Lauryn Hill was born in East Orange, New Jersey, but her family would eventually settle in South Orange, where she would meet a fellow future star: actor Zach Braff.
Hill immersed herself in Motown and R&B at a young age when she discovered her mom's old albums in her attic. She began singing in earnest at age 7 when her mom took her to see a production of Annie. After that, she drove her family crazy by singing the show's tunes non-stop.
At age 12, Hill competed on the amateur portion of It's Showtime at the Apollo, singing the Miracles' "Who's Lovin' You."
Hill met her Fugees bandmates, Prakazrel Michel and his cousin Wyclef Jean, when she was just 13.
Moviegoers may remember Hill from her role in Sister Act II: Back in the Habit, but she also had a stint on the CBS soap opera As the World Turns (playing Kira Johnson) and played a gum-chewing elevator operator in the period drama King of the Hill, starring Jesse Bradford and Adrien Brody.
Hill wrote much of the material for her debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, while pregnant with her first child, Zion David, with Rohan Marley (Bob Marley's son). She credits the pregnancy for re-igniting her creativity: "I had the desire to write in a capacity that I hadn't done in a while. I don't know if it's a hormonal or emotional thing... I was very in touch with my feelings at the time." She added: "Every time I got hurt, every time I was disappointed, every time I learned, I just wrote a song."
Hill made the 1999 Grammy Awards a night of firsts. With her five Grammy wins for her debut album: Best New Artist, Best R&B Song, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, Best R&B Album and Album of the Year - she became the first woman to win five Grammy Awards in the same night, beating Carole's King's record of four. She was also the first woman to earn ten nominations in one year, and the album was the first hip-hop record to win Album of the Year.
Years before stardom came knocking, Hill featured in MC Lyte's 1991 Off-Broadway hip-hop rendering of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night
. She also appeared that same year as an extra in the video
for the female rapper's "Poor Georgie."