Heather Headley is a singer, songwriter, and actress who won a Tony Award for starring in the Elton John and Tim Rice musical “Aida” (2000), opposite Adam Pascal. The role also brought her a Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics Circle nomination. In addition, she appeared in the Broadway musical “The Lion King” (1997). On the music front, Headley has released three studio albums and won a 2010 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album for “Audience of One” (2009). Her album “In My Mind” (2006) peaked at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.
Headley has one son, John Davi (born in December 2009), with her husband Brian Musso.
Childhood and Family:
Heather Headley was born on October 5, 1974, in Barataria, Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies, to Hannah and Eric Headley, who were pastors at the Barataria Church of God in Trinidad. With full support from her parents, she participated in her first performing arts contest at age 2 and began studying piano at age 4. In 1989, her father was offered a job at a church in Anderson, Indiana, in the United States. The family then left the islands and stayed at Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she attended Northrop High School. An active student, she joined their resident show choir, Charisma, and starred as Fanny Brice in the school's production of “Funny Girl.” After finishing high school, Heather majored in communications and musical theater at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, but later dropped out to pursue a career in musical theater.
In January 2003, Heather became engaged to former New York Jets star Brian Musso. They eventually married on September 6, 2003. She gave birth to her first child, John Davi, on December 1, 2009.
Audience of One
Heather Headley made her radio debut at age 2 when she sang in a children's talent contest in Trinidad. While attending college at Illinois' Northwestern University, she performed in local Chicago productions and eventually left school when she joined the workshop cast of the musical “Ragtime” in Toronto in 1996 where she understudied for Audra McDonald in the role of Sarah.
In 1997, Headley landed the role of lioness Nala, the sweetheart of Simba, in the Broadway musical “The Lion King,” based on Disney's 1994 animated movie of the same name. Scored by Elton John and Tim Rice and directed by Julie Taymor, the play premiered at the New Amsterdam Theater on October 15, 1997, in preview of the official opening on November 13, 1997. It has since become the eighth longest running show in the history of Broadway. “The Lion King” won several Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical. After her well received performance in “The Lion King,” Headley was approached by Disney to play the title role in their musical “Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida” (1998), which was also written by Tim Rice and Elton John. She earned favorable reviews for her performance although critics slammed the show during its pre-Broadway tour. She remained with the production while it was revised and reprised the role of Aida when the musical premiered on Broadway in 2000. Delivering a good performance as the Princess Nubian, she won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, a Drama Desk for Outstanding Actress in a Musical and an Outer Critics Circle nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Musical.
In September 2001, Headley portrayed Lorrell Robinson in a special benefit concert version of “Dreamgirls” on Broadway, alongside fellow Tony Award winners Audra McDonald and Lillias White. The same year, she also starred in the direct to video family movie “Elmo's Magic Cookbook,” opposite Aleisha Allen and Emeril Lagasse.
On October 8, 2002, Headley released her debut album, “This Is Who I Am,” on RCA Records. It peaked at No. 38 on the Billboard 200 and No. 14 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and was certified gold by RIAA in June 2003. The album won a 2003 Soul Train Lady of Soul for R&B/Soul Album of the Year - Solo. She co-wrote three tracks in the albums called “Fallin' for You,” “Sunday” and “Sista Girl.” The first single, “He Is” (2002), went to No. 90 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 38 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. It also peaked at No. 2 on Billboard's Hot R&B Recurrents and No. 4 on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart. “He Is” earned her a 2002 Soul Train nomination for Best R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist, a 2003 Soul Train Lady of Soul for Best R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist - Solo and a Soul Train Lady of Soul nomination for Best R&B/Soul Single - Solo. The second single, “I Wish I Wasn't,” enjoyed success by peaking at No. 55 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 15 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The song brought her Grammy nominations in 2004 in the categories of Best New Artist and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Headley was also nominated for NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding New Artist and Outstanding Female Artist in 2003. In addition, she earned a Billboard Music nomination for R&B/Hip-Hop New Artist of the Year.
In 2004, Headley appeared in the film “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights,” starring Diego Luna, Romola Garai and Sela Ward. Her second studio album, “In My Mind,” was launched on January 31, 2006, in the United States and on May 29, 2006, in the United Kingdom. The album debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. It achieved gold certification in the U.S. in 2006, and Headley co-wrote the tracks “How Many Ways,” “Losing You,” “Rain” and “Change.” Headley also covered Shannon Sanders' song “In My Mind” for the album and released it as the first single in September 2005. Her version rose to No. 75 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early April 2006. It also peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The second single, “Me Time” (2006), peaked at No. 35 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and No. 5 on the Hot Adult R&B chart.
In autumn of 2006, Headley also performed Hal David and Burt Bacharach's song “I'll Never Fall in Love Again” for The Kennedy Center Presents: The 2006 Mark Twain Prize, honoring playwright Neil Simon. The ceremony was later broadcasted on PBS under the title “The Mark Twain Prize: Neil Simon.”
In 2007, Headley appeared as a guest performer on Andrea Bocelli's concert in Lajatico, Italy, where they performed “Vivo Per Lei” and “The Prayer.” In 2009, she performed “My Country, 'Tis of Thee” (“America”) with Josh Groban during the “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration” at the Lincoln Memorial and sang “I Wish” on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Still in 2009, she recorded a version of “People Get Ready” with Al Green for the 2009 compilation album “Oh Happy Day: An All-Star Music Celebration.” The album won a 2010 Grammy for Best Traditional Gospel Album.
Headley's third studio album, “Audience of One,” was released on January 13, 2009, under the EMI Gospel label. The album debuted at No. 27 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart in January 2009. It also went to No. 1 on the Billboard Top Gospel Albums and No. 6 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album won a 2010 Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album, while the single “Jesus Is Love” (featuring Smokie Norful) was nominated for a Grammy for Best Gospel Performance.
Grammy: Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album, “Audience Of One,” 2010
Soul Train Lady of Soul: R&B/Soul Album of the Year - Solo, “This Is Who I Am,” 2003
Soul Train Lady of Soul: Best R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist - Solo, “He Is,” 2003
Sarah Siddons Award: For work in Chicago theatre, 2003
Tony: Best Actress in a Musical, “Aida,” 2000
Drama Desk: Outstanding Actress in a Musical, “Aida”