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Your name is Brandy...

You're a superstar singer with a four-million-selling debut.

You've won an American Music Award, many Soul Train Awards, including the Lady of Soul "Entertainer of the Year" Award, several NAACP Image Awards, several new artist awards, multiple Grammy nominations, and six consecutive Top Ten singles, including two platinum hits, "Baby" and "Sittin' Up In My Room," and two gold hits, "I Wanna Be Down" and "Brokenhearted."

You've worked with industry heavyweights like Babyface, Lenny Kravitz, and 14-time Grammy winner David Foster.

What do you wanna do next?

Well believe it or not the answer to that easy question was, for a while, "Not sing." Not sing? Yep, not sing.

Why? Had the acting bug that bit the beautiful, charismatic singer damaged her vocal chords? Was it the packed schedule that included Moesha, her hilarious and touching number-one-rated show on the UPN network? Or her dazzling turn as Cinderella in the top-rated ABC-TV motion picture, in which she held her own against a superstar cast that included her idol, Whitney Houston? Was it rehearsals for another showstopping tour or preparations for her upcoming featured role in I Still Know, the sequel to last year's teen-scream hit, I Know What You Did Last Summer?

Nope... none of the above.

Brandy didn't want to sing for a very simple reason, a reason that proves why she's the dynamic yet down-to-earth vocalist that stars are made of: She just didn't feel it. And if she didn't feel it, she couldn't sing it. Artists talk all the time about "keeping it real. " Brandy was ready to do just that. She refused to take the easy way