|Birth Date||February 11, 1979|
|Highest Score||30 (Argentine Tango)|
|Lowest Score||21 (Jive)|
Norwood was born on February 11, 1979, in McComb, Mississippi, the daughter of Willie Norwood, a former gospel singer and choir director, and his wife, Sonja Norwood (née Bates), a former district manager for H&R Block. She is the older sister of entertainer Ray J, as well as a cousin of rapper Snoop Dogg. Raised in a Christian home, Norwood started singing through her father's work as part of the local church choir, performing her first gospel solo at the age of two. In 1983, her parents relocated to Los Angeles, California, where Norwood was schooled at the Hollywood High Performing Arts Center. Norwood's interest in music and performing increased after becoming a fan of singer Whitney Houston at the age of seven, but at school, she experienced trouble with persuading teachers to send her on auditions as she found no support among the staff. Norwood began entering talent shows by the time she was eleven, and, as part of a youth singing group, performed at several public functions.
In 1990, her talent led to a contract with Teaspoon Productions, headed by Chris Stokes and Earl Harris, who gave her work as a backing vocalist for their R&B boy band Immature, and arranged the production of a demo tape. In 1993, amid ongoing negotiations with East West Records, Norwood's parents organized a recording contract with the Atlantic Recording Corporation after auditioning for the company's director of A&R Darryl Williams. To manage her daughter, Norwood's mother soon resigned from her job, while Norwood herself dropped out of Hollywood High School later, and was tutored privately from tenth grade on. During the early production stages of her debut album, Norwood was selected for a role in the ABC sitcom Thea, portraying the daughter of a single mother played by comedian Thea Vidale. Initially broadcast to high ratings, the series' viewership dwindled and ended up running for only one season, but earned her a Young Artists Award nomination for Outstanding Youth Ensemble alongside her co-stars. Norwood recalled that she appreciated the cancellation of the show as she was unenthusiastic about acting at the time, and the taping caused scheduling conflicts with the recording of her album. She stated, "I felt bad for everybody else but me. It was a good thing, because I could do what I had to do, because I wanted to sing."
Brandy and MoeshaEdit
Williams hired producer Keith Crouch and R&B group Somethin' for the People to work with Norwood, and within eight months the team crafted Brandy. A collection of street-oriented rhythm-and-blues with a hip hop edge, whose lyrical content embraced her youthful and innocent image in public, Norwood later summed up the songs on the album as young and vulnerable, stating, "I didn’t really know a lot—all I wanted to do was basically sing. You can just tell that it’s a person singing from a genuine place, and also a place of basically no experience. I was singing about being attracted to the opposite sex, but I had no experience behind it." Released in September 1994, the album peaked at number twenty on the U.S. Billboard 200. Critical reaction to Brandy was generally positive, with AllMusic writer Eddie Huffman declaring Brandy "a lower-key Janet Jackson or a more stripped-down Mary J. Blige [...] with good songs and crisp production." Anderson Jones of Entertainment Weekly asserted, "Teen actress Norwood acts her age. A premature effort at best, that seems based on the philosophy 'If Aaliyah can do it, why can't I?'."
Brandy went on to sell over six million copies worldwide, and produced three top ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including "I Wanna Be Down" and "Baby", both of which reached the top of the Hot R&B Singles chart and were certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. "Brokenhearted", a duet with Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men, became a number-two hit on the charts. The album earned Norwood two Grammy Award nominations for Best New Artist and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance the following year, and won her four Soul Train Music Awards, two Billboard Awards, and the New York Children's Choice Award. In 1995, she finished a two-month stint as the opening act on Boyz II Men's national tour, and contributed songs to the soundtracks of the films Batman Forever and Waiting to Exhale, with the single "Sittin' Up in My Room" becoming another top-two success. In 1996, Norwood also collaborated with Tamia, Chaka Khan, and Gladys Knight on the single "Missing You", released from the soundtrack of the F. Gary Gray film Set It Off. The single won her a third Grammy nomination in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals category.
