Ashanti Essentials: Fast Facts About The Singer And Actor

In the early aughts, new artist Ashanti burst onto the music scene with her silky voice and self-titled debut album, "Ashanti," that featured the smash hit single "Foolish." The "Goodfellas"-inspired music video even featured actor Terrence Howard early in his career. The song ruled the airwaves in the first half of 2002, landing at the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and staying at the top for 10 weeks. The R&B singer went on to earn eight Grammy nominations, including best new artist, for her solo work as well as collaborations on popular songs like "What's Luv" with Fat Joe and "Always Be Mine" with Ja Rule.

At the 45th Grammy Awards, she won best contemporary R&B album for "Ashanti." Even after her impressive win, the singer explained that she had many other ways to entertain fans. "There were a lot of things that we didn't tap into as far as my talent on this album. So there's a whole lot more to show people," she told Jet Magazine. This stayed true as Ashanti went on to have an impressive career in music, acting, and more.

In 2022, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her many contributions to the music industry, via Variety. "It's a reward after the good times, bad times, tears and moments of rejection," she told Billboard. Ashanti was referencing her emotional career filled with tragedies, criticism, and fortunately for fans, persistence. Here's all the essential facts you need to know about Ashanti.

The strange connection between Ashanti and Irv Gotti

After securing her first record deal as a teenager with Jive Records, Ashanti moved homes to Noontime/Epic Records, per Billboard. She also began hanging out with the guys from the Murder Inc. label, including Fat Joe and Ja Rule. "It was a good yin and yang. I was the girlie girl and the young girl among all of these rapper guys, all these gangstas, so it was a cool experience to just have big brothers looking out," she told Metro about Murder Inc. "It was a good time back then," she recalled.

Many years later, the label's founder Irv Gotti claimed he had more than a friendly relationship with Ashanti. Gotti had separated from his wife at the time and according to the record executive, he walked Ashanti home one day and the two kissed, he recounted on "The Murder Inc. Story," via XXL. Gotti also claimed on the "Drink Champs" podcast that he and Ashanti used to sleep together. Fat Joe then called out Gotti on Instagram for bringing up a 20-year old relationship, via XXL.

In 2022, Ashanti appeared on the remix of the song "Gotta Move On" by Diddy and Bryson Tiller. Diddy said he chose Ashanti for the remix because, "after I've seen Irv do his thing, I was just thinking, 'sis may want to express herself on this song,'" he told "The Breakfast Club." In the song, Ashanti sings, "it's been 20 years" and to "please, say less," via Genius.

The most tragic day for Ashanti

In 2006, Ashanti was in Johannesburg, South Africa to perform at the Redd's Divas Concert with other big names like hip-hop legend Lauryn Hill. Prior to performing, Ashanti was backstage with her 20-year-old cousin, Quinshae Snead. Reportedly, Ashanti forgot some items back at her hotel that she wanted to have for the night of the performance and Snead offered to drive back and return with the goods. Tragically, Snead was rear-ended by a car on her drive to the hotel by a drunk driver. She died in the accident and details came out that the driver was a 17-year-old without a license in a stolen car. 

Ashanti then canceled her performance and Morris Roda, who was a promoter for the concert, explained that Ashanti mourned and cried most of the following day. Ashanti's representative then released a statement from the singer and her family thanking the "South African fans for their support and assistance in Johannesburg during this time," per People. 

The accident was part of a horrific Easter holiday in the city, with over 50 road traffic deaths that same weekend, per News24. "I cannot believe this happened to my cousin, and it is hard for me to grasp the reality that she is gone from me and my family and her friends," Ashanti told the New York Daily News about Snead's shocking death, via Digital Spy.

Ashanti has a mixed relationship with fans

To promote her single "The Way That I Love You," Ashanti had a multi-tiered marketing effort that confused and frightened some fans. First was a video featuring Ashanti holding a bloody knife with the allusion that she killed an ex-lover. Members of her email list then received an invitation to send greeting cards to others with a similar bloody theme, where users could select the reason for sending, like cheating, and then pick a murder weapon.

Almost a decade later, Ashanti once aimed her displeasure toward fans. During one of her concerts in 2017, some attendees began throwing money on the stage while she was performing a lap dance. Ashanti stopped mid-song and yelling, "I'm not a f***ing stripper," via TMZ. Reportedly, the responsible audience members were employees from a local strip club.

Ashanti has been dealing with controversy from the onset of her career. For example, a 15-year-old boy created an online petition that claimed Ashanti didn't deserve the title of entertainer of the year at the 2002 Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards since she was so young. "It's definitely an honor to just be recognized for such a prestigious award and I'm just so happy to be here with all my people who have been supporting me," she said at the show, per Entertainment Weekly. Soul legend Patti LaBelle came to Ashanti's defense, calling her "extremely deserving of this wonderful recognition" (via The Washington Post). "We have to support our babies," she continued.

