Family & Companions
The daughter of John and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas, Chynna Phillips was destined for musical stardom. After a brief foray into acting, including the lead role in "Roxanne: The Prize Pulitzer" (NBC, 1989), Phillips joined forces with Wendy and Carnie Wilson, daughters of Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, to form the vocal trio Wilson Phillips. Their lovely harmonies and uplifting lyrics immediately connected with the public, and their multiplatinum self-titled 1990 album spawned three number ones: "Release Me," "You're in Love" and the biggest single of the year, "Hold On," which Phillips co-wrote. Showered with Grammy nominations, including for Best New Artist, Wilson Phillips stumbled with their 1992 follow-up and Phillips left the band. In 1995, she married William Baldwin and starred in a popular remake of "Bye Bye Birdie" (ABC, 1995). The trio eventually reunited to release 2004's acclaimed California and Phillips began a Christian music side project in 2009. Decades later, audiences still fondly remembered Wilson Phillips, no doubt paving the way for the singer-actress to join the cast of "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ). Chynna Phillips, along with the Wilson sisters, achieved a lasting impact on pop culture while adding a bright chapter to the musical legacy of their parents.
Born Feb. 12, 1968 in Los Angeles, Gilliam Chynna Phillips was the daughter of John and Michelle Phillips of the iconic band The Mamas & the Papas, as well as was half-sister to actresses Mackenzie and Bijou Phillips. Helped by the fact that she possessed her mother's golden good looks, she began her career as an actress, notching small television and film roles, most notably in "Some Kind of Wonderful" (1987), "Caddyshack II" (1988) and "Say Anything." (1989). Her most significant acting role came when she essayed the scandalous divorcée Roxanne Pulitzer in the television biopic "Roxanne: The Prize Pulitzer" (NBC, 1989). As befitted the daughter of rock royalty, however, Phillips achieved stardom in the world of music, when she and lifelong friends Carnie and Wendy Wilson - daughters of Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson - formed the vocal trio Wilson Phillips. With gorgeous, sun-drenched harmonies worthy of their parents' best work and an inspirational message, the group's 1990 self-titled album proved a smash success, selling five million copies in the United States and more than 10 million worldwide, becoming the best-selling album by an all-female group at the time.
Although they harmonized as a trio, Phillips and her pixie cut were positioned front and center both visually and vocally. Although all three members had a hand in songwriting, Phillips took the lead in writing their signature song and first No. 1, the sing-a-long self-empowerment anthem "Hold On." The biggest single of 1990 and an international blockbuster, the song earned them a Grammy nomination and assured them pop culture immortality, since the song's earnest-bordering-on-cheesy power pop made it a prime target for parody, as, unfortunately, did Carnie Wilson's full figure. Still, just as easy as it was to mock the song, it was also universally loved, and would enjoy a vivid afterlife in the American public consciousness. Wilson Phillips hit No. 1 again with both "Release Me" and the Grammy-nominated "You're in Love" and scored the Top Five hit "Impulsive" and the Top Twenty hit "The Dream Is Still Alive." For their debut, they also earned Grammy nominations for Best New Artist and Album of the Year, totaling five nominations in total. Although they had conquered the music industry with upbeat melodies with a positive message, the group stretched artistically to plumb their darker sides for their follow-up album, 1992's Shadows and Light. Although the set featured Phillips and Carnie Wilson stepping up their songwriting prominence, the album failed to match the band's earlier success, merely going platinum. Wilson Phillips managed to land a Top Twenty hit, "You Won't See Me Cry" and a Top Forty hit "Give It Up," but by the end of 1992, Phillips announced she was leaving the group. While Wendy and Carnie Wilson continued to record together as a duo and occasionally with their father, Phillips took the plunge as a solo artist, releasing 1995's Naked and Sacred.
Although she wrote or co-wrote the majority of the album, it failed to make an impact on the charts and its singles, like the title track, "I Live For You" and the Diane Warren-penned "Just To Hear You Say That You Love Me," went nowhere, although the latter would eventually become a hit for Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. Although her musical life was at a crossroads, she had much to celebrate personally, when she married actor William Baldwin that same year, as well as professionally, when she stepped into Ann-Margret's shoes to charmingly portray American everyteen Kim MacAfee in a well-received remake of the musical "Bye Bye Birdie" (ABC, 1995) that also starred Jason Alexander and Vanessa L. Williams. For the remainder of the decade and into the next, Phillips would maintain a low public profile, focusing on her growing family and her newfound Christian faith.
In 2001, she reunited with her bandmates to perform the Beach Boys song "You're So Good to Me" at a Radio City Music Hall tribute to Brian Wilson. Three years later, a reenergized Wilson Phillips released their highly acclaimed covers set California, an audio love letter to Golden State songs and singers of the 1960s and 1970s. Phillips began a recurring voiceover role as Kitty on the animated series "Danny Phantom" (Nickelodeon, 2004-07) and also formed a side project, "Chynna and Vaughan," a Christian musical duo with singer/songwriter Vaughan Penn. The two released their debut album One Reason in 2009. That same year, the singer dealt with the aftermath of her half-sister Mackenzie Phillips' devastating claim in her memoir High on Arrival that Mackenzie and her father had an incestuous relationship through the years. Going against her mother who vehemently denied it, Phillips went on record as the only member of the family to say she believed Mackenzie's claims. In February 2010, Phillips received in-patient treatment for anxiety, and by fall of that year, the group released Christmas in Harmony and its lead single, "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday."
Although Wilson Phillips had weathered their share of jokes and criticism over the years, their legacy proved far-reaching, especially with the indestructible "Hold On," which became a popular comedic punchline, used for great effect in "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" (2004) in which the stoner heroes at first dismiss the song as lightweight before succumbing to its power. Similarly, the song and Wilson Phillips themselves were featured in the wedding finale/end credits of the Kristen Wiig comedy blockbuster "Bridesmaids" (2010), affirming the track's place in pop culture. Fans were further delighted to see that a newly confident Phillips had been added to the cast of "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ).