The story begins on October 5th, 1974 in Barataria, Trinidad, where Heather Headley was born. She was blessed with two loving parents who encouraged her to pursue her dreams. She has been competing in performing arts contests since she was 2, and began playing the piano at age 4. As young as she was, she loved music in all its forms, whether it was calypso, soka, reggae, or American R&B.
In 1990, Heather and her family moved to Fort Wayne, IN. It was a difficult time for her, as she found the culture shock unbearable. After only a week, her younger brother had already dismissed his Caribbean accent in favor of American dialect, but it took a lot more time for her to do so.
To make matters worse, the school system in Trinidad was more advanced than the one in the States, and consequently, Heather frequently skipped classes, thereby alienating herself from her peers. She was also taken aback by the casual attitude and disrespect teenagers showed authority figures. However, she remained ambitious, even toying with the idea of becoming a lawyer.
She eventually enrolled in Northwestern University’s Communications and Musical Theater programs, with the new dream of becoming a newscaster. She studied musical theater, purely to indulge her love of music, not in preparation for a career in this field. She never thought that singing would prove to be fruitful, and thought of her Communications degree as something to fall back on.
While still a student, she took part in a few productions, most notably Dreamgirls, The World Goes Round, and a brief revival of the Styne/Comden/Green musical Do Re Mi. Although taking part in these shows put a strain on her studies, it did get her an agent. In 1996, the Broadway musical Ragtime came calling, but Heather’s priority was to finish school. She even prayed the audition would go badly so she could resume her studies.
Before she even knew where Broadway was, she was an instant hit with the show’s producers and was offered a job as an understudy. In 1997, she was approached by Disney for a new show they were putting together, The Lion King. Her agent managed to get her out of her Ragtime contract in order for her to portray Nala, the spirited lioness, in one of the most successful Broadway shows in history.
Heather remained largely unaware of the extent of her success, as playing a lion for her was reminiscent of carnivals in Trinidad, and therefore, nothing to write home about. Around the same time, Disney was planning to go ahead on another musical, Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida, written by Elton John and Tim Rice, and they asked Miss Headley to audition for the lead. This $20 million production is about the romantic life of a Nubian princess enslaved by the Egyptians. Needless to say, Heather got the job.
The show played for a while in Atlanta before moving to Broadway in 2000. The Big Apple critics were not kind to this musical, calling it shallow. Nevertheless, Heather Headley was a bona fide sensation and was praised by everyone. That same year, she was awarded the Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for her role, and considered this moment as the best of her life.
By this point, Heather had managed to impress the people at RCA, who came knocking, offering her a recording contract. In 2002, she released her first solo effort, This Is Who I Am, which has since been certified gold, selling 500,000 copies. This album has also won her the 2003 Lady of Soul R&B Soul Album of the Year as well as the trophy for Best New Artist.
In September 2003, she walked down the aisle and tied the knot with her longtime boyfriend, former New York Jets star Brian Musso. Presently living in Chicago, Heather is working on her second album and can soon be seen in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.