Ashanti remembers her childhood like it was yesterday.
Long before performing massive hits like "Foolish" and "Rock Wit U" for thousands of fans, the 41-year-old was just a young girl at school who didn't always feel like she fit in.
"Growing up having a very unique name, there were moments," Ashanti exclusively shared with E! News. "I remember there was circle time and the teacher would call out names. The kids would go, ‘Why doesn't her name sound like this or that?'"
The experiences inspired Ashanti to write her very first children's book My Name Is A Story, an empowering tale about a girl who learns to love her unique name. It's a journey Ashanti knows all too well.
"My name originates in Ghana," she explained. "When you travel outside of the country, sometimes the women are considered low on the totem pole. But there's a tribe of people called the Ashanti and in this specific tribe, the women run things. It means woman of strength and I thought this is perfect for me."
While the musician thought she was offering a book to celebrate children with unconventional names, Ashanti hopes the story speaks to more people than she ever imagined.
"I want this to resonate with kids who don't necessarily have a unique name so they know not to make fun of a person that has a unique name and to know it's okay if that name doesn't sound familiar to you," she said. "Don't make fun of it, embrace it. Stop to think about how someone else may feel. There's a story behind that. That's why that name is different."
And perhaps those differences will make a big difference in your life. While Ashanti had to face questions from her peers in grade school, the "Falling for You" singer experienced the opposite reaction when she entered the music industry.
"When I would go for my auditions—and I had three failed records deals so it wasn't easy—the one thing people liked is that I had one name," she said. "They always dropped my last name."
Twenty years after releasing her debut album, we have to wonder what Ashanti's classmates are thinking now.
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My Name Is A Story
First days aren't easy for a girl with a name like Ashanti. It feels like no one can pronounce it correctly! But with some encouragement from her mom in the book My Name Is A Story, Ashanti spells her name and learns just how special it is.