Ashanti is a style queen from the 2000s

When Ashanti became famous in the early part of the millennium, she sported fashion synonymous with the era — like super low-rise jeans. "The low-rise Levi's?! Oh my god. Those were my favorite ... I had so many pairs," she told Fashionista. For accessories, "I had a long crooked heart jewelry piece that was a signature. People would always say, 'oh, that's the Ashanti heart,'" she recalled. Since fashion is often cyclical, these early 2000s styles became trendy again. "It's so weird how everything is really coming back around," Ashanti said. On "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen," Ashanti rated some of her red carpet looks from the past. 

Some outfits she approved of, like the corseted dress she wore to the 2001 American Music Awards. At the 2002 World Music Awards, Ashanti wore an ensemble that Cohen described as "hippie chic," complete with a headband and top that exposed her belly. Ashanti revealed, "I still have those pants and that headband." The only look she truly regretted from her past was wearing baggy pink pants with a fringed yellow top to the BET awards one year.

Moving into the following decade, Ashanti teamed up with New York fashion brand Miss Circle to create a capsule collection. "There's nothing better than a woman that's confident ... your whole aura changes when you know you look good," Ashanti told Paper Magazine about why she helped with the line and modeled the looks.

All about the relationship between Ashanti and Ja Rule

Ashanti earned her first number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Always on Time," a 2001 duet with rapper Ja Rule. She and Ja Rule went on to create other catchy tracks together like "Happy" and "Mesmerize," which had a memorable video of Ja Rule and Ashanti paying homage to the film "Grease." This special connection between the two artists even helped inspire the song "Helpless" from the Broadway musical "Hamilton." Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda said he pictured the Eliza character as Ashanti and the title character as Ja Rule, Miranda explained on "Conan." Then, for the 2016 "Hamilton Mixtape" album, Ashanti and Ja Rule remixed the song, which was also their first collaborative track in over 10 years, per Complex.

Even decades after "Always on Time," the two still shared a special connection. According to Ashanti, she and Ja Rule bonded from their very first meeting. "It's the weirdest thing, we have always had instant chemistry and we may not see each other for a month or so and then we may not even see each other before the show, but when we get on stage, it feels like we've been hanging out the whole day," Ashanti told Metro. In advance of their 2019 collaborative tour, Ashanti supported Ja Rule during the Fyre Festival disaster. "We're like a real brother and sister," the singer explained to People about her longtime friend.

Details about Ashanti's love life

For much of the aughts, Ashanti and Ja Rule appeared inseparable, which likely contributed to the rumor that they dated. During an Instagram live chat with Fat Joe, she stressed that she and Ja Rule were never romantic. "Our chemistry was so ill. We never messed with each other, like it never was even a thing," she said, via Hot 97. "It's the reason we're able to, 20 years later, still rock with each other and have that passion on stage because you can see it and feel it," she told Metro. As for passion offstage, Ashanti has linked up with several high-profile names, including other rappers. Ashanti and Nelly split in 2013, then she reportedly began dating NFL receiver DeSean Jackson, per Philadelphia Magazine.

In 2021, it appeared Ashanti might have had a boyfriend after posting a photo with an unknown guy in Cancun with the caption, "Great times." After fans felt she had a new man, Ashanti clarified the two were not dating and that he was a manager at the restaurant where the photo was taken, via Page Six. Looking to the future, Ashanti admitted that she wanted to find love and start a family. "Twenty years from now, I see myself married to this fine, tall, amazing man with beautiful children, a couple of houses around the world while enjoying life, being humble and doing what I love," she told Billboard.

What Ashanti thinks about her mom

Ashanti has had a business relationship with her mom from a young age because like several other young stars, her mom became her manager. In fact, her mom Tina Douglas' Instagram handle is "The Original Momanager." Fortunately, the singer seems to have a positive relationship with Douglas. "My mom and I have more of a friendship as opposed to a dictatorship. We're super close as mother-daughter," Ashanti told Billboard. Though the singer admitted that those in her inner circle refer to Douglas as "The General," Ashanti explained, "she's very supportive and aggressive when necessary. She demands that respect." Perhaps most importantly, she said she felt total admiration from her mom and never felt taken advantage of. Ashanti and Douglas enjoyed many moments together, like sharing stories of one another on "The Meredith Vieira Show."

During Ashanti's Hollywood Walk of Fame induction ceremony in 2022, she recalled an adorable moment when her mom first traveled to Los Angeles to visit her while she worked on her debut album. According to the singer, her mom bought her a custom souvenir Hollywood star and correctly predicted, "You're gonna get one of these stars one day." Rolling into 2022, the two continued to work well together, as Ashanti noted on a heartwarming birthday post for her mom. The singer said on Instagram that her mom was "my best friend, my backbone. I love you infinitely!!! Thank u for working so hard with me even on your birthday."

