With millions of copies of her singles sold worldwide, season six winner Jordin Sparks clearly emerged as one of the most successful artists to emerge from the pop cultural behemoth, "American Idol" (Fox, 2002- ). Jordin Brianna Sparks was born on Dec. 22, 1989 in Phoenix, AZ to Jodi Weidmann Sparks and Phillippi Sparks, a former NFL defensive back. Singing since she was two years old, Sparks frequently entered local children's singing contests in nearby Glendale where her family resided. At 13, she appeared in a local production of the musical "The Wiz" (1974), and later in Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic tale "Cinderella" (1957). She attended Glendale's Sandra Day O'Connor High School through her freshman year, but was home schooled after that so she could focus on her budding musical career. In 2004, Sparks tried her luck at numerous talent contests, including "America's Most Talented Kid" (NBC, 2003-06) and Coca-Cola's Rising Star. She also won two Gospel Music Association Academy awards, which led to an introduction to Christian contemporary singer Michael W. Smith, whom she worked for as a background vocalist for his Christmas 2005 and 2006 tours. While singing was her first love, Sparks also explored other avenues to showcase her talent, including modeling in 2006 for the women's plus-size clothing line, Torrid.
In 2006, Sparks auditioned for the sixth season of "American Idol" in Seattle, where she wowed the judges with her evocative rendition of Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me" (1996), and was sent through Hollywood's semi-finals round. Sparks quickly gained a loyal fan base on the show, thanks to her powerful performances of Martina McBride's hit "A Broken Wing" (1997) and Rodger and Hammerstein's show tune "You'll Never Walk Alone" (1945). Her youthful - albeit overly cute to some - personality throughout the competition helped her land a spot in the finals against slightly edgier beat boxer, Blake Lewis. The 17-year-old Sparks ultimately took home the "Idol" title as the youngest winner in the show's history. In 2007, she released her self-titled platinum-selling debut album that featured the hit singles "Tattoo" and "No Air," a duet with R&B singer Chris Brown. Both songs landed on the Billboard Hot 100 list in the first week of their release, and earned Sparks two MTV Video Music Award nominations in 2008. At the awards show, she incited controversy after she spoke out against host Russell Brand's jokes about teen pop sensations, the Jonas Brothers, and their purity rings. The conservatively-raised Sparks told the crowd, "It's not bad to wear a promise ring because not everybody, guy or girl, wants to be a slut." Sparks later told Entertainment Weekly that she was sorry for offending people who did not wear promise rings or share her own religious beliefs. In 2009, the talented singer showcased a more mature side with her sophomore album Battlefield (2009), which reached No. 10 on the charts because of its title track. That same year, she performed on the televised special "VH1 Divas Live 2009" (VH1, 2009) and made her acting debut on "The Suite Life on Deck" (Disney, 2008- ). In 2010, Sparks returned to the stage and made her Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning musical "In the Heights" (2008), where she played a headstrong college student.