Uptown article: Brandy Norwood an icon rises

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monk al-taqi

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Uptown article: Brandy Norwood an icon rises
«  on: July 15, 2015, 02:27:54 AM

great article in case you missed it  :wub:

Words by Isoul H. Harris | Photography by Shxpir | Styling by Mario Wilson


?I have never seen this Brandy before, I am just meeting her,? Brandy Norwood says firmly. She is speaking in third person, but it?s not in the obnoxious fashion one might expect from a celebrity of her stature. She has achieved a remarkable career: 20 years of acting, singing, dancing, modeling and more. In an Insta-era where ?icon? status is easily attainable with the borrowing of a L?ger dress and the purchasing of a booty to match?Brandy is certainly deserving of what the title once meant. But, shockingly, despite her enviable resume, the superstar feels as if she is only now discovering who she is. ?I know exactly who I am now and what I?m supposed to do,? she says with a determined stare. ?I know my purpose.?

Brandy is sitting on the sectional in her sizable, sauna-warm suite in Midtown Manhattan (having to perform at her optimal eight times a week, she avoids air conditioning). The soundtrack of gorgeous classical music from the Oscar-winning film The Theory of Everything plays softly in the background (it?s the only music she listens to in her suite; it clears her mind and prepares her for all she needs to tackle). Her face is makeup free, a smooth and tawny delight with enviously sharp cheekbones, which, along with her Michelle Obama guns-a-blazing arms, are the result of daily boxing, circuit training and cardio. She lives only minutes from Broadway?s Ambassador Theater where she has been lighting up the stage with her well-received portrayal of Roxie Hart in Chicago since late April. But on this warm and slightly muggy spring day, the multihyphenate entertainer looks nothing like Bob Fosse?s desperately sexy murderess.

Dressed in a flowing top, loose ripped jeans and flat sandals, with a paisley scarf covering her head, her easy Bohemian chic is reminiscent of a Molusson gypsy from 1940s Gitanes ads. And just as the lore of gypsy life involves uprooting, Brandy leaving her comfortable existence in Los Angeles for the hectic and unpredictable life of New York City has seemingly contributed to this shift. ?I?m curious, I?m adventurous, I?m spontaneous and that?s what New York is for me,? she says. ?And I?m here doing something that I?ve never done and it?s given me so much purpose. It?s just given me this energy to just be. I like the movement in my life now.?

Brandy, 36, relishes the current movement in her life because earlier this year she felt stagnant. The actress had wrapped filming in Atlanta for the ninth and final season of the popular BET series The Game, where she was a fan favorite as the lovable, hood bartender turned football wife Chardonnay Pitts (for which she won a 2014 NAACP Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy). But once back in Los Angeles, Brandy began feeling anxious and unsure. She found herself questioning her future. Unfortunately, this feeling of insecurity was not new to her. After a parade of hit songs, multi-platinum albums, hit movies, a lucrative Covergirl contract and even a Mattel Brandy doll in the 90s, her career took an unfortunate turn in 2004. Her third album, Afrodisiac, a creative collaboration between her and super-producer Timbaland failed to catch fire. Then her life completely spiraled: while driving home on the evening of Dec. 30, 2006. Brandy?s Range Rover struck a car on L.A.?s 405 Freeway resulting in the death of the woman driving it. She was not charged for the crash, but she did reportedly pay settlements to the family of the deceased woman and other drivers. Because of the incident and the uncertainty of the situation, she was replaced by Sharon Osbourne for the second season of America?s Got Talent. After the accident, Brandy fell into a deep depression. ?I was asking what have I done wrong and what am I not doing?? Brandy remembers. ?When you are at that type of low your whys come in a lot of different ways. I didn?t want to get out of bed. I didn?t want to do anything. I really stopped dreaming.? When she began to experience similar feelings of doubt and symptoms of depression earlier this year, she knew something had to change. And those who know her well knew it too.

?I told her, ?Bran, you just have to do the work,?? says Keisha Epps, wife of actor Omar Epps and a former member of 90s Bad Boy Records R&B group Total. She has known Brandy for nearly a decade and is one of her closest friends. ?There is nothing to analyze. Just do the work.? Talking over the phone, Epps says Brandy repeated her advice out loud, and told her, ?I am going to do the work,? and then hung up. The work included daily spiritual, mental and physical practices. ?I made up my mind to be the best version of myself and I kept affirming every day that I?m getting ready for something,? Brandy recalls. ?I did not know what it was, but I knew God had something for me that I?m getting ready for.? A few months after Brandy?s decision to move forward and focus, her agents called asking if she was interested in starring in Chicago.

