A wunderkind to end all, multi-talented singer/songwriter Alicia Keys burst onto the scene in 2001 with her debut album, Songs in A Minor, recorded for Clive Davis' J Records and released at the tender age of 20. In the process, Keys impacted the music world indelibly -- offering a defiantly individualistic co-mingling of soul, funk, jazz, blues, and rock topped off by her signature confessional ballad, "Fallin'." Songs sold over 50,000 copies in its first day; a follow-up, the 2003 Diary of Alicia Keys, performed equally well and wowed critics. For the two efforts, Keys won a total of nine Grammy awards.
Born in Harlem, Keys was reportedly tagged as a musical genius from the age of five, and attended Manhattan's Professional Performance Arts School. She graduated from high school early, at age 16, but a brief stint at Columbia University left her dissatisfied, and she soon hearkened off to greener pastures, offered a prestigious record contract by Davis.
In terms of acting roles, it may surprise fans to discover that Keys' on-camera appearances date back to the age of five, when she appeared as a guest star on a 1985 episode of The Cosby Show. In the early years of the diva's music stardom, her filmed work, of course, consisted almost exclusively of performance footage, such as her 2001 appearance on Saturday Night Live and the concert films America: A Tribute to Heroes (2001) and Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast (2005) -- both reflecting Keys' interest in humanitarian causes. In time, however, the superstar branched out into dramatic efforts, with small roles in such A-list features as Glory Road (2006), Smokin' Aces (2007), The Nanny Diaries (2007), and the Secret Life of Bees.