A prodigious talent by any standard, R&B vocalist Mario (born Mario Dewar Barrett in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1986) caught the performing bug when he participated in a talent contest at the tender age of 11, then decided to travel to New York City and make it as a vocal artist. In time, Mario caught the attention of Clive Davis, whose J Records label signed the young hopeful to a covetable recording contract. Mario issued his eponymous debut album at age 15, which sold an astonishing 700,000 copies and generated the blockbuster single "Just a Friend." A follow-up, the 2005 album Turning Point, sold two million copies and yielded an even more popular track, "Let Me Love You," which crested the charts and remained at number one for around nine weeks. Through it all, Mario worked with such musical heavyweights as Sean Garrett, T Wayne, Stee, and Michael Crooms.
Mario made one of his earliest film appearances in the 2006 dance picture Step Up, then followed this up with a role in Richard LaGravenese's urban drama Freedom Writers (2007). In 2008, Mario performed opposite Karina Smirnoff on season six of ABC's competitive reality series Dancing with the Stars.