I?m gonna be a celebrity/that means somebody everyone knows/they?re gonna recognize my eyes/my hair, my teeth, my boobs, my nose.? ? Roxie Hart

Chicago premiered on Broadway in 1975, the same year in which Andy Warhol released his tome The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again), in which he wrote, ?Being famous is not all that important.? Roxie would disagree; but Brandy Rayana Norwood would be #TeamAndy. The former child star fully embodies Roxie?a Vaudevillian singer obsessed with fame and its power?but in her real life, her motives could not be more different.

?I don?t view myself as a celebrity. It?s all about the intention,? Brandy says as she takes a bite of the grilled salmon salad she?s ordered for lunch. (She eats very clean, and several times a day, along with those daily workouts). ?It?s not about me. I thought that it was before. But, now I know that it is about other people. Who else could it be about?? It could easily be all about her. She has received glowing reviews for her performance in Chicago, which was revived in 1996 and is now the longest running American musical in Broadway history. ?[Brandy] has created a wonderful buzz [with] her knockout performance,? raved Logo?s NewNowNext and a bulk of the ticket sales are from fans flying in from around the country and abroad to see her interpretation of the legendary role. However, a funny thing happened to this ing?nue on the way to the stage.

?I stepped into something that I was born to do and I didn?t know it. I walked on the stage and my entire life reawakened,? says the Grammy winner. She found acclaim, but also realized there is a power provided by the applause: the ability to help those clapping. ?It?s about making people feel good about themselves and helping people dream,? Brandy says. ?The vain stuff, like the pictures I took for this magazine and being in shows, I love! But it is all just the polish. I?m not a celebrity. A star guides. There is a difference.?

Brandy?s space is filled with the work and images of those she qualifies as stars. On the living room floor of her suite, propped up on display under the television are vinyl album covers of Prince?s Purple Rain, The Fugees? The Score, The Beatles? Sgt. Pepper?s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the album that means the most to her, Whitney Houston Live: Her Greatest Performances. In fact, on a wall shelf next to the television is a handmade collage with images spanning Houston?s career. When asked about whether she feels Houston is with her in any form, she grabs a box from the side of the couch and pulls out a brooch featuring a picture of her and Houston from years ago. The two first met in 1995 during rehearsals for the Kids? Choice Awards, which Houston was hosting. Two years later, they starred together in the 1997 ABC remake of Rodgers and Hammerstein?s Cinderella?Brandy in the title role and Houston as her fairy godmother?ironically, Brandy feels as if the now deceased Houston watches over her today.

?I think about her every day,? she admits. ?She is everywhere. She is with me all the time. She?s always there.? And anyone who has followed Brandy since she emerged in the 90s, is familiar with her adoration for Houston. She was the architect of Brandy?s aspirations?the Oracle to Brandy?s Neo. ?Whitney was the possibility of dreams coming true. I loved her. I loved her personality. I loved the way she danced. I loved her smile and her voice.?

Brandy says there are similarities between the two singers? speaking voices. Brandy?s speaking voice today is akin to that of Houston?s low, raspy, tone that the legendary singer developed over the years. It was her mother, and former manager, Sonja Norwood who first noticed. ?I am trying to get used to it,? says Brandy. ?Sometimes I do hear Whitney?s voice when I am speaking and I am like, ?What is happening???

Houston and Brandy?s connection goes even deeper. The legendary singer was found dead in the bathtub of her suite at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in 2012 on February 11?Brandy?s birthday. ?I know that she?s with me all the time. I absolutely know that. I talked to her a few days before she died for three hours on the phone. We were just catching up on life. I was venting to her and she was venting to me and we were just?? Brandy?s voice trails off. In this moment, her face betrays her well-known penchant for privacy. Her eyes are watery, maybe with thoughts of what could have been, and she tilts her head maybe asking those same whys she asked of herself after the car accident; but now they could be in relation to Houston?s death.

?I was just so happy to talk with her and I didn?t care what was going on, if anything was in fact going on. I was just so happy to talk to her.?

Brandy?s mother called her that day, delivering the tragic news. ?My mom told me that she had passed away and I just fell to the floor,? Brandy recalls. ?I couldn?t believe it. It?s one of those things I don?t understand.? However, her daughter Sy?rai helped Brandy bring everything full circle. After seeing her in Chicago, the precocious teen declared: ?Mom, Whitney would be proud of you.?