Ashanti entered the tech sphere

EQ Exchange announced in 2022 that Ashanti became the first Black female musical artist to become an owner in a Web3 company and that she "continues to lead the charge as the future of the music industry." The company specifically focused on music NFTs and through the platform, Ashanti launched her own NFT collection in celebration of the 20th anniversary of her self-titled debut album. People who purchased an NFT allowed the holders to earn parts of her streaming revenues and for others, she offered up concert tickets and the chance to join her during a recording session. One of the buying levels for her collection sold out in less than an hour, per Medium. Posting on Instagram, Ashanti thanked her partner and company founder Janice Taylor, who "has chosen me to continue the journey & narrative of Women's Empowerment." 

Part of the reason Ashanti became involved in the tech company is "Because it's a world that's dominated by men and it's the future," she told Billboard. She also felt passionate about the tech space because "Web3 is the ability to own your intellectual property, and that's important. As a Black female, spreading the narrative that we can own our creativity and get paid for it is important." She said her public role was important not just to continually push the music industry towards new opportunities, but to also become a role model to Black women who want to become entrepreneurs.

The connection between Taylor Swift and Ashanti

Twenty years after releasing her eponymous debut album, Ashanti earned rights to its master recordings. As a result, she announced on the "Tamron Hall Show" that she would rerecord the album. She also acquired all her albums under Universal Music Group plus "Braveheart," which she released on her independent record label Written Entertainment. Not that the acquisition was easy, as Ashanti admitted she faced obstacles on her way to have full rights. "Certain people don't want to see you move forward and progress in life, so they try to create roadblocks," she told Billboard.

According to Ashanti, "It's really important as an artist to continue to spread the ownership narrative. I love what Taylor Swift did." Ashanti referred to the trailblazing move by Swift to re-recording her back catalog of albums after losing rights to her masters. Similar to Swift's actions, Ashanti said, "anything worth something will be a bit of a battle."

Beyond just rerecording her back catalog, Ashanti continued to write songs. In 2019, she revealed she was working on her next album with heavyweight producers like Metro Boomin, and features with some of the hottest names in music like, Jeremih and Swae Lee from Rae Sremmurd. "I'm excited about the next few moves, the year ahead, and releasing new music. It's going to be a lot of fun," she told Entertainment Weekly. A few years later, Ashanti dropped the single "235 (2:35 I Want You)" in 2021, via Genius.

What Ashanti was like as a child

Similar to hanging with the guys like she did on her future tracks "What's Luv" and "Always on Time," Ashanti admitted she didn't always follow gender stereotypes when she was growing up. "Every girl wanted the 'My Little Pony' Big Wheel, I wanted the' Transformers' Big Wheel," Ashanti recalled to Variety. According to the singer, "I made the boys play with my Barbies, they made me play kickball and baseball in the streets. I had a really cool active childhood and I remember it being very diverse." The young girl was born and raised in Glen Cove, New York on the North shore of Long Island, Lifetime recapped. 

Ashanti was an especially gifted athlete who participated in a varied selection of sports. "I played softball, kickball, volleyball, I was a cheerleader, I played badminton ... I was an overall tomboy," she told USA Today. Ashanti was most gifted in track and field as a runner, which she started in eighth grade on the varsity team. "I actually got scouted by the Olympics and I got two scholarship offers, one to Princeton and one to Hampton," she revealed. 

Unsurprisingly, music also played a big part in her childhood. Ashanti admitted to Variety that it wasn't the case where she "woke up and said 'Hey! I want to be a singer.'" Instead, Ashanti naturally progressed and sang anywhere she could like family gatherings, her church choir, and a talent show when she was 12 years old.

Ashanti talks about her family's influence

Ashanti grew up in a musical household since her dad was a singer and mom used to teach dance, Lifetime recapped. Despite her parents' careers, young Ashanti remembered she once wasn't allowed to listen to the radio while she performed chores around the house. Since she couldn't listen to music, Ashanti sang "Reminisce" by R&B legend Mary J. Blige, Variety reported. Her mom later sent out demos of Ashanti's vocals, which were good enough for the young woman to land her first record deal with Jive Records in 1994. At the time of signing, she was only 14 years old. 

Having such huge success at a young age could have been troubling for Ashanti, but she credits her parents with giving her the tools needed to face any challenge from the music industry. "A lot has to do with the way I was raised," she told Billboard. "I was the girl in school that would stand up to bullies. I'm fortunate to have had an amazing support system, and that definitely played a part. A lot of my peers didn't or don't have that," Ashanti explained. More than just her parents, she became inspired by many in her family tree, like her aunt and her grandfather who was a civil rights activist. Ashanti is also close with her sister Kenashia "Shia" Douglas, who called the singer "My bff, My Dawg, My friend."

