Leah LaBelle performing on October 9, 2013 at the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle, Washington
|Birth name||Leah LaBelle Vladowski|
September 8, 1986|
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|Origin||Seattle, Washington, U.S.|
January 31, 2018 (aged 31)|
Studio City, California, U.S.
Leah LaBelle (September 8, 1986 – January 31, 2018) was a Canadian-born American singer. She was known for being a finalist on the third season of American Idol and releasing cover versions of R&B and soul music on her YouTube channel.
LaBelle was born in Toronto, Canada, and raised in Seattle, Washington, where she pursued a career in music beginning in her teens. She performed in the Total Experience Gospel Choir and the musical Black Nativity. After competing on American Idol, she attended the Berklee College of Music and worked with Andreao Heard. Keri Hilson hired LaBelle as a backing vocalist after watching her YouTube video; LaBelle also worked with Robin Thicke, Jordin Sparks, the Jonas Brothers, Britney Spears, and Eric Benét on their tours.
L.A. Reid's company Epic, in a partnership with Pharrell Williams' label I Am Other, and Jermaine Dupri's label So So Def Recordings, signed a record deal with LaBelle. Her sampler album Pharrell Williams and Jermaine Dupri Present Leah LaBelle was made available to record companies. Her single "Sexify" and the promotional single "What Do We Got To Lose?" supported the album. LaBelle received the Soul Train Centric Award at the 2012 Soul Train Music Awards. In 2013, she released the stand-alone single "Lolita". On January 31, 2018, LaBelle and her boyfriend Rasual Butler died in a car crash in Studio City, Los Angeles.
- 1 Life and career
- 2 Death
- 3 Discography
- 4 Filmography
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Life and career
1986–2004: Early life and American Idol
Leah LaBelle Vladowski[a] was born on September 8, 1986, in Toronto, Canada, and raised in Seattle, Washington. She was the only child of Anastasia and Troshan Vladowski, who were Bulgarian singers. Anastasia had previously recorded pop music, and she formed Bulgaria's first rock band with Troshan called the Silver Bracelets. LaBelle also had an uncle who released rock music in Bulgaria. After defecting from the country during a 1979 tour, LaBelle's parents emigrated to Canada and later the United States. They became naturalized citizens in both countries. While in the United States, they formed a Christian music group and toured the country. During this time, LaBelle's parents divorced, and she was raised primarily by her mother. As a child, LaBelle listened to music, including jazz and the Beatles, with her mother but felt the most connected with R&B. During a 2012 interview, she said she was discouraged from pursuing a career in the genre, but explained she ignored "the clichés surrounding white artists singing R&B". Her early influences included Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Sade, Brandy Norwood, and Kim Burrell.
LaBelle started performing publicly in 1990, including singing on stage during her parents' tours. At the age of 11, she joined the Total Experience Gospel Choir, after being inspired by Lauryn Hill's performance in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. LaBelle cited Hill as her biggest musical influence. While performing in the choir, she became interested in gospel and soul music. She also participated in beauty pageants; in 1997, she won the Washington State Pre-teen Miss America Pageant and was the first runner-up in the National Pageant. A year later, she performed in the musical Black Nativity, and stayed in the production for five years under the mentorship of Pat Wright. In 2000, she joined the children's reality show Caught in the Middle and remained a part of the program for two years. LaBelle attended Garfield High School, where she sang in a jazz band led by Clarence Acox Jr. After winning the Grand Prize at KUBE 93.3 Summer Jam Idol in 2002, she performed as the opening act in the Summer Jam 20.
At the age of 16, LaBelle audition for the third season of the television show American Idol. She appeared on the series while a senior in high school. For her audition, she performed a cover of Whitney Houston's "I Believe in You and Me". After becoming one of the 32 semi-finalists, LaBelle was eliminated in the top 30 round, but judge Paula Abdul chose her as a "wildcard selection" to advance as one of the twelve finalists. LaBelle placed twelfth during the season finals, after performing a cover of The Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On". Looking back on American Idol in a 2016 interview, LaBelle felt that she was "too young at that time and not developed enough as an artist". The compilation album American Idol Season 3: Greatest Soul Classics (2004) included her version of The Stylistics' "Betcha by Golly, Wow". While recording the song, LaBelle was briefly mentored by one of album's producers, but he focused on his work with Rihanna instead. AllMusic's Heather Phares praised LaBelle as "surprisingly strong and mature", and wrote that "the studio brings out colors in her voice that she didn't display on-stage". On the other hand, Steve Hammer of NUVO criticized her as "crushing the life" from the original in her rendition.
