Ester Dean

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Ester Dean
Dean in 2017
Dean in 2017
Background information
Birth nameEsther Renay Dean
Born (1986-04-15) April 15, 1986 (age 36)[1]
Muskogee, Oklahoma, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actress
Years active2006–present

Esther Renay Dean[2] (born April 15, 1986) is an American singer, songwriter, music producer and actress. Dean has also written songs for many artists, with numerous Top 10 hits, including No. 1 hits for Rihanna and Katy Perry, earning the name "The Song Factory". At the 54th Annual Grammy Awards, Dean was nominated for Album of the Year as a producer on Rihanna's album Loud. Outside of music, she voiced two of the characters in the fourth film in the Ice Age franchise, Ice Age: Continental Drift, and also wrote a song for the movie, titled "We Are (Family)". Dean made her acting debut in the film Pitch Perfect (2012) as Cynthia-Rose Adams, a role she reprised for the sequels, Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) and Pitch Perfect 3 (2017).

Life and career[edit]

Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Ester Dean is the youngest of five children brought up by their single mother Hester, in a low-income household.[3][4] At a young age Dean learned how to channel her energy into her music, writing and channeling her emotions into songs. Creative writing served as Dean’s self-therapy. [5] At the age of 15, her mother moved Ester and Deandria to Omaha, Nebraska. Leaving her older siblings in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the separation made Ester again dig deeper for a connection, drawing her closer to the music and the music industry. Singing in every studio and writing for local Omaha rappers and producers, Ester unknowingly grass-rooted herself. Learning the ends and outs of her talent and creativity, at 20 years old Esther made a bold move, packed her bags and left Omaha with only $500 in her pocket. She drove 18 hours alone to Atlanta Georgia, to crack into the music industry. She sang for anyone who would listen. While at a Gap Band concert, music producer Tricky Stewart overheard Dean singing in the crowd along with the band.[6] He immediately asked her to set up a meeting. While going through her catalog of songs, Tricky was impressed by not only her voice but also her songwriting ability. He signed her to a small publishing deal that allowed Dean to grow and connect with other known writers and producers.[7] This opportunity provided Dean with the tools, tricks, and skills to writing potential Top 40 songs.

Although her time with Tricky was a significant point in her career, Dean eventually parted ways and relocated to Los Angeles, California.

Upon relocating to Los Angeles, Dean began to build a name in the songwriting world. She was eventually introduced to Polow da Don, and later signed to Zone 4 Records/Interscope Records.[6]

In 2009 Dean released her first single, "Drop It Low", which peaked at number 38 on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming her first US Top 40 single.

Dean's big break came when she collaborated with super producers Stargate, creating her first number one single, Rihanna’s "Rude Boy". She went on to write "What's My Name", "Where Have You Been" and several other Rihanna hits, as well as Katy Perry's "Firework" and Nicki Minaj’s "Super Bass" and co-writing "Pills n Potions" with Nicki Minaj.

In 2011, Dean contributed to the soundtrack for the animated film, Rio by Blue Sky Studios.

In 2012, Dean was named ‘The Song Machine’ in an article by John Seabrook.[6] She has written, and sometimes produced, Top 40 hits for artists including Rihanna, Christina Aguilera, Florence + The Machine, Beyoncé, Drake, Selena Gomez, Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson, Ciara, The Pussycat Dolls, Usher, Kelly Rowland, R. Kelly, Britney Spears, Lil Wayne, and Eurovision Song Contest 2012 winner Loreen.

She appeared as Cynthia Rose in Pitch Perfect, released in 2012, and reprised the role in the sequels Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) and Pitch Perfect 3 (2017).

She is on the jury panel for American Song Contest representing Oklahoma. The competition begins March 21, 2022 on NBC.[8]



Dean possesses a mezzo-soprano range. Her vocals were described by Billboard as "raw, energetic vocals [that] cover a wide range: from club banger to melodic doo-wop/hip-hop."[9] Dean's vocals have also been described as similar to Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. "The songwriter's voice is pitched dead center between two artists. The first is frequent collaborator Rihanna...the other is Nicki Minaj when she sings."[10]

Songwriting style[edit]

In a 2012 article in The New Yorker, Dean described her preferred method of songwriting: "I go into the booth and I scream and I sing and I yell, and sometimes it's words but most time [sic] it's not...and I just see when I get this little chill [on her upper arm, below the shoulder] and then I'm, like, 'Yeah, that's the hook.'"[6]



Year Title Role Notes
2011 Rio Boy in Gondola (voice)
2012 Ice Age: Continental Drift Sloth Siren and Gutt's Siren (voice)
Pitch Perfect Cynthia-Rose Adams
2015 Pitch Perfect 2
2017 Pitch Perfect 3
2020 Trolls World Tour Legsly (voice)


Year Title Role Notes
2016 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Vanessa Episode: "That Text Was Not Meant for Josh!"
RuPaul's Drag Race Guest Judge (season 8) Episode: "Bitch Perfect"
2019–2020 Songland Herself - Judge
2020 The Voice Herself - Guest Judge Episode: "Live Final Top 5 Performances"
2020–present Central Park Hazel (voice) 7 episodes
2021 Clash of the Cover Bands Herself - Judge Season 1
2021 Trolls: Holiday in Harmony Legsly (voice) short Christmas special
2022 American Song Contest Herself - Oklahoma Judge 8 episodes



