One minute, India.Arie was a cash-strapped musician playing small clubs in her adopted hometown of Atlanta, the next she's a 25-year-old star with fans ranging from Stevie Wonder to women in self-esteem workshops. Her debut album, Acoustic Soul, with its catchy, upbeat songs, went gold within six weeks of its release. The single "Video," about loving her not-model-perfect looks (Sometimes I shave my legs and sometimes I don't.... Don't need your silicone. I prefer my own. What God gave me is just fine), quickly hit Billboard's Hot 100 chart.
None of this was calculated. In her Atlanta music collective, she recalls, "we were like, 'Let's play music and see what happens.' Everything I did, I thought, I can't believe I did that. Like when I wrote my first song—I can't believe I did that. I never had a goal of becoming famous." Now that she is famous, the best perk is having access to musicians she admires. "I'm happy that the people who inspired me like my music," she says. "When Elton John said I was one of his favorite artists—now, that was success."