Brandy Rayana Norwood was born on February 11th, 1979 in McComb, a small town in Mississipi. Her parents, Willie Norwood, Sr. and Sonja Bates-Norwood, have tried to conceive a child for a while until Brandy came into this world. Two years later, the Norwoods expanded their family with a babyboy named Willie Raymond Norwood, Jr., also known as singer and actor Ray-J. Shortly after the birth of Ray-J, Mr. Norwood, a music director, accepted a job offer in a Californian church. The family then moved to Carson, a suburb in Los Angeles.Officially singing since the age of two, Brandy Norwood could sing before she even started talking. His father working as a musical church director, she joined the Gospel choir and was singing lead most of the times. She didn't know she would make it a living until she saw Whitney Houston's video for "How Will I Know" on VH1. As soon as Brandy saw Houston on television, she ran up to her mom and told her she wanted to become a professional singer.
Entering her early teenage years, manager Chris Strokes discovered Brandy and took her to shop around record companies, seeking a good record deal. She attended a party held by the notorious Atlantic Recording Corporation and sang in front of important people in the music industry. Seeing that nobody was paying attention to her, Brandy became the center of attention by telling the crowd how rude it was. She sang once again, this time catching an executive's hear. She was then signed to Atlantic at the tender age of 14. Her mother, Sonja Norwood, automatically quit her job as a financial analyst to become Brandy's full-time manager.
A year later, Brandy's self-titled album was released and was an instant success. Songs like "I Wanna Be Down," "Best Friend," and "Brokenhearted" topped the charts for several weeks. Her hit "Baby" also earned her a 1996 Grammy nomination. To date, 'Brandy' has sold more than four million copies in the US alone, making Brandy one of the most successful teenage female singer. With her first effort, Brandy opened many doors for young female artists in the likes of Monica, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears.
Interestingly enough, Brandy got broke into the entertainment field as a young aspiring actress. In 1993, Norwood was casted as Danesha Turrell in the sitcom Thea. Though the show was quite popular, it only aired for a season, and was then canceled. But this wasn't gonna stop Brandy from appearing on television. After getting all the success from her first album, Brandy returned to acting with the hit sitcom Moesha, playing the main character of the same name. Premiering in January 1995 on UPN, Moesha was the network's biggest series to date, being the most watched show in Black and Hispanic households in America.
With all the success that Moesha was getting, rumors started going around that Brandy wasn't getting along with members of the cast and production team. Vida Spears, a producer on the show, was fired and many claimed Brandy and Sonja Norwood responsible for the firing. Also, rumors of a feud between Norwood and cast member Countess Vaughn appeared in many tabloids. When Vaughn apparently called Norwood the b-word, Brandy claimed she acted as a mature person and simply walked out of the set. A few years later, Countess Vaughn had her own spin-off of Moesha airing on UPN as well, becoming a fierce competition for Norwood. Shortly after, newspapers had headlines saying Brandy had collapsed on the set of Moesha because of diet pills and was rushed to the hospital. Brandy automatically denied the rumors, claiming she didn't feel well and did go to the hospital, but never collapsed. Doctors diagnosed Brandy with dehydration, having nothing to do with diet pills, which Brandy never took. After six seasons, Moesha was canceled, ending with a bad series finale in 2000.
In 1997, Whitney Houston asked for Brandy to play the main character in the remake of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, film that was produced by Houston and made for television only. Miss Norwood could not believe it and was more than happy to accept the offer. The telefilm was a huge success and became Disney's most watched movie on television, catching millions of viewers.
That same year, Atlantic started pressuring Brandy to record her second album. However, Norwood refused to do so due to a stage fright she got earlier at a Gospel concert. After a lot of talking, the teenager went into the process of making her sophomore album. After recording four songs, Brandy called the recording off, wasting thousands and thousands of dollars.
Fortunately, Miss Norwood returned in the studio in the fall of 1997 and hired a new production team, whom she will stick to for many years. Nine months later, in June 1998, Brandy's second album 'Never Say Never' saw the light, and was even bigger than her first effort. Having more control over the creative process, Brandy co-wrote and co-produced six songs on the album, including her biggest hit so far, "The Boy Is Mine," duet with Monica. The single stayed #1 nine weeks consecutived on The Billboard Hot 100, and spent thirteen weeks on radio charts. Selling more than two million copies, the single became the most successful song interpreted by a female duet in history. It also won a 1999 Grammy award for Best Collaboration with Vocals. Other Top Ten hits from 'Never Say Never' include "Have You Ever," "Top Of The World," and "Almost Doesn't Count." Being her best selling work to date, Brandy's 'Never Say Never' has sold more than five million copies in the US.
Still looking to improve her acting skills, Brandy made her debut on the big screen in 1998 with the hit sequel I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, directed by the legendary Wes Craven and starring hotties such as Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze, Jr. Mekhi Phifer--who played Brandy and Monica's boyfriend in the video for "The Boy Is Mine"--was also part of the cast, starring as Brandy's lover.
In Spring 1999, Brandy returned to television with Double Platinum, a hit drama telefilm about a multi-platinum songstress who tries to catch time with her daughter she left behind eighteen years ago to pursue her musical career. Miss Norwood has the wonderful opportunity to share the spotlight with none other than Diana Ross, who played Brandy's mother. The made-for-TV movie aired on ABC and had great success, catching millions of viewers.
Shortly after, Brandy was asked to perform at VH1's Divas Live, along with divas such as Whitney Houston, Faith Hill, Cher, and Mary J. Blige. During the summer, Brandy was named the international spokesperson for UNICEF. She also won a Teen Choice Award for Best Female Music Artist, and went on a worldwide tour, which was unfortunately stopped in August so that Brandy could start shooting new episodes for Moesha.
After Moesha was canceled in 2000, Brandy took a two-year hiatus from the public eye, except for a few CoverGirl commercials here and there. Says Brandy, "In the past two years, I've focused on getting to know who I am inside. I took a break to reflect on myself as a person and I've grown a lot. There was a side of me that I've known and people close to me have known, which was different from the public image of who I was." Getting to know who Brandy was was a lot more difficult than expected. "A part of yourself is taken from you in the public eye," she says. "And that was one of my problems. I didn't know who I was because so many people had this idea and image of me that wasn't necessarily who I was. But I've experienced some things and I've learned some lessons, good and bad. I'm a woman now," recalls Brandy.
Brandy then slowly started the recording of her third studio album, and made a few appearances on television. She appeared at the 2001 BET Awards with brother Ray-J, and released a song called "Open" for the soundtrack to the movie Osmosis Jones, movie that she voiced a cartoon character for. Slowly, the anticipation of new material from Brandy was starting to grow.
Four years have passed since 'Never Say Never' was released. Brandy Norwood matured and grew up to be a wonderful, successful, strong African-American woman. Yes, she's a woman now. Her new album, 'Full Moon,' certainly marks that passage from teenage girl to woman. Tracks such as "When You Touch Me" and "Like This" show us a side of Brandy that was never shown to the public eye. 'Full Moon' is all about getting in touch with the personal side of Brandy, and coming full circle. Says Brandy, "before I was doing a number of things and couldn't feel the overwhelming feeling of creating because I was so busy and stretched, doing everything at the same time. I'm really excited about recording and promoting and meeting my fans and staying in touch. And that's important because I love making music."
With a new baby, a loving husband, and a supportive family, Brandy can finally say "WOW" and enjoy life to the fullest. Face it; she's not the little girl who used to sing "I wanna be down"--and we're kinda glad she isn't.