Year Ceremony Nominated Work Category Result Ref.
2011 BMI R&B/Hip-Hop Awards "Hot Tottie" (as a writer) Award-Winning Urban Songs Won [11]
"I Am" (as a writer) Won
"Rude Boy" (as a writer) Won
"Sex Therapy" (as a writer) Won
2012 Grammy Awards Loud (as a producer and writer) Album of the Year Nominated [12]
BMI Pop Awards Herself Songwriter of the Year Won [13]
"Firework" (as a writer) Pop Song of the Year Won
Award-Winning Pop Songs Won
"Super Bass" (as a writer) Won
"Rude Boy" (as a writer) Won
"S&M" (as a writer) Won
"What's My Name?" (as a writer) Won
BMI R&B/Hip-Hop Awards "Super Bass" (as a writer) Urban Song of the Year Won [14]
Award-Winning Urban Songs Won
"What's My Name?" (as a writer) Won
2013 BMI Pop Awards "Mr. Know It All" (as a writer) Award-Winning Pop Songs Won [15]
"Turn Me On" (as a writer) Won
"Where Have You Been" (as a writer) Won
MTV Movie Awards Pitch Perfect (shared with the cast) Best Musical Moment Won [16]
Annie Awards Ice Age: Continental Drift (as a producer) Best Music in a Feature Production Nominated [17]
2015 Hollywood Music in Media Awards "Dancing in the Dark" (as a writer) Best Song – Animated Film Won [18][19]
2016 BMI London Awards "Hey Mama" (as a writer) Dance Award Won [20]
Award-Winning Pop Songs Won
BMI Pop Awards Award-Winning Pop Songs Won [21]
2021 Canadian Country Music Awards "Champagne Night" (as a writer) Songwriter of the Year Won [22]


  1. ^ "Ester Dean Biography". April 17, 2018.
  2. ^ Dean, Ester [@esterdean] (December 12, 2014). "Lol my real name is Esther" (Tweet). Retrieved March 21, 2022 – via Twitter.
  3. ^ "Ester Dean Talks Debut Album & 'Pitch Perfect' Success". Billboard. January 14, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2022.
  4. ^ "Melody Maker". Oklahoma Today. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
  5. ^ "Interview: Ester Dean – Singer and Songwriter". Blogcritics. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d Seabrook, John (March 26, 2012). "The Song Machine". The New Yorker. Vol. LXXXVIII, no. 6. pp. 48–55. Retrieved March 21, 2022.
  7. ^ "Top Writer/Artist Ester Dean Talks About Her Hits With Rihanna, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj & Kelly Clarkson". Songwriter Universe. December 4, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2022.
  8. ^ Maas, Jennifer (March 21, 2022). "How 'American Song Contest' Voting Will Work Via TikTok, and Who's on the 56-Member Jury Panel (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved March 21, 2022.
  9. ^ "Ester Dean: Artists To Watch 2010". Billboard. January 15, 2010. Retrieved March 21, 2022.
  10. ^ "The Singles Bar: Ester Dean ft. Nicki Minaj, "Gimme Money"". Popdust. February 23, 2012. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  11. ^ "Snoop Dog Honored At BMI Urban Awards". Archived from the original on June 21, 2013. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  12. ^ "ESTER DEAN: Grammy History". November 19, 2019. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  13. ^ "Ester Dean, Benny Blanco and Pitbull share Songwriter of the Year crown; "Firework" named Song of the Year; Universal Music Publishing Group earns Publisher of the Year". May 16, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  14. ^ "Ester Dean, Kane Beatz, Nicki Minaj and Pop Wansel also take top honors". September 8, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  15. ^ "Ester Dean, Benny Blanco and Pitbull share Songwriter of the Year crown; "Firework" named Song of the Year; Universal Music Publishing Group earns Publisher of the Year". May 15, 2013. Retrieved December 17, 2020.
  16. ^ "Rebel Wilson and The Avengers dominate ceremony". Daily Telegraph. April 15, 2013. Archived from the original on April 19, 2013. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
  17. ^ "2013 Annie Awards: Winners List". Deadline. February 3, 2013. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  18. ^ Feinberg, Scott (November 12, 2015). "Hollywood Music in Media Awards: 'Hunting Ground,' 'Furious 7,' '50 Shades of Grey' Claim Top Prizes". Billboard. Retrieved November 3, 2016.
  19. ^ "2015 winners". Hollywood Music in Media Awards. Archived from the original on August 8, 2016. Retrieved November 3, 2016.
  20. ^ "The hit was written by Giorgio Tuinfort, Afrojack, Sean Douglas, Ester Dean and Alan & John Lomax, and made famous by David Guetta, featuring Nicki Minaj and Bebe Rexha". October 10, 2016. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  21. ^ "BMI Honors Taylor Swift and Legendary Songwriting Duo Mann & Weil at the 64th Annual BMI Pop Awards". May 11, 2016. Retrieved December 17, 2020.
  22. ^ "Dallas Smith cleans up at Canadian country music awards on historic night".

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