With her soulful voice and striking looks, season five runner-up Katharine McPhee emerged as one of the most memorable and promising artists ever to emerge from the hit reality competition series, "American Idol.
" She was born on March 25, 1984 in Los Angeles to Peisha Arten, a cabaret singer and vocal coach, and Daniel McPhee, a television producer. McPhee began performing in musicals and plays at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, CA, from which she graduated in 2002.
After high school, McPhee trained at the Boston Conservatory of Music before heading back to L.A. to jumpstart her singing and acting career. She appeared in a number of musicals in 2005, including productions of both "Annie Get Your Gun" and "The Ghost and Mrs.
Muir." In the fall of 2005, McPhee tried out for season five of "American Idol," where she wowed the judges with her soulful rendition of Billie Holliday's "God Bless the Child" and advanced to the semi-finals round in Hollywood.
With her beauty queen looks and stellar voice, McPhee was pegged as one of the frontrunners early on in the competition. She consistently made strong impressions through her performances, including her much discussed rendition of K.
T. Tunstall's hit single "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree," for which she sang on her knees. McPhee made it all the way to the finals, but in the end, she lost to the silver-haired blues singer, Taylor Hicks.
Boosted by the exposure she received on "Idol," McPhee nabbed a featured role in the comedy feature, "The House Bunny," in which she appeared as a pregnant sorority girl. She also guest starred on the drama series "CSI: NY" as a singer and crime victim who resorts to murder as revenge, and appeared on the hit comedy show "Community" as the daughter of Chevy Chase's character.
McPhee also stared as Karen Cartwright opposite Debra Messing in both seasons of the musical drama Smash, executive produced by Steven Spielberg. While McPhee dabbled in acting, she did not stop making music.
In 2007, she released her self-titled debut album featuring the single "Over It," which peaked at No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Her sophomore album, "Unbroken" drew attention for featuring the previously brunette singer sporting a platinum shag on the cover.
Her third album, the holiday-themed "Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You," was released in October 2010. The album debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard Top Holiday Albums chart. Her fourth album, Hysteria, was released in September 2015, and consisted of pop originals.
Her fifth album, I Fall in Love Too Easily, was a collection of romantic standards and was released on November 17, 2017. In 2018 and 2019, McPhee played the role of Jenna Hutcherson in Waitress on Broadway and West End.
In December 2011, McPhee became a spokesperson for the Malaria No More organization to help raise awareness about the campaign to eradicate malaria.
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