Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

In the annals of the pop pantheon, there are countless stories of soap opera actresses turned singers. But a Mexican soap opera star who becomes a successful singer in Spanish and then a purveyor of urban music in English rivals even the most dramatic storylines from the popular TV serials.

Enter Thalía. Once a soap star whose standard role was that of the rags-to-riches princess, she is now living a Cinderella story of her own with the release of her English-language debut.

Released on Virgin Records July 8, "Thalía" (pronounced Ta-LEE-ah) -- an album described as urban pop by her label -- is off to an auspicious start, thanks to heavy airplay at top 40 and R&B radio of first single "I Want You," featuring Fat Joe.

"I always like to reinvent myself and create new tendencies," Thalía says. "I thought it would be super interesting to mix two Latin cultures: [Fat Joe's] as a Latino born and raised in New York, and mine as a Latina born and raised in Mexico."

It's still an odd couple, considering that Thalía is a Latin pop star, thanks to her renditions of standard ballads and Mexican music.

But the track was designed to thrust Thalía into the mainstream head-on rather than to initially capitalize on her existing Latin fan base. The Spanish version of the song, in fact, was sent to radio a month after the original English one.

Thalía spruced up with a roster of hit-making producers, including Corey Rooney and Steve Morales, and a sound reminiscent of early Jennifer Lopez.

"I Want You" has risen steadily on radio charts nationwide, this week reaching No. 38 on Billboard's Hot 100 and No. 21 on the Top 40 Tracks chart. Coupled with ample press and TV exposure in both languages, the buzz is loud enough that initial shipments of "Thalía" in the U.S. alone totaled more than 400,000 copies, according to Matt Serletic, chairman/CEO of Virgin Records.

A seasoned performer since she was 9 years old, Thalía is a household name, thanks to her membership in teen group Timbiriche and her roles in a series of extremely successful soap operas, where she not only played the lead roles but also sang the theme songs.

Dedicated solely to music for the past few years, Thalía's most recent Spanish-language album, also titled "Thalía," won Latin pop album of the year, female, at this year's Billboard Latin Music Awards. The album also included a couple of English tracks, as a prelude to this year's crossover.

This time around, the new "Thalía" has four Spanish tracks. Beyond the single, with nine successful solo albums and her personality, Thalía has a couple more aces up her sleeve that could garner her the next major Latin crossover hit.

She is launching an apparel collection for Kmart in August that coincides with her album release and guarantees major exposure.

According to Abigail Jacobs, brand and product communications manager for Kmart, the Thalía Sodi line (Sodi is Thalía's last name) will include apparel, accessories and lingerie for women and girls.

An exclusive CD/DVD package will be sold only in Kmart stores. In addition, when the Thalía Sodi collection launches in August, Thalía will be in all Kmart advertising outlets and on a national radio and TV campaign, featuring her second single, "Baby, I'm in Love."





Excerpted from the July 19, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.

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