Melissa "Missy" Elliott was born in Portsmouth, Virginia and spent much of her childhood in a mobile home community in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Even at a young age, she was obsessed with music. It was her only outlet to escape an abusive home life at the hands of her father, Ronnie Elliott, who was a US Marine. She described a particularly terrifying incident to the Observer Music Monthly in 2001:
"Once, he pulled a gun on us and forced us both outside naked. He was crazy like that. I lived in constant fear. I had friends but I never stayed at anyone's house because I was scared that I would come home and find my mother dead. I remember seeing my mother crouched in the corner with her arm out of its socket. There isn't a day goes by that I don't think about it all."
By the time she was a teen, she was desperate to escape her abusive father and wrote letters to her idols Michael and Janet Jackson for help. She is still heartbroken that they never responded. She said: "I would check my mailbox every day, come rain, sleet or snow. They never wrote back. I cried every night about that. Now, I'm friends with Janet. I write songs for her. Sometimes, though, we'll be in a club together and I'll find myself thinking, 'But you never wrote me back when I needed you.'"
Missy and her mother left her father when the singer was 14.
Missy Elliott remembers all too well the stress of growing up in an abusive household, but it wasn't just her father's explosive temper that plagued the singer. In a VH1 Behind the Music special, Missy revealed she was also sexually abused for a year by her 16-year-old cousin. She remembered, "Each day he wanted me to come to the house after school. It became sexual, which, for me at eight years old, I had no clue what that was, but I knew something was wrong."
"Being molested ... it don't disappear. You remember it as if it was yesterday," she added.
Since 1997, Missy has released seven albums: Supa Dupa Fly, Da Real World, Miss E...So Addictive, Under Construction, This Is Not a Test!, The Cookbook and Block Party. She is a five-time Grammy Award winner and holds the record as the only female rapper to have six platinum releases, while Under Construction earned double-platinum status.
With her longtime songwriting partner Timbaland, she has also penned hits for Aaliyah, Total, Nicole Wray, Jodeci and Destiny's Child. Missy is also credited on songs for Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey and Brandy, to name a few. Her first production credit was on Ginuwine's 1996 album Ginuwine...the Bachelor.
While growing up, Missy was so involved with her music she abandoned everything else. She only worried about her grades when it was time to change F's to A's on her report card. She shocked everyone, including herself, when she scored genius levels on an IQ test. When she was forced to retake it, the outcome was the same. As a class clown, she was disappointed when she had to leave her friends and skip ahead two grades. Her plan was to fail all of her classes on purpose, but her family moved before she could commit scholastic suicide.
Missy caught her big break while living in Portsmouth, North Carolina. She had formed the group Sista with three friends and her neighbor/songwriting partner Timbaland (Tim Moseley). Singer-producer DeVante Swing was impressed and Missy was the one who stood out when the others faltered in the studio (and Swing's label went under). Everything looked good except for one thing: Missy's weight. She was crushed when studio execs deemed her too chubby to be a star.
"They'd broken my heart," she told the Observer Music Monthly. "They said I could sing, I could write, but that I looked wrong. That was the lowest thing you could say. I didn't forget."
Missy and Timbaland focused on selling their songs and scored their first number-one hit with Aaliyah's "If Your Girl Only Knew" from her One in a Million album in 1996. The duo penned nine tracks for the album, including the other popular singles "One in a Million," "Hot Like Fire" and "4 Page Letter." Suddenly, Missy's weight was no longer an issue.
Missy Elliott is passionate about cutting through the drama and bringing men and women together to create music - but sometimes the fun-loving singer accidentally stirs the pot. In 2002, Missy tossed a barb Christina Aguilera's way when she told MTV News the singer's new glam makeover looked like Marilyn Manson when she really meant Marilyn Monroe.
By this time, the two performers certainly weren't strangers. Missy co-produced the hit cover of Labelle's 1974 song "Lady Marmalade
," performed by Aguilera, Pink, Lil' Kim and Mya for the Moulin Rouge!
soundtrack in 2001. They collaborated again in 2004 for a remake of "Car Wash
" - originally a Rose Royce disco song - for the animated film Shark Tale
Missy is known for being a prolific musician. Whether she's songwriting, producing or rapping, she's always churning out new content. So it was surprising when she went virtually radio silent for six years after the release of The Cookbook. Although she still worked with other artists like Ciara, the industry was sorely missing a new album from Missy herself. The problem wasn't a creative dry spell, but an incurable disease. In 2011, the singer confided to People magazine that she'd been struggling with Graves' disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by an overactive thyroid. She first noticed symptoms in 2008 while she had a startling episode in her car.
"My leg was jumping," she said. "I couldn't keep the brake down and almost crashed."
With radiation and medication, Missy was able to get her symptoms under control and released a new album, Block Party, in 2012.
Missy Elliott hails from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Both her superstar producing collaborators Pharrell Williams and Timbaland come from the same city. Pharrell Williams, in fact, first heard about her in high school.
She won the MTV Video Vanguard award in 2019. In her speech, she dedicated it to the dance community, which she called "the beat of the heart."