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Luckett, LeToya

Luckett, LeToya

1981—

Singer

Former Destiny's Child member LeToya Luckett returned to the public eye in 2006 with a well-received solo debut, six years after leaving the successful R&B group in a split that rocked the music industry and stunned fans. Her record, LeToya, debuted at the top spot on the U.S. album charts, buoyed by the success of its somewhat aptly titled first single, "Torn," with its lyrics that speak of the quandary over whether to end a relationship or soldier on. "That's one of my favorite songs on the whole album, so I knew it would have some success," Luckett told Houston Chronicle writer Mawuse Ziegbe. "People can relate to it. I've been through that situation before, and I know other people have or know somebody that has." Luckett's debut solo album became certified gold, shipping over 500,000 copies, in 2006.

Luckett was born on March 11, 1981, in Houston, Texas, where her first public performance came at the age of five when she sang in her Baptist church. She met future Destiny's Child member Beyoncé Knowles in elementary school, where they both performed in school plays and once even shared the lead in a production of Pinocchio. Knowles formed a singing

group with two others, Kelly Rowland and LaTavia Roberson, called Girl's Tyme, and a twelve-year-old Luckett joined them in 1993. Over the next few years, the quartet emerged as a local talent in the Houston area with national aspirations, and Luckett and Roberson even moved into the Knowles's home at one point. "It was demanding to be in a serious band so young," Luckett told James McNair in an interview that appeared in the London newspaper the Independent. "We had to go to singing lessons at 6 a.m. and we sacrificed part of our childhood…. We were very keen and focused for a bunch of kids."

Became Newest R&B Divas

In 1997, Destiny's Child, the new name for Girl's Tyme, signed with Columbia Records, and their self-titled release appeared in early 1998. The teens scored two hits, "No, No, No" and "With Me," yet the record peaked at No. 67 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart in the United States. After a tour, they returned to the studio to work on a follow-up, and The Writing's on the Wall went on to spend 99 weeks on the Billboard album chart after debuting in the No. 6 spot in August of 1999. Luckett co-wrote two of the album's hit singles, "Say My Name" and "Bills Bills Bills." The group's newly achieved stardom fomented some internal friction, and Luckett and Roberson became unhappy with having Knowles's father Matthew manage them. Privately believing they were possibly being shorted financially, they requested separate management.

When the video for "Say My Name" debuted in February of 2000, Luckett and Roberson were stunned to learn they had replaced with two other singers. "Everybody thinks that it was drama between the group and me," she explained several years later to Jet writer Clarence Waldron, noting that the issue of management "led to other things because it was a personal relationship between Beyoncé and her father…. I think that's when things got thrown out of proportion. And not to mention we were very, very young and we didn't know how to communicate. We were 17, 18, some of us were 16, we really didn't know how to communicate, and we leaned on our parents for everything."

Luckett and Roberson's abrupt dismissal from Destiny's Child shocked fans and sent ripples throughout the entertainment industry; most were aghast that artists could be replaced so quickly, even though their creative input had contributed to the group's success. Then Luckett and Roberson began to have worries that Matthew Knowles was attempting to thwart any possible post-break career, and they filed suit. The dispute was settled for an undisclosed amount several months later. Adding to the personal pain of the split was the spectacular success that The Writing's on the Wall continued to achieve, becoming the tenth best-selling album of all releases in the year 2000 and earning five Grammy nominations. When the album's song "Say My Name," which Luckett had co-written, won two Grammy Awards in 2001 for Best R&B Song and for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, Knowles accepted the honors alone, for neither Luckett nor Roberson attended the ceremony.

