Widely hailed as one of the greatest urban music discoveries of the new millennium, glamorous R&B recording sensation Ashanti entered the public eye thanks, in large part, to the efforts of record mogul Irv Gotti, the powerhouse also responsible for launching Ja Rule's career. Such albums as Chapter II, Concrete Rose, and The Declaration sold an unholy number of copies in a brief span of time, ensuring superstardom for the ascendant diva. In actuality, however, the young woman -- born Ashanti S. Douglas -- had already established a viable presence in a key number of theatrically released feature films and telemovies long prior to her 2002 debut album. She received her formal training in dance at the Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center, and made one of her earliest television appearances as a dancer, at age nine, in the Phylicia Rashad-headlined musical update of Pollyanna, Polly (1989). Bit parts in feature films ensued, including Spike Lee's Malcolm X (1992) and Ted Demme's Who's the Man? (1993).
Unsurprisingly, Ashanti's acting career received a boost from musical stardom; she landed small roles in the quasi-Bollywood comedy Bride and Prejudice (2004) and the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer before tackling her first lead, as Dorothy Gale, in the made-for-television special The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005). Ashanti then rose to higher billing with plum roles in the teen sex comedy John Tucker Must Die (2006) and the action-filled video-game adaptation Resident Evil: Extinction (2007).