After lending her voice to various Charlie Brown cartoon specials, Fergie joins the cast of the Disney variety show Kids Incorporated, along with future stars Jennifer Love Hewitt and Mario Lopez.
Five years after forming the girl group Wild Orchid with fellow Kids Incorporated alum Renee Sandstrom and childhood friend Stefanie Ridel, Fergie and her bandmates release their self-titled debut album. "We were non-categorizable," she tells EW. "Too urban for pop radio and too pop for urban radio." In 1998, the group opens for 'N Sync on a string of tour dates, where Fergie briefly dates Justin Timberlake. "He was 16 and I was 23," she recalls to Australia's Courier Mail. "It was before he got real heavy with Britney." Wild Orchid releases another album two years later before calling it quits in 2001.
After experimenting with drugs in L.A.'s underground music scene, Fergie becomes a crystal meth addict. She shrinks to 90 lbs. and admits to friends and family that she has a problem. "I wasn't liking who I was," she tells PEOPLE in 2006. "So I stopped cold turkey and came clean with everybody." That May, she approaches the Black Eyed Peas's will.i.am and asks him to work on her proposed solo album. He does one better, getting her to sing on the band's upcoming single "Shut Up."
After Fergie officially joins the band, the Black Eyed Peas release Elephunk, which goes triple platinum and turns the band into an international pop sensation. The record features such hits as "Let's Get It Started," "Hey Mama," and "Where is the Love?"
With Fergie taking a more central role in the group, the Black Eyed Peas broaden their mainstream appeal with the album Monkey Business, which sells almost four million copies on the strength of singles "Don't Phunk With My Heart" and her trademark anthem "My Humps." The album earns four Grammy nominations, including a win for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for "Don't Phunk With My Heart."
Fergie returns to acting as a cruise-ship singer in the ocean-liner adventure Poseidon. The action flick costs more than $150 million to produce but earns just $20.3 million opening weekend. In April 2007, she appears in the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez horror-flick Grindhouse as a hitchhiker who meets a grim end.
Fergie's risqué debut solo single, "London Bridge," hits No. 1 on the pop charts, fulfilling a childhood ambition. "I started crying, bawling really," she tells Rolling Stone about receiving the news. "I felt like I was 7 again. I started going over my life, all the ups and downs, everything that I've worked for. And finally this."
Three years in the making, Fergie's solo album, The Dutchess, finally arrives. EW says that Fergie "retains the group's [the Black Eyed Peas] proven gift for indelible melodies, but reaches beyond their cartoonish poses and half-cocked raps for a fuller, more diverse sound." It sells more than 2.4 million copies.
After winning a Grammy with the Black Eyed Peas (Best Pop Performance for "My Humps"), Fergie appears in PEOPLE's Most Beautiful issue. She also releases her third No. 1 single, "Big Girls Don't Cry," (pictured with Milo Ventimiglia) which is nominated for a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): MGM/Everett; Barry King/WireImage; Jemal Countess/WireImage; Devan/INF; REED SAXON/AP; Mario Anzuoni/REUTERS; Frank Micelotta/Getty; Ellen Von Unwerth