Winner of the BBC talent contest [RoviLink="VW"]Fame Academy in 2003, Alex Parks was hailed as one of reality TV's most interesting and original performers. Born in 1984 in Mount Hawke, Cornwall, Parks started songwriting at the age of 13. While studying theatrical and performing arts at college, she learned to play the guitar and performed in local band One Trick Pony, where she was introduced to the music of Ani DiFranco and Joni Mitchell. Parks initially planned to move to Amsterdam to learn the art of clowning, but her career path changed dramatically when her father submitted an application for the second season of [RoviLink="VW"]Fame Academy. Among 12,000 hopefuls, she became the youngest contestant chosen to appear on the show, which combined [RoviLink="VW"]Big Brother-style fly-on-the-wall footage with live studio performances from undiscovered artists. While on the show, she earned rave reviews from the judges for her husky-voiced, emotional renditions of songs by the likes of Christina Aguilera, John Lennon, and Coldplay, and soon built up a loyal fan base. After performing the co-written "Maybe That's What It Takes" in the finals, she beat fellow contestant Alistair Griffin to win a record contract with Polydor and keys to a flat in Notting Hill.
Recorded in a matter of weeks, her debut album, Introduction, featuring several of the cover versions she performed on the show as well as new material, was released in December, where it charted at number five and went on to sell over half a million copies. After a second single, "Cry," Parks spent the next year working on her follow-up with the likes of Peter-John Vetesse and Judie Tzuke. The album's eventual release was delayed amidst reports that Polydor was unhappy with the lack of potential singles. (It was later revealed that Parks had turned down "Shiver," which went on to be a huge hit for Natalie Imbruglia.) Despite criticism from fans, lead single "Looking for Water" was released as a download-only single at the end of 2005, and weeks later the album Honesty charted at a disappointing number 24. After the title track second single failed to reach the Top 40, Parks announced she has parted company with her record label. Deciding to take a hiatus from the music industry, she spent the next year traveling around Australia, but in 2007 she revealed that she would be starting work on her third album. ~ Jon O'Brien
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