Santilli was born to an Italian father and a French-Canadian mother. Santilli's earliest performances began at age 9 playing trumpet for her father’s Italian wedding band in Toronto. During her schooling, she hooked up with her first band, Bass is Base, a band which gained national attention . The trio’s funk and soul fusion garnered them many an award, (Juno award, CMVA, MMVA, etc.), and two successful albums with A&M/Polygram & Island Records in the U.S. She left the band and set out to find her own sound. The band broke up while the three members were writing and recording demos for their third album. Ivana asked to be released from her contract with A&M records, and then wrote and recorded 10 new songs as a solo artist within a month of the breakup. She then began working as a session musician (keyboards, Back up vocals) with various bands: Soul Attorneys, Women ah Run Tings, Punjabi by Nature, Holly McNarland.
Following the dissolution of Bass is Base, her solo career began with the release of her album Brown in April 1999.
The album Brown became one of the most successful independent albums released in Canada that year outselling major label releases. The album was unique in that it showcased Ivana’s many influences and had something for everyone, soul, bossa nova & drum 'n bass ("Sun + Moon = Tomorrow"). It was this music and her live performances that helped garner Brown critical and commercial success and helped Ivana become one of Canada’s most distinctive and talented artists; along with being a triple threat (vocals, keys, trumpet), Ivana is also fluent in Italian and French. Her Brown album, also featured '"If Ever I Fall", a duet with singer Glenn Lewis during his early career . She's toured across North America, and played live with the likes of James Brown, Tito Puente, Barenaked Ladies, De La Soul, Jamiroquai, Brand New Heavies, The Fugees, Jann Arden, Maceo Parker, Sylk130, Bahamadia, Pharcyde, and The Roots. One of her three performances during the Montreal Jazz Festival was the subject of a one-hour Bravo! television special. Peer publishing signed her as a writer in the fall of 2000.
Santilli signed to CP Records and released her fourth studio album, Santilli on June 29, 2010. The first single is "Your Girl Tonight" and the second single is "Letting Go". Six of the songs on Santilli are new recordings, while the remainder were from TO.NY.