Born Brandy Rayana Norwood on February 11, 1979, in McComb, MS; daughter of Willie (a choir director), and Sonia (Brandy's manager) Norwood; one child, Sy'rai. Education: Pepperdine University, B.A. degree. Addresses: Record company--Atlantic Recordings, 1290 Ave. of the Americas, New York, NY 10104; Website--Brandy Official Website: http://www.foreverbrandy.com.
Brandy Norwood, television's talented African-American teen idol, boasts a successful singing and acting resume that many an entertainment veteran could envy. With a flash of her broad, contagious smile and a toss of her signature mane of glossy braids, the award-winning singer turned her focus to acting and captured a television audience as star of the UPN sitcom Moesha, causing Entertainment Weekly to note, "She's one of the few pop-music stars who can act even better than she can sing."
Brandy's parents, Willie and Sonia Norwood, recognized stand-out talent in both Brandy and their son, Brandy's younger brother Willie Jr., called Ray-J. They launched a non-stop business plan aimed at early careers for their children in the entertainment industry. They moved the family from Mississippi to Los Angeles when Brandy was four and Ray-J was two, and started their vocal training in a church youth choir. "My brother and I were always in the front as featured singers because our dad was the choir director," Brandy explained to Rolling Stone. "Then I started being directress of younger choirs, and, well, I was just really hot in the church."
The church was Brandy's first stage. Her father handled the kids' musical grooming, while her mother served as business manager/chaperone. Brandy called her mother "Momager," and Sonia took the job to heart. Sonia had to approve clothing, costume, diet, and social and career choices.
At age eleven, Brandy won second place in a talent contest and began singing at local events; at 12, she earned a spot singing backup for an R&B group named Immature. In 1993, when she was 14, Brandy signed her first recording contract with Atlantic. Several months later she landed a role on the ABC sitcom Thea, playing 12-year-old Daneesha, daughter of the title character. The show didn't last long, which suited Brandy fine. She used the extra time to polish and launch her debut R&B album, simply titled Brandy. The recording was a wild success, rocketing to the top of musical charts with triple platinum sales, and producing the best-selling singles "Baby" and "I Wanna Be Down," and two videos that featured prominently on MTV. Jeremy Helliger in People remarked, "Brandy's well-groomed blend of gently lilting hip hop and pop-soul has a more timeless appeal. ... While this isn't groundbreaking stuff, Brandy has the pipes to become more than the latest teenage next-big-thing."
Brandy embarked on her first 13-city tour of U.S. high schools and did a two-month stint as the opening act for Boyz II Men's national tour. Her credits include songs on two major motion picture soundtracks, "Sittin' up in My Room" from Waiting to Exhale, and "Where Are You Now?" from Batman Forever. Winning a Grammy Award and being named Favorite New Artist at the 1996 American Music Awards legitimized her musical talent on a national level.
Brandy followed up with another high-profile career move. Nabbing the star role in the United Paramount Network (UPN) hit sitcom Moesha elevated her status to prime time. The highly rated comedy series focuses on the everyday life of the Mitchells, a middle class black family living in South Central Los Angeles. Brandy plays Moesha Mitchell, the bright 16-year-old daughter who copes with the normal pressures and complications of teen life with the help of best friends and well-meaning family members. She has a mischievous little brother, hard-working car salesman father, and a new stepmother who teaches at her high school.
Brandy headed a large and talented cast. She relied on instinct, help from an acting coach, and advice from fellow performers for her new role. Her life was crowded with television rehearsals and tapings, daily tutoring sessions that her mother insisted on, and continued work time spent in the recording studio. The schedule left little time for dating or down time with peers. She still tried to fit in phone calls and trips to the mall with friends, although now she took a body guard along.
Brandy continued to spread her wings with her 1998 sophomore album Never Say Never. Some fans and critics were worried that the length of time since her breakout first album, as well as her budding acting career, might severely impact the quality of her second album. Those fears were quickly put to rest as the first single, "The Boy Is Mine," a duet with R&B singer Monica, hit the top ten Billboard charts in the first few weeks of release and was one of the best selling R&B singles ever. But Brandy's acting career refused to take a backseat to her singing career. She broke into films with a starring role in the 1998 movie I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, playing the sassy Karla. Brandy told Entertainment Weekly, "The movie is going to shock people, but they need to realize I can play more than the teenager next door or the perfect Cinderella." While the movie did not break any box office records, it introduced Brandy to a new audience.