Brandy and Sy?rai?s dad, Robert Smith, a music producer, documented their road to parenthood in the 2002 MTV docu-series Special Delivery. They also told the world that they were married, which Brandy later admitted was a lie. In the early aughts, an unwed, pregnant pop star, who had grown up with a Clorox clean image, wasn?t readily accepted. The couple parted ways in 2003, but now have a loving parenting relationship. ?We are a family and that?s the new phase of our life. Everything is different now and I?m just really thankful and grateful for it.? Her most recent relationship, with ex-fianc? Ryan Press, a music-publishing executive, ended in the spring of 2014. ?Ryan and I were just two completely different people and we found that out when we were already in love with each other. Sometimes it happens. It hurt him, it hurt me and it hurt my daughter. It was a really hard time and another phase of the sadness that was a cloud for a while,? she admits.

An invaluable lesson did arise from the ashes of their relationship. ?I will not mix business with pleasure anymore,? she says adamantly. ?I think that?s one of the things that does not work for me. I get confused about who a person is. That?s one of the things that I know that I will never ever do if I am ever to have time or make time for another relationship. I want to keep my business and my personal separate.?

A large part of Brandy?s business is her fan base. She lives for and breathes by them. After every show, she greets each and every person waiting behind the theater for her. Usually it?s a memorable experience for them to meet the woman to whom they grew up listening to and call the ?Vocal Bible? (because of the nuances and dexterity of her range). However, on a recent night, one of the fans left the usually loquacious Brandy speechless. ?A guy said, ?I feel like she?s back in you now. ?Baby Brandy? is back.? I was like, ?Wow.? He was right. This is definitely the next Brandy, but the fearless, young Brandy that we saw back in the day, I have become her again.?

And just as she feels her speaking voice has changed, she has recognized physical changes as well. ?I noticed out of nowhere that my cheeks are back, my face is full in a different way,? she says. ?My face has never looked like this before or has never been this full even when it was full as ?Baby Brandy?. I believe that I have reconnected with her through God.?

The actress Tasha Smith is one of Brandy?s best friends and also her acting coach and she says that Brandy is more than a talented and successful entertainer. ?I have seen Brandy on the verge of giving up because of her fears, insecurities and rejection,? says Smith, who was the one who convinced Brandy to take the role on The Game. ?Sometimes we get in our own heads and make ourselves draw back and not move forward. She went through what every young woman goes through. How am I going to reinvent myself? How do I get to the point where people accept me where I am now? Brandy?s story is universal and it?s about overcoming, and about not giving up. If Brandy had given up, she would not be starring on Broadway right now. and she will not have a new television series on BET (in September she begins filming the sitcom Zoe Ever After starring as a newly-divorced single mom and cosmetics mogul looking for love).

?And I have seen her fight for her life,? continues Smith. ?She is a warrior and she won?t quit. I feel her overall story is showing every woman that if you press pass the obstacle, you will see the miracle.?

And Brandy?s career is astounding. Her success is far reaching and she shows no signs of slowing down. Along with the new sitcom, she has signed with a new label (she cannot mention which one yet) and will release new music this year? starting with an EP. ?It?s going to be five amazing songs that are very, very authentic. It has nothing to do with fitting in. This will be my own thing and my own way. Brandy is not in a box anymore. I am going to just allow myself to just fly with my music because I want to sing different kinds of songs, and I am not afraid to sing different kinds of songs now. I am going to sing songs that I feel in my heart. I need to release about love. I want a better understanding of love. I really want to sing songs about the way I dream of feeling about love. It?s not about the love that I?ve experienced before, it?s about the love that I want to receive.?

And there is more: along with releasing a book that that will detail her life, and lessons learned, she wants to star in the upcoming Broadway revival of The Wiz. ?I am Dorothy and I am meant to do it on Broadway,? she says with steely conviction. (She shows me a video of herself singing a mighty, and deeply soulful, version of the show?s signature song, ?Home?.)

Her assuredness is not hubris, she is careful to point out. Instead, it?s about living to the fullest. ?I don?t have a right to be arrogant. Portraying Dorothy is a dream and I just want to experience my dreams. That?s what life is about. I want to inspire someone else to believe in theirs. God created us to thrive. And I am the proof. If I can overcome, then you certainly can too.?

"Trust in God is worth everything that is precious and the path to every goal which is high and sublime."


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Re: Uptown article: Brandy Norwood an icon rises
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2015, 06:37:13 AM
Omg yes next Ghan !!!!


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Re: Uptown article: Brandy Norwood an icon rises
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2015, 11:24:22 AM

monk al-taqi

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Re: Uptown article: Brandy Norwood an icon rises
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2015, 01:13:41 PM
love the writing on this article

Ghan is great

"Trust in God is worth everything that is precious and the path to every goal which is high and sublime."