleged that Fantasia had a year-long affair with Antwuan Cook, a married man. Barrino claimed the two began dating after he and his wife were separated in 2009. On August 9th, Barrino was hospitalized in North Carolina due to an overdose of aspirin and an unknown sleep aid. Barrino later confirmed the incident was indeed a suicide attempt (and not a publicity stunt) stating, “I didn’t care about anything. I just wanted out. At that moment I wanted out. I wanted it to be over with…” Fantasia went on to say that “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 later went on to testify in court that she aborted her and Cook’s fetus around the time of her suicide attempt, something that very likely led to the overdose attempt. In December 2010, a judge ruled in Fantasia’s favor claiming that the Cook’s separation date was indeed in 2009 and not in 2010 as Cook’s wife claimed, yet no further information was given.
On top of all the recent troubles the singer has faced in her life, she still maintains and can stand by the fact that she won the hearts of America with her voice, a voice that even Simon claimed to be among the best of the best. Fantasia Barrino has dabbled in a number of avenues in the media industry, making her claim on the Broadway stage, television, and even feature film. With her award winning singles, record breaking sales, and critically acclaimed performances, her career post-American Idol is sure to overshadow her recent struggles in the game of life. Fantasia has plans to release a gospel album in the near future, which will likely include a mix of the emotions she has experienced throughout her recent life trials. Making her name in the world of R&B and on the stage, Fantasia was not discounted during the competition, and she hopes, along with the help of her family and friends, to not be discounted now either. What’re your thoughts on this Idol champ? Did you vote for her to win or did you want to see someone else be crowned that season? Don’t miss our next installment of Idol Rewind tomorrow, Jan 27, as we feature Carrie Underwood.