With her soulful voice, mesmerizing personality and obvious ambition, Tamyra Gray landed a coveted spot as a season one finalist on "American Idol" (Fox, 2002- ) before establishing herself as a successful actress. Tamyra Monica Gray was born on July 26, 1979 in Takoma Park, MD. Early on, she began showing signs of having an ear for music, but her older siblings overshadowed her talent with their own singing abilities. That all changed in the seventh grade when Gray performed in a school talent show and won a massive ovation. That same year, she also learned to play the guitar, piano, flute and the recorder. With her heart set on a musical career, Gray also pursued other avenues to gain exposure such as entering beauty pageants; in 1998, she won the title Miss Atlanta. Gray attended Georgia State University, where she studied business law and sound recording technology. Prior to auditioning for "American Idol," Gray appeared in TV commercials, performed background vocals for rapper DMX, and danced for a hip-hop company. In 2002, Gray auditioned for the first season of "American Idol" and made it to the semi-finals round in Hollywood.
As one of the Top 10 hopefuls, Gray wowed the audiences with her stirring renditions of classics like "If I Were Your Woman" (1970) by Gladys Knight & the Pips, and Burt Bacharach's "A House Is Not a Home" (1964). During the show, many critics and fans believed that Gray would make it to the finals, even clinch the title, but in the end, she was eliminated and only finished fourth. Gray, however, quickly landed herself a recording contract and released her debut album, The Dreamer in 2004. She also parlayed her "Idol" exposure into a successful acting career; she guest starred on the crime dramas "Tru Calling" (Fox, 2003-05) and "Las Vegas" (NBC, 2003-08), as well as had a recurring role as an abused student on the drama "Boston Public" (Fox, 2000-04). In 2007, she joined the Broadway cast of the smash hit musical "Rent" (1994) as AIDS-stricken nightclub dancer Mimi Márquez. The following year, Gray appeared as Anne Hathaway's singer best friend in the independent film, "Rachel Getting Married."