The Stunning Transformation Of Fantasia Barrino

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Fantasia Barrino became a superstar after rising to fame on "American Idol" in the 2000s, winning the third season of the iconic show. In the best of times, her life has seemed like a fairy tale. In the worst of times, however, it's been a nightmare. Yes, Fantasia Barrino has had sad life story. Even after her big break, Barrino hit some devastating lows. Time and time again, though, Barrino has managed to overcome obstacles, proving not only her talent, but also her fortitude. That makes her one of the biggest inspirations to ever emerge from reality television.


From her childhood singing in church to winning "American Idol" to life on the international stage, Barrino has come quite a long way over the course of her career. She's also changed significantly over the years, and it's been a fascinating evolution to say the least. So without further ado, here's a closer look at how the incredible Fantasia Barrino has transformed in front of our very eyes.

Fantasia Barrino discovered her gift for music as a little girl

Some people are fortunate to discover their talents early in life, which was the case for Fantasia Barrino. While she didn't always know she would become a professional singer one day, she did realize that she had some serious pipes. As noted by Entertainment Weekly, by the age of 5, her father, Joseph, was encouraging her to sing on stage at family gatherings, weddings, and funerals. Fantasia Barrino also grew up singing in church, where her mother and grandmother were ministers.


Her father wasn't the only one to notice Barrino's talent. As she told O, The Oprah Magazine, one memory that stands out for her is the time a woman was moved to tears by Barrino's voice and told the little girl that she had "touched" her. Barrino was just 9 years old.

Barrino was told by her mother that she'd been given a gift from God, so she put her talents to good use by singing with the family gospel group, the Barrino Family. Fantasia Barrino toured with the group, and even sang on two albums released by them while she was still in school.

Fantasia Barrino dropped out of high school

Fantasia Barrino's childhood was not an easy one. Although she saw early success in her career, going on tour with the Barrino Family meant that she missed a lot of school, subsequently falling behind in her studies. Barrino told O, The Oprah Magazine that she suffered from "low self-esteem" and "seemed so different from other kids."


Barrino was also bullied growing up, when other kids would make fun of her lips, which made her feel unattractive. She added that as a teenager she "had this skinny little body with no shape," which couldn't have helped her sense of worthiness.

Then in high school, Barrino was raped by a fellow student. While she reported the assault with the support of her mother, she said that "going back to school was hell" and that her rapist's friends also threatened to attack her. The harassment soon grew to be too much to handle. Barrino ended up dropping out of school when she "was about 14" and "got a cheap apartment in the ghetto."

Fantasia Barrino became a mom when she was 17

Things only grew more difficult for Fantasia Barrino after she dropped out of high school. A boyfriend moved in with her, but didn't treat her well. Then at the age of 17, Barrino became pregnant. "That's when everybody seemed to give up on me," she told O, The Oprah Magazine. Barrino explained that people thought that, with her singing talent, she "was supposed to grow up and do something" but after she became pregnant, everyone assumed she was "goin' nowhere." As Barrino put it, "I'd lost myself."


Barrino, who had struggled in school before dropping out, had trouble finding a job as she "wasn't good at counting" and couldn't even fill out a job application as she "wasn't a strong enough reader." She barely got by with government assistance. But that wasn't enough to take care of both her and her daughter, Zion, so Barrino shoplifted other essentials like diapers and milk. "Living like that was hard," she said.

As a single mom, Barrino also helped her grandmother run a day care facility. While she wasn't paid, her grandmother would give her "a little change" to buy things for Zion — who looks just like the singer.

American Idol gave Fantasia Barrino her big break

When her daughter was 2, Fantasia Barrino was fed up. "I had given up on myself," she admitted to O, The Oprah Magazine. However, watching Ruben Studdard win "American Idol" inspired her to fight for her own dreams. So she borrowed her brother's car, filled the tank with scrounged money, and drove to the "American Idol" auditions in Atlanta.


After making it through the first round of auditions, Barrino arrived at the second round to find that the doors were locked when she got there. Instead of giving up, Barrino started praying. Then a security guard she'd struck up a conversation with the day before found an "American Idol" assistant to let her in, completely changing her life. "Out of more than 40,000 people, I was the last person to audition," said the singer.