|Week #||Theme||Song choice||Original artist||Results|
|Audition||N/A||"I Believe in You and Me"||Whitney Houston||Advanced|
|Hollywood||N/A||"Young Hearts Run Free"||Candi Staton||Advanced|
|Top 30||Semi-final/Group 1||"I Have Nothing"||Whitney Houston||Eliminated|
|Wildcard||"Let's Stay Together"||Al Green||Paula Abdul's choice|
|Top 12||Motown||"You Keep Me Hangin' On"||The Supremes||Eliminated|
2004–2010: Breakthrough with YouTube
In 2004, after returning from American Idol, LaBelle performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" at a National Football League game, and "Lift Every Voice and Sing" during a National Basketball Association game. The same year, she featured on Lisa Leuschner's cover of "Silent Night" for her album Sing Me Home. She recorded "Christmas Time" for the compilation album Christmas in the Northwest, Vol. 7. After graduating from Garfield High School in 2005, she attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. LaBelle attended the college to move away from Seattle, explaining: "I had to just come into my own world, my own zone and really appreciate me and my music."
While attending Berklee College, LaBelle turned down two recording contracts, including one from Andreao Heard, based on her attorney's advice. LaBelle's mother explained that she found the offers "too binding". Heard became interested in LaBelle after watching a video of her performance in the Total Experience Gospel Choir. While working with him, she recorded a demo written by Makeba Riddick, which they sent it out to various record labels. LaBelle's focus shifted toward combining R&B with pop music; she explained: "I want to bring real music back but make it marketable and mainstream. To me real music isn’t everything being synthesized, computerized." In a 2018 Billboard article, Heard attributed the ending of their working relationship to "the business side of the industry".
LaBelle only stayed at Berklee College for one year, before moving to Los Angeles, California, to pursue her career in music at the age of 21. She received more attention after releasing cover versions of R&B and soul music on her YouTube channel. She created it on December 1, 2007, after being encouraged to do so by an industry contact. In a 2012 interview with Seventeen, LaBelle said that working in a recording studio was a higher priority for her than YouTube videos. Desire Thompson of Vibe wrote "the early days of YouTube were a blessing to singers like LaBelle". In 2008, Keri Hilson saw LaBelle's cover of her single "Energy", which received over 500,000 views as of October 16, 2012, and hired her as a backing vocalist. Viewing Hilson as her mentor, LaBelle explained: "She's brought me along with her and allowed me to see into the industry a little bit deeper than I already have." LaBelle was a background singer for Robin Thicke, Jordin Sparks, the Jonas Brothers, Britney Spears, and Eric Benét during their respective tours. In March 2008, she performed at Quincy Jones' 75th birthday party at the Northwest African American Museum. She made a cameo appearance in Sparks' music video for "S.O.S. (Let the Music Play)", and was included on American Idol Rewind. In July 2009, LaBelle featured on Kumasi's single "Angel" from his debut studio album The One.
2011–2018: Record contract
In 2011, LaBelle signed a record deal with L.A. Reid's company Epic in a partnership with Pharrell Williams' label I Am Other and Jermaine Dupri's label So So Def Recordings. Dupri and Williams had first noticed the singer through her YouTube videos, and Dupri contacted her through Twitter; they each acted as a mentor for her. Prior to receiving their messages, she had considering giving up on a music career. On May 1, 2012, LaBelle released the five-track sampler album Pharrell Williams and Jermaine Dupri Present Leah LaBelle, distributed primarily to record companies. She said it was representative of her then-upcoming studio album,[b] explaining: "It's just that feel-good-texture music, that throwback-but-new feel." LaBelle began recording music for her album with Williams in Miami, Florida and Dupri in Atlanta, Georgia.
The sampler was promoted through the single "Sexify", which LaBelle and Williams based on headlines from Cosmopolitan. It peaked at number 89 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Billboard chart. In a 2018 article, Natalie Maher of Billboard identified "Sexify" as LaBelle's "breakout song". As of January 31, 2018, the single had received over a million views on YouTube. "What Do We Got To Lose?" was released in November 2012 as a promotional single. LaBelle received the Soul Train Centric Award at the 2012 Soul Train Music Awards, where she also performed a tribute to Aretha Franklin and Teena Marie with Fantasia Barrino. She sang as part of the 2012 Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana, and BET's Music Matters showcase, which was held over the weekend of the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.
