Willa Ford

Time will tell if the infamous Willa Ford will earn more attention for her music, for her relationship with Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter, or neither. Fueled by envy, fans of BSB have heaped abuse upon Ford, setting up at least three anti-Willa websites and accusing her of a cornucopia of crimes and faults, ranging from crossed eyes to physical abuse of Carter and BSB fans. The fact that Ford had her first national tour opening for BSB helped strengthen fans' accusations that she was just using their beloved Nick for her own gain. However, when you get past all of the anti-Willa hype, the story of her path to stardom doesn't look all that different from her Florida brethren. Basically, Willa Ford is an attractive girl who had a long history of professional work as a child who signed record contracts with companies who wanted to capitalize on the lucrative teen market. Born on January 22, 1981, in Ruskin, Florida, Willa Ford (born Amanda Lee Williford) began singing at the age of eight with the Tampa Bay Children's Choir and by the time she was 11, she joined her first professional group, the Tampa-based performing arts troupe Entertainment Revue. The group, which consisted of 20 girls ranging in age from five to 16, performed throughout the region at fairs and conventions, as well as at Walt Disney World and Busch Gardens. At 15, she briefly became part of a vocal quartet called FLA but soon left them for a solo career. Performing under the name Mandah, she was signed to MCA, who intended to market her as a clean-cut teen act. During her time at the label, she changed her stage name to Willa Ford to avoid confusion with Mandy Moore. MCA later dropped her, in part because of the negative publicity that conflicted with their intended good-girl image; Ford signed with Atlantic, who placed one of her songs on a Pokémon soundtrack and then released her debut album, Willa Was Here in 2001. The music is pure teen pop with its use of vocoders, pop/R&B grooves, and dance beats, but the lead single, "I Wanna Be Bad," and the highly sexualized cover art seem to indicate that Atlantic is embracing Ford's bad-girl image instead of trying to counter it. ~ Stacia Proefrock

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