|La Toya London|
|Birth name||La Toya Renee London|
|Born||December 29, 1978
San Francisco, California, United States
|Years active||2004 – present|
|Associated acts||Michelle Williams, Jennifer Hudson, Vivian Green, Fantasia Barrino, Goapele|
|Website||The Official Homepage of LaToya London|
La Toya Renee London (born on December 29, 1978) is an American R&B and soul singer and actress who was the fourth-place finalist on the third season of the reality/talent-search television series American Idol. She released her debut album, Love & Life, in September 2005 and is currently starring as Nettie in the touring company of the Broadway musical, The Color Purple.
London was born in San Francisco, California and raised in Oakland, California, where she had her first public musical performance when, at the age of 7, she sang in her mother's wedding. Her interest in singing began when she was just 4 years old, when she frequently sang when attending Allen Temple Baptist church. As a teenager, she sang with the Oakland Youth Chorus from 1993 to 1996. In 1996, she graduated from Skyline High School (the same school where actor Tom Hanks and basketball player Gary Payton attended). She also worked as a waitress and a bartender and even sang in a Christian rock group. She was also a backup vocalist and did frequent guest vocals for several Bay Area artists. When she began American Idol, she was the lead vocalist in a band, All-Star Jukebox, which usually performed at weddings.
London auditioned for the third season of American Idol in Los Angeles, California. Although she seamlessly moved on through each round, she had not been featured prominently in any aired footage and was written off by many fans before the first studio performances. However, as a member of the third group of eight semifinalists, she sang Eric Carmen's "All by Myself," and received a standing ovation from celebrity judges Donna Summer,Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul. Jackson labeled her performance as "brilliant" and "what the search for a superstar is all about," Abdul called her "unbelievable" and praised her "quiet confidence," and notoriously harsh judge Simon Cowell said she was "the best of the group" and that it was a "superb, outstanding performance." As expected, she was voted through to the final 12 contestants with 32.3 percent of audience votes, the largest percentage for every week of the semifinals.
For nine weeks, London wowed the nation with her showstopping performances on American Idol. Cowell called her performance of Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody" as "amazing" and "awesome." Abdul said that she reminded her of "a young Gladys Knight" after she performed the Garth Brooks song "Ain't Goin' Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)," Nickolas Ashford of famed soul duo Ashford & Simpson called her performance of "Ooo Baby Baby" by Smokey Robinson as "beautiful" and full of "sex appeal," Famed film director Quentin Tarantino called her a "powerhouse" after her performance of "Somewhere" from the musical "West Side Story,"and Cowell announced her as "the best singer in the competition" after she sang "All the Time" by Barry Manilow and gave her "a ten out of ten" for her performance of "Don't Rain on My Parade," which also garnered standing ovations from Abdul and Jackson.
London was central to one of the first controversies of the show. On April 21, 2004, the night after the final seven contestants performed Barry Manilow songs, London, Jennifer Hudson, and eventual winner Fantasia Barrino shockingly ended up in the bottom three with the least viewer votes. Together, these three had been dubbed "The Three Divas" for their lush, commanding, and mature vocal capabilities and showstopping and critically acclaimed performances. London had the highest vote totals out of the three, and Hudson was ultimately eliminated. Because all three of the singers were African American and the frontrunners of the competition, music icon Elton John deemed the voting as "racist," igniting a flurry of news and speculation over the validity of the voting system. John complained at a promotional news conference that, "The three people I was really impressed with, and they just happened to be black, young female singers, and they all seem to be landing in the bottom three."
London's second controversy occurred on May 11, 2004, when the final four contestants each performed two disco songs. Simon Cowell, who previously endorsed her as the best singer in the competition, suggested that his only complaint with London was that after ten weeks he still didn't know anything at all about her. Cowell also suggested that contestant Jasmine Trias would almost certainly be voted off the next day. However, on May 12, in a result that came as a surprise to many, including the judges, London became the ninth of the 12 finalists to be eliminated, finishing in fourth place, with Barrino also landing in the bottom two. Paula Abdul was in tears when LaToya sang her farewell song, "Don't Rain on My Parade," and the other two judges gave her a standing ovation.
The songs London sang on the show follow:
|Week #||Song Choice||Original Artist||Result|
|Top 32||"All by Myself"||Eric Carmen||Advanced|
|Top 12||"Ain't Nobody"||Chaka Khan||Safe|
|Top 11||"Ain't Goin' Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)"||Garth Brooks||Safe|
|Top 10||"Ooo Baby Baby"||The Miracles||Bottom 3|
|Top 9||"Someone Saved My Life Tonight"||Elton John||Safe|
|Top 8||"Somewhere"||West Side Story||Safe|
|Top 7||"All the Time"||Barry Manilow||Bottom 3|
|Top 6||"Rhythm Is Gonna Get You"||Gloria Estefan||Safe|
|Top 5||"Too Close for
"Don't Rain on My Parade"
|Top 4||"Love You
"Don't Leave Me This Way"
Immediately after being eliminated from the series, London was featured in the Norman Lear-helmed Declare Yourself voting campaign by famed photographer David LaChapelle, alongside music stars like Christina Aguilera and André 3000. Her appearance on Idol host Ryan Seacrest's daily television talk show was one of its highest-rated episodes, and Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown officially declared May 4 to be LaToya London Day; one month later, she officially received the key to the city. Her rendition of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes "If You Don't Know Me by Now" on the top-selling compilation disc, American Idol Season 3: Greatest Soul Classics, was praised as one of the album's best. She was also heavily featured on the group track, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."
