Born as Filippina Lydia Arena in the Melbourne suburb of Keilor East, Victoria (Australia) on 1 November 1967. She grew up with two sisters, Nancy and Silvana. As a child, she listened to Spanish, Italian and French songs that were in her family’s record collection. At the age of eight, she was the flower girl at her cousin Gaetano’s wedding, and at the reception she urged her father to approach the host so that she could sing – Daryl Braithwaite’s version of ‘You’re My World’ – it was her first public performance.
She apppeared as a child performer on the national television talent show ‘Young Talent Time’ in 1974, at age eight. For her first appearance she performed ABBA’s ‘Ring Ring’. As a member of Young Talent Team, Arena appeared in TV specials, in TV commercials, at shopping centres, and on tourist venues. In September 1982, she became a “coach” for new team members, Danielle Minogue and Mark McCormack. Arena departed the Young Talent Time show in October 1983, ahead of her 16th birthday, due to the Network Ten Young Talent Time series age limit contract stipulation to give way for younger members.
At age 17, Arena signed a record deal with Graffiti Records, which released her debut single, ‘Turn Up the Beat’, in 1985. Following this recording, Arena sang advertisement jingles and she worked on the pub and club circuit to earn a living. She also appeared in musicals. In 1987, she supported American artist, Lionel Richie on his Australian tour.
In 1988, she signed with EMI and reinvented her image as a raunchy disco diva. The single ‘I Need Your Body’ peaked at number 3 on the ARIA Singles Chart. Her debut solo album, ‘Strong As Steel’, was released in October, which peaked at number 17 on the ARIA Albums Chart.
The material did not sit well with Tina, however, and she decided to move to Los Angeles after a period of seclusion, taking singing lessons and starting to write songs. Upon return to Australia, in 1993, she performed in the local musical theatre production, ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’, as the Narrator.
Tina Arena’s second solo studio album, ‘Don’t Ask’, was released in November 1994 and was produced by David Tyson for Columbia Records. She co-wrote all ten tracks of the original Australian version. The album peaked at No. 1 on the ARIA Albums Chart – a year after its release – and remained in the top 50 for 83 weeks. It reached No. 11 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 12 in New Zealand. ‘Don’t Ask’ was the highest-selling album of 1995 in Australia and one of the biggest-selling albums by an Australian female singer to date. The lead single, ‘Chains’, was issued ahead of the album and reached the charts all over the world. In 1995 she toured Europe, appearing on Top of the Pops. Five additional singles were released.
Arena relocated to Los Angeles in 1996 and 1997 to record her third solo studio album, ‘In Deep’ (August 1997), which became her second number one album in Australia. Arena’s duet with US artist Marc Anthony, ‘I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You’, from the feature film soundtrack for ‘The Mask of Zorro’ (July 1998), gained her European chart success.
Arena sang ‘The Flame’ (written by John Foreman) at the 2000 Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Olympics on 15 September. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2000 in October, the Arena received an Outstanding Achievement Award. In the following month she issued her first compilation album, ‘Souvenirs’, which reached the ARIA top 40.
Arena’s fourth solo studio album, ‘Just Me’, was released in November 2001. In October 2004, Arena released ‘Greatest Hits 1994–2004’, her second compilation album, which peaked at No. 10 in Australia. The compilation provided a newly recorded track as a single, ‘Italian Love Song’ (November), which reached the top 40. After its release she left the recording label, striking a new deal with Sony Music BMG, France.
In 2006, she appeared on various European TV shows to promote the album and has appeared in Night of the Proms, Star Academy, Fête de la Musique, Les Enfoirés and the NRJ Music Awards.
Her sixth studio album, ‘Songs of Love & Loss’, was recorded independently and self-financed as she no longer had a recording contract in Australia. It was issued in December 2007 after a new deal was struck with EMI. The album featured torch songs, originally recorded by women in the 1960s and 1970s, including a cover version of The Man With The Child In His Eyes. Five concert dates backed by a 35-piece orchestra were held over December to January: three at the Sydney Opera House and two at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall.
Arena released her first English language solo studio album in eleven years, ‘Reset’, on 18 October 2013, which peaked at No. 4 and became her sixth Top 10 album in Australia.
Two years later, she released the album ‘Eleven’. She debuted the new material during a radio appearance on BBC Radio 2 with Terry Wogan. During the interview, she also performed an acoustic version of ‘The Man With The Child In His Eyes’.
On 25 October 2015, the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) announced that Arena was due to be inducted into their Hall of Fame in the annual awards ceremony in November as a member of the Australian music industry ARIA Hall of Fame. On Australia Day, 26 January 2016, Arena was recognised in the Australia Day Honours, which the country’s sovereign awards its citizens for actions or deeds that benefit the nation. Arena has been appointed as a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia—Order of Australia—in recognition of her contribution to the arts, representing Australia on the world stage and philanthropic work.