LaBelle released a standalone-single, "Lolita", on May 7, 2013, with a digital extended play of 10 electro house remixes and instrumentals made available on March 26, 2013. While music critics had varying opinions on the song's connection to Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel of the same name, LaBelle clarified that it was about being someone's desire or fantasy and not the fictional character. "Lolita" reached number seven on the Dance Club Songs Billboard chart, and ranked at number 264 on the official Tophit airplay chart. In the same year, LaBelle featured on Brian Cross' single "Shot Gun" from his album Pop Star, and did background vocals for Nelly's seventh studio album M.O.. During the fall of 2013 she opened for JoJo's The Agápē Tour. In 2014, LaBelle appeared as a dancer in Williams' music video for "Happy", and provided vocals for his second studio album Girl.
After reuniting with LaBelle at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards in 2017, Andreao Heard said that she was experiencing a "dark period" and could not release new music. Heard described her as "trapped" following the poor commercial performance of her debut singles; he believed she had given up on a music career.
On January 31, 2018, LaBelle and her boyfriend Rasual Butler died in a car crash in Studio City, California, after he lost control of his Range Rover on Ventura Boulevard. Before the crash, which occurred at 2:25 a.m. (PT), Butler was driving over two or three times the speed limit. They both died instantly from "multiple traumatic injuries". According to an autopsy report, Butler had methamphetamine, oxycodone, and marijuana in his system and a blood alcohol level of 0.118. LaBelle had a blood alcohol level of .144 at the time of the incident. Even though Butler referred to LaBelle as his wife, the couple never married.[c]
On February 3, 2018, Butler's daughter Raven held a memorial service in Los Angeles; it was also streamed online. An individual service was held for LaBelle on February 24 at Garfield High School, and an obituary was published in the February 11 issue of The Seattle Times. Her body was cremated, and the ashes were given to her family. Prior to her death, LaBelle was reportedly recording new music. In February 2018, Dupri and Bryan-Michael Cox released two tracks – "Scumbag" and "Stereo" – by LaBelle. In the same month, Heard expressed interest in making available unreleased material that he had recorded with her.
|Pharrell Williams and Jermaine Dupri Present Leah LaBelle||
Singles, as primary artist
|Title||Year||Peak chart positions||Album|
|"Sexify"||2012||23||—||—||Pharrell Williams and Jermaine Dupri Present Leah LaBelle|
|"—" denotes items which failed to chart or were not released in that country.|
|"What Do We Got To Lose?"||2012||Pharrell Williams and Jermaine Dupri Present Leah LaBelle|
|"Betcha by Golly, Wow"||2004||American Idol Season 3: Greatest Soul Classics|
|"Christmas Time"||Christmas in the Northwest, Vol. 7.|
(with Lisa Leuschner)
|Sing Me Home|
(with Brian Cross)
|2004||American Idol||Herself (finalist)||Season 3|
|2008||American Idol Rewind||Herself (finalist)|
- LaBelle adopted the stage name Leah LaBelle while participating on American Idol. She had initially auditioned under the name Leah Vladowski. She is referenced by her full name Leah LaBelle Vladowski in her obituary.
- Initially expected for a 2012 and later a 2013 release, LaBelle's debut studio album was never made available.
- LaBelle's mother and Butler's daughter disputed reports that LaBelle was married. LaBelle's obituary also references Butler as her boyfriend rather than her husband.
- Meizel (2011): p. 64
- "Leah Labelle Vladowski". The Seattle Times. February 11, 2018. Archived from the original on July 23, 2018.
- Pedersen, Erik (January 31, 2018). "'American Idol' Finalist Leah LaBelle & Ex-NBA Player Husband Killed In Car Crash". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on July 4, 2018.
- McFarland, Melanie (February 23, 2004). "Seattle teen shoots for the 'American Idol' final 12". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Archived from the original on July 24, 2018.
- Silvia, Erin (January 31, 2018). "Leah LaBelle: 5 Things To Know About NBA Player's Wife Who Died In Car Accident". Hollywood Life. Archived from the original on June 15, 2018.
- Farrell, Paul (January 31, 2018). "Leah Labelle, Rasual Butler's Wife: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy.com. Archived from the original on February 7, 2018.
