Mario (American entertainer)

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Barrett being interviewed at a charity event in San Diego in September 2008
Mario Dewar Barrett

(1986-08-27) August 27, 1986 (age 33)
ResidenceBeverly Hills, California, United States
EducationMilford Mill Academy
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actor
  • dancer
  • model
Years active2001–present
AwardsList of awards and nominations
Musical career
Associated acts
WebsiteOfficial Website

Mario Dewar Barrett (born August 27, 1986),[1] known mononymously as Mario, is an American singer, songwriter, actor, and model. He is known for his singles "Just a Friend" (2002) and "Let Me Love You" (2004), which won him two Billboard Music Awards. He has released four studio albums: Mario (2002), Turning Point (2004), Go (2007), and D.N.A. (2009). At the end of the 2000s decade, Mario was ranked #98 by Billboard on their "Artist of the Decade" list.[2]

After a long period of nine years, Dancing Shadows was issued as his fifth album on October 5, 2018.[3]

Aside from his career in music, he appeared in several television shows and films such as Step Up (2006), Freedom Writers (2007) and Empire (2018). In 2019, Mario starred in the live television production of the musical Rent.

Early life and education[edit]

Mario Dewar Barrett was born on August 27, 1986, to his parents Shawntia Hardaway and Derryl Barrett Sr., a singer in a gospel group called Reformation. Mario's half-brother Derryl "D.J." Barrett Jr., is a professional drummer.[4] He grew up in Baltimore and other working-class neighborhoods in Baltimore County, Maryland.[5] He lived with his grandmother, who raised him while his single mother struggled with drug addiction.[5] At the age of four, Mario proclaimed that he wanted to become a singer. In support of his dream, his mother bought him a karaoke machine. Mario joined a musical group in Milford Mill Academy with the oldest son of comedian Mo'Nique and best friend Jaye Brebnor and also his younger god sister Chea Tyler. Barrett learned to play the piano and used that skill as the basis for his melodies and songs. He was discovered at age eleven and signed by producer Troy Patterson, after singing "I'll Make Love to You" at a Coppin State College talent show.[5] Mario attended Milford Mill Academy up until the tenth grade where he was inspired by his music teacher, during his early teen years, and was offered a record deal at the age of fourteen, signing with Clive Davis' J Records.[5] His musical influences include Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, Brian McKnight, Boyz II Men, Michael Jackson,[6] Usher, and Joe. His first introduction to the music industry was the Dr. Dolittle 2 movie soundtrack in 2001. He sang a cover of the Stevie Wonder song "You and I" at Clive's Grammy party in 2002, and began recording an album.

Music career[edit]

Mario (2001–03)[edit]

In July 2001, Mario began recording his major-label debut album, titled Mario, which was nearly a year before the official release in March 2002. The album's lead single "Just a Friend 2002", which was a cover of Biz Markie's song, was a success, peaking at number one on the charts. Follow-up singles were "Braid My Hair" and "C'mon". He was the opening act on the Scream Tour 3, which featured headliners such as B2K, Marques Houston, Nick Cannon, Jhené Aiko and AJA. As of 2006, his debut album has sold over 700,000 copies.[5] During this period, he became a draw in the teen market.[5]

Turning Point (2004–06)[edit]

After his debut album was released, Mario wanted to record an album that was more mature. He enlisted a number of well-known producers to help him, such as Scott Storch and Lil' Jon. He released his second album, Turning Point on December 7, 2004. The album was more successful than his first, mainly because of the hit single "Let Me Love You". The single, described by reviewers as "melodic and sweetly lilting, reminiscent of Michael Jackson's vintage romantic ballads"[5] was successful, peaking at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for nine consecutive weeks. The single was written by Ne-Yo.[5] Other follow-up singles include "How Could You" co-written by J. Valentine, with a cameo appearance in the video by rapper Cassidy; "Here I Go Again" (whose video starred model/singer Cassie) and "Boom" featuring Juvenile. To date, Turning Point is certified platinum and the lead single double-platinum.

In February 2006, Mario filed a lawsuit against his former manager, Troy Patterson, alleging that Patterson had paid him $50,000 for the sale of more than 3 million records, which was later found to be false accusations. Mario was later sued by Patterson and lost. Mario's new manager is J. Erving and he was chosen by Mario.[7]

Go (2007–08)[edit]

Mario's third album Go is dedicated to his mom Shawntia Hardaway and was released in South Africa under Gallo Records on October 9, 2007, in the U.S. on December 11, 2007. The album includes collaborations with Jermaine Dupri, Ne-Yo, Janice Robinson, Scott Storch, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Timbaland and Bryan-Michael Cox. Mario had more creative control on Go than on his previous two albums.[5] The first single from the album was "How Do I Breathe" which was released in May. The second single was "Crying Out for Me" after a poll on his website.[8] The single was later certificated Gold by the RIAA.[9] On December 13, 2007, Mario was on "106 & Park" where he stated that the third single off the album will be "Music for Love". The album was made available for the public to listen to on his Myspace page before its release. He released the song "Do Right" on December 11. Go has sold 331,540 copies in the U.S.

