Stephanie Mills (born March 22, 1957 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American Grammy Award-winning R&B and soul singer and former Broadway star. Mills began her career appearing in her first play at the age of 9. Two years later, Mills won Amateur Night at the world-famous Apollo Theater where she won over a record six times.
In 1975, Mills' career took a rise when she first played Dorothy in an African-American adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz called The Wiz on Broadway. Filled with a more urban style of music and scenery, The Wiz made Mills a star particularly because of her stellar performance of the song, Home. It would become her signature tune for years, and would be covered later by Diana Ross for the big-screen adaptation six years later and by Whitney Houston for her dramatic musical performance debut on TV in the early-1980s.
In 1973, Mills' musical career began as she opened for the Isley Brothers. A year later, after being discovered by Jackson 5 singer Jermaine Jackson, she signed with Motown Records in 1974. Her first two albums fail to generate a buzz as the label couldn't find Mills' sound. In 1976, she left the label and continued on with her tenure on The Wiz.
Musical success was eluded until 1979, when signed under the 20th Century Fox record label, Mills found her breakthrough in disco music, recording now-classic danceable songs such as "Put Your Body In It", "You Can Get Over" and "What Cha Gonna Do With My Lovin'". The resulting album, What Cha Gonna Do With My Lovin, was Mills' first gold record.
She quickly followed the success with 1980's Sweet Sensation, which featured Mills' biggest hit to date, the Reggie Lucas-produced "I Never Knew Love Like This Before". The single became a #1 R&B and Top 5 Pop hit in 1980. 1981's Stephanie featured a top hit for her and soul legend Teddy Pendergrass entitled "Two Hearts", while her 1983 album, Merciless, featured her hit cover of Prince's "How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore?"
Success for Mills had peaked until 1985, when her version of the Angela Winbush-penned "I've Learned to Respect the Power of Love", hit #1 on the R&B singles chart. Mills truly returned, however, with her next release, If I Were Your Woman in 1987 under MCA Records, which she was now signed. The hits coming off the album include the title track, originally a hit for Gladys Knight & the Pips in 1971, "I Feel Good All Over" (a song her label mate Patti LaBelle didn't want to cover), and "You're Puttin' a Rush on Me", to name a few of the songs released. The album reached platinum status.
Mills' success continued with 1989's Home album. The hits off that album include "The Comfort of a Man", the title track, a cover of her old standard from The Wiz and another song penned by Winbush titled "Something in the Way You Make Me Feel". It became another platinum record for Mills.
Mills would record one more album (1992's "Something Real") and a Christmas album before being let go from her contract with MCA in 1992. Mills released her first gospel record in 1995, and then took a break from recording to care for her son.
Mills returned to musical theatre in 1997, playing the lead in a major production of Stephen Schwartz's Children of Eden in New Jersey, which Schwartz has called "the definitive production" of the show. Mills was heavily featured in the soundtrack CD that resulted from this production.
In 2000, Mills began a comeback with singles recorded with Be Be Winans and rapper DMX to name a few. She truly made her comeback in 2004 with the independently-released Born For This, which generated buzz for the urban contemporary single, "Can't Let Him Go", her first new record on the radio in over a decade. She currently is touring.