Born Melissa Arnette Elliot in 1971, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot endured a difficult childhood, living in Virginia and North Carolina. At the age of eight she was repeatedly raped for almost a year by her teenage cousin and witnessed her father behave violently towards her mother.She got her break in the music business by working with US artists MC Lyte, Adina Howard and Jodeci. Having fine-tuned her craft in the studio, she was signed to Swing Mob Records as part of the group Sista. However, when the record label folded the group were left without a contract and plans for their debut album were shelved.
Continuing to work on other artists’ records in one shape or another, Missy Elliott caught the attentions of major record companies thanks to her rap on Gina Thompson's ‘The Things You Do’.
In 1996 Missy Elliott signed a deal with Electra which allowed her to fund her own label, Gold Mind Records. By 1997, she was ready for solo success with the release of her album ‘Supa Dupa Fly’. The album was a huge success and the queue of artists looking to work with her was growing longer by the day.
In 1998 she worked with ex-Spice Girl, Mel B on her single, ‘I Want You Back’ which shot straight to the top of the UK singles chart. Having found time to work with her idols Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson, she delivered her own follow-up album in 1999 - 'Da Real World'. Again, the album was a huge success.
Lucrative advertising deals with brands such as GAP helped boost her worldwide profile and, by the release of the album ‘Miss E...So Addictive’ in 2001, there really was no stopping the rapper from Virginia. The singles ‘Get Ur Freak On’, ‘One Minute Man’ and ‘Work It’, with their distinctive Vidéos, helped the sales of subsequent albums and the innovative rapper became a true MTV icon. Collaborating with Mary J. Blige and Fantasia in 2005, Missy released her ‘The Cookbook’ album in 2005.
In 2006, Missy Elliott released her first greatest hits album, 'Respect M.E.' The record peaked at number seven in the UK charts and sold more than half a million copies worldwide. Missy has in the past expressed a desire to start a family, but joked that she is afraid of the pain of childbirth. "I don't know if I can take that kind of pain [of labour]. Maybe in the year 2020 you could just pop a baby out and it'd be fine. But right now I'd rather just adopt."
In June 2011, Missy Elliott revealed that she has been absent from the music scene in recent years as a result of Graves' disease. The singer revealed that her condition has been so bad at times that she has been unable to hold a pen.