It’s no secret that Texas is a hotbed for musical talent, home to the likes of Buddy Holly, Willie Nelson, and ZZ Top. But while these names stand synonymous with Texas, the Longhorn-laden roots of many young MTV and VH1 starlets are often overlooked. Their songs may not be as quintessentially Texan as Willie’s rendition of “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys,” but these fresh female faces know how to send a hit to the top of the charts just as well as any of the good ol’ boys—and they know how to do it in heels.
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles was born in Houston in the fall of 1981, the eldest child of Mathew and Tina Knowles. Early on Mathew (then a corporate salesman) and Tina (then a beautician and makeup rep) noticed how shy their daughter was, so they placed her in dance classes hoping to help her make friends. When the instructor heard Beyoncé’s voice, she asked the Knowles’ permission to enter their daughter in a school talent show. Making her Texas debut, Beyoncé charmed the audience, won the contest, and went on to win a citywide Sammy Davis Jr. award with a convincing performance of “Home,” from the musical The Wiz.
This was the first of many Houston stages Beyoncé would grace, as a member of Girls Tyme and later as part of the group Destiny’s Child. Both of Beyoncé’s parents devoted themselves to her career. By 1995, Mathew had left his job selling medical equipment to be her manager. Tina compensated by working extra hours at her salon, Headliners, which at the time was one of the largest in Houston.
In 1997 the Knowles’ devotion paid off—Destiny’s Child got an audition with Columbia A&R in New York and got a deal. Since then, Destiny’s Child has been immensely successful, selling 33 million albums worldwide by 2002. Beyoncé went on to release her debut solo album, Dangerously in Love, in June 2003 and has now gained status as an internationally recognized star.
Although she looks quite at home in her oh-so-familiar mansion, Jessica Ann Simpson was born worlds away from Los Angeles and all of its trappings. The Newlyweds star was actually born in Dallas on July 10, 1980, and from an early age, she exercised her vocal chops around the Christian community in the Dallas suburb of Richardson, where her father was a youth minister. Ready to expand her horizons, Simpson went to Orlando when she was twelve to try out for the Mickey Mouse Club. But the final audition went poorly, and Simpson returned to Texas—and to singing (after a little coaxing from her father).
Things began to look up for Simpson when at the age of fourteen she attended a church camp in Dallas and impressed gospel music producer Buster Soaries with a rendition of “Amazing Grace.” The performance led to a contract with Soaries’ new label, Proclaim Records. While working on the record, Simpson attended Pearce High School in Richardson, where she was elected homecoming queen two years in a row and starred in a school production of A Chorus Line.
When Proclaim Records folded in 1996, Simpson’s grandmother paid $10,000 to press, mix, and release Simpson’s album. A Columbia Records A&R rep in Dallas heard the demo and accompanied Simpson to New York to meet Tommy Mottola, the head of Sony Music. Mottola was sold. Simpson signed a contract, dropped out of high school, and along with the rest of her family, moved to Los Angeles to work on her Columbia debut.
Although the move took Simpson away from Texas, her connection with the state remained. When Simpson married Nick Lachey, in 2002, the wedding was not in the Hollywood Hills, but rather in the Hill Country at Austin’s Riverbend Church.
Before she was an American idol, Kelly Clarkson was an everyday citizen of Burleson. But unlike many of her fellow female superstars, Clarkson didn’t test drive her vocal chords until relatively late in the game. When she was