Born & Raised:
Full name: Chrisette Michele Payne.
Born: Dec. 8, 1982 in Central Islip, New York. Grew up on Long Island, NY.
Chrisette Michele grew up on Long Island, New York. She first began developing her vocal style at age 4 by singing her her church's Gospel choir; her mother was the church's choir director and her father, who played the organ, was a deacon at the church. Although she dabbled in many of the performing arts as a child, including dancing and instrumentation, she decided to become a singer after a teacher gave her a CD containing the bossa nova standard "The Girl from Ipanema" when she was 17. She later went on to study vocal and jazz performance at Five Townes College on Long Island, the same school that was attended by numerous other musicians and singers, including members of the groups Day26 (Que Mosley), Nina Sky (Nicole Albino) and Maroon 5 (Adam Levine). Chrisette graduated with a degree in vocal performance.
She eventually began performing at local venues and was spotted at Manhattan's Village Underground club by India.Arie. India brought Chrisette on board her next tour as an opening opening act, and stints opening for Kem and Angie Stone followed. In 2006, she signed a contract with the Def Jam label and was initially used as a writer and singer of hooks on songs by hip-hop artists with the label, including Jay-Z, Nas and Kanye West. Her debut album, I Am
, followed in June 2007, debuting in the top 5 on the R&B albums chart. Although I Am
wasn't a blockbuster hit, it did feature the song "Be OK," which would go on to win a Grammy. Her sophomore album, Epiphany
, was more successful and debuted at No. 1 on the the Billboard pop and R&B charts. Interestingly, her albums have been more successful than her singles, something that's the exact reverse of most modern singers. Despite her first three albums reach the top 10 on the R&B charts, to date none of her singles has cracked the top 10 on either Billboard's R&B or pop charts.
Awards & Honors:
2009: Grammy Award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance, with will.i.am, for the song "Be OK."
"My influences are definitely Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn, which I incorporate into my live show. And then Lauryn Hill was definitely a great influence of mine when she came out, as well as Erykah Badu. I say those five people had the greatest influence on me." -- Chrisette Michele on her musical influences, to concreteloop.com in June 2007.