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Naturi Naughton          

American Singer-Songwriter, Rapper, & Actress

Naturi Naughton was not even born when "Fame" (1980) premiered in theaters, so she could not have predicted that she would one day be a part of the legendary film and television franchise. Before she was an actress, however, Naughton found fame of a different sort in the musical group 3LW until her infamous exit from the band in 2002. Her solo career flourished when she performed in Broadway's "Hairspray" and took on the role of Lil' Kim in the 2008 Biggie Smalls biopic, "Notorious." In the 2009 version of "Fame," Naughton played Denise, a singer who belts out the infectious title track originally performed by Irene Cara. In fact, Naughton's powerhouse vocals surprised everyone, immediately drawing comparisons to another singer-turned-actress seemingly coming out of nowhere to blow away listeners - Jennifer Hudson of "Dreamgirls" (2006) and "American Idol" (Fox, 2002- ) fame.

Naturi Cora Maria Naughton was born in East Orange, NJ on May 20, 1984. Music became a part of her life at an early age, singing with the New Hope Baptist church choir at just five years old. "Growing up, I always knew I would be a singer and actress," she said. "My friends used to say, 'Naturi, you're so dramatic!' and I would say, 'Thank you!'" Naughton attended St. Joseph's Catholic School before being discovered by local talent agents who booked her to sing the national anthem at various events throughout the Garden State.

When she was 15, Naughton joined singers Adrienne Bailon and Kiely Williams to form the musical trio, 3LW, which stood for "Three Little Women." Their first single "No More (Baby I'm A Do Right)" was released in 2000, followed by another successful single "Playas Gon' Play" in 2001. 3LW's self-titled debut album went platinum in 2001; the same year they toured alongside other hit-making R&B and hip-hop acts such as Destiny's Child, Nelly, and Eve for MTV's "TRL" tour.

It seemed 3LW was on its way to becoming one of the top musical groups of the new millennium, until their second album A Girl Can Mack (2002) failed to hit the mark set by their debut. That same year, Naughton announced she was no longer part of the group, citing the other girls and their management had forced her out. In August 2002, during a heated argument at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, Naughton claimed Williams allegedly threw a hot plate of food at her even though she was trying to make amends, marking her official departure from the group. 3LW replaced Naughton with Jessica Benson, but the group fizzled out when Bailon and Williams signed on for Disney's "The Cheetah Girls."

After leaving 3LW, Naughton focused on her education and pursuing a solo career. She attended Seton Hall University, majoring in political science and receiving top honors. From 2005 to 2008, she starred in the Tony Award-winning musical "Hairspray" on Broadway, playing Little Inez. Naughton said being on Broadway was a blessed experience and credited her later acting success to the arduous schedule and fast learning curve of "Hairspray."

Naughton made headlines in 2008, playing controversial and enigmatic rapper Lil' Kim in "Notorious." The biopic about slain rapper Notorious B.I.G. drew criticism from the hip-hop community, including Lil' Kim, who slammed Naughton's portrayal of her in the film. "Watching [Naughton] onscreen was so 'dreadful' as Simon Cowell would say," the rapper stated. "She is tasteless and talentless. Never once did she contact me for input or to get a feel of me for the character." Naughton responded by saying she studied Kim's life for the role, including spending time in the Brooklyn neighborhood where the rapper grew up. The fighting words from Kim did not affect "Notorious" from performing well at the box office, opening to $21 million its first weekend.

In 2009, Naughton landed another high-profile role - playing singer-pianist Denise in "Fame," a retelling of the 1980 musical film about a group of talented students at New York's High School of Performing Arts. In addition to belting out the iconic title song, Naughton also performed the other Irene Cara hit from the film, "Out Here On My Own." "The pressure is on," Naughton said prior to the film's September 2009 release. "But for me, it's an opportunity." Naughton was the resident vocalist-pianist of the cast that included up-and-comers Asher Book and Kay Panabaker, as well as seasoned "Fame" veteran actor-choreographer Debbie Allen, as well as comic actors Kelsey Grammer and Megan Mullally.

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