Annette Joanne Funicello is an American singer and actress. She was Walt Disney's most popular cast member of The Mickey Mouse Club, and went on to appear in a series of beach party films.
Born in Utica, New York to Italian-Americans Joseph and Virginia Funicello, she took dancing and music lessons as a child to try to overcome shyness. Her family moved to Southern California when she was four years old.
In 1955, the 12-year-old was discovered by Walt Disney as she performed as the Swan Queen in Swan Lake at a dance recital in Burbank, California. On the basis of this appearance, Disney cast her as one of the original "Mouseketeers". She was the last to be selected, and the only one picked by Walt Disney. She soon proved to be very popular. By the end of the first season of Mickey Mouse Club, she was receiving 6,000 letters a month, according to her Disney Legends biography.
In addition to appearing in many of the Mouseketeers' sketches and dance routines, Funicello starred or co-starred in a number of serials on The Mickey Mouse Club. These included Adventure in Dairyland, her own self-titled serial, Walt Disney Presents: Annette, and the second and third Spin and Marty serials,The Further Adventures of Spin and Marty and The New Adventures of Spin and Marty. It was in a hayride scene in the Annette serial that she performed the song that was to launch her singing career. The studio received so much fan mail about "How Will I Know My Love," written by the Sherman Brothers, that Walt Disney decided to issue it as a single, and to give Funicello, somewhat unwillingly, a recording contract.