In 1996, her short-lived engagement on Thea led Norwood to star in her own show, the UPN-produced sitcom Moesha. Appearing alongside William Allen Young and Sheryl Lee Ralph, she played the title role of Moesha Mitchell, a Los Angeles girl coping with a stepmother as well as the pressures and demands of becoming an adult. Originally bought by CBS, the program debuted on UPN in January 1996, and soon became their most-watched show. While the sitcom managed to increase its audience every new season and spawned a spin-off titled The Parkers, the network decided to cancel the show after six seasons on the air, leaving it ending with a cliffhanger for a scrapped seventh season. Norwood was awarded an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress for her performance. In 1997, Brandy, Ray J, and their parents started The Norwood Kids Foundation, which helps disadvantaged, at-risk youths in Los Angeles and Mississippi through the arts and self-help programs.
Never Say Never, film career and Full MoonEdit
In 1997, Norwood was hand-picked by producer Whitney Houston to play the title character in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s television version of Cinderella featuring a multicultural cast that also included Jason Alexander, Whoopi Goldberg, and Houston. The two-hour Wonderful World of Disney special garnered an estimated 60 million viewers, giving the network its highest ratings in the time period in 16 years, and won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program the following year.
Fledgling producer Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins was consulted to contribute to Norwood's second album Never Say Never, which was released in June 1998. Norwood co-wrote and produced six songs on the album which yielded her first number-one song on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, "The Boy Is Mine", a duet with singer Monica that has become the most successful song by a female duo in the music industry. Exploiting the media's presumption of a rivalry between the two young singers, the song was one of the most successful records in the United States of all time, spending a record-breaking thirteen weeks atop the Billboard charts, and eventually garnering the pair a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. The album's success was equally widespread, and after extensive radio play of the single overseas, the label released it globally during the summer. Never Say Never eventually became Norwood's biggest-selling album, selling over 16 million copies worldwide. Critics rated the album highly, with AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine praising Norwood and her team for wisely finding "a middle ground between Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige—it's adult contemporary with a slight streetwise edge." Altogether, the album spawned seven singles, including Norwood's second number-one song, the Diane Warren-penned "Have You Ever?" She also embarked on the successful Never Say Never World Tour in 1998, consisting of sold out performances in Europe, Asia, and the United States.
After backing out of a role in F. Gary Gray's 1996 film Set It Off, Norwood made her big screen debut in the supporting role of Karla Wilson in the slasher film, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. The movie outperformed the original with a total of $16.5 million at its opening weekend, but critical reaction to the film was largely disappointing, with film review site Rotten Tomatoes calculating a poor rating of 7% based on 46 reviews. Norwood, however, earned positive reviews for her "bouncy" performance, which garnered her both a Blockbuster Entertainment Award and an MTV Movie Award nomination for Best Breakthrough Female Performance. In 1999, she co-starred with Diana Ross in the telefilm drama Double Platinum about an intense, strained relationship between a mother and daughter. Shot in only twenty days in New York City, both Norwood and Ross served as executive producers of the movie which features original songs from their respective albums Never Say Never (1998) and Every Day Is a New Day (1999), as well as previously unreleased duets.
After a lengthy hiatus following the end of Moesha, and a number of tabloid headlines discussing her long-term battle with dehydration, Norwood returned to music in 2001, when she and brother Ray-J were asked to record a cover version of Phil Collins' 1990 hit "Another Day in Paradise" for the tribute album Urban Renewal: A Tribute to Phil Collins. Released as the album's first single in Europe and Oceania, the song became an instant international success overseas, scoring top-ten entries on the majority of all charts it appeared on. Full Moon, Norwood's third studio album, was released in February 2002. It was composed of R&B and pop-oriented songs, many of them co-created with Jerkins, Warryn Campbell and Mike City. Its lead single "What About Us?" became a worldwide top-ten hit, and the album's title track was a Top 20 hit in the United States and the UK. Media reception was generally lukewarm, with Rolling Stone describing the album as "frantic, faceless, fake-sexy R&B." Within the coming year, Norwood and Robert "Big Bert" Smith began writing and producing for other artists such as Toni Braxton, Kelly Rowland, and Kiley Dean. Norwood's foray into reality television began in 2002 with the MTV series Diary Presents Brandy: Special Delivery; the show documented the final months of Norwood's pregnancy with her daughter Sy'rai.
