That was just the beginning. Since then she's released two albums, Free Yourself and Fantasia; written a book, Life Is Not a Fairy Tale; and watched her life story be made into a TV movie. Her most recent victory was taking on the role of Celie in the Broadway musical The Color Purple.
Since I discovered Alice Walker's novel years ago, I've loved this story of the triumph of the spirit in all its forms—as a book (it remains one of my favorites), a movie (I played Sofia), and a Broadway musical (I co-produced it). Yet when I saw Fantasia's transformative performance, I experienced this work in a completely new way. Fantasia—a rape survivor who is every bit as victorious over adversity as Celie—fully embodies the character. By the end, there is not a dry eye in the house as she sings Celie's famous refrain: "I'm beautiful, and I'm here."
Oprah: When did you first realize that you had a voice that could move people?
Fantasia: I've been singing in church since I was little; my grandmother is a pastor. When I was about 9, an elderly woman came up to me, crying, and said, "I want you to know that you touched me." My mother later told me that God had given me a gift, but I had low self-esteem. I seemed so different from other kids; I grew up in church and felt a connection with God, and a lot of kids my age really didn't understand that.
Oprah: We've all heard the story that you once couldn't read very well. Were you having problems in school?
Fantasia: Our family made two gospel albums that were pretty successful, and we were out on the road a lot, so I missed classes. When I realized I was having trouble reading, I was too embarrassed to ask for help. Some teachers believed in me, but I just wasn't focused on school—I was into the music and trying to please my dad.