Her primary schooling was in a private London school. Two influences during those years also had an impact on who she is today: ballet and poetry. Certainly a result of her six years studying ballet are the "rare skill and refinement" noted by critics when referring to her graceful movement on stage. In a 1998 interview she described the allure of poetry: "It seemed to disobey any rules. ... I used to relate poetry to jazz together. Jazz was like musical poetry".
When she was ten years old, her parents moved the family back to Barbados. She felt the time she spent in Barbados greatly influenced her both personally and in the form her music has taken, as it gave her a more ample and realistic expo-sure to the music of the Caribbean. The family returned to London when she was 14, and she had no doubt that she wanted her future to revolve around music. Increasingly, she found herself recapitulating everything she learned and experi-enced about her culture and history into poetry and setting this to music.
At 17, after having recorded some songs a cappella, a major London recording company became interested and signed her on. hi 1992 her first CD Mind Adventures was released. While songs like "Feel So High" and others from that record-ing shot up the British and European music charts, they failed to engage listeners in the United States. She continued to write and prepare for her next release while touring with her good friend Seal as the opening performer for his concerts.
In 1994 Des'ree made her breakthrough on the U.S. charts. Her second CD / Ain't Movin' included the hit single "You Gotta Be," which went platinum in the United States, selling more than a million copies and reached gold status in Australia and Brazil, selling millions more around the world. "You Gotta Be" became the most played video ever on television's VH-1, and received an IAAAM Award (International Association of African-American Music), as well as a prestigious BMI Award. This song has also been included in BMI's "Million Air" list, for being among the most performed songs on radio and television, a distinction that only 1,500 titles out of over 3 millions works, have ever achieved. This album also included "Love Is Here," the first song she ever wrote.
Des'ree, who had a personal audience with Pope John Paul II, was one of the featured performers at the first secular concert at the Vatican in Rome, Italy, in 1995. In addition, her songs began to make their way into major feature films. Her song "Silent Hero" was included in Spike Lee's film dockers, and in 1996 her composition "Kissing You," was used as the love theme in Baz Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet, starring Leonardo Di Caprio.
Critics note that Des'ree's music continues to evolve album after album, with her 1998 Supernatural, being the most challenging to date. This production, which includes the song "I'm Kissing You" has sold over 16 million copies worldwide. The album also includes "Proud to Be a Dread," her tribute to reggae superstar Bob Marley, which in general terms examines the hardships of life and speaks of the misrepresentations of Rastafarian culture in the mainstream. One critics notes that she is able to blend her soprano range into reggae, rap, R&B and other rhythms, "wrapping her luscious vocals around heart-wrenching lyrics". He attributes Supernatural's success to Des'ree's "sublime vocal work".
In 2007, Des'ree sued Beyonce for covering "I'm Kissing You" without her permission. Des'ree is a vegetarian.
Her first exposure to music came from listening to her parents play the recordings of Duke Ellington, Stevie Wonder, Joan Armatrading, and Bob Marley. She was surrounded by the Caribbean island sounds of jazz, reggae, calypso, and socca brought from Barbados to London by her parents. As a girl she entertained family and friends with her singing, imagining herself as singer Gladys Knight on stage. For many years, she sang in church gospel choirs, which gave her the spiritual quality one identifies in her compositions.