The rest is history. The 19-year-old Barrino ended up winning, in spite of speculation that her vote count was hurt after the public learned she was a single mom. But the backlash just inspired Barrino to work even harder. "I'm a strong woman now," she told MTV News. "I fought so that my child can have the best."


Fantasia Barrino became a bestselling author with her autobiography

After achieving success on "American Idol" in 2004, Fantasia Barrino decided to turn her inspiring story into an autobiography. As noted by the New York Post, that autobiography brought Barrino even more accolades; she became a bestselling author with "Life Is Not A Fairy Tale," which was published in 2005.


Not only did the book become a bestseller, but it was also turned into a film the following year: "The Fantasia Barrino Story: Life is Not a Fairytale." Barrino starred in the film as herself, impressing the world with her acting talents. The film was seen by 19 million viewers and garnered a nomination for Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special at the 2007 NAACP Image Awards. Barrino herself was nominated for an NAACP Image Award that year, for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special.

For Barrino, starring in the film was a challenge — and not just because she was new to acting. Filming the movie also required her to relive some of the most difficult moments of her life. "It's definitely harder than it looks," she told The Washington Post.


Fantasia Barrino identified with her character in The Color Purple

While she'd had a couple of small guest roles before starring in "The Fantasia Barrino Story: Life is Not a Fairytale," that role opened up new doors for Fantasia Barrino. Within a couple of years, she went from struggling single mom to a recording artist, bestselling author, actress, and Broadway star. In 2007, Barrino took on the role of Celie in "The Color Purple," making her the first "American Idol" winner to star on Broadway, as noted by Playbill.


Starring in the musical, which is based on the novel of the same name by Alice Walker, was a powerful experience for Barrino. Notably, she has a lot in common with the character of Celie, who overcomes considerable adversity in the show. She suffers abuse, family separation, and domestic violence, but ultimately prevails and recognizes her own innate strength.

As Barrino told NPR, she didn't necessarily want to take on the role, but felt like she had to. "When I put my outfit on, I'm no longer Fantasia," she said. "I am Celie... I am that woman when I'm on that stage and people are being touched."

Fantasia Barrino starred on a reality show to clear out the rumors

In 2010, Fantasia Barrino again starred on a reality show, but this one was quite different from "American Idol." Barrino had been juggling her music and her personal life for more than half a decade at that point, and was dealing with a lot of "bad press" at the time, including gossip that she was facing foreclosure on her home. In order to combat the rumor mill, Barrino told the Associated Press (via Telegram) that she wasn't facing money problems. Rather, she clarified that she'd trusted the wrong people, leading to Barrino losing her fortune and the house being put up for auction, not foreclosure.


While Barrino was "still able to make ends meet," she vowed she would rebuild her destiny, and part of that was starring on her own reality series, VH1's "Fantasia for Real." Barrino explained to "The Futon Critic" that she made the decision to star on the show to "clear out the rumors" and "allow people to see what really was going on," as well as provide clarity about why certain things happened.

Fantasia Barrino struggled with depression after finding fame

The same year that she appeared in her own reality show, Fantasia Barrino unfortunately reached a breaking point. The pressures of fame, combined with the accusation that she was having an affair with a married man, culminated in the singer overdosing on sleeping pills and aspirin in August of 2010. Barrino later told "Good Morning America" (via ABC News) that the attempt to end her life came about because "it was just six years of everything, of me holding all that stuff on the inside and not letting it out," adding, "I got very, very tired."


Years later, Barrino looked back at that dark time as the biggest regret of her life. In an appearance on "The Real" in 2019, the singer said that she wasn't necessarily trying to end her life, she "just wanted to be away from all the noise." She added that she would do it all over again if she could. "I would change that," she confessed.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Fantasia Barrino turned her life around by marrying herself

Fantasia Barrino's attempt at taking her own life was a dark point in her life, but she was determined to find happiness again. One of the ways she did this was by making a commitment to herself — and she even put a ring on it.


