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Michelle Williams

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Tenetria Michelle Williams was born on July 23, 1980, in Rockford, Illinois. Music has been part of her life ever since she was 7 years old, when she sang her first solo, an interpretation of "Blessed Assurance," at her local St. Paul Church of God In Christ.

Her family was involved with the church and that's how she got into singing gospel music. She constantly listened to the likes of the Clark Sisters, Yolanda Adams, Commissioned, Kirk Franklin, Marvin Winans, and Hezekiah Walker.

Still, it was never more than a hobby for Michelle. During her childhood, she was part of two different church-based singing groups: Chosen Expression and United Harmony. While still young, she realized that she would never make a career out of it.

Then, after high school, she did what most people do and enrolled in college to get an education and, hopefully, a rewarding career. In May 1999, after two years at Illinois State University, she got a phone call from a friend of hers who was playing keyboards for R&B star Monica, a girl who had scored the 1998 hit "The Boy Is Mine" with Brandy.

The friend told Michelle that they were holding auditions for a backup singer for Monica. Michelle jumped at the opportunity and flew to Atlanta. The audition was successful and she was hired as a backup dancer. Michelle stayed in this capacity until October 1999, after which she returned to Rockford.

Further south, Texas ladies Beyonce Knowles and Kelly Rowland were the founding members of an ensemble they called Destiny's Child. Established in 1993, they had taken the music scene by storm in 1997 with their single "No, No, No." In early 2000, the two other members of Destiny's Child, LaToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson, left the group.

Leader Beyonce was not content with a duo; she wanted to add a person to Destiny's Child. They had heard of Michelle and gave her a call to ask if she'd be interested in joining them. The choice was an easy one and Michelle officially joined Destiny's Child in February 2000.

As soon as the girls became a trio, they began recording new music and touring with Christina Aguilera. Two of their new songs, "Dot" and "Independent Women Part I," appeared on the soundtrack for Charlie's Angels (2000).

In May 2001, the girls released their third record -- the first since Michelle had joined -- Survivor. Not only did it debut at number one on the Billboard album chart, but it broke the record for the highest first week's sales figures of any female group with 663,000 copies sold. In two months, the album had sold over 6 million copies worldwide thanks to mega-hits like "Bootylicious."

In 2002, Destiny's Child released their autobiography called Soul Survivors. Around the same time, the girls pretty much went their separate ways to pursue solo projects.

Michelle returned to her church roots and signed on with the label Music World Music, also the home of Ramiyah. Soon she released the inspirational record Heart To Yours, which hit number one on the gospel charts.

Continuing to make a name for herself, Michelle was approached in late 2003 to star on Broadway. Between November 2003 and January 2004, she starred as the love-crossed princess in Elton John and Tim Rice's hit Broadway musical Aida, a role that has been played by Toni Braxton and Heather Headley.

In 2004, she went back to the recording studio and released her second solo effort called Do You Know. On this contemporary urban-gospel album, she isn't afraid to display her devotion to God. Her objective with her gospel music is to teach young people that it's cool to be religiously devoted and enlightened. Whatever, she's hot anyway.