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Cassandra Ventura was born in New London, Connecticut, in 1986. The daughter of an African American mother and a Filipino father, Cassie attended the preparatory Williams School, located on the Connecticut College campus in her hometown. She began modeling when she was 14, and by the time she was 16, Cassie was modeling for local department stores, Delia’s fashion catalog, and Seventeen magazine.

At the same time, Cassie was training as a singer and dancer. Encouragement from producer Rockwilder prompted Cassie to take formal voice lessons. Since her school had a performing arts program, Cassie took some modern ballet, although she wanted to take on more urban dance styles like jazz and hip-hop.

For a while, Cassie’s performing had to take a backseat to her homework as long as she was in school. When she finished high school in 2004, she didn’t want to go to college like the rest of her peers. Instead, Cassie put her heart into moving to New York City so she could make it in the real world.

Cassie returned to modeling to make money while she pursued music and took some classes at the Broadway Dance Center. Her road to stardom started in the club scene, where producer Ryan Leslie began spotting her at clubs and parties in late 2004. He was charmed by Cassie’s personality. She was finally introduced to Leslie by Sean “Diddy” Combs’ makeup artist, who had worked with Cassie on one of her modeling photo shoots.

Not long afterward, Cassie approached Ryan Leslie to help her record a song that she wanted to give to her mother as a birthday gift. Leslie put together a duet for the two of them to sing, called “Kiss Me.” He was so pleased with the result that he played it for record executive Tommy Mottola, who quickly offered Cassie a management deal. Leslie himself soon signed Cassie to his NextSelection label, and wrote and produced Cassie’s first single, “Me & U” in 2005.

“Me & U” became a huge hit on the internet, and went on to be a club hit in Germany, where Cassie later traveled on a promo tour. A video for the song was rushed into production, but withdrawn when it was deemed too risque; the controversy caused still more notoriety online, only heightening interest in Cassie. “Me & U” peaked as the No. 3 download on iTunes, and those sales pushed it to No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. A less suggestive, “official” video for the song was released in July 2006.

In the meantime, Sean Combs heard “Me & U” in a club, and Ryan Leslie convinced him to partner his Bad Boy Records with Leslie’s own NextSelection imprint for the release of Cassie’s debut album, Cassie, in August 2006.

Consequently, Cassie’s whirlwind of success in the music world has led to added modeling work. She has appeared in a Mario video, modeled for Missy Elliot’s Adidas clothing line, has done a swimsuit spread for Complex magazine, and has even graced Target’s billboard in Times Square -- quite an accomplishment for a girl who, not long before, came to New York with nothing but a dream and a high school degree.

In 2007, Cassie appeared in Kanye West's video for "Stronger" in addition to appearing in the film Step Up 2 the Streets, for which she recorded the track "Is It You?" Firmly established and working with industry heavyweights, Cassie appeared on our Top 99 Most Desirable Women list in 2008 at No. 62.

Modeling used to be Cassie Ventura’s day job, so obviously she has a leg up on many women when it comes to good looks. Her father is from the Philippines and her mother is African American, and Cassie’s rounded features and hazelnut complexion certainly wouldn’t look out of place in the South Pacific. And it doesn’t hurt that she has a slender, toned body -- the kind bikinis were made for.

Being young, vivacious and beautiful obviously gives Cassie Ventura a great deal of sex appeal. Her original low-budget version of the “Me & U” video featured her picking up a guy at a club and taking him back to her place, and it was all shot from the man’s point of view. It was so racey, it had to be replaced by a tamer video involving Cassie dancing instead. That’s not to say that the feisty Cassie is a prude, of course; just take a look at her sexy swimsuit spread in Complex magazine.

Cassie Ventura’s accomplishments to date are far from modest. For the past few years, she has modeled in ads for Adidas, Abercrombie & Fitch and Target. After high school, she made the right connections, got a recording contract, and made the hit single “Me & U.” Her first full album Cassie, released in August 2006, adds to her impressive resume.

Accordingly, Cassie’s fame is still nascent. “Me & U” is quickly making her reputation in the club circuit, on radio and on MTV, but she’ll need more than one good song to hold onto her newfound fans. At the same time, Cassie’s modeling has been getting her noticed, even though now she only poses for music-related promos. “Stuff is still coming out,” she explains. “People are like, ‘I just saw you in Target.’”

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