- Centrella (2016)
- "About". LeahLaBelle.com. Archived from the original on August 17, 2018.
- Gaspard, Whitney (May 8, 2012). "New and Next: Meet New R&B Sensation Leah Labelle". Essence. Archived from the original on January 4, 2013.
- "Leah Labelle On First Meeting Pharell & Says Collab with Future Would Be Cool". BooBooTV.com. July 13, 2012. Archived from the original on July 23, 2013.
- Partridge, Kenneth (May 21, 2012). "In House With Leah LaBelle: Singer Talks New Album With Pharrell Williams, Jermaine Dupri". The Boombox. Archived from the original on September 14, 2015.
- Penrose, Nerisha (February 1, 2018). "Leah LaBelle's 5 Best 'American Idol' Moments". Billboard. Archived from the original on July 24, 2018.
- "10 Things You Should Know About Leah LaBelle". BET. June 21, 2012. Archived from the original on August 14, 2017.
- Thompson, Desire (January 31, 2018). "Gone Too Soon: 5 Things To Know About R&B Singer Leah LaBelle". Vibe. Archived from the original on June 16, 2018.
- Phares, Heater. "AllMusic Review by Heather Phares". AllMusic. Archived from the original on September 23, 2017.
- Hammer, Steve (May 19, 2004). "Two train wrecks: CD Review(s) Aerosmith Honkin' On Bobo (Columbia) American Id". NUVO. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
- Yanity, Molly; Bruscas, Angelo (December 6, 2004). "Seahawks Notebook: Onside kick thing of beauty". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Archived from the original on July 24, 2018.
- Massey, Matt (July 4, 2004). "Stars back for alumni hoops tourney". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on July 24, 2018.
- Sing Me Home (Inlay cover). Lisa Leuschner. Succession Records. December 21, 2004.
- "Christmas in the Northwest, Vol. 7". Apple Music. 2004. Archived from the original on July 24, 2018.
- Brooks, Diane (October 2, 2006). "Area's "Idol" singers pursue big goals". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on February 1, 2018.
- Marzovilla, Julia (February 5, 2018). "Leah LaBelle Had a 'God-Given Gift': Producer Andreao 'Fanatic' Heard Remembers Late Singer, Talks Plans for Her Unreleased Music". Billboard. Archived from the original on February 8, 2018.
- James, Nicole (October 16, 2012). "You Need to Know: Jermaine Dupri's R&B Ingenue Leah Labelle". Fuse. Archived from the original on October 28, 2016.
- "Profile Description". YouTube. Archived from the original on July 25, 2018.
- Laurence, Emily (May 31, 2012). "17 Minutes With Leah Labelle". Seventeen. Archived from the original on August 14, 2017.
- Barros, Paul de (March 17, 2008). "Northwest African American Museum gives a musical tribute to Quincy Jones". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on July 25, 2018.
- "Jordin Sparks - S.O.S. (Let The Music Play)". YouTube. November 14, 2009. Archived from the original on August 30, 2017.
- "Credits". TV Guide. Archived from the original on September 12, 2015.
- "Overview". AllMusic. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
- "Angel (feat. Leah Labelle)". Amazon. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
- "Leah Labelle Previews 5 Tracks Off Debut Album". Rap-Up. May 1, 2012. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016.
- Pharrell Williams and Jermaine Dupri Present Leah LaBelle – Sampler (Media notes). Leah Labelle. Epic Records. 2012. 88725 40238 2.
- Maher, Natalie (January 31, 2018). "Leah LaBelle's Musical History, From Gospel Choir to 'American Idol'". Billboard. Archived from the original on February 1, 2018.
- "Video: Leah Labelle - "Sexify"". Rap-Up. May 9, 2012. Archived from the original on January 27, 2013.
- "New Music: Leah LaBelle – 'Lolita'". Rap-Up. January 18, 2013. Archived from the original on November 10, 2016.
- "Watch: Leah Labelle – 'Lolita'". Rap-Up. May 8, 2013. Archived from the original on May 25, 2015.
- Miller, Korin (April 24, 2012). "A Hot New Song, Inspired By Cosmo". Cosmopolitan. Archived from the original on October 29, 2016.
- "Chart History: Adult R&B Songs". Billboard. Archived from the original on August 2, 2018.
