Catching Up With Brandy
By Dustin Fitzharris
Brandy was riding high. At 15, the singer released her self-titled debut album and racked up hit singles with 'I Wanna Be Down' and 'Brokenhearted,' her duet with Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men. A few years later the Mississippi native found success starring in the sitcom Moesha, which became the UPN network's most successful show. She made her big screen debut in the 1998 thriller I Still Know What You Did Last Summer and also costarred in the made-for-TV movies Cinderella with Whitney Houston and Double Platinum with Diana Ross. However, her career-defining moment came days after her 20th birthday in 1999 when she took home the Grammy Award for 'The Boy Is Mine,' her smash duet with fellow R&B singer Monica.
Then her career came to a halt.
A frail, anorexic, and overworked Brandy was hospitalized for dehydration and exhaustion. She was also trapped in an abusive relationship that she once referred to as 'very bad, very, very bad.' In 2001 Brandy returned to music, releasing Full Moon, followed by Afrodisiac, and last year's Human. All three failed to set the charts on fire. Then on Dec. 30, 2006, her Range Rover crashed into another car, killing a 38-year-old woman. After a year-long investigation, the Los Angeles City Attorney determined that Brandy would not be charged with a crime, but to this day the tragedy still haunts her.
But Brandy Norwood is rising once again. The second season of her VH1 reality show, Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business, will premiere on September 18, and Brandy will also strut her stuff on this season's Dancing With the Stars, premiering Monday, September 20th on ABC.
Out caught up with Brandy in New York just before she began the grueling rehearsals for Dancing With the Stars. In one of her most revealing interviews to date, no subject was off limits and we chatted about everything from living her life in the spotlight to her candid disappointment with her latest album to her love of Diana Ross.
Out: What made you decide to do a reality show?
Brandy: I will be honest -- at first I was a little hesitant. When you're on a reality show you have to be completely yourself, no phoniness. That's what I was concerned about. If you're feeling bad, you have to show that. As a celebrity you've been trained not to let them see you sweat. You always have to keep a smile on your face.
Then what finally made you do it?
I loved the concept with it being my brother, Ray J., my mom, and my dad. Our family is very unique.
We are a family that is trying to build a business. Every family in the world is not doing that. However, for normalcy we are just like everyone else. Also, I think my brother and I are insanely close.
Were you always like that?
It's always been like that, but when we were kids we fought a lot more. I'm his biggest fan. I love being his sister. I wanted people to see that.
But isn't the show scripted?
We're not. I don't know how the others work.
A lot of people in the public eye try to keep their private lives to themselves. Why expose yourself like this?
I don't think for us it's airing our business. We're teaching how to join this business and how to stick together as a family. I think our show is very classy and has a lot of quality.
On one of the episodes from last season you addressed the car accident you were involved in. Why did you decide to put that on TV?
My mom kind of brought it up. I didn't know she was going to. When she felt that I should address it in detail and make a whole interview surrounding it, it freaked me out. I want to do what's best, but at the same time that was such a tragic experience for me. It's almost like you don't want to say anything to disrespect anybody else that was involved. You don't want people to think that it's a publicity stunt.
Did you feel like you were exposing too much?
But I'm really not. I'm putting my emotions out there, but I'm not going into what happened in detail and how. It's not that.
How do you think the episode turned out in the end?
I didn't watch that one.
How did you feel after you addressed it?
I feels better to get it off your chest, but it's a situation I don't think I can ever really explain. It's one of those experiences you wish had never happened. It was something management and publicists thought I should address for some reason.
You had your first hit when you were 15. How is that Brandy different from the Brandy today?
I'm so much more evolved. I'm so much more spiritually grounded and connected. I have more of an idea of who I am as a person and not just as an artist.
And who are you?
I probably have one of the purest hearts you'll ever come in contact with. I'm a very loyal person. I'm fascinated with God and life. I embrace beauty all around me. I love my daughter so much. I try to lead by example as much as possible, without becoming a nun! Even though I am a nun because I don't have a love life! You can definitely rely on me. I'm becoming a better friend as the years go on.
Let's talk about your most recent album, Human.
To hell with that album!