In an interview with DJ "Z", Mario stated that problems with the record label caused the album launch to be pushed back 6–8 months.[10] In 2008, Mario competed on season six of Dancing With the Stars. He was partnered with Karina Smirnoff. They were eliminated in week eight of the competition.

D.N.A. (2009–10)[edit]

In a 2009 interview with, Mario said that "Soul Truth Entertainment" was his new entertainment company.[11] Before the release of his third album Go, Mario confirmed in an interview with that he was working on a new album "by the time school starts back up, like after next summer" "But there's really even more than that, 'cause I'm gonna start recording, like, [at] the end of January".[12] The album is involving a wide range of producers and songwriters such as Darkchild, Babyface, Polow da Don, RedOne, and CJ of Charlio Productions, Malay, Jazze Pha, Stargate, KP, Tricky Stewart and The-Dream.[13][14][15] Mario said that he would like to work with no more than four producers for this album.[12] Mario has described this album as world music, an old school R&B influenced with a modern dance pop sound.[15] The album is being described as his "most personal, colossal album of his career."

In January 2009, Mario became the face of Pelle Pelle's European Spring/Summer campaign with various press shots running through the first part of the year.[16] For his fourth album D.N.A., the lead single "Break Up" was released on April 28, 2009. The song features Sean "The Pen" Garrett and Gucci Mane.[17] In the U.S., the song peaked at number 2 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Chart and 14 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Mario's most successful single in five years. The single has been certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for a shipment of over 500,000 units.[18] "Thinkin' About You", was released as the second single reaching number forty-five on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Chart. "Stranded" never labelled as the third single due to the limited airplay that it received. Lack of interest led to the single being cancelled, although in January 2010 the song entered on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs peaking at number 84. "Ooh Baby" was later confirmed to be the third single from the album, it peaked on the week of March 19, 2010 debuting on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 95. The album was made available for the public to listen to on his Myspace page before its release. The album debuted at number nine on the Billboard 200, selling 38,000 copies in its first week, becoming Mario's lowest-selling debut in the United States. So far, it has sold 93,385 copies in the U.S.

Cancelled albums and departure from RCA Records (2011–16)[edit]

Mario recorded an album with producer Rico Love from 2010 to mid-2011 under the tentative title Restoration. Songs from this album included "My Bed", "Killa", "Bermuda", "The Walls", "Recovery", "Falling Down" and "Computer Love". During Mario's appearance on BET's 106 & Park on July 10, 2013, Mario stated that he felt the album recorded with Rico Love did not feel part of his career plan and that he scrapped that album and went on to record his then titled album Evolve, which was set to be released in September 2013, but was delayed to 2014. For his fifth album, Mario stated the album will include "Love songs, ballads, club records and general R&B", and has said there will be no EDM songs on this album. Mario took writers Jeremiah "Sickpen" Bethea and Jimi Bonet under his wing amongst others to write for this album. Production on the album includes work by Glass John, Bam Alexander, Pollow da Don and possibly Ne-Yo.

In an interview with Vibe, Mario was asked what direction he was trying to go with on his fifth album; his answer was, "I wanna give as much honesty as I can. I want to be honest, but grab the attention of everybody, but still compete so when you hear it on the radio it’s pushing the envelope. The melodies coming out of me now are unorthodox— melodies I've never expressed before". He also confirmed he has five tracks that are definitely going on. "These tracks are like movies, they are intense", he added. Nevertheless, the album will probably feature a song centered on his mother, written by himself.[19] In August 2011, RCA Music Group announced it was disbanding J Records along with Arista Records and Jive Records. With the shutdown, Mario, and all other artists previously signed to these three labels, will release his future albums on the RCA Records label.[20][21]

Through his official Twitter page, on May 17, 2013, Mario confirmed that he has been working with Polow Da Don, for the lead single "Somebody Else" featuring rapper Nicki Minaj was already recorded and released.[22][23] The song was made available in the iTunes Store on May 21, 2013. He thanked Polow Da Don, Jeremiah Renaldo, Nicki Minaj and CJ Hilton for composing the song. He stated that his album would be released in September 2013 and may include guest appearances from Minaj, J. Cole and Sevyn Streeter. "Fatal Distraction" will be his next single.[24] Mario announced during a USTREAM interview with Music Choice, his album will be released in October 2013 but was pushed back.[25] [26] The second single "Fatal Distraction" was released on September 10, 2013.[27] After that, Mario parted ways with RCA Records due to creative differences.