America's Got Talent and HumanEdit
Returning from yet another hiatus, Norwood's fourth album Afrodisiac was released in June 2004, amid the well-publicized termination of her short-lived business relationship with entertainment manager Benny Medina. Norwood ended her contract with his Los Angeles-based Handprint Entertainment after less than a year of representation following controversies surrounding Medina's handling of the lead single "Talk About Our Love", and failed negotiations of a purported co-headlining tour with R&B singer Usher. Despite the negative publicity, Afrodisiac became Norwood's most critically acclaimed album, with some highlighting the "more consistently mature and challenging" effect of Timbaland on Norwood's music, and others calling it "listenable and emotionally resonant", comparing it to "Janet Jackson at her best." A moderate seller, the album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, and received certifications in the United States, Europe and Japan. "Talk About Our Love" reached number six in the United Kingdom, but subsequent singles failed to score successfully on the popular music charts. Later that year, she guest-starred as Gladys Knight in the third-season premiere of American Dreams, in which she performed "I Heard It Through the Grapevine".
After eleven years with the company, Norwood asked for and received an unconditional release from Atlantic Records at the end of 2004, citing her wish "to move on" as the main reason for her decision. Completing her contract with the label, a compilation album titled The Best of Brandy was released in March 2005. Released without any promotional single, it reached the top 30 in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, where the collection was appreciated by contemporary critics who noted the creativity of Norwood's back catalogue. Andy Kellman of AllMusic expressed, "This set, unlike so many other anthologies from her contemporaries, hardly confirms dwindling creativity or popularity." Thereupon she reportedly began shopping a new record deal under the auspices of Knockout Entertainment, her brother's vanity label.
In February 2006, Norwood began appearing in a recurring role on UPN sitcom One on One, playing the sister to brother Ray J's character D-Mack. In June, she was cast as one of three talent judges on the first season of America's Got Talent, an amateur talent contest on NBC executive-produced by Simon Cowell and hosted by Regis Philbin. The broadcast was one of the most-watched programs of the summer, and concluded on August 17, 2006 with the win of 11-year-old singer Bianca Ryan. Norwood was originally slated to return for a second season in summer 2007, but eventually decided not to, feeling that she "couldn't give the new season the attention and commitment it deserved," following the fatal 2006 car accident in which she was involved. She was replaced by reality TV star Sharon Osbourne.
Norwood's fifth studio album, Human, was released in December 2008, produced by Toby Gad, Brian Kennedy, and RedOne. Distributed by Koch Records and Sony Music, the album marked Norwood's debut on the Epic Records label, and her reunion with long-time contributor and mentor Rodney Jerkins, who wrote and executive produced most of the album. Generally well received by critics, Human debuted at number fifteen on the U.S. Billboard 200 with opening week sales of 73,000 copies. With a domestic sales total of 214,000 copies, it failed to match the success of its predecessors. While lead-off single "Right Here (Departed)" scored Norwood her biggest chart success since 2002's "Full Moon", the album failed to impact elsewhere, resulting in lackluster sales in general and the end of her contract with the label, following the controversial appointment of Amanda Ghost as president of Epic Records, and Norwood's split with rapper Jay-Z's Roc Nation management.
In December 2009, she officially introduced her rapping alter-ego Bran'Nu with two credits on Timbaland's album Timbaland Presents Shock Value 2, and was cast in the pilot episode for the ABC series This Little Piggy, also starring Rebecca Creskoff and Kevin Rahm, which was recast the following year.
Return to acting and Two ElevenEdit
In April 2010, Norwood and Ray J debuted in the VH1 reality series Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business along with their parents. The show chronicled the backstage lives of both siblings, while taking on larger roles in their family's management and production company, R&B Productions. Executive produced by the Norwood family, the season concluded after eleven episodes, and was renewed for a second season, which began broadcasting in fall 2010. A Family Business, a compilation album with previously unreleased content from the entire cast was released on Saguaro Road Records in June 2011. Critics such as The Washington Post declared it an "awkward and adorable and really, really wholesome collection." While the album failed to chart, it produced three promotional singles, including the joint track "Talk to Me".
In fall 2010, Norwood appeared as a contestant on season 11 of the ABC reality show Dancing with the Stars, partnered with Maksim Chmerkovskiy. She ultimately placed fourth in the competition, which was a shock to the judges, viewers, studio audience, and other contestants that considered her one of the show's frontrunners throughout the entire competition. In August 2011, it was confirmed that Norwood had signed a joint record deal with RCA Records and producer Breyon Prescott's Chameleon Records. In September, a new talent show, Majors & Minors, created by musician Evan Bogart, premiered on The Hub. It followed a group of young performers age 10–16 and their chance to be mentored by some established artists such as Norwood, Ryan Tedder and Leona Lewis. Later that same year, Norwood returned to acting roles with recurring appearances on The CW's teen drama series 90210, and in the fourth season of the Lifetime's comedy series Drop Dead Diva, in which she played the role of Elisa Shayne.
