As a teen, Fantasia Barrino seemed destined to become another statistic—a wayward youth succumbing to her circumstances, which included being a ninth-grade dropout, a functional illiterate, a victim of child molestation, and a mom at age 16. But instead, as the world looked on, Barrino became a superstar with first-name-only recognition. In 2004, on the finale night of American Idol, 65 million votes were cast, more than President Bush received in the federal election that year. Fantasia received more than half of those votes. Her straight-from-the-streets soul spawned platinum record sales, four Grammy nods, one Billboard Music Award and one NAACP award.

Despite her success, Barrino, who grew up in High Point, North Carolina, refuses to forget those early struggles. In fact, she’s hoping others can learn from her mistakes. “I want to use my story as a testimony,” she says. “I want to tell people you don’t have to be perfect to be what you want to be.  You want to be a lawyer or a banker? Pick yourself up and go get it.” This month Lifetime Television premieres Life Is Not a Fairy Tale: The Fantasia Barrino Story, based on her gritty New York Times best-selling autobiography. The film, directed by choreographer and actress Debbie Allen, stars the singer as herself and includes: Loretta Devine (Crash), Viola Davis (Get Rich or Die Tryin‘), Kadeem Hardison (Biker Boyz) and Jamia Simone Nash (My Wife and Kids) as the young Fantasia.