- "What Do We Got To Lose? - Single". Apple Music. November 12, 2012. Archived from the original on July 28, 2018.
- Angermiller, Michele Amabile (November 26, 2012). "Soul Train Awards: 'American Idol's' Fantasia Barrino, Jordin Sparks and Leah Labelle Take the Stage (Video)". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on March 4, 2013.
- "Must-See: Watch Leah LaBelle's 2012 Essence Music Festival Performance". Essence. October 15, 2012. Archived from the original on April 3, 2016.
- "BET Network's Music Matters' Showcase - Grammy Edition "Lipstick on the Mic" Featuring Marsha Ambrosius, Elle Varner, Stacy Barthe, Leah LaBelle, and Ravaughn, Friday, February 8th, 2013". BET. February 4, 2013. Archived from the original on February 7, 2018.
- "Lolita - Single". Apple Music. May 7, 2013. Archived from the original on July 28, 2018.
- "Lolita – Remixes". Beatport. March 26, 2013. Archived from the original on November 2, 2016.
- Rubenstein, Jenna Hally (January 24, 2013). "New Song: Leah Labelle, 'Lolita'". MTV News. Archived from the original on October 31, 2016.
- D-Money (January 22, 2013). "Leah LaBelle Teases With 'Lolita'". SoulBounce.com. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
- Drake, David (May 8, 2013). "Watch: Leah LaBelle "Lolita"". Complex. Archived from the original on May 11, 2013.
- "Video: Watch Leah LaBelle Choose Her Performance Look for the Boy Meets Girl Fashion Show". OK!. February 18, 2013. Archived from the original on November 7, 2016.
- "Chart Search". Billboard Dance Club Songs for Leah Labelle. Archived from the original on October 22, 2013.
- "Chart Search". Tophit for Leah Labelle. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
- "Brian Cross - Shot Gun (Videoclip Product Placement Version) ft. Leah LaBelle". YouTube. June 18, 2013. Archived from the original on November 4, 2015.
- "Pop Star - The Album" (in Spanish). Apple Music. February 26, 2013. Archived from the original on February 4, 2016.
- "Credits: Leah LaBelle". AllMusic. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
- "Catch Leah LaBelle on Tour with JoJo!". LeahLaBelle.com. September 25, 2013. Archived from the original on June 30, 2017.
- Nostro, Lauren (March 21, 2013). "Interview: JoJo Talks André 3000 Inspiration, Her "Agape" Mixtape, and Finding Her New Sound". Complex. Archived from the original on April 7, 2016.
- "Pharrell Williams - Happy (Video)". YouTube. January 8, 2014. Archived from the original on June 27, 2018.
- "Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
- McCausland, Phil (January 31, 2018). "NBA player Rasual Butler and R&B singer Leah LaBelle killed in car crash". NBC News. Archived from the original on March 22, 2018.
- "Rasual Butler: Fatal Crash Autopsy". TMZ Sports. May 31, 2018. Archived from the original on July 28, 2018.
- Hautman, Nicholaus (June 1, 2018). "Rasual Butler and Leah LaBelle Had Meth and Alcohol in Their Systems at Time of Death". Us Weekly. Archived from the original on July 28, 2018.
- Goldblatt, Daniel; Naumann, Ryan (July 23, 2018). "Daughter of NBA Star Rasual Butler Heads to Court to Be Named Head of His Estate". The Blast. Retrieved August 12, 2018.
- Mizoguchi, Karen (February 3, 2018). "Rasual Butler's Daughter Breaks Her Silence to Announce His & His Wife Leah LaBelle's Memorial". People. Archived from the original on April 2, 2018.
- "Leah LaBelle". Find a Grave. Archived from the original on July 28, 2018.
- "Jermaine Dupri Shares Unreleased Leah LaBelle Song 'Scumbag'". Rap-Up. February 1, 2018. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
- "Stereo - Leah LaBelle (Produced by Bryan-Michael Cox". SoundCloud. February 2018. Archived from the original on July 28, 2018.
- "Chart History: Dance Club Songs". Billboard. Archived from the original on July 28, 2018.
- Centrella, Sarah (2016). Hustle Believe Receive: An 8-Step Plan to Changing Your Life and Living Your Dream. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. ISBN 978-1-63450-480-5.
- Meizel, Katherine (2011). Idolized: Music, Media, and Identity in American Idol. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-22271-8.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Leah LaBelle.|