Previously Known For: Moesha, Brandy: Special Delivery and albums: Brandy, Never Say Never, Full Moon and Afrodisiac
|Currently Known For: One of the best-selling R&B female artists of all time, Zoe Ever After, and as Roxie Hart in the Broadway production of Chicago|
“I just feel my sexuality is private. I’m very shy about being sexy. That part of me has been so closed to the public eye. I’ve sold millions of records with my clothes on.” Choosing to reveal herself through her iconic voice and wholesome values rather than in skimpy clothes and scandalous behavior, Brandy has not only established herself as one of the best-selling R&B female artists of all time, but she’s also proven to be an outstanding role model. Once known for her popular UPN sitcom Moesha, the 38-year-old songstress has found ongoing success on Broadway in her Chicago debut, on the BET network in her sitcom Zoe Ever After, and in the recording studio where she’s working on her seventh studio album!
Brandy Rayana Norwood was born into a musical family on February 11, 1979 in McComb, Mississippi where her father worked as a gospel singer and choir director. At two years old, she made her stage debut singing a solo with her father’s choir, a tradition that continued for the next few years before the family left their southern hometown for the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, California. Once in California, Brandy studied greats like Whitney Houston and worked to find her own unique voice and style as she performed in talent shows and with local youth singing groups. But, even then, Brandy struggled to know who she truly was.
“As a young girl, I didn’t really know who I was. I didn’t really have a sense of self,” she admitted. “I knew what my talent was. I knew I believed in the gift, but I didn’t really know who I was as a person. I knew everything that everyone wanted from me was on full blast and that wasn’t who I was.” At 11 years old, the pressure only increased for Brandy when she was offered a contract as a back-up vocalist with Teaspoon Productions in 1990. While the opportunity was incredible and eventually led Brandy to sign a deal with Atlantic Records just three years later, her struggle continued. “I think it’s hard to find who you are in this industry growing up and everybody telling you who you are,” she said. “So, everything kind of gets muddled especially when you haven’t truly built a solid foundation or a self-esteem. When the only thing you’re building is your career, it’s very hard to really see yourself as anything but a celebrity or whatever that is, whatever comes with fame.”
Signing on with Atlantic Records, Brandy juggled her academics at Hollywood High Performing Arts Center while working on her debut album with producer Keith Crouch. Coincidentally, things became even more hectic when Brandy landed her first acting gig on Thea, which earned her a Young Artist Award nomination. With the series canceled after its first season, Brandy had even more time to focus on her music and rebranded herself as an R&B hip-hop artist with the release of her self-titled debut album in 1994. Featuring singles like “Baby” and “I Wanna Be Down,” the album was a huge hit and climbed to number 20 on the Billboard 200 while earning Brandy two Grammy Award nominations, two Billboard Awards, and four Soul Train Music Awards.
Lending her voice to soundtracks for Batman Forever and Waiting to Exhale, Brandy was at the height of her early career when she made her way back to Hollywood in 1996 and starred in her own series on UPN, Moesha. The show was a huge hit among audiences and became the most-watched on the network over the next six seasons and even spawned a spinoff, The Parkers. Along the way, Brandy continued to record music and delighted her fans when she released her Never Say Never album, which featured her duet with Monica titled “The Boy is Mine.” The single became the longest-running number one hit in music history while the album itself earned Brandy her first Grammy Award.
Brandy saw another dream come true in 1997 when her idol, Whitney Houston, invited her to star in the television production of Cinderella featuring Houston, Jason Alexander and Whoopi Goldberg. Months later, she made her feature film debut in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer but, after over a decade in the spotlight, was ready for a break and spent the next few years taking it easy before returning in the new millennium when she teamed up with her brother, Ray-J, to record a cover of Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise.” In 2002, she released her third studio album, Full Moon, and shared a glimpse into life behind the scenes when she allowed cameras to document the birth of her daughter, Sy’rai, in the four-part MTV special, Brandy: Special Delivery.
Taking another hiatus to focus on raising her daughter, Brandy made a quick return with the release of Afrodisiac in 2004 and briefly took her seat as a judge on America’s Got Talent before she was replaced by Sharon Osbourne. In 2008, she released her fifth studio album, Human, which failed to chart and marked her first failure in the industry as she struggled to rekindle her fame with an appearance on Dancing with the Stars and the reality series, Brandy & Ray J: A Family Business. With the show canceled shortly after, Brandy made the move over to the BET network where she accepted a recurring role on The Game as she worked on her sixth album, Two Eleven, which marked her comeback in the industry in 2012.
Over the last five years, Brandy has once again reinvented herself as an independent artist. “I think this is really me coming into my own as an artist and really making the motto of my life to be brave because I’ve been through a lot and I’m still here,” she says. Making her Broadway debut in Chicago in 2015, she’s been unstoppable ever since with her starring role on Zoe Ever After on BET, her Slayana World Tour that took her throughout Europe, and her upcoming seventh album. She’s also been spotted on the FOX reality series My Kitchen Rules and, as of August 2017, announced her return to Broadway where she’ll reprise her role as Roxie Hart.
“I feel like there’s so much purpose that’s left in me to share with people and I’m just ready to use my gift in the right way because I know I have a gift and it’s unique and different than anybody else’s,” the 38-year-old says of this next chapter in her life and her career. “I’m supposed to do something with it and I’m happy that I know that now. It’s not just cliché or just something to say because I feel it. I’m happy about that.”