In an appearance on Harry Connick Jr.'s talk show, "Harry," in 2017 Barrino said that it was "crazy" but she decided to marry herself for a very important reason. "I felt like before true love could come I needed to learn how to love myself again, and so for me I just forgot about myself," said the singer. Barrino explained that she'd finally realized that she was focusing too much on others and not enough on herself, to the point that she was actually neglecting her own needs.

Barrino's Christian faith also helped her through that difficult time, as did breaking some bad habits by making up her mind "to fast from all the things I used to do."

This is why Fantasia Barrino's marriage to her husband proved to be controversial

In 2015, Fantasia Barrino got married again — this time, legally, to another person. And while she was thrilled to tie the knot, the public wasn't too impressed, especially after Barrino made some public comments about their relationship. 


Barrino married Kendall Taylor after knowing him for just three weeks. She was impressed by how Taylor, a former felon, turned his life around and started his own business. However, that wasn't what had people so concerned about the relationship. In an appearance on the radio show "The Breakfast Club," Barrino said that she believes women should submit to their husbands, urging them to stop "trying to be the leader" and to "let your man lead the way." While she said that men and women can be equal, she believes the man should be the king and the woman should be the queen in a heterosexual relationship.

Barrino's comments were met by backlash, which she and her husband later addressed on Instagram. In a video, Taylor described submission as "a beautiful song and dance between two lovers" and a "gift."


Fantasia Barrino refused to let fame change her

In spite of the money, fame, and acclaim that have come her way over the years, Fantasia Barrino has refused to lose sight of who she is. She has remained true to the promise that she made right after winning "American Idol": "I'm still not gonna change," she told MTV News, adding, "All I have now is a story to tell, which I will through my music."


Additionally, Barrino has worked hard to get where she is, and she's grateful for what she has. In an interview on the "Tammi Mac Show" in 2019, the singer said that she's still living her life as down-to-earth as possible. "I'm regular," she said. "I don't like the whole celebrity thing."

While some celebs might have people drive them around, do their grocery shopping, and cook for them, Barrino does all of those things for herself. "I'm from North Carolina; my grandma and my mama taught me how to cook," she said. That's a far cry from, say, Oprah's incredibly lavish lifestyle!

This is why Fantasia Barrino left her record label

In 2019, Fantasia Barrino announced that she was forging a new career as an independent artist and parting ways with major labels. As noted by the Chicago Tribune, she spent years with RCA Records, but decided to go indie with the album "Sketchbook." "It's all me," she said. 


Going independent wasn't just a way for Barrino to assert control over her music; it was something she said that she'd always wanted to do. The album was released on her own label, Rock Soul, with Barrino saying she was "starting over from scratch, going back to ground zero" with the album. The transition came after years of going head-to-head with record execs. "It was a fight when I was with a label," the singer told the Houston Chronicle, adding that she constantly found herself being forced "to bow down to everybody else's vision."

Barrino knew what she wanted and was confident enough to go get it. "Sketchbook" really gave her a chance to shine as the album bounced from genre to genre, showing off Barrino's dynamic age. "I don't want people to stick me in a box," she told People.


Fantasia Barrino gave up constant touring to focus on her family

In 2019, a decade and a half after Fantasia Barrino's life completely changed when she won "American Idol," the singer announced that she was going to step away from constant touring. While she said she would still continue to work on her music, Barrino was tired of her career always taking her away from home and her loved ones. In an appearance on The Real (via Urban Hollywood 411), Barrino said that she "can't continue to [perform] every night."


Barrino added that she wanted to be able to spend time with her daughter, Zion, and her son, Dallas. "I don't want to miss anything," said Barrino. "When you're on tour, it's too much."

Throughout all of her ups and downs, her devotion to her family has remained one of the primary constants in Barrino's life. On the "Yes, Girl!" podcast, Barrino said that she's a volunteer at Dallas' school and even goes on school field trips. "I don't want my kids to ever grow up and be like, 'my momma was never there for this, for that,'" she said.

Fantasia Barrino wants to do more acting in the future

What's next for Fantasia Barrino, who's really worth quite a bit of money? Aside from focusing on her family and working on her music, she said that she'd like to do more acting in the future. She already has a couple of stage roles under her belt. Aside from portraying Celie in "The Color Purple," Barrino has also been part of the cast of "After Midnight." On screen roles include playing herself in "Life Is Not a Fairytale: The Fantasia Barrino Story," guest roles on "American Dreams" and "The Simpsons," and a role in "Soul Kitten Cabaret."