In 2011, Norwood joined the cast of the BET comedy series The Game, playing the recurring role of Chardonnay, a bartender. She became a regular cast member by the next season. In February 2012, Norwood reteamed with Monica on "It All Belongs to Me", which was released as a single from the latter's album New Life. Norwood's own comeback single "Put It Down" featuring singer Chris Brown was released later that year. The song reached number three on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, becoming her first top ten entry in ten years. Her sixth album Two Eleven, which was released in October, saw a return to her R&B sound, but with what Norwood described a "progressive edge". A moderate commercial success, it was viewed as a humble comeback from Norwood, reaching number three on the US Billboard 200, and the top of the Billboard US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
In March 2013, Norwood returned to film, joining an ensemble cast consisting of Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Lance Gross and Vanessa L. Williams in Tyler Perry's drama Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor. Norwood plays supporting character Melinda, a woman with secrets. The film received generally negative reviews from critics but became a moderate US box office success. In June 2013, Norwood signed with Creative Artists Agency, headquartered in Los Angeles, and in early 2014, she arranged a management deal with MBK Entertainment with CEO Jeff Robinson. In July, she was also inducted as an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. The same month, Norwood released a cover version of Coldplay's song "Magic" to her TwitMusic account; it peaked at number one on Billboard's Trending 140 chart. Also in 2014, Norwood made guest appearances on VH1's Love and Hip Hop: Hollywood and the TV Land sitcom The Soul Man. At the 2014 BET Hip Hop Awards, she reunited with Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Yo-Yo to perform the hip hop remix of "I Wanna Be Down" in celebration of its 20th anniversary.
Broadway, Zoe Ever After and upcoming albumEdit
After finishing the filming of the final season of The Game, Norwood made her Broadway debut in the musical Chicago, in which she played the lead role of Roxie Hart, beginning in April 2015. Although initially a six-week run, her engagement was extended until August 2015. Norwood also reprised the role in the musical's national tour during its 2016 engagement in Los Angeles. Also in 2015, Norwood appeared on the 99 Souls mashup single "The Girl Is Mine", for which she re-recorded her vocals from "The Boy Is Mine." The song reached the top 10 in the United Kingdom and top 40 on other international charts, where it became her highest-charting single in years.
In January 2016, Norwood starred as the lead in the BET sitcom Zoe Ever After, which she also co-created and co-executive produced. Filmed in Atlanta, Georgia, the multi-camera romantic comedy revolved around Zoe Moon, a newly single mom stepping out of the shadow of her famous boxer ex-husband, while trying to balance dating, motherhood, and a blossoming career in cosmetics. While it debuted to respectable ratings, Norwood decided not to return to the show, and it was soon after cancelled. The same month, Norwood unveiled "Beggin & Pleadin," a previously unreleased song, on Soundcloud. The unconventional record garnered strong reviews from industry experts, prompting her to release officially it as a digital single through her own label Slayana Records on January 21.
In February 2016, Norwood announced her Slayana World Tour, which highlighted stops in both Europe and Oceania. Her first headlining tour in eight years, it was ended ahead of schedule on June 30 after Norwood was hospitalized due to exhaustion. In March, Norwood sued Chameleon Entertainment Group and its president, Breyon Prescott, after the label reportedly refused to allow her to record and release new albums. In November 2016, Norwood became the second recipient of the Lady of Soul Award at the Soul Train Music Awards. Her stripped-down nine-minute song medley was met with overwhelming appraisal.
Norwood is competing with her brother Ray J on the FOX reality cooking series My Kitchen Rules, which premiered in January 2017.
Norwood attended Hollywood High School, but studied with a private tutor beginning in 10th grade. In 1996, she had a brief relationship with future Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant, whom she accompanied to his prom at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. She also dated Boyz II Men lead singer Wanya Morris, whom she cited as her "first love." Morris, who is six years her senior, reportedly ended their relationship a month before her nineteenth birthday. Also during their work on the Never Say Never album, she briefly dated rapper Mase.
