Brandy Rayana Norwood (born February 11, 1979), known professionally as Brandy, is an American actress, model, and Grammy Award-winning R&B and pop singer. She is best known for her starring role in the sitcom Moesha and her hit songs such as "Sittin' Up in My Room", "Have You Ever", and "The Boy Is Mine".Norwood was born in McComb, Mississippi and raised in Carson, California. Her father, Willie Ray Norwood, was a pastor and choir director, and by the age of two, she was singing at his church. Her mother, Sonja Bates, is a cousin of legendary blues singer Bo Diddley. Brandy became a fan of Whitney Houston, and she told her father that she wanted to be a singer, like Houston. At the age of nine, Brandy moved to California with her family, where she began her artistic career singing at talent shows in 1990. At 11, she met a record producer who took her to various record companies and led her to backup singing jobs with two groups: Norment and the more successful Immature.
When Brandy was 14, she was able to land a record deal with Atlantic Records, and in 1994 her first album, Brandy, was released, reaching gold status in less than two months, and Quadruple Platinum status soon after. It would eventually sell 4 million copies in USA alone and 6 million copies worldwide . The album contained the gold certified singles "I Wanna Be Down," and Brokenhearted, as well as the platinum certified single "Baby," and made her an MTV star throughout 1995 and into early 1996. Awards started to come soon after. In the fall of 1995 she attended the Billboard Music Awards taking home the awards for "Best New R&B Artist" and "Best R&B Female". At the 1996 MTV Movie Awards she eclipsed a category that comprised U2, Whitney Houston and Seal to win the "Best Song From A Movie" award for "Sittin' Up In My Room". She was nominated for a 1996 "Best New Artist" Grammy and "Best Female R&B Vocal Performance" Grammy Award, also for her smash hit "Baby". Between 1995 and 1996, she won a total of seven Soul Train and Soul Train 'Lady of Soul' Music Awards, including categories like "Best New Artist," "Best R&B/Soul Artist, Female," "Best R&B/Soul Song of The Year,". At the 2nd annual Lady of Soul Awards, Brandy was also honored with the Aretha Franklin Award for Entertainer of the Year in 1996. Also at the 1996 Japan Music Awards, Brandy brought home the award for "Best International New Arists"!
In 1996, she recorded a duet with rock star Lenny Kravitz for the Batman Forever soundtrack, penned and produced by Kravitz. Also that year, a remix of her fourth single, "Brokenhearted" with Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men, stormed into the top 10 of the Billboard singles charts. Towards the end of that year, she contributed a song to the Waiting To Exhale soundtrack, which yielded "Sittin' Up in My Room," a platinum selling smash hit single that inhabited the top of the Pop charts throughout early 1996.
Later in 1996, Brandy teamed up with Tamia, Chaka Khan, and Gladys Knight, for the single "Missing You," released from the Set It Off soundtrack. Even with the superstar lineup, it was Brandy's least successful single yet, but was still a moderate hit, and peaked in the top 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart. The song won a Grammy nomination in the "Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals" category.
In 1998, Brandy followed-up with the release of her sophomore album, Never Say Never. Rising R&B producer Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins and his team were hired for the job of executive production and had a hand in 12 of 15 of its tracks, including the singles: "Top Of The World", "U Don't Know Me" and the No.1 smash, "The Boy Is Mine", a duet with singer Monica. The song was released in spring 1998 and in the course of the months it managed to rise to one of the most successful records of year, staying on top of the Billboard Hot 100 for more thirteen weeks. In Europe and Asia it also went ahead the single charts, expanding the prominence of both singers on an increasing international clientel. In the end the song was nominated for an American Music Award, and a total of four Grammys, eventually winning the "Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group".
The second single from Never Say Never, "Top Of The World", featuring rapper Ma$e charted at #2 in the UK; a remixed version of the song with Fat Joe and Big Pun became the #3 Most Played song on American Radio. "Have You Ever?", the album's third single, was the first #1-single of 1999 as it hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and dominated US Hot 100 Airplay chart for nine weeks. With "Almost Doesn't Count", a guitar-laden acoustic ballad with two different music videos, and "U Don't Know Me (Like U Used To)" (featuring Da Brat and Shaunta), Never Say Never spawned its latest minor hits in fall 1998 and through 1999. Never say Never went on to sell over 5 million copies.
For the next three years, Brandy completed the remaining three seasons of her sitcom Moesha and starred in a number of widely successful and critically acclaimed television specials and movies. She also landed a multitude of endorsement deals with CoverGirl cosmetics, which she represented for several years. Brandy was the subject of a major advertisement campaign for DKNY Jeans for three seasons, and modeled Candies shoes in an eye-catching ad campaign photographed by David LaChapelle.
After a lengthy hiatus that saw the end of her Moesha television series, and a flurry of tabloid headlines discussing her bout with "dehydration", the singer quietly "married" Rodney Jerkins' cousin, record producer Robert Smith, in the summer of 2001. The union did not become known until February of 2002 as the singer was preparing for her impending album release. A four-part reality series surrounding the birth of their daughter, Sy'rai Iman Smith, aired on MTV in the summer of 2002. Shortly after the birth of their child, Brandy "divorced" Smith. The "marriage" itself was later exposed as not of legal status. It is speculated that the "marriage" was made up as an attempt to keep Brandy's "wholesome" image rather than having her be known as an out of wedlock mother. Brandy stated it was a Non Traditional Spiritual Marriage, and that at the time it was her firm belief that they were married.