Ashanti can write more than lyrics

Early in her career, Ashanti was a writing wizard behind the scenes for Jennifer Lopez. In 2001, she recorded the demo version for the "I'm Real" remix featuring Ja Rule. In the end, Lopez sang the lead part in the song with Ashanti's vocals delegated to the background, she told ET. Ashanti also wrote the 2002 remix of "Ain't it Funny" and again, Lopez took the final version, per Metro. While it took years for Ashanti to get her due credit, fortunately, her writing took the main stage when she became an author in 2022. She released a children's book titled "My Name Is a Story," featuring illustrations by Monica Mikai. "Inspired by my own experiences, I wrote this book to remind children that every name is special and deserves to be honored and celebrated," Ashanti posted on Instagram

During the promotional period for the book, Ashanti said the story resonated with many people who also had a distinctive name like hers. "The stories were like, 'I'm so glad that you're doing this because I always felt embarrassed when it was time for the teacher to call out everyone's name and she would stutter on my name.' I didn't want them to feel like that," Ashanti explained to People about creating the children's book. Reflecting on her publishing achievement, Ashanti said she enjoyed the process of writing and told Billboard that she aspired to release even more books in the future.

Ashanti reveals how she stays healthy

Ashanti is not shy about showing off her figure, with her Instagram grid full of barely-there swimsuits and form-fitting dresses. Ashanti turned 42 in 2022, via Essence, and according to the singer, her diet and exercise regimens are part of the secret to her lasting looks. "To have balance, you have to eat clean and you have to work out," she told People. She explained she has a trainer and aims to work out five days a week. Even when she's traveling, Ashanti said she still does her best to exercise. As for what she eats, "I cut out a lot of meat." The singer switched mainly to a pescatarian diet thanks to a recommendation from her sister Kenashia Douglas. "I think again, self-health and self-awareness are so important. All of that stuff is so important to maintaining your body, knowing what's in your food, the GMO's and the chemicals, and I'm super aware of this stuff," Ashanti explained. 

While she stayed fairly strict in what she consumed, Ashanti also made sure to treat herself for all the hard work. "You have to allow yourself at least two cheat days so that it doesn't become too strict," Ashanti said. For example, she posted a video on Instagram of her walking around in a two-piece bikini. She was all smiles and wrote in the caption that her positive energy came from "when u been in the gym 33 days and you're eating fries tonight!"

From the stage to the big screen for Ashanti

When Ashanti exploded in popularity in the early aughts, many people wanted to work with the singer, including Hollywood. Hoping she could follow the path of other Y2K music stars like Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears who tried acting, Ashanti began receiving scripts to try and bring her to the big screen. Ashanti was just breaking into the music industry and as a result, she wanted to further develop her singing reach. "Let me stay here a while before changing lanes," she said in a 2002 interview with Jet Magazine. "Later on, I might get into movies," she added. By that time, Ashanti had already been in the 1992 film "Malcolm X," playing a student in an uncredited role, via IMDb. After limited appearances in TV shows including "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," she started taking on bigger roles like in the films "Coach Carter" and "John Tucker Must Die" in 2006. "I think it's so important to not limit yourself or pigeonhole yourself to one thing or one genre," Ashanti told Ebony about her eclectic portfolio. "I think it's really important to be a part of everything," she told Hollywood Life.

In addition to acting, Ashanti was an executive producer of the romcom "The Plus One" and as of 2022, she was working on a documentary about her life. "People will be floored by the footage and stories that haven't been told, which I'm super excited about," Ashanti told Billboard.

Here's what Ashanti's name really means

The R&B singer's birth name is Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas and in her career, she revealed that some people were confused about her ethnicity. "I'm Black," she clarified in Jet Magazine. According to Ashanti, her name originates from an African tribe in Ghana. The singer explained "that in a lot of countries women are low on the totem pole. But in the Ashanti tribe women are respected." Or as she rephrased to E! News, "in this specific tribe, the women run things. It means woman of strength and I thought this is perfect for me." While the name is gorgeous and unique, Ashanti admitted that it caused some trouble when she was young. "Growing up having a very unique name, there were moments," she recalled. For example, "I remember there was circle time and the teacher would call out names. The kids would go, 'Why doesn't her name sound like this or that?'" 

Eventually, fans would be screaming out Ashanti's name but she never forgot those frustrating times around her name. In the R&B star's opinion, all names have a story behind them and should be valued. Additionally, she believed that "saying each other's names correctly is one way to value and see people fully," she posted on Instagram. As a result, Ashanti then wrote a children's book for "anyone who has been made fun of because their name was different, or had their name mispronounced or not pronounced at all."