Maria was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico but grew up in Nashville, Tennessee after moving there two years later. She was the oldest daughter born to Rosa and Dan, a Southern Baptist pastor. Her mother is Puerto Rican. Her family's Christian background meant that she was immersed in Christian music and she began singing in church from the age of two.
At the age of seventeen, Maria was signed to Sparrow Records, a Christian music subsidiary of EMI, after being spotted singing at a wedding. She later appeared on the debut album by former Christian band Avalon member Jody McBrayer. She was also asked to record a cover of "With or Without You" with hip-hop group GRITS on the U2 tribute album In the Name of Love: Artists United for Africa. After being spotted by an ad agency, Maria and one of her songs, "Rock You Senseless" were featured in Clairol's 2004 Herbal Essence campaign. She also appeared on What I Like About You as part of the campaign. She later signed with Virgin Records with plans to release a non-Christian album that failed to come to fruition. A subsequent contract with Zomba Label Group also fell through. Maria later appeared as a contestant in the failed reality television series The One: Making a Music Star in 2006 where she was the first contestant to be eliminated.
In 2007, Maria signed a songwriting deal with
Universal Music Publishing Group, which led to her meeting with
Ne-Yo's manager and then Ne-Yo himself, eventually signing with
his label and Universal Motown after auditioning for its president
in 2008. She was the first artist signed to Ne-Yo's label,
Compound Entertainment and was an opening act for his tour.
Maria appeared in Katy Perry's music video for "Hot n Cold" as a bridesmaid. She also co-wrote the title bonus track from Ashley Tisdale's
album Guilty Pleasure. One of her songs "Catwalk V-O-G-U-E" was featured on an episode of The Hills and later covered by girl group Monrose.
She has been removed from the Compound Entertainment aritist roster
on their website.
Kemet & Maat
: before Judaism, Christianity and Islam