The release of Brandy's long-awaited sophomore album has met with more impressive chart action, beginning with her much-discussed duet with fellow teen R&B icon Monica. Brandy's reliance on using new talented producers, Keith Crouch and Rodney Jerkins, for her first and second discs, respectively, keeps her sound changing and growth potential increasing. On top of that success, Brandy's big screen debut in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (the creatively-titled sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer) establishes her a legitimate horror flick queen. Brandy might have the ability to join the ranks of Lena Horne, Cher and Diana Ross, of whom have conquered careers in both film and popular music.
Brandy: A Fine Girl
It was all in a day's work for iVillage when we were invited to spend four days with Brandy at the Half Moon Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica, to celebrate the launch of her new album, Afrodisiac. But honestly, hanging with a celeb is like playing Russian roulette. Will she be cool? Will she be on time? Will she answer the tough questions? Or will four days with Brandy feel like being trapped in a Divas Live special? For a "work" trip to Jamaica, this was a risk we'd have to take.
Only 25, Brandy has powered through life at a breakneck pace. Since she sold four million copies of her debut album at 15, she's starred in her own TV show (Moesha), dropped two more albums, garnered five Grammy nominations, costarred with Whitney Houston in Cinderella, dated Boyz II Men crooner Wanya Morris, attended the high school prom with L.A. Lakers star Kobe Bryant, married and divorced record producer Robert Smith and appeared in one of MTV's first reality shows, Diary Presents Brandy: Special Delivery, which documented her pregnancy and the birth of her daughter (with Smith), Sy'rai.
Brandy has come a long way from the days when she was a chubby-cheeked child star with those trademark braids. Today, her almond-shaped eyes are her most prominent feature. She's taller than you would expect -- her long, slender legs look pelican-like, especially in the superhigh heels and supershort skirts she tends to sport. And her manners are polished. In fact, when we sit down to chat over dinner at the Sugar Mill, Brandy offers to hold the tape recorder on her lap so it captures every word. Two minutes into our interview, it feels like hanging with an old pal instead of prying into the life of a megastar.
After spending four days with Brandy, we must say it was one of the more fun games of celeb roulette. Cool? Absolutely. On time? Pretty much. Those tough questions? From her rumored feud with Kobe's wife, Vanessa (the "ring flashing" incident really happened!), to Brandy's divorce (she wishes she never got married), she tackled 'em all with a smile. Here's what she had to say...
iVillage: Afrodisiac definitely has love as its theme. Are you looking for love? Would you remarry?
Brandy: I would love to be married for the first time, to be honest. I felt like my last relationship wasn't truly a marriage because I wasn't really in love. I didn't feel passion; I just felt secure, basically. I would love to be married again, and I'm in love right now. I love being in love [laughs
iVillage: Tell us about your boyfriend [L.A. Clippers star Quentin Richardson].
Brandy: His name's Q and he's so cute and so nice to me. And he loves my daughter, which is a plus.
iVillage: What's Sy'rai like?
Brandy: I'm so in love with her. She's here with me this week -- swimming, playing and doing all the things a one-and-a-half-year-old does.
Motherhood is fun and challenging at the same time. You have a being who's so demanding and wants to do what she wants to do. She doesn't want to do what I want her to do [laughs]. But I love her to death. It's a love that I can't describe.
iVillage: Your ex, Robert, worked on your new album. When you split, did you make a conscious effort to take the music in a different direction?
Brandy: Not at all. We're great friends and I still think he's a great producer. I'm still a fan of his. We have a daughter together -- we have to be friends. So, no, I didn't take it in another direction. And he actually introduced me to Timbaland [who primarily produced the album].
iVillage: You and Kanye West sing a track together, "Talk about Our Love." How did that work?
Brandy: One of the executive producers of my album is one of Kanye's managers, so that's how we hooked up. I'm Kanye's favorite singer -- I don't know if it's true, but it's what he told me [laughs] -- and he said he always wanted to work with me. Having followed his successes, I've always wanted to work with him. When we got together it was like, Oh, my God! This is great chemistry. It's magical. Kanye's passionate about the song, and so am I, so it worked out great.
iVillage: What's your favorite track?
Brandy: "Afrodisiac" is one of my favorites because it talks about love and how I feel about the man I'm with. I sound very happy when I'm singing it, and it makes me feel good when I listen to it.
iVillage: Was it inspired by Q?