Forged Ahead with Solo Career

The split grew even more acrimonious and spurred a second lawsuit when Destiny's Child released their next LP, Survivor, in May of 2001. Its title track was widely perceived as a reference to the split, with lyrics that included the phrases "Thought that I'd be broke without you/But I'm richer…. Thought I wouldn't sell without you/Sold 9 million." The new lawsuit claimed that such words violated the terms of the original settlement that prohibited any of the original Destiny's Child members from making disparaging remarks in public. For Luckett, however, these issues were irrelevant, in the end. "What I missed most was the friendship Beyoncé, Kelly and I had," Luckett said a few years later in an interview with Jacqui Swift for The Sun, a British tabloid. "We had met in elementary school so the hardest thing was getting over birthdays and Christmases without them."

In the meantime, Luckett and Roberson formed a new group they called Anjel with two other singers. They recorded several tracks in Atlanta, but the songs never made it into final album form. Luckett then headed to Los Angeles, signing with Wilhelmina Models and working on a solo record. It was a tough time, she told Gail Mitchell in Billboard. "Being the ex-Destiny's Child member was the most awkward part. Some people didn't want to touch my music…. But at the same time, [Destiny's Child] got me in the door." She eventually teamed with writer and producer Dave Young, and their studio partnership clicked. "At first I was not comfortable being a solo artist," she admitted to Ziegbe, the Houston Chronicle journalist, "but he just kept pushing me and we came up with about five great records."

At a Glance …

Born LeToya Nicole Luckett, March 11, 1981, in Houston, TX; daughter of Pam (a clothing store owner) Luckett.

Career:

Girl's Tyme, musical group member with Beyoncé Knowles, Kelly Rowland, and LaTavia Roberson, 1993; Columbia Records, label artist with Destiny's Child (new name of Girl's Tyme group), 1997-2000; Wilhelmina Models, Los Angeles, CA, model, 2000s; Lady Elle, clothing store, Houston, TX, coowner, 2003-; Capitol Records, solo artist, 2004-.

Awards:

Grammy Awards for Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, 2001, both for "Say My Name."

Addresses:

Office—c/o Capitol Records, 1750 N. Vine St., Los Angeles, CA 90028-5209. Web—www.letoya.net.

Those songs landed her a deal with Capitol Records in 2004, and two promotional singles—"You Got What I Need" and "All Eyes on Me"—did well on radio. A full-length record was delayed for several months, but LeToya debuted at No. 1 on Billboard 200 album chart in August of 2006, making Luckett the first Capitol artist since M.C. Hammer in 1990 to debut at the top spot on the chart. Its first single, "Torn," reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs rankings. Luckett promoted the release with a reality show, LeToya: The H-Town Chick, that aired on BET and chronicled the weeks before the record hit the stores; she also toured with Mary J. Blige.

Luckett, Knowles, and Rowland eventually began speaking to one another again, and Luckett even began carrying Knowles's line of clothing at Lady Elle, the boutique in Houston she opened with her mother in 2003. In the acknowledgements on LeToya, she wrote, "Beyoncé, LaTavia & Kelly I don't care what went on I love ya'll & God bless ya'll." To her fans and those who aspire to stardom in the music business, however, she was candid about the pitfalls of fame. "It's takes a lot of sacrifice, hard work and dedication," she told Waldron in Jet. "It's nothing to play with. People are coming to you all the time with different opinions and how they think your career should go and what kind of songs you should sing, making sure you are sexy or not too sexy. It really can drive you crazy."

Selected discography

Albums

(With Destiny's Child) Destiny's Child, Columbia Records, 1998.

(With Destiny's Child) The Writing's on the Wall, Columbia Records, 1999.

LeToya, Capitol Records, 2006.

Singles

"You Got What I Need" (promotional single), Capitol Records, 2004.

"All Eyes on Me" (promotional single), Capitol Records, 2005.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, April 8, 2000, p. 26; July 22, 2006, p. 41.

Houston Chronicle, September 5, 2006, p. 3.

Independent (London, England), October 19, 2006, p. 12.

Jet, September 11, 2006, p. 46.

New York Times, August 3, 2006.

Sun (London, England), September 15, 2006, p. 65.

On-line

LeToya,www.letoya.net (June 18, 2007).

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