Going from a series of books about a girl pop band to a series of Disney TV movies about a girl pop band to an actual, touring girl pop band, the Cheetah Girls began as fictional characters in Deborah Gregory's 16 novels for young-adult readers. The series launched in 1999, and its popularity with tween girls convinced Disney to adapt the storyline into a made-for-TV movie in 2003. The film starred former Cosby Show and Hangin' with Mr. Cooper actress/singer Raven-Symoné (also of Disney's Emmy-nominated and NAACP Image Award-winning That's So Raven), singers/actresses Adrienne Bailon and Kiely Williams of the group 3LW, and actress/singer/dancer Sabrina Bryan. Interestingly, some of the models who posed for the cover artwork on the Cheetah Girls books were in another, like-minded group, Before Dark.
Disney's young audience grew attached to the Cheetah Girl characters: Raven-Symoné was the Cheetah Girls' fearless leader, Galleria; Bailon played the wary Chanel; Williams became the fashionista Aquanetta; and Bryan portrayed a vulnerable foster child named Dorinda. The movie was such a big success, with DVD sales reaching double-platinum status, that it spawned a soundtrack, the 2005 Christmas-themed album Cheetah-licious Christmas, as well as the Cheetah Girls 2 movie and soundtrack (both of which were released in 2006). That same year, the Cheetah Girls became a living, breathing, touring act, hitting the road with Vanessa Hudgens of Disney TV's other phenomenon, High School Musical. A live album entitled The Party's Just Begun arrived in summer 2007. In September of that same year, the Girls, who were by now a trio (Raven-Symoné had departed soon after the first album to pursue her solo career), released their first non-soundtrack record, TCG. Another movie soon followed, however, with over 6 million viewers tuning in to watch the network premier of The Cheetah Girls: One World in 2008. The One World soundtrack arrived that same summer. ~ Heather Phares