White caught the singing bug at around 5 years old after she saw Diana Ross' performance in the movie Lady Sings The Blues. The Los Angeles native grew up singing in church, where her mother was the choir director.
At 16, she tried out for the stage production of Dreamgirls even though the age limit was 18 or older. She made it through several rounds of auditions, but after realizing she couldn't skip school to go on tour, she left without even finding out if she'd landed the role.
Her first professional writing credit was on "Automatic Passion," which was recorded by R&B singer Stephanie Mills for her self-titled album in 1985.
She was discovered by R&B singer O'Bryan and his manager, Soul Train founder Don Cornelius, who were auditioning singers to go on a world tour with O'Bryan and the funk band Cameo.
She signed with Warner Bros. on the strength of "Facts Of Love," a collaboration with the jazz fusion keyboardist Jeff Lorber. The label paired her with Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds and Antonio "LA" Reid, architects of the New Jack Swing movement, which brought a hip-hop flavor to modern R&B. Her 1988 self-titled debut, featuring the hits "The Way You Love Me
," and "Secret Rendezvous
," established the singer as a hot commodity in the R&B scene.
Her second album, Ritual of Love
(1991), was helmed by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the songwriting/production duo behind Janet Jackson's white-hot success as a solo artist. The album featured her first and only #1 Hot 100 entry: "Romantic
In 1992, she married Terry Lewis in Las Vegas. The pair welcomed a daughter, Ashley, but the union was short-lived. Despite her professional success with multiple hit singles and two Grammy nominations, the toll of her divorce and the death of her mother drove White out of the spotlight in the mid-'90s.
During her 17-year hiatus from the music business, she ran an interior design and real estate business near Sacramento, California. She resurfaced in 2012 with her fourth album, Carpe Diem.
In 2017, she co-wrote and starred in the film Gale and the Storm, about a former singer who is coaxed back into the music business by a famous producer. White says the story is loosely based on her own life.