At 15, Brandy was a top recording artist, a sitcom star and a cover girl. Then she dropped out of sight. As is often the case with such a meteoric rise, Brandy took a dramatic fall.
Brandy says she's battled to overcome an abusive relationship, an eating disorder, and what she describes as an "old-fashioned nervous breakdown," to get back on top. And she appears to have done it. Now, she's flaunting the sexy, grown-up version of the wholesome, girl-next-door charm that launched her career.
A Real-Life Cinderella Story
Brandy set her sights on singing and acting since she was just 7 years old. An early age for most of us to choose a career path, but not so early for a girl who made her stage debut in a Mississippi church at the age of 2.
Before long, Brandy took on the world of acting, playing the main character — a sweet, feisty teenager — in Moesha. The family-oriented television sitcom was No. 1 in black households for five years. Singlehandedly, Brandy had given the WB network its first big hit.
"Brandy was the money. That means that she was in practically every scene, uh, she also took on a producing role on the show," said William Allen Young, who played Brandy's on-screen father.
Moesha was a perfectionist to a fault — and so was the young girl who played her.
"She walks onto a set, and nails it. And you realize that old adage, 'You can't teach this,' it's true," Young said.
As if a hit sitcom and a singing career weren't enough to keep a teenager busy, Brandy was also one of America's favorite teen cover girls. She had a string of national commercials — even her own doll.
Her young life truly seemed a fairy tale — especially when Whitney Houston asked Brandy to play Cinderella in a 1997 made-for-TV movie Houston produced.
Brandy then went from princess to diva, holding her own alongside seven others in the "Divas: Live Concert."
Pressures Skyrocket Along With Career
Looking back, Brandy said, "I wanted everything that I accomplished. This was my dream. This is what I worked for."
She was definitely working hard. Her grueling schedule had her starring opposite Diana Ross in Double Platinum and alongside teen heart throbs in I Know What You Did Last Summer. In 1999, she won a grammy for "The Boy Is Mine."
But as Brandy's career skyrocketed, so did the pressures.
Her mom, Sonja Norwood, had managed Brandy since she was 13. While she insists she was anything but a pushy stage mom, Norwood says she was taking a lot of heat from people who said she was going to ruin Brandy's career.
Brandy and Sonja have a complicated relationship, which sometimes appears more like that of sibling rivals than of a mother and daughter. "My mom so wants to be a star. It's ridiculous. She so wants to be a star," Brandy said, goading her mom.
Both mother and daughter admit the combustible mix of their personal and professional lives has spurred tensions between them. Brandy says she sometimes needed a nurturing mom, instead of a taskmaster boss.
"Sometimes I just wanted her to listen to my problems, and not add the career in there to deal with the problems through the career," Brandy said.
‘It Was Destroying Me’
Brandy seemed to have it all, but secretly she was struggling to live up to the perfect image she portrayed. Her TV dad knew Brandy was dangerously close to the edge.