During the production of her album Full Moon in mid-2001, Norwood became involved romantically with producer Robert "Big Bert" Smith. The couple kept the relationship secret until February 2002, when Norwood announced that she was expecting her first child. However, a year after the birth of their daughter, Sy'rai Iman Smith, on June 16, 2002—an event tracked by the four-part MTV reality series Brandy: Special Delivery—Norwood and Smith separated. In 2004, Smith revealed that the pair had never been legally wed, but that they had pretended to marry to preserve Norwood's public image. Norwood later stated that she regarded her relationship with Smith as a "spiritual union and true commitment to each other."
By the following year, Norwood had begun a relationship with NBA guard Quentin Richardson, who was then playing for the Los Angeles Clippers. The couple soon became engaged in July 2004 but Norwood eventually ended their 15-month engagement in October 2005. It was reported that Norwood had to get a tattoo of Richardson's face on her back transformed into a cat. In 2010, she briefly dated rapper Flo Rida. At the end of 2012, Norwood became engaged to music executive Ryan Press. In April 2014, Norwood called off her engagement with Press following their breakup earlier that year.
Driving home on December 30, 2006, Norwood was involved in a fatal automobile collision on Los Angeles' San Diego (405) Freeway. 38-year-old Awatef Aboudihaj was the driver of a Toyota which was struck by Norwood's Range Rover. Aboudihaj died from her injuries at the L.A. Holy Cross Hospital the following day.
Norwood was neither arrested nor charged with vehicular manslaughter due to insufficient evidence. Law enforcement officials reported that Norwood was driving her car at 65 miles per hour and did not notice that vehicles ahead of her had slowed considerably. Her vehicle then collided with the rear of Aboudihaj's, causing the Toyota to strike another vehicle before sliding sideways and impacting the center divider. As the Toyota came to a stop, it was hit by yet another vehicle. A source in the California Highway Patrol later reported that Aboudihaj actually struck the car in front of her and then slammed on her brakes before Norwood made contact. The sudden stop caused Norwood to hit Aboudihaj's car. As confirmed, toxicology reports showed that Aboudihaj had "slight traces" of marijuana in her system at the time of the crash.
In December 2007, Norwood's attorney Blair Berk stated that the Los Angeles City Attorney determined Norwood should not be charged with any "crime relating to the accident back in 2006." In May 2009, Norwood stated, "The whole experience did completely change my life, and I can say that I think I'm a better person from it. You know, I still don't understand all of it and why all of it happened, but I definitely have a heart, and my heart goes out to everyone involved. I pray about it every single day, and that's all I can really say on the subject."
Nevertheless, there have been multiple lawsuits filed against Norwood, all of which were ultimately settled out of court by Brandy's attorney Ed McPherson. Aboudihaj's parents filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against Norwood. Filed on January 30, 2007, the lawsuit was initially set to go to trial in April 2009, but was eventually canceled as Norwood had settled out of court with Aboudihaj's parents. Aboudihaj's husband also filed a lawsuit against Norwood, suing her for an undisclosed amount of financial relief to cover medical and funeral expenses, as well as legal costs and other damages. He rejected his part of a $1.2 million settlement offer in February 2009, but did settle in November of that year. The couple's two children, who also filed a lawsuit against Norwood, received $300,000 each, according to court documents filed in L.A. County Superior Court on June 2, 2009. Two other drivers who were involved and injured in the accident also filed a lawsuit against Norwood. They settled with Norwood for undisclosed amounts.
Dancing with the Stars 11Edit
|Week #||Dance/Song||Judges' score||Result|
|1||Viennese Waltz / "Cry Me Out"||7||8||8||Safe|
|2||Jive / "Magic"||7||7||7||Safe|
|3||Samba / "Put It in a Love Song"||8||8||8||Safe|
|4||Rumba / "This Woman's Work"||7/9||8/8||7/9||Safe|
|5||Quickstep / "I'll Be There for You"||9||9||9||Safe|
|6||Tango / "Holding Out for a Hero"|
Rock N' Roll Marathon / "La Grange"
|7||Team Cha-Cha-Cha / "Bust a Move"|
Foxtrot / "Fever"
|8||Waltz / "Dark Waltz"|
Cha-Cha-Cha / "Teenage Dream"
|Last to be Called Safe|
|Paso Doble / "Firework"|
Argentine Tango / "Taquito Militar"