In an interview with CNN in 2019, Barrino said that at least one future role is in the works, although she added that she couldn't provide more details. But clearly, Barrino has certainly proven she has what it takes to be a movie star and, now that she's no longer touring so much, she just may have time to explore her passion for acting more.

Fantasia has been open about financial struggles for artists

Fantasia Barrino seems to be living her best life now, but she hasn't forgotten her past struggles and has been open about them. She's also spoken out about the fact that she's not the only artist who has struggled financially. "A lot of artists that you see, they look like they have it," she told Tammi Mac on RadioFree KJLH in 2019 (via YouTube). "And we smile and come out and put on a good show. But in real life some of them are struggling and we don't have it."


In the same conversation, Barrino revealed that when things got especially bad for her, filmmaker Tyler Perry had her back, offering support and aid. "He would call and check up on me," she said. "He was one of the ones, when I lost everything, he came and blessed me. And I thank him for that."

She wrote a book with her husband

In 2022, Fantasia Barrino returned to writing with "No Crowns in the Castle: Building a Strong Relationship and a Harmonious Life," a relationship book co-authored with her husband, Kendall Taylor. "In their trademark no-nonsense, real-talk style, they discuss topics that affect all relationships, including the importance of submitting to one another, handling conflict, clearing the lines of communication, keeping the romance alive, navigating the challenges of blended family, and how to maintain healthy relationships when you haven't seen them modeled before," reads the book's description on Amazon.


Despite the controversy Barrino's previous comments about submission in a relationship drew, the book received good reviews and has 4.9 stars on Amazon and 4.58 on Goodreads. The book offers marriage advice and shares details about their own whirlwind romance and the challenges they've faced, including the premature birth of their daughter, per Publishers Weekly.

Barrino and her husband also narrated the audiobook version of "No Crowns in the Castle" and weren't afraid of sharing their real selves in either the writing of the book or the recording. "It's so honest that during the audio book we didn't take the crying out," Barrino told ET. "And we were asked. I was like, 'No, so what?' You can hear me crying, you hear me sniffling. Shouldn't it be that way?"


She continued her role from Broadway onto the big screen

The year 2022 also saw Fantasia Barrino revisit her role as Celie in "The Color Purple," this time for the film adaptation of the musical, slated for a 2023 release, per IMDb. The film adaptation of the musical is produced by Oprah Winfrey and director Scott Sanders, as well as Steven Spielberg and Quincy Jones. "This ain't your mama's 'Color Purple,'" Winfrey told Vanity Fair.


Returning to the role after over a decade was a daunting thought for Barrino, and she very nearly turned down the role, only accepting after director Scott Sanders insisted she was the right person for the role. "I'm glad that I didn't allow that door to close," Barrino admitted to ET Online. "I talked it over with my whole entire family and everybody kept saying, 'I think you should do it.'"

Still, there were challenges to the film adaptation that weren't present in the Broadway production, and it proved to be an emotional experience for Barrino. "[S]ome of the places that we are filming has been heavy, because literally we have slave homes that have been there for years behind us," the actress explained. "We can feel our ancestors. So, it's heavy. But it also reminds us that they paved the way for us. It also reminds us how far — to be an all-Black cast — we want to push the heavens for our ancestors and for our generation today."


Fantasia Barrino became an honorary sorority member

The year 2022 was a big one for Fantasia Barrino. Not only did she publish a book and start work on the film adaptation of the musical version of "The Color Purple," but she also became a sorority girl. While she didn't move into a campus sorority house, she is now an honorary member of Sigma Gamma Rho. "We are so proud to welcome Soror @tasiasword into the sisterhood," wrote the sorority on Instagram.


Barrino posted a video on her own Instagram of her initiation into the sorority. "I Love My Sisters," she wrote in another post.

Per the sorority's website, Sigma Gamma Rho, Sorority, Inc. was founded in 1922. "We visualize a world in which all women and their families reach their full potential in all aspects of life and are able to create unlimited opportunities for future generations," reads their vision statement.