Brandy: Some of it was, but some was also inspired by previous situations that I've been in. Creating this album was very therapeutic for me because I was able to express how I feel about the changes I've experienced in my life. We all go through ups and downs. You talk about it, get it off your chest, and you feel better. I'm lucky to be able to share it, so people can relate to my experiences and see similarities in their own lives.
iVillage: What do you think about other female acts today? Anyone you especially like or dislike?
Brandy: I like 'em all because I think they're all being themselves. Ashanti is special in her own right. Beyoncé is fabulous -- she has that whole diva thing going on. Alicia Keys is very soulful. They're all different, and I'm different, so I'm able to have my own path and have my own effect on my audience.
iVillage: What do you think about the three-woman tour that Beyoncé, Alicia and Missy Elliott are doing? Would you consider something like that?
Brandy: I think it's fabulous. I wish that my album came out around the same time as Alicia's so I could be on that tour. I'm a big fan of all of them, especially Beyoncé.
iVillage: With young women, the media tends to stir up rivalries. Do you find that happening to you?
Brandy: Yes, they did that to me a lot with Monica and Aaliyah. There were huge rumors about Monica and me fighting when she first came onto the scene. We hadn't even met [laughs]. It happens all the time. I don't see it as a problem, though, because people like competition -- that's what makes the world what it is. Like I said, I'm a big fan of a lot of the people out there right now, but I just want to bring something different to the table. I want to bring back feeling to music like Alicia Keys is doing. Alicia brought that old-school passion back to music, and I want to keep that up. I want to help her do that.
iVillage: On another rivalry note, I've read stories about you feuding with Kobe Bryant's wife, Vanessa. One tabloid reported a heated exchange at a Lakers game, where Vanessa flashed her diamond ring at you and told you to back off.
Brandy: Oh, my God [laughs]! Let me tell you what happened. I've never broken this story -- do you mind if I tell it?
iVillage: Go for it.
Brandy: Vanessa was sitting in front of me. I'm a row behind her, and there's a fan behind me. Throughout the game, the fan was saying nasty things about Kobe. So I turned around and told the guy, "You know what, you can't say bad things about Kobe because his wife, Vanessa, is sitting right in front of me." I tried to quiet him down. Then he said something else about Kobe's case. So Vanessa turned around and went off on him. She couldn't take it anymore. He had done it four times in the night. So I was trying to calm her down, saying, "Don't let this guy bother you. Let me see your ring. Flash your ring. Whenever anybody talks about the situation with Kobe, just flash your ring." I think because the guy was sitting behind me, it looked as if she was ar
iVillage: It did sound a little far-fetched that you two would be cat fighting courtside.
Brandy: Yeah. It was a Clippers/Lakers game. Kobe plays for the Lakers and my boyfriend's on the Clippers, so I was at the game watching him and she was watching Kobe. There would be no reason for me to fight with her.
iVillage: You had one of the first reality TV shows. Would you ever do that again? And do you think it hurt your marriage?
Brandy: I don't think I would do it again. I don't know -- maybe I would. I don't think it hurt my marriage. I think that [my marriage] just wasn't meant to be from the very beginning. When I look back on it now, I think: I was with this person because I just wanted to be secure. I didn't have anything to offer, so I didn't need to be there.
iVillage: For a young woman, you've had such a full life -- child star, musician, actress, wife, single mom. For women in general, this period in life is a time of change. But you've had many quick changes, big changes...
Brandy: So quick. But I feel like I'm in control of my life now, more than I've ever been. I'm taking on so much responsibility and owning all of my feelings. That's the best part of being me right now. I really like who I am. I do. I feel so good.
iVillage: How long till the next album?
Brandy: It depends. Something has to go on in my life where I feel creative enough to really do my fans a favor -- to really give them great music. I don't want to put out "okay" music or put out an album just to make an album. Music makes people feel good, so if I'm not contributing to that, then I don't need to do it.
iVillage: What's next?
Brandy: Touring, videos and at the same time I'm doing all of this, being a great mom, a great girlfriend, a great artist to my fans and a great person to myself.
The Facts You Must Know About Brandy
Her Birthday: February 11, 1979
Her Birthplace: McComb, Mississippi
Her Occupation: Singer, Actress and Model
Her Sign: Aquarius
Her Award: Grammy and Lady of Soul Award Winner
Did You Know?
Brandy was the first black actress to play Cinderella.
She and producer-songwriter Robert Smith married secretly in 2001. They had their first child, a daughter, in June 2002.
On her first album, she collaborated with Queen Latifah.
Her new album, "Full Moon," was released in spring 2001.
She makes an appearance on Michael Jackson's "Invincible."