In the summer of 2004, London performed with the other top 10 finalists in American Idol season three international tour, which crossed the United States and also visited China and Singapore. She had a guest co-hosting gig on the national entertainment news show, Access Hollywood, and she has performed for such events and galas as the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation, 100 Black Men of America, and the Clear Channel holiday party. London has also performed the national anthem for numerous National Football League games, including the 2005 Super Bowl NFL Commissioner pre-game party. She has shared the stage with such icons and superstars as Elton John, Whoopi Goldberg, Barry Manilow, Gladys Knight, Nancy Wilson, Chaka Khan, Rachelle Ferrell, Goapele, and Burt Bacharach.
In November 2004, it was announced that London had been signed to jazz recording label Peak Records, an imprint of Concord Records, the final label of jazz legend Ray Charles before his death. Her first single, "Appreciate," which featured a guest rap from Black Thought of the Hip-Hop group The Roots, hit the airwaves in July, and a music video of that song followed. The CD single, "Appreciate/Every Part of Me/All By Myself" reached #8 on the Billboard Singles Sales Chart. The single sold 8,500 units.
Her first album, Love & Life, was released on September 20, 2005. A mix of R&B, soul, jazz, and hip-hop, Love & Life was a critically acclaimed album that showcased her powerful voice and offered a chance at songwriting, while also featuring songs by such legendary producers as David Foster and Narada Michael Walden. The San Francisco Chronicle called her "impassioned and polished" with "sumptuous, wondrously elastic mezzo pipes," People magazine called it one of the best post-American Idol albums, and Apple Computer's iTunes named it one of the best albums of 2005, and her song "Non A What'cha Do" as one of the best individual recordings of the year. Love & Life sold 12,546 albums in its first week, landing at #82 on Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and at #27 on Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. To date, it has sold approximately 58,000 copies. Additionally, La Toya has sold over 15,000 digital downloads.
La Toya suffered a setback when she had to pull out of the VH1 Soul Tour with Jaguar Wright and Kindred due to a "family emergency." Additionally, when Ebony magazine named her one of the hottest African American bachelorettes in America in its July 2005 issue, speculation about the state of her marriage sparked off. While she was on American Idol, she proudly stated that she was married and had stepchildren. She later confirmed that she and her husband had in fact parted ways.
Most recently, La Toya released two follow-up singles, "Every Part of Me" and "State of My Heart," the latter of which hit #40 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Tracks chart and #5 on the radio industry periodical Friday Morning Quarterback's Adult Contemporary spin chart.
In February 2006, she landed a lead role in Laterras R. Whitfield's touring dramatic comedy play Issues: We All Have 'Em, also starring Angie Stone, Dave Hollister, and Kim Fields. The play ended its run, but enjoyed rave reviews and high ticket sales. She also sang a jazz-tinged version of "Hark! Hear the Bells" on the VH1 Soul Train Christmas television special, and sang the same song on a special edition of the 40th Anniversary A Charlie Brown Christmas album.
In late summer 2006, La Toya made her Los Angeles professional stage debut with a starring role in the retro musical "Beehive" at the El Portal Theater in North Hollywood. Latoya and the show earned rave reviews. That same year, the cast was nominated by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle for Best Ensemble Performance in their annual awards.
La Toya was also nominated for an award in the R&B category of the 2006 Bay Area Rap Scene (BARS) Awards; however, violence and disruption ended the show early before the award winners were announced. Latoya was competing against R&B star Goapele, among others.
Recently, La Toya announced that despite having an initial three-album deal, she had parted ways from Peak Records and Concord Records. She is currently writing songs for her second album and is currently shopping for a new recording label. It was also announced in 2006 that London would be starring in an extended Chicago run as Nettie in the Oprah Winfrey-produced Broadway musical The Color Purple. Incidentally, American Idol winner and London's friend, Fantasia Barrino, will be starring as Celie in the Broadway run of the show. Future American Idol star, LaKisha Jones would join the play, alongside London.
The Color Purple debuted at the Cadillac Palace Theatre for an extended run in Chicago, Illinois. The cast also includes Destiny's Child star Michelle Williams and Tony Award nominee Felicia P. Fields. The show and Latoya have earned rave reviews:
”American Idol finalist, Latoya London, gives a heart-tugging performance as "Nettie", Celie's sister who is forced to leave her. Ms. London's voice is a pristine, crystal clear soprano voice that brings magical beauty to her songs. Her chemistry with her co-star Bayardelle is both honest and touching, which at the end has the entire audience wiping away tears of joy.” - John Garcia, Pegagus News
”Everyone sings well, from Jeannette Bayardelle as Celie and "American Idol" contestant LaToya London as her sister, Nettie, to former Destiny's Child member Michelle Williams...”- Damien Jaques, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
”...Celebrity is provided by "American Idol" finalist LaToya London, who sings and acts beautifully...” - John Olson, Chicago Pride
”LaToya London is charming as Celie's beloved sister, Nettie...” - Betty Mohr, Chicago Daily Southtown
"Latoya London does an admirable job as Nettie..." - Brad Auerbach, Entertainment Today 
“Nettie…[is] played with impressive restraint by "American Idol" alum LaToya London…” – Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Time
”Bayardelle’s… vocal talents are matched wonderfully by London and Williams, providing perhaps the strongest female singers on a Los Angeles stage this year.” – Jeff Favre, Los Angeles Downtown News
Latoya has reported that she is contractually obligated to tour with The Color Purple until mid-2008. London received a nomination for a NAACP Theatre Award in 2008 in the best supporting actress in an equity production category.
London was featured as a guest vocalist on Paul Taylor's new album, Ladies' Choice, released in May 2007..
London posed for a bondage-themed print advertising campaign by Declare Yourself, a campaign encouraging voter registration among youth for the 2008 United States presidential election. In the ads by photographer David LaChapelle, London has a nail through her upper and lower lips, pinning her mouth shut in a symbolic function. The ads drew national attention.