Fantasia's Memoirs Reveal Experiences With Illiteracy, Rape

ByABC News
September 29, 2005, 3:57 PM

Sept. 30, 2005 — -- Fantasia Barrino's debut, platinum-selling album included the song, "Truth Is," and that sentiment is the overriding theme in her memoirs.

Two years after winning "American Idol" as a high school dropout and struggling single mother, the 21-year-old is riding high with her success. She's about to go on tour, is embarking on an acting career, and is publishing her memoirs which reveal dark secrets from her past.

The singer, known to her fans as simply Fantasia, admits that while charming American television viewers and wooing the judges to become a pop star, she was hiding the fact that she was barely able to read or write.

"You're illiterate to just about everything. You don't want to misspell," Fantasia told "20/20." "So that, for me, kept me in a box and I didn't, wouldn't come out."

Her illiteracy kept her from even trying to get a job before her stint on television. "I was so ashamed and I was like, 'What will people say about me?' I can't get a job," she said.

The singer describes herself as functionally illiterate, and is brutally honest about her challenges in her new memoir, "Life is Not a Fairy Tale," which she dictated to a freelance writer.

Reading even simple things, she acknowledges, is difficult. She can barely make out or pronounce unfamiliar words. So how was she able to perform on the scripted portions of "American Idol"? Fantasia said she would fake it and apologize if she pronounced something incorrectly.

"Somebody would say, 'You know, it's pronounced this way' and I'd be like, 'Oh, I'm sorry, you know, I'm country, you know."

Since most of the songs were familiar to her it worked, until show producers handed her a song she did not know: Gershwin's hit "Summertime" from "Porgy and Bess."

Afraid the vocal coach would discover she couldn't read the lyrics, Fantasia listened to the words, memorized them and did such a good job the sultry tune became her theme song.