It has been nothing short of a whirlwind: The youngest ever winner of American Idol, Jordin Sparks was just seventeen years old when she won the coveted title. In reflection, it was the best training ground she could have ever had. “I didn’t know it when we were doing the show, but all the interviews and behind-the-scenes stuff prepared me for now. Being on Idol was exciting, exhilarating and slightly traumatic. I won the show I was a fan of, what could be better?” Thrown right in to the spotlight, and in to the recording studio, Jordin passed GO and never looked back.
In the three years that have followed, Jordin has released two albums on 19 Recordings/Jive Records. Her self-titled debut went platinum, selling over 2 million copies worldwide, with the first three singles going top 5 and the album’s second single, “No Air” selling 4 million digital downloads. Jordin’s second release, 2009’s BATTLFIELD, debuted on the Billboard Album chart at number seven, with the first single, also called "Battlefield," reaching the top ten on the Billboard Singles Chart and second single, "S.O.S. (Let the Music Play),” topping the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart, becoming Jordin’s first #1. BATTLFIELD was mostly recorded in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville with marquis collaborators Dr. Luke, T-Pain, Stargate and Max Martin. Sparks also co-wrote four tracks on the album, including “911 Emergency,” “Was I The Only One,” “Faith,” and “The Cure.” Cumulatively, her popular singles have sold almost 9 million downloads/ringtones.
Sparks has toured with Alicia Keys, The Jonas Brothers, Britney Spears and Jesse McCartney, performed for Presidents Bush and Obama, was chosen for a GOT MILK? Ad, won two BET Awards, one American Music Award, one People’s Choice Award and has been nominated for two MTV Awards and one Grammy. In June 2010, Jordin kicked off her first headlining tour, sponsored by Mike and Ike. Hitting 35 theatres across the US, no less than the New York Times crowed “Ms. Sparks sings wholesome, R&B-tinged pop music very, very well.”
So with domination of popular music checked off her bucket list, what was Sparks going to do next?
First up, Broadway. Debuting as Nina Rosario in the Tony award winning musical In The Heights, Sparks will spend 12 weeks on the great white way in the show New York magazine calls “a stylistically groundbreaking 21st-century musical.” While no stranger to singing live (hello American Idol!), Broadway has long been a goal for the Arizona native Sparks. Her dad, professional athlete Phillippi Sparks, was a defensive back for the NY Giants, which allowed her family to spend time living near New York City. “When my dad played for the NY Giants, we went to see shows and musicals quite often. I remember seeing “Smokey Joe’s Café,” and falling in love with that musical from the first note. I loved seeing the characters express themselves through song. It really stuck with me.”
Joining the cast of In The Heights in August, Jordin admits to a little case of healthy nervousness mixed with genuine excitement. “I did all types of theatre from middle school through my freshman year of high school, but Broadway is a whole different animal! I am looking forward to this being a new challenge for me. I will be doing something I am familiar with, but in a whole new way. I am also excited to meet new people and to be on my own for the first time in New York City. I’m going to push my limits and see what I can do.”
Jordin is also looking forward to pushing herself further with acting. Having been bitten by the “bug,” she has a keen interest in developing that side of her talent, and has already guest starred on Disney’s The Suite Life on Deck and Nickelodeon’s Big Time Rush. “I would love to do more acting. I played myself on Suite Life and Big Time Rush, but I think it would be a lot fun to be another character – although playing myself wasn’t too hard!”
Another calling Jordin takes seriously is her humanitarian efforts. With Mike and Ike sponsoring her tour, the company, along with Jordin, supports Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which helps to raise money for children with cancer. Jordin is also working with Allstate for the “Thumbs Up to X the TXT” campaign to encourage teens and their families not to text while driving. Sparks’ concertgoers will have the opportunity to make the pledge not to text and drive by adding their thumbprint – the symbol of their pledge – to a traveling banner at each of Sparks’ shows. There is also a Facebook virtual pledge page, and a petition urging Congress to address the issue of texting while driving (facebook.com/thumbsuppledge).
Jordin is also the main spokesperson for the “I’m M.A.D., Are You?” campaign (http://www.immadareyou.com/). The acronym stands for “Making A Difference,” with the goal of motivating people to find something they’re passionate about and channeling that energy into helping others. Get "mad" about litter on the side of the road and donate time to a clean-up program, get "mad" about sick children in hospitals and take time to visit the them at a nearby hospital, get "mad" about illiteracy and volunteer to read to children or be a tutor. Says Sparks, “However big or small, we want you to get "mad" and make a difference in your community. It’s amazing how wonderful it feels when you know you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.”
Jordin has indeed made a difference in people’s lives. She has entertained audiences across the globe since we first met her as the youngest winner of American Idol. With her headlining tour, upcoming Broadway debut, big city living, charity work and more, it’s hard to believe she hasn’t even turned 21, something that’s coming up on her agenda at the end of this year (December 22nd). With everything she has achieved, what does Jordin think about turning twenty-one? She laughs, “It’s weird for me to even think about! Time is going by so fast. I could go to a club if I wanted to, but I still can’t rent a car! I take things day by day. I just want to keep learning and growing and trying new things. Right now, I am good right where I am.”