She is friends with Serena and Venus Williams.
Fairy-tale Princess Brandy
Brandy Norwood has become the belle of her own ball, gaining fame as a chart-topping singer and the star of the sitcom "Moesha," and finding her own Prince Charming.
In Her Words: "I’ve always appeared happy…but at the same time I was crying on the inside."
Brandy Norwood has become the belle of her own ball, gaining fame as a chart-topping singer and the star of the sitcom "Moesha," and finding her own Prince Charming.
As a little girl growing up in Mississippi, Brandy dreamed of stardom. By the time she was four years old, she had begun singing in her father's church choir. Encouraged by Brandy's undeniable talents, her dad began schooling her in a variety of musical styles and taking her to see concerts. She particularly enjoyed seeing Whitney Houston, whom she admired as a role model. When Brandy's father got a job in California, he began taking her and her brother, Ray J., on auditions. Ray got some parts, but Brandy didn't. At age 13, Brandy enrolled in Hollywood High School's performing arts program. She finally got her big break in the fall of 1993 when Atlantic Records — where she had unsuccessfully auditioned to be part of a girl band — offered her a recording contract. Her first album, the self-titled "Brandy," debuted a year later and went platinum. She was only 15 years old.
In 1996, Brandy landed a starring role on a new UPN sitcom called "Moesha." She was proud to be playing a disadvantaged African-American girl who was portrayed as an intelligent, responsible individual. "Moesha" became the highest-rated show on the network. In 1997, Brandy teamed up with Whitney Houston to film a remake of "Cinderella" for ABC; she made history as the first black actress to play the lead part in the fairy tale. In 1998, Brandy released her second album, which included the Grammy Award–winning single "The Boy Is Mine."
Brandy struggled to feel good about herself and succumbed to the pressure to be thin; she was eating very little. In 1999, Brandy was rushed to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed the dehydrated star with exhaustion. "I lost Brandy," she reflects. "I abandoned her for my career."
Since "Moesha" went off the air in 2001, Brandy has achieved her heart's desire both professionally and personally. The talented performer has found time to work on her third album, and she's tied the knot — with music producer Robert Smith in June 2001.
Brand New Funk Brandy
Let’s work from the bottom up. Brandy Norwood has luscious legs. Word to those gray-bearded, trench coat-wearing Texans in ZZ Top. Who knew? Spending most of her decade-long career wearing more clothes than an Alaskan nun in January, the petite princess stripped down on her fourth album, Afrodisiac. “I wanted this to be the most honest album of my career,” she says, referencing the LP’s naked truth motif.
Like Shawn “Young” Carter in the twilight of his career, Ms. Norwood has also changed clothes, now opting for short skirts and two pieces. States Brandy: “I waited ‘til it was time to expose myself as a woman.” States KING: two pieces are great, as long as they’re not the kind Chris Childs exposed Kobe Bryant with.
Showing some love to the regular guy on the street:
“I feel like celebrities are more intimidated than regular guys. I’ve been around a lot of celebrity guys, and they’ve been intimidated by me. But you see a regular guy in the mall, and he’ll be like, “What up, Brandy? I wanna be down. I know you be sitting up in your room, but I wanna go somewhere with you.” There’s no shame in their game.”
Revealing the most taboo thing she has ever done:
“I keyed somebody’s car before. I know that it was wrong. But I had a very good reason to do it. I did it because I was tired of being hurt. It was the same guy’s [car] who called me a bitch, like 13 times. That was my revenge.”
Answering whether she would strip down for album salesor not:
“I’m good. I wouldn’t do that for a quadruple-platinum album. To keep my daughter alive, yes. I would just do the work for that album and still keep my class. People may feel that they’re forced to be over-the-top sexy, but there are people out there who do it tastefully.”
Brandy is back stronger then ever
R&B STAR Brandy reckons if she hadn't hit rock bottom a few years ago she wouldn't be where she is today. The singer and TV star has battled anorexia, an emotional breakdown and a failed marriage - but says she's now stronger and happier than ever.
The 25-year-old says: "I celebrate all the things I've gone through, as I got back up and I'm here. I've been through a world of chaos and good times as well. "When you can get up from the bad things then you can conquer anything. Now I'm able to think about it, talk about it and I can relate to other people with similar problems." The singer, whose hits include The Boy Is Mine and What About Us, battled anorexia and an emotional breakdown in 1999 while working on top US teen comedy Moesha. And the mum-of-one believes suffering from the eating disorder was her lowest point, as she became so ill that she was hospitalised. She says: "The whole thing with my weight was a very low point and I wasn't taking care of myself. I would say that was my worst time. "Having to go to the hospital because I was sick from everything I was doing to myself was terrible. I wasn't eating or giving my work my best shot."
