She first became popular in 2001 as the self-proclaimed Bad Girl of Pop, when she released her debut album, Willa Was Here. Aside from her music career, Ford has hosted several reality television shows, posed for Playboy, and competed on ABC's top-rated Dancing with the Stars.
Willa Ford was born and raised in Ruskin, Florida. Her parents are Ralph Everett and Donna Sweat Williford. As a young girl, she studied opera and began pursuing a singing career at age 8, when she joined the Tampa Bay Children's Choir. By age 11, she had become a member of the Tampa-based Children's Performing Arts Troupe Entertainment Revue, which consisted of 20 girls, ages 5-16, who toured the area and sang at places such as Walt Disney World Resort and Busch Gardens. Ford advanced from the chorus to the role of featured soloist. When she was 15, she left the troupe and landed a spot with a local foursome called FLA but did not remain long before heading to Los Angeles, California.
Ford graduated from East Bay High School with a 4.25 GPA, maintained a place on the honor roll throughout high school, and was enrolled in Honor/Advanced Placement classes.
In 1999, Ford, performing under the stage name Mandah, signed with MCA, which released her song Lullaby on the double platinum soundtrack Pokemon: The First Movie. She also landed a spot as an opening act for the Backstreet Boys. This not only brought her attention for her performances but also for her relationship with Backstreet Boy Nick Carter.
Soon Ford's label had her change her stage name to Willa Ford, so as to avoid confusion with Mandy Moore and promoted her as a beautiful singer with a good girl image. After negative publicity tainted her clean-cut image, MCA dropped her and let her move to a label that would embrace her bad girl image.
During a mall tour for Nautica Kids, Lava/Atlantic Records noticed Ford. Shortly thereafter, Lava/Atlantic gave Ford a deal and put her into their recording studio with a diverse group of writers and producers. Unlike some teen singers, Ford preferred to write most of her lyrics.
On July 17, 2001, Ford released her debut album Willa Was Here, containing the single I Wanna Be Bad. The album used pop/R&B grooves, dance beats and vocoders. Despite this hit single, the album reached only No. 56 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Willa is one of the few female artists that can access the whistle register as displayed in her song Ooh Ooh.
Also in 2001, Ford served as the spokesperson for Pantene Pro-V's Pro-Voice campaign and appeared on the in-concert cable special Teensation. Ford also hosted MTV's Total Request Live and Say What Karaoke. She then won a contract with MTV.
In 2002, Ford co-wrote and sang a duet with South Korean pop star Park Ji-yoon entitled Nastified, which appeared on Ji-yoon's fifth album, Man. Throughout 2003, Ford hosted The Morning After and her debut reality series; I Bet You Will. Ford's song, I Wanna Be Bad, became the theme song for the Six Flags amusement park chain and was also used by 7 Up for an advertising campaign. The hit single was also featured on the Totally Hits collection. Ford also modeled for Bongo clothing.
In 2003, Ford released a dance song called A Toast to Men, which featured guest rapper Lady May. The single was from her unreleased sophomore album Sexysexobsessive, which Ford originally wanted to call Porn Poetry, but Ford's record label did not agree with her "because that's not something that Wal-Mart will put on their shelves. A Toast to Men" hit #51 on the Billboard 100, but because of legal problems, the album was not released. This caused Ford to leave the label to pursue different aspects of her career.
In 2005, she hosted the first season of the reality television show The Ultimate Fighter. After its final episode, Ford got a shot as the summer guest doll for The Pussycat Dolls' Las Vegas show.
In 2006, Ford was one of the four celebrity quarterbacks for the Dallas Desire in the third Lingerie Bowl, which was shown on pay-per-view during half-time of Super Bowl XL. In February, Ford proved yet again to be the Bad Girl of Pop by posing nude for the March 2006 issue of Playboy with Jessica Alba on the cover.
In February 2006, Ford joined Nicollette Sheridan, Cindy Margolis, and DJ AM for a special Valentine's Day show at Club Pure in Las Vegas. Ford became a celebrity poker player on Calvin Ayre's Poker Wild Card in April.  In the May issue of Stuff Magazine, Ford ranked No. 48 in the 101 Sexiest Online Women competition and hosted the Love Jones Lingerie Fashion Show at Body English in Las Vegas later that month.
On August 14, 2006, on national television, Lisa Rinna announced the competitors, which included Ford, for the third season of Dancing with the Stars, which premiered on September 12 on ABC. Some contestants, including Ford, had already been guessed days before Rinna's announcement on Good Morning America. Rumors were being circulated because of an article about Ford's close friend and former boyfriend UFC champ Chuck Liddell.
Ford and her professional partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy were voted off Dancing with the Stars on October 11, 2006 after five weeks of competition. On October 12, it was announced that for personal reasons, Sara Evans would be dropping out of the show. Based on an incident on American Idol when someone dropped out and was replaced by the last person eliminated, there was a developing groundswell of support for bring Willa and her partner Maksim back. On the ABC message boards, there were some complaints that attempts to vote for Willa and Maksim were unsuccessful due to unspecified phone problems. On the October 16, 2006 edition of CNN Headline News' Robin & Company, Ford disclosed that ABC had asked her to return to the show after Sara Evans sudden departure. Ford declined, stating America voted, America spoke, and I'm done.
On November 1st 2006, Willa Ford returned to the televised result show of Dancing With the Stars, where she performed Fame (Irene Cara song), making her the first celebrity to be a contestant and performer on the show. On November 8th 2006, Ford returned to Dancing With the Stars again, but this time to perform a group jive and promote the upcoming tour. Ford also appeared a third time after her elimination on the November 15 2006 season finale of Dancing With the Stars, when all the dancers and stars returned for their final dance number before crowning Emmitt Smith the third seasons' champion.
Willa appeared on an EXTRA special undergoing an Ugly Betty Make-Over which aired on November 2nd, 2006 on the popular entertainment news TV show. Ford also did a photoshoot for Maxim (magazine) that is out in January 2007.
In an interview with the magazine Starry Constellation, Ford said that she has decided to concentrate on her music career and that once Dancing with the Stars is over, she plans to complete her sophomore album. On Thanksgiving, Ford was proposed to by hockey player Mike Modano and she accepted. She also announced to Access Hollywood that she was dropping out of the Dancing With The Stars Tour and will be working on the new pop-dance album instead.
Willa Ford Facts
|Birth Name||Amanda Lee Williford|
|Occupation||Musician, TV Host|
|Birthday||January 22, 1981 (36)|
|Birthplace||Ruskin, Florida, USA|
|Joe, Willa Ford, Yellowcard|
|7 Shades of Sexy|
|The Anna Nicole Smith Story|
|UFC Presents The Ultimate Fighter|