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 a record six times. The victory lead to her being cast in her first Broadway role, the orphaned child of a runaway slave in the short-lived musical Maggie Flynn.
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. Her first two albums failed to generate a buzz as the label couldn't find Mills' sound, and she left the label in 1976.
In 1975, Mills' career took a rise when she portrayed Dorothy in an African-American adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz entitled The Wiz, where she began dating Michael Jackson. 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 three years later and by Whitney Houston for her dramatic musical performance debut on TV in the early 1980s.
Musical success was elusive 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 "Never Knew Love Like This Before". The single became a #12 R&B and #6 Pop hit in 1980, even reaching #4 in the UK. 1981's Stephanie featured a top hit for her and 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?", as well as the #3 dance chart hit "Pilot Error", which was her first dance hit in the U.S. In 1984, Mills had her second UK hit with "The Medicine Song" (#29), which also reached #1 on the U.S. dance chart.
Success for Mills had peaked until 1985, when her version of the Angela Winbush-penned "I Have 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 from the album include the title track, originally a hit for Gladys Knight & the Pips in 1971; a three-week #1 R&B hit, "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 from 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 released from her contract with MCA in 1992. Mills released a live gospel recording in 1995 on GospoCentric Records entitled Personal Inspirations. The set was produced by Donald Lawrence and featured a spiritualized retooling of her hit "I Have Learned To Respect The Power Of Love." Thereafter, Stephanie took a break from recording to care for her son.
Mills returned to musical theater 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 BeBe Winans and rapper DMX to name a few. She made a comeback in independently-releasing Born For This on 3 August 2004. Her first single in over a decade, "Can't Let Him Go," garnered buzz at urban contemporary radio. Mills is currently touring. A 2-disc, career-spanning greatest hits compilation entitled Gold was released by Hip-O/Universal Music earlier last year. Mills just finished production of a live DVD recorded at BB Kings in New York which will be sold online and at her shows.
Mills made an appearance in the 2007 hit gospel TV series Sunday Best and was recently featured in a live interview on The Yolanda Adams Morning Show, where she mentioned that she now has her own record label (JM Records).
Mills performed prior to Pope Benedict XVI celebrating Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York on April 20, 2008. On a recent interview Mills says she should be releasing her Live Cd during the end of this year and also the Live CD will include two new tracks.
Stephanie is the fifth child born; there are six children in total.
She was romantically involved with Michael Jackson for a short period of time while she was doing The Wiz. Mills was briefly married to Jeffrey Daniel of Shalamar on June 13, 1980, but shortly divorced after 18 months. Divorced three times; Stephanie finally gave birth to a son, Farad in February 2001 with a friend/employee of hers. She currently resides in North Carolina.
When Mills married Daniel, it's rumored that a friend of Mills, allegedly tried to block the limo from leaving the church after the wedding. Mills once stated in an interview that Daniel?s friends were very unfriendly towards her and reports of domestic violence surfaced shortly after the marriage. Allegedly, singer Jody Watley wasn?t happy about the marriage either, because she had been linked to Daniel prior to the marriage. Daniel gave Stephanie's family the address to the wrong church because he knew they would object to her marrying him, to Mills' parents he was not on her level and personally believe he was just after her fame and money.
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