However not everything was bad for Brandy as when she was in hospital, she found the strength to deal with her problems. She added: "Being that low was when I had a breakthrough and became the type of woman I wanted to be. "I knew I had to change and I knew if I didn't change I was going to be like this for the rest of my life. "Sometimes you have to go through those things to realise who you are. The person I was at the time, that's not the person who I wanted to be."
But that wasn't the end of her troubles. She then "married" music producer Robert Smith in July 2001, but the couple split just two years later, a year after they'd had daughter Sy'rai. Smith later announced on live radio that they didn't divorce because their marriage had been a farce - and they were never even married at all. Brandy was devastated about his hurtful revelation in public. She was reported to say: "I am deeply hurt and shocked by the things Robert has been saying," but acknowledged that the pair had enjoyed a spiritual union rather than a matrimonial one. Now engaged to basketball player Quentin Richardson, her heartache over what Smith did is in the past.
Brandy first came to America's attention in sitcom Thea, when she was only 14. She wooed over fans and critics alike and was soon given her own show Moesha. When she was just 16, the star released her self-titled album, which went on to sell over three million copies. She then won a Grammy for The Boy Is Mine and starred in TV Movie Cinderella with Whitney Houston. Brandy reckons that becoming a superstar when she was just a teenager meant she missed out on normal teenage life. She says: "I've not had a normal life and I've missed out on doing normal things as everything I've experienced, I've had to do in the public eye." Brandy even allowed her pregnancy - right up to delivery – to be followed by cameras for a MTV reality series.
But despite missing out on some of her childhood, she wouldn't discourage Sy'rai from following her into entertainment. She says: "If my daughter wanted to follow me into this business then I wouldn't stop her. "Instead I would advise her to do what she wants to do, especially as she would be sharing her talents with the world with her singing. "I think I'm the best person to advise her how to do it, what to stay away from and what to do. "I would definitely be influential in her life but I would not push her and I would certainly never be her manager like my mum is to me. I wouldn't want to get caught up in that part of it. "I'm not business minded anyway and I'd feel bad if I ever had to get tough on her." Brandy's mum Sonja has been her manager since she started out over 10 years ago. But earlier this year Brandy sacked her, replacing her with a new manager - who lasted for just six months. She explains: "I re-hired mum as mums do know best. I went out there but no-one matched the passion of my mum.
"And I think she was happy for me to see what was out there, so I would never question or wonder ever again. Now happily working together again, Brandy is looking forward to recording a new TV series which she is just finalising with Fox Broadcasting and Touchstone TV. She says: "It's a brand-new show and I'm working with the two producers who produced Cinderella and Chicago - Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. They're going to be producing the show with me and my mum. "I'm really excited because it's a brilliant team of people. I was really goofed about doing more television. "It was all about my music and having nothing to distract me from that. "But then this came along and Fox is a massive network. It was such a big opportunity that I couldn't refuse. "If someone believes in you that much then you don't want to let them down. I shoot the pilot in January next year. "I'm not just a one-sided entertainer. I can do everything given the chance. I'm not saying that from a cocky standpoint, but I have so much to give. "I want to give all that I have, not just one side."
Brandy splits with Atlantic Records
Brandy has parted ways with her label, Atlantic Records, after 11 years with the company.
"Artists get to a place where they want some change in their life," Brandy's spokesperson Courtney Barnes said. "She wanted to move on." Brandy released four albums with Atlantic, including her 1994 self-titled debut and June's Afrodisiac. In a statement released via her publicist, Brandy thanked Atlantic's staff for "helping her make music history."
The departure came after relatively disappointing sales of her last album, "Afrodisiac." Although the album generated the moderate hit "Talk About Our Love" with Kanye West, it disappeared quickly from the charts. It was a departure from her previous three albums, all of which sold at least 1 million copies.
Brandy's future plans also include a fall 2005 comedy series produced by Touchstone Television for FOX (see "Brandy Developing Weekly TV Show For FOX"), which she will co-executive produce with her mother and manager, Sonja Norwood, and producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan. She may also become involved with two other as-yet-unnamed television programs.
The singer made headlines earlier this year when it was revealed that she was never legally wed to the "husband" she parted ways with in 2003 (see "Brandy's 'Ex-Husband' Says They Were Never Really Married").
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