From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
A hot dinner date for Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson and her boyfriend, Las Vegas star Josh Duhamel, means preheating the oven. "We had a lasagna-making contest one night," says Fergie, who wanted to follow her mother's secret recipe. Sorry, Mom, Duhamel won. "Mine was a soggy mess, like a big goulash," says Fergie. "I tried to add my own flair and it didn't work."

Can't blame a girl for trying—especially when Fergie's free-spirited style helped catapult the Black Eyed Peas to triple-platinum heights and is currently fueling her sparkling solo debut, The Dutchess. Fusing funk, pop and kitsch into catchy tunes (cue her latest hit, "London Bridge"), Fergie, 31, "has fun with these songs," says the Peas' will.i.am, who produced the album. Still, as good as life is now, Fergie admits she had to conquer her darker impulses to get here. "I struggled a lot," she says.

Specifically, she suffered a crippling addiction to crystal meth that she developed while a member of female pop trio Wild Orchid. Already a successful child actor after five years on Disney's variety show Kids Incorporated, Fergie joined Orchid at age 16, thrilled to launch the career she had dreamed of as a kid in Hacienda Heights, Calif., belting out Donna Summer tunes at home. But as the band was force-fed "corny songs," she grew increasingly restless—and resentful.

So Fergie waded into L.A.'s edgier underground music scene, where she started experimenting with Ecstasy. "Drugs became my new creative outlet," says Fergie, who soon got hooked on crystal meth. Her dependence grew so consuming that her 5′2″ frame wasted away to 90 lbs. When confronted by the other Orchid members, she blamed her deterioration on bulimia. "It was the fight-or-flight instinct," says Fergie. "I chose flight instead of dealing with it."

In 2001 she crashed. Having burned through the money she earned as a kid actor, in debt and despondent, she shut herself off from her bandmates and her mom, Terri Jackson (a speech therapist who split from her father, Pat Ferguson, a former principal, when Fergie was 16). She would stare at her frail body in the mirror in shock. "I wasn't liking who I was," she says. "A voice inside of me said, 'Listen, you can choose this drug-free path.' So I stopped cold turkey and came clean with everybody." While hypnotherapy sparked her recovery, she found refuge at her mom's house. "My mom wanted to save my life," says Fergie, who says she still enjoys an occasional glass of wine. "It was like starting from scratch."

Her professional life soon took a new turn too. After Wild Orchid opened for the Black Eyed Peas in 2001, Fergie approached will.i.am backstage and asked him to work on her solo album. He did one better: He recruited her for the Peas' single "Shut Up," and then his bandmates apl.de.ap and Taboo made her the fourth Pea in the pod in '03. The rest is "My Humps" history.

These days Fergie gets to share her happy ending with Duhamel, her beau of two years. Shortly after she read an article about him in which he admitted to having a dream about her, the Peas guest-starred on NBC's Las Vegas. While on the set, Fergie asked Duhamel, 33, "if his dream was good." It was—but the reality is better. "Fergie and Josh are super adorable together," says her sister Dana Ferguson. "He's fun and genuine to everyone in the family." When she's touring and Duhamel's filming, "we send pictures to each other all the time—I have huge phone bills," says Fergie, who shoots down engagement rumors (P.S., she's not pregnant either). But when asked if she could see herself engaged to him, Fergie coyly smiles and says, "Definitely." Just as likely? Her Lasagna-Goulash Surprise will not be served at the reception.

  • Contributors:
  • Tiffany McGee/Boston.