What does Tamar Braxton have in common with Beyonce, Britney Spears, Katy Perry and Jessica Simpson? All of these bombshells came from the same humble beginnings—their church choirs.
It was dad Michael’s position as a pastor and good old fashioned talent that got the Braxton siblings the gig, and a few “Hail Mary’s” later they had their first record deal.
So next time you’re dozing off in the back pew, listen up. These 12 superstars all went from the local church choir to the big time.
Aretha Franklin: At age 14, the minister’s daughter wowed her congregation with a rendition of “Precious Lord” at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. Eighteen Grammies and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction later, Franklin has redefined gospel music for generations to come.
Tina Turner: Before she was Tina Turner (it’s a stage name), Anna Mae Bullock was just a small town girl singing in the choir at her Baptist church in Tennessee. She went on to have a baby out of wedlock at 18 and join a rhythm and blues soul group, but the eight-time Grammy award winner provided holy folk with sweet melodies long before she ever posed the question, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”
Diana Ross: Before leading the Supremes to success, Ross sang at her Baptist church in a low-income section of Detroit, Michigan along with her five siblings. She took a turn towards secular music thanks to exposure from a cousin, and went on to spend much of the 1960s churning out chart-topping hits including “Baby Love”, “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “You Can’t Hurry Love.”
Shakira: Shakira was kicked out of her Catholic school choir at age 10 after a year of service, not because her hips lied, but because her vibrato was too strong. “I don’t think the music teacher knew too much about his music,” she has said. Joke’s on you, teach, because the Colombian sensation is laughing all the way to the bank, 12 Grammy awards in tow.
Avril Lavigne: She’s known for her punky edge, but Lavigne got her start in her church choir in Ontario, Canada, and went on to compete in country music competitions. Then she stopped going to church, bought some eyeliner, met a skater boy, things got complicated, and, well, the rest is history.
Mary J. Blige: Blige had a tough childhood, growing up in a housing project in Yonkers with a single mom. The House of Prayer Pentecostal Church was her escape, and she went every Sunday to sing with her mother and sister, snagging choir solos as a teen. She has since released 10 albums, eight of which have reached multi-platinum status.
Jessica Simpson: Simpson got her start singing at her local church in Richardson, Texas, where dad Joe was a youth minister. She was working the gospel circuit by age 11, and was discovered at a church camp singing “Amazing Grace” at age 13 after being rejected from “The Mickey Mouse Club.” Dad Joe used his preaching abilities to promote her first Gospel album, “Jessica”, but it wasn’t until she branched into pop music and signed with Sony record exec Tommy Motolla that she became a household name. (A smoking hot boy band hubby and reality TV deal didn’t hurt, either.)
Justin Timberlake: Many know that Justin Timberlake was a Mickey Mouse Club kid before *NSync, but first came a spot in the Baptist’s church choir in Memphis, Tennessee. His boy band days included a lot of crotch grabbing and questionable claims of abstinence with then-girlfriend Britney Spears, but Timberlake’s guy next door appeal led to a successful solo career that is still strong today.
Britney Spears: Spears started out as a sweet-as-sugar choir girl at her church in Kentwood, Louisiana and then landed a spot in the Mickey Mouse Club. She’s since seen the highest of highs (“Baby One More Time” and that sexy schoolgirl outfit, hello!) and the lowest of lows (We won’t mention that psychotic head-shaving incident—oh wait we just did), but she kept the faith and made it through.
Beyonce: Before Destiny’s Child and Jay-Z, Beyonce Kowles was a member of her church choir in Houston, Texas. She has described herself as a shy child, but credits performing with breaking her out of her shell. And for that, every single lady in need of an anthem thanks the Powers That Be.
Katy Perry: Not your typical “California Girl,” Katy Perry (real name Katy Hudson) grew up in Santa Barbara with strict Christian parents who only allowed her to listen to Gospel music and sing in the Pentecostal church choir. Spoiler alert: Perry rebelled and went on to become a sometimes-blue-haired, cupcake-bra-wearing, girl-kissing superstar.
Snoop Dogg: He’s known for busting rhymes and being a protégé to Dr. Dre, but Snoop Dogg grew up in Long Beach, California as Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. playing the piano and singing in his church choir. His switch to hip-hop was sparked by rap battles in the schoolyard at Long Beach Polytechnic High School.