Tatyana Marisol Ali (born January 24, 1979) is an American actress and R&B singer, best known for her role as Ashley Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Ali was born in Brooklyn, New York. Her mother Sonia was a nurse and is of Afro-Panamanian descent. Her father Sheriff Ali is of Indo-Trinidadian descent. She has two younger sisters, Anastasia and Kimberly. She attended Saw Mill Road Elementary School and Grand Avenue Junior High School in Bellmore, New York, Marymount High School in West Los Angeles, California, and The Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles. In 2002, she graduated with a bachelor's degree in government and African American studies from Harvard University.
By the age of six, Ali had begun her acting career. She was a regular child performer on Sesame Street starting in 1985, even appearing with Herbie Hancock in a musical number. She also appeared on Star Search two times. She made her breakthrough when she was cast as Ashley Banks for the television sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1990. She sang on various episodes of the show, including a heavily altered Aretha Franklin's "Respect" and the original song "Make Up Your Mind" produced by Robert Jerald of N'Spyre Music Productions. Will Smith asked her if she seriously considered pursuing a musical career. Despite her singing ability, she concentrated on her acting career on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air the next few years.
In the final season of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1995–1996, Ali began preparing herself for her musical debut. The result was the album Kiss The Sky, which was certified gold in early 1999. The album spawned the hit song "Daydreamin'", produced by Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, which peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and on the UK Singles Chart. The album spawned two further UK hits, "Boy You Knock Me Out", featuring Will Smith, which peaked at #3 and is her biggest hit to date; and "Everytime", which was her third top 20 hit in the UK, peaking at #20. She made an appearance in Smith's album Willennium for the track "Who Am I" with MC Lyte.
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