Brandy, (actually, Norwood, Brandy)

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Brandy, (actually, Norwood, Brandy)

Brandy, (actually, Norwood, Brandy) soulful, intelligent teen hitmaker and actress; b. McComb, Miss., Feb. 11, 1979. Brandy’s father was the church music director, so it’s not surprising that Brandy Norwood and her brother, Willie Ray Jr., had musical talent and performed in the church choir. Recognizing the depth of their children’s talent, the Norwood family relocated to L.A. by the time Brandy started school. As a member of a youth choir, she performed on several award shows. By the time she was 11, she had done several commercials, soloed for Arsenio Hall, and did backing vocals for the teen soul group Immature.

Although she started off as a singer—and was signed to Atlantic Records—Brandy made her first real professional mark as an actress, playing Danesha on the 1993 ABC TV series Thea. The show was shortlived, but Brandy would maintain a strong presence in both music and television from that point forward.

During the show’s hiatus, Brandy recorded her eponymous debut for Atlantic. Her first single, “I Wanna Be Down” topped the R&B charts for four weeks, rising to #6 on the pop charts and going gold. The album earned two Grammy nominations and four Soul Train Awards, among others. It also turned out three more pop hits: the platinum “Baby,” which hit #4 pop and spent four weeks at #1 R&B; “Best Friend,” which peaked at #34; and “Brokenhearted,” which went gold and hit #9 pop. In 1994, she was named Best New R&B Artist at the American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, and the NAACP Image Awards. The album stayed on the charts for 84 weeks.

As she received all these awards for her music, Brandy once again was acting. She got her own series, Moesha. Initially ordered by CBS, it was picked up by the fledgling UPN network and quickly became one of their biggest series. Along with her platinum-selling single, “Sitting in My Room,” from the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack, it also kept Brandy in the public eye, despite a four-year gap between her first and second album.

That sophomore effort, 1998’s Never Say Never, featured “The Boy Is Mine,” a duet with fellow teen sensation Monica. They debuted at #1, and won a Grammy for R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. Brandy also found time to star in a television revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella with Whitney Houston that gave ABC its highest ratings in 10 years and sold a million copies on home video. Her next appearance was in the high grossing, gross-out teen slasher film I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. She also co-starred with Diana Ross in the TV movie Double Platinum, and was named a spokes-model for Candie’s shoes and Cover Girl Cosmetics.


Brandy (1994), Never Say Never (1998).

—Hank Bordowitz