During 1999 and 2000 she continued working on Moesha, and pursued studies at Pepperdine University, attempting to earn a degree with an emphasis on entertainment law. But this breakneck pace soon took a toll on the young star. She had what she explained to Oprah Winfrey, quoted in Jet, as "an emotional, physical and spiritual breakdown." She was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for a two-day hospital stay. Brandy stated on Winfrey's show that she had not been taking care of herself and was under a lot of pressure, both professionally and personally. In 2001, at the end of its sixth season, UPN decided to cancel Moesha.
Brandy concentrated on her third album, Full Moon, and toured the country to promote it. In early 2002 she revealed to the public that she had secretly married her producer, Robert Smith, in the summer of 2001. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that she was pregnant and due to have her first child in July. Full Moon hit stores in spring of 2002, again to rave reviews, and Brandy began juggling her music and acting careers with parenting. Her daughter, Sy'rai, was born on June 16, 2002. In 2003 her relationship with Smith fell apart.
In July of 2004 Brandy announced her engagement to NBA basketball star Quentin Richardson. Shortly thereafter, Robert Smith announced that he and Brandy had not ever been officially married, and that the marriage had been fabricated in order to maintain Brandy's wholesome image with the media. Brandy publicly admitted to the sham, but stated that it had been a "spiritual union."
In August, her album Afrodisiac went gold. "I didn't set out to make this type of an album. It was unexpected, that's how I know it's real," she stated in the Liverpool Echo. "The only thing that was already set was the feeling I had behind it, the energy and the vibe. It all came into play. I was feeling so much passion. I just wanted so badly to sing. I wanted people to hear the romantic side of me, the sensual side."
The Best of Brandy was released in 2005, and included 18 of her greatest hits. While it may seem unusual to release a greatest hits album at age 25, Brandy had already produced a decade of hits.
by Sharon Rose and Sarah Parkin
Co-starred on ABC sitcom Thea, 1993; recorded multi-platinum debut album titled Brandy, 1994; embarked on 13-city solo tour and spent two months opening for Boyz II Men; star of United Paramount Network's (UPN) sitcom Moesha, 1995-2001; contributed songs to soundtrack for Waiting To Exhale, 1995, and Batman Forever, 1995; appeared in title role of Cinderella, 1997; released sophomore album Never Say Never, 1998; appeared in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, 1998; appeared in Divas Live '99, 1999; appeared in Double Platinum, 1999; Osmosis Jones (voice only), 2001; released third album, Full Moon, 2002; and fourth album, Afrodisiac, 2004; released The Best of Brandy, 2005.
Billboard Music Awards, Best New Rhythm and Blues Artist, 1995; and Best Rhythm and Blues Female, 1995; MTV Best Video Music Award, Best Song from a Movie, for "Sittin' Up in My Room," 1996; American Music Award, favorite new artist, 1996; Grammy Award (with Monica) for Best R&B by a Duo or Group with Vocal, for "The Boy is Mine," 1998.
- Who's Who Among African Americans, 14th Edition, Gale Group, 2001.
- Billboard, June 20, 1998, p. 28.
- Entertainment Weekly, November 8, 1996, p. 56; November 13, 1998, p. 28-30.
- Jet, February 26, 1996, pp. 59-61; November 25, 1996, pp. 56-59; May 3, 1999, p. 58; June 4, 2001, p. 34.
- Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England), June 25, 2004.
- Newsweek, March 25, 1996, p. 69.
- New York Times, April 2, 1995, p. 43.
- People, October 24, 1994, p. 20; November 21, 1994, p. 99; July 31, 1995, p. 23; May 6, 1996, p. 140; March 11, 2002, p. 152.
- Rolling Stone, April 6, 1995, p. 32; July 22, 2004.
- Seventeen, April 1995, pp. 158-161.
- Time, May 17, 1999, pp. 84-86.
- TV Guide, April 6, 1996, pp. 30-32.
- USA Today, July 26, 1996, p. 2D.
- Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com (August 9, 2005).