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Success Story - Jul 30, 2001

Kiely’s mother helped 3LW to chart success...

picture 3 Little Women started out as Naturi Naughton, Kiely Williams, both New Jersey natives, and Adrienne Bailon, who hails from New York. These three teenagers made the Billboard Hot 100 with their first single, "No More (Baby I’m A Do Right)", released in October 2000, and scored platinum with their debut album, "3LW", released a month later.

The three members joined the group in various ways: Kiely is the original member, and it was her mother, Michele Williams, a music artist manager and renowned EMI songwriter, who devised the project. Inspired by the 1998 movie of "Little Women", Michele had been wanting to develop an act of her own at her self-run management company, Big Cat Management, based in Newark, New Jersey.

Kiely was a keen vocalist and performer as a child. When she was just five years old she appeared in a TV pilot produced by Robert DeNiro and starring Lawrence Fishburne. Because her mother worked with recording artists and there was a recording studio at home, Kiely was surrounded by music and musicians throughout her childhood, which she aptly describes as a trial period of "(...) listening and learning".

When she tells her mum she wants to be in a group, the idea seems to fit, and Michele takes the project on with much enthusiasm, aided by her sister Tse Williams, who also becomes heavily involved. Big Cat Management shares activities with Tse’s production company Nine Lives, and it is this second company that is responsible for setting up auditions to recruit additional members, which are advertised on the Internet, on flyers, at different performing art schools and by word-of-mouth.

Of Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian descent, Adrienne grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and also had a musical background: "When family and friends came over, my sister and I would sing for everybody". She was an enthusiastic member of her local church choir, and it was with them that she sang with Ricky Martin, at Madison Square Garden.

Apparently the Latin superstar walked through the venue, where they were rehearsing at the time, and was so impressed that he asked the choir to sing backing vocals at his concert. Fame beckoned: when she was chosen, in 1999, as the second member of 3 Little Women, from amongst 10 young girls, it was because of her obvious star quality.

Trans Newark, the house that Tse Williams grew up in, is equipped with a recording studio and dance area and turned into a training centre for the girls. They are taken out of school, and, although they also study the more strictly academic subjects with the help of a home tutor, it is the development of their singing and dancing capabilities that their rigorous schedule is geared towards. Within two weeks of moving in, they record a demo, and concentrate then on dancing routines that they could potentially perform for record labels.

Michele approaches Arista, Jive and Sony, and, due to the valuable contacts that both Michele and Tse had built up over years in the business, the girls are rapidly invited to high-profile showcases. Just four months after getting together, Adrienne and Kiely perform "Crush on You" and "'Til I Say So", two tracks co-written with the Williams sisters that later make it onto the album, for founder and President Clive Caulder at Jive; at Arista for founder and then President Clive Davis, where they sing and dance on his 40.000 dollar desk; and finally for A&R David McPhearson and CEO Tommy Mottola at Sony.

Because both Michele and Tse had previously worked with David McPhearson (then at Jive), when they managed Joe, and also because they feel the bilingual album needs the backing of a major with an international presence, they sign a licensing deal with Epic/Sony in July 1999, still with the third band member missing from the line-up.

Soon the time comes to look for the songs that will ensure 3 Little Women’s breakthrough, a process in which Michele and Tse’s contacts again prove useful. Tse calls up an old acquaintance, Brian Postelle, a publisher who works at Famous Music in Los Angeles, and holds a meeting with him in which she is offered two tracks that seem perfect for the group. These go on to become 3 Little Women’s first two singles, "No More (Baby I’m A Do Right)", written by Nathan Butler, Cameron Giles and Sean Hall and "Playas Gon’ Play", written by Nathan Butler and Sean Hall, both produced by Sean Hall.

Naturi is the latest recruit: she completed the trio six months after the showcases, and came to the band via a recommendation made by the New Jersey Pack Performing Arts School where she was studying. Her vocal talent had previously made itself evident in the choir of her local Baptist church. She seemed to fit very well with the band, and gave strength to the idea that 3LW could be a band with broad appeal.

In their new formation, they shoot a videoclip for "No More" in New York, which is directed by Chris Robinson, and which gains the band plenty of exposure on MTV, The Box and BET. Because of this, Ed McMahon invites them to tour with the show "The Next Big Star" for 13 weeks at the end of 2000, which gains them further exposure, and definitively gets the ball rolling. Lots of press and TV appearances follow, and the girls get a chance to act, playing an all-female group called Blue Mascara in an episode of the Nickelodeon series, "Taina". They also contribute their track "Til I Say So" to the 2000 teen flick "Bring It On".

Michele and Tse, who, although, David McPhearson is the official A&R, take all the major decisions involving the band, set up the production team for the debut album, "3LW", which include such luminaries as Full Force (N'Sync, Backstreet Boys), Tony Nicholas (Gerald Levert, Subway), John John (Jon. B), Joe P. (Mya), Co-Stars (Sisqo of Dru Hill, Miss Elliott) and Sean Hall (Escape, 98 Degrees, Aaron Hall). Tse and Michele act as Executive Producers and contribute to the writing.

Their debut album “3LW” was certified Platinum in the US in 2001, due to 1 million sold copies.

Written by Luci Vázquez - Research by Stefan Sörin & Kimbel Bouwman

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