In 2001, Brandy and her brother, Ray J, were chosen to remake Phil Collins' 1980s hit "Another Day in Paradise" for Urban Renewal: A Tribute to Phil Collins. The song was released internationally and became an instant hit going Multi-Platinum, topping the charts in over Thirteen countries worldwide and taking the #1 spot in Germany, and #4 on the UK charts.
Brandy's third album, Full Moon, was released in March of 2002, and spawned the hits "What About Us", produced by Rodney Jerkins, and "Full Moon," produced by Mike City. 'What About Us' became one of the fastest rising singles of Recent Chart History and entered the Top Ten Charts. The song was streamed on AOL a record 1.6 million times, a first for the internet outlet. The "Full Moon" video disguised the fact that Brandy was now five months pregnant; the song's lyrics explained how Brandy felt when she first locked eyes with her husband Robert Smith at a party."He Is" became a third single, this one produced by Warryn "Baby Dubb" Campbell, was chosen from the album in fall 2002. The Album and Singles had little promtion as a heavily pregnant Brandy was unable to perform. The album was a total re-collaboration with now super-producer Rodney Jerkins who Brandy had previously hooked up with to produce her 1998 album "Never Say Never". Brandy Co-Wrote 5 songs from the album and was heavily involved in Production, especially Vocal Production. Jerkins again, Co-Produced and Co-Wrote on almost the entire album with his mega-successful writing team. After the most successful single from the album "What About Us?" however, no more collaborations with Jerkins were released. The album is however a unanimous favourite among both Brandy and Rodney Jerkins fans.
Full Moon sold 1.7 million copies in the US and 5 million copies Worldwide, and received lukewarm reviews. Rolling Stone Magazine rated the album two out of five stars, stating that, "... this interminable (seventeen-track) product is frantic, faceless, fake-sexy R&B." Still, the album was rather quietly and cautiously declared as a flop by the media. Brandy ignored the rumblings and settled further into motherhood. The more she retreated from public life, the more she was hounded by gossip hounds and paparazzi. Brandy entered the studio to record new material with Smith in December of 2002.
Returning from yet another hiatus, Brandy's fourth album Afrodisiac was released on June 29, 2004, amidst both her weakest promotional blitz ever and the well-publicized termination of her short-lived business relationship with entertainment manager Benny Medina. Brandy ended her relationship with Medina's Los Angeles-based Handprint Entertainment after less than a year of representation.
Controversy surrounded Medina's handling of the lead single "Talk About Our Love", produced by Kanye West, a puzzling VIBE magazine cover in which the singer appeared prostrated with headlines: "What's Behind Brandy?," and failed talks of a purported co-headlining tour with R&B singer Usher Raymond that was instead handed to Kanye West, another Medina client, as an opening gig.
Despite the negative blitz, Afrodisiac became Brandy's most critically-acclaimed album to date. Afrodisiac featured tracks primarily produced by producer Timbaland, in place of Jerkins or Smith, and Brandy worked with the producer to create a new sound. Both People and Rolling Stone rated the album four stars, with Rolling Stone comparing it to "Janet Jackson at her best..".
The album debut at number 3 on the Billboard Top 200 Album charts, and number 4 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Album charts. The singles, however, did not perform as well: "Talk About Our Love" became a moderate hit peaking at #36 on the Billboard Top 100 charts and #16 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Single & Tracks charts, while the follow-up "Who Is She 2 U" was a minor hit, never making it out of the lower half of the Billboard Hot 100. The title track "Afrodisiac", released overseas as a single, was a Top 20 hit in the United Kingdom. At the end of 2004, Brandy asked for and received a release from Atlantic Records. As a direct consequence she brought a collection of all of her singles, The Best of Brandy, on the market, before starting shopping for a new record deal under Knockout Entertainment. Afrodisiac has only sold 3 million copies worldwide.
Brandy starred from 1996 until 2001 in the popular television sitcom Moesha, in which she played the lead character, a teenager. (This was not her first TV role; she had previously appeared in the short-lived 1993-1994 sitcom Thea, starring Thea Vidale).
In 1997, she played the title character in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s television version of Cinderella featuring a multi-cultural cast that also included Whitney Houston, Jason Alexander, Whoopi Goldberg, and Bernadette Peters. The TV-movie garnered over 66 million viewers and won an Emmy award.
Other roles include a television movie she co-produced and starred in with Diana Ross entitled Double Platinum; and a role in the franchise-flick I Still Know What You Did Last Summer where she portrayed the sassy Karla, best friend to Jennifer Love Hewitt's lead character. Brandy was said to be the considered lead in a Diana Ross biopic planned by the legendary singer. There has been no word on this project since 2001, however.
Brandy has also guest-starred in several television shows such as House and American Dreams. She recently did four guest star appearances in the UPN sitcom One on One alongside her brother Ray J