Born & Raised:
Real name: Kelis Rogers. Her first name is pronounced kuh-LEASE.
Born/raised: In Harlem, New York, on Aug. 21, 1980.
Kelis was raised in a middle-class household in Harlem by her Puerto Rican-Chinese mother, Eveliss, who was a fashion designer, and her black father, Kenneth, a jazz musician and a Pentecostal minister. (Kenneth died two days before Kelis signed her first record deal in 1998.) As a child, Kelis sang in her church choir as well as the Girl's Choir of Harlem, and played violin, piano and saxophone while attending Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan.
After graduation, Kelis formed a band with the production team the Neptunes and with their support, landed a record deal. Her debut album, Kaleidoscope, sold just 290,000 copies in the US; although its debut single, "Caught Out There," was a urban radio success, peaking at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot R&B chart and becoming a video hit in America on MTV and BET. The album was a success in Europe, however, where the singles "Caught Out There," "Good Stuff" and "Get Along With You" all became hits.
Kaleidoscope's success was largely outside the United States, because Kelis' style of music was not limited to the traditional urban market. American radio was reluctant to accept Kelis since her music didn't feat neatly into any particular genre. Kelis' biggest markets became Europe, Australia and Asia, where a combination of rap, R&B intermixed with rock and roll and other genres was more readily accepted. Her second album, Wanderland, was released only in Europe in Asia.
Kelis finally found mainstream success in America in 2003, with her #1 urban, #3 Hot 100 song, "Milkshake"; this helped to propel her third album, Tasty, to the top of the charts and reach gold status selling over 540,000 copies in the U.S. in just two months. The single and album were also big hits in Europe. "Not In Love," a Kelis/Enrique Iglesias duet from Iglesias' album 7, was also released as a single in 2004 but failed to catch on in America outside of the club charts.
Marriage to Nas:
Kelis and hip-hop star Nas wed on Jan. 8, 2004 in Atlanta, GA, after dating for two years. Her fourth album, Kelis Was Here, was released in the U.S. on Aug. 22, 2006. The first single, "Bossy," featuring the rapper Too $hort, was a big hit on U.S. urban radio, but the album's sales were lackluster and in October 2007 she was dropped from the Jive Records roster. On April 30, 2009 Kelis filed for divorce from Nas, citing irreconcilable differences.
The Last Word:
"The reason that I'm so ... assertive and 'demanding' or 'bossy' in this business -- 'cause you'll get walked over if you're not. And if you don't like it then move on, work with someone else." -- Kelis, 2001.