In the summer of 2015, Mario announced that he was planning on releasing a new album, titled Never 2 Late, it was scheduled to be released on December 4, 2015, however this album release never materialized. It was to be supported by the single "Forever" featuring Rick Ross which was only leaked online but never was released commercially.[28]

New Citizen and Dancing Shadows (2016–present)[edit]

In May 2016, Mario premiered his new single, "I Need More" on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 show. He also announced that his fifth studio album would be now titled Paradise Cove, that is set to be released off of his newly founded independent label New Citizen. On December 13, 2016, he released the second single off the album, which is called "Let Me Help You".[29]

In March 2017, in an interview with Music Choice, Mario revealed that his fifth album will be no longer called Paradise Cove and that the new album title is called Cosmo 17, stating "The new album title is Cosmo 17, and I love Paradise Cove too absolutely. I can’t say that this album has an island vibe. I think "Let Me Help You" is the only record. The rest of the album developing it, it kinda took a life of its own. It's kinda like I was talkin to myself as a kid telling him like, love still exists like it's still real like you know you still believe in it don't give up, and if you can't find it here on earth maybe you gotta go to the cosmos to find it."[30]

He has released a new single from Cosmos 17 "Pain is the New Pleasure" on June 16, 2017.[31][32] In October, he collaborated with THRDL!FE and Kelli-Leigh on a new charity single called "For Love".[33]

Mario spoke with the FunX radio station during the Oh My! Music Festival in June 2018, announcing that the album Cosmo 17 is now re-titled Dancing Shadows and will be released in the late fall with a new single called "Drowning": "We changed the name of it. Making an album is like giving birth to something. You go through different names and different vibes." [3]

On July 20, 2018, Mario released "Drowning" and the accompanying music video. “This song is about being faced with the reality of having multiple women I love for different reasons," he said in a press statement.[34]

On September 14, 2018, the title track of Mario's fifth album of the same name was released. On October 5, 2018, Dancing Shadows was finally released. The album debuted at number 1 on iTunes R&B chart.[35]

Other ventures[edit]

Acting career[edit]

Mario starred as Miles Darby in Step Up, a dance-themed film released on August 11, 2006. He also appeared in Freedom Writers, which was released on January 5, 2007. Mario did not take acting classes before undertaking the role.[5] Mario has stated that he would like to own his own film production company entitled "Inside Paris Productions" and become a director.[36] On March 5, 2009, Mario said on Twitter that he had made an ABC network testing for a new pilot.[37] As result, he made an announcement to The Electric Company on PBS, with the "Soft G".[38] He starred in One on One as Spirit's date to the dance.


Years active2005—2010
Associated actsRaven-Symoné
Past members
  • Mario

Knightwritaz is a production team of which Mario was a part of. The team included Sterling Simms, Warren "Oak" Felder and Marsha of Floetry. Aside from producing songs for Mario's third album Go, the team has written and produced songs for Jennifer Lopez, Chris Brown, Jordin Sparks, Usher and Raven-Symoné. Mario claimed to be more of the songwriter in the team.[40] In an interview with Rap-Up, he said that he was no longer a part of the Knightwritaz.[11]

Do Right Foundation[edit]

Mario's Do Right Foundation was established on March 2008 to educate and inspire children who suffer from the drug addictions of their parents.[41] In May, Mario published a notice on the Facebook page of the foundation, saying that he had been in a studio in Miami all night re-recording the song "Do Right" from his 2007 album Go.[42]

New Citizen LLC[edit]

New Citizen LLC
Founded2016 (2016)
Distributor(s)Empire Distribution
Country of originUnited States

Since 2016, Mario founded his independent record label New Citizen LLC.[43]

Personal life[edit]

MTV aired a special on October 21, 2007, I Won't Love You to Death: The Story of Mario and His Mom, which dealt with his mother's heroin addiction. The documentary is about how the singer strives for help to stop his mother's addiction. While doing this, he seeks help from family and friends.[44] Mario wrote a letter to his mother stating how appreciative he is and begs her to stop her addiction. At the end of the letter he says, "I love you, but I won't love you to death".[45] On the documentary, produced by Gigantic! Productions, he won the 2008's Prism Award for its accurate portrayal of drug abuse.[46] Mario has written a song titled "Do Right" that is dedicated to his mother. This song explains his mother's addiction and how it affected his childhood.[47] The song is featured on his third album Go.

In 2009, Mario endorsed PETA in the campaign against killing animals entitled "Ink, Not Mink". He tells: "Be comfortable in your own skin, and let animals keep theirs".[48] Mario has homes in Baltimore, Atlanta and Los Angeles.[5]
In 2019, he was reportedly dating Empire star Serayah McNeill, with whom he starred in the fifth season of the series.


Studio albums



Year Title Role Notes
2006 Step Up Miles Darby Lead role
2007 Freedom Writers Andre Bryant
2007 Uncle P Himself Minor role
2012 Destination Fame Wizzy


Year Title Role Notes
2003 One on One Himself Episode: “The Test”
2003 Sabrina, the Teenage Witch Himself Episode: “What a Witch Wants“(Uncredited)[49]
2005 All of Us Himself Episode: “Movin’ on Up”
2008 Dancing with the Stars Himself Contestant (Eliminated 8th)
2014 Love That Girl! Terrence Guest role
2018—present Empire Devon Guest/Recurring role (Season 5),
Main role (Season 6)
2019 Rent: Live Benjamin "Benny" Coffin III Main role


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  25. ^ [1] Archived August 19, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
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  45. ^ Retrieved February 25, 2009. Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
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External links[edit]