Scroll To See More Images
You know about Camila Cabello and Fifth Harmony. You know about Justin Timberlake and NSYNC. But what about other solo singers who started in girl groups and boy bands? From Missy Elliott to Britney Spears to Usher, there are ton of successful solo artists who thought being in a boy band or girl group was their one-way ticket to pop stardom.
And though many of these boy bands and girl groups aren’t recognizable, they’re still an important part in these singers’ careers. They might not be Fifth Harmony or NSYNC, but they were an early stepping stone for household names like Ciara, Ne-Yo and P!nk. To find out which of your favorite solo artists used to be in girl groups or boy bands, we did some digging on the internet and discovered 12 famous names who used to be anonymous band members.
From a Grammy-winning legend to the A-lister who’s best known for her on-screen work than her singing voice, there are dozens of stars who kickstarted their career in Hollywood by being a member of a band. (Some of them even surprised us.) Find out which of your favorite stars you didn’t know were in girl groups or boy bands ahead.
Tinashe – The Stunners
Before she was releasing hits, like “2 On” and “Flame,” Tinashe was in a girl group called The Stunners from 2007 to 2011. The group, which consisted of five singers (including another famous one on this list), was signed to Columbia Records and contributed a song to iCarly‘s 2008 soundtrack. In 2009, they released their first single “Bubblegum.” That same year, after leaving Columbia Records, The Stunners also signed a production deal with MTV to produce a scripted TV show about the group. The Stunners’ TV show never made it to a series and the group disbanded in 2011, leading Tinashe to pursue a solo career and release her first album, Aquarius, 2014.
Hayley Kiyoko – The Stunners
Along with Tinashe, Kiyoko is another member of The Stunners who has broken out after the band’s split in 2011. Kiyoko was one of the first members of The Stunners when the band formed in 2007. The band was formed after Kiyoko and her four bandmates became friends and decided to start a girl group. In a 2018 interview with Billboard, Kiyoko, who released her first album and is openly lesbian, Expectations, in 2018, talked about her time in The Stunners and how she felt pressured to stay in the closet. “[I was] really intimidated by the stigma and stereotype of the label,” she said.
P!nk – Choice
When she was 14, P!nk auditioned to be in a girl group called Basic Instinct. Though she impressed at her auditioned and became a member of the band, Basic Instinct disbanded before it released any music. However, two years later, P!nk, along with two of her teenage friends, formed the girl group, Choice. A recording of Choice’s first song, “Key to My Heart,” was sent to LaFace Records in Atlanta, where it was heard by record executive L.A. Reid who flew the group to Atlanta and signed a record deal with them. Pink was 16 at the time. At a Christmas party a couple years later, Reid decided to drop the group and gave P!nk an ultimate: to either go solo or go home. She chose a solo career and Choice disbanded in 1998.
Britney Spears – Innosense
Before she became a household name, Spears was in a girl group named Innosense with four other women. (The band’s name was intentionally misspelled so they wouldn’t sound like “innocent little four-year-olds.“) Spears left the band—which was managed by NSYNC’s manager Lou Pearlman and Justin Timberlake’s mom Lynn Harless—after a year in 1997. She went on to release her first single, “…Baby One More Time” in 1998.
Scarlett Johansson – The Singles
She might be best known as an actress, but Johansson also has an impressive singing voice, as seen in the 2016 movie, Sing. In 2015, the Marvel star was in a girl group with HAIM’s Este Haim, Holly Miranda, Kendra Morris and Julia Haltigan. The band only released single, “Candy,” after they were sent a cease and desist letter from another band named The Singles.
Keri Hilson – D’Signe
Along with a successful singing career, with songs like “Pretty Girl Rock” and “Knock You Down,” Hilson has also written for artists like Ciara, Usher and Mary J. Blige. Her music career started at 14 when she was signed with the girl group, D’Signe. The group disbanded before releasing any music, though the breakup gave Hilson the opportunity to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter.
Ciara – Hearsay
When she was a teenager, Ciara decided she wanted to become a singer after watching Destiny’s Child on TV. Though it wasn’t until she was a member of a girl group named Hearsay that she took music seriously. Though the group later disbanded, Ciara used what she learned from the experience to hone her songwriting, which eventually led her to a solo deal and her first single “Goodies” in 2004.
Missy Elliott – Sista
Before she was a Grammy-winning rapper, Elliott was in an all-female R&B group called Fayze, with three of her friends and Timbaland as the band’s producer. After they were signed to DeVante Swing’s Swing Mob Label, Fayze was renamed Sista and released its first album, 4 All Da Sistas Around da World, in 1994. However, when Swing Mob went down, so did Sista. By the end of 1995, the group disbanded and Elliott was on her way to pursuing a solo career.
Amy Winehouse – Sweet ‘n’ Sour
When she was a teenager, Winehouse attended theatre school where she met her childhood friend, Juliette Ashby, with whom she formed the short=lived rap group, Sweet ‘n’ Sour. Along with Sweet ‘n’ Sour, Winehouse was also a singer for a jazz band called The Bolsha Band in her 20s. She released her first album, Frank, in 2003 and swept the Grammy awards in 2008, winning awards for Album of the Year and Best New Artist.
Ne-Yo – Envy
In the ’90s, Ne-Yo was a member of the R&B group, Envy. From performing at amateur night at the Apollo (where they were booed) to seeking the attention of record executives, the boy band tried everything to get signed. Eventually, in 2000, group disbanded after failing to find success. By 2003, Ne-Yo was writing songs for singers like Christina Milian, Mary J. Blige and Mario before releasing his first solo album, In My Own Words, in 2006.
Usher – NuBeginning
Before he was a solo singer, Usher was a member of the Tennessee-founded quintet NuBeginning, which, according to Complex, sang about “how much they loved their mom and finding their dream girl all the while putting on for their city of Chattanooga.” Their debut album, NuBeginning, was released in 1993 and re-released in 2002, with the title NuBeginning Featuring Usher Raymond IV, after the R&B singer exploded as a solo artist. Usher released her self-titled debut album in 1994, a year after NuBeginning released theirs.
Zoë Kravitz – Elevator Fight
As the daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet, music runs in Kravitz’s blood, so it comes as no surprise that she was in a band at 16. The band’s name was Elevator Fight and Kravitz was its lead singer. Kravitz fronted the band, which performed at festivals like South by Southwest, for a few years before starting another band titled Lolawolf, which went on to open for artists like Miley Cyrus and Lily Allen. Though Kravitz is best known as an actress, she does have some music credits. Along with her band, Kravitz also sang on Janelle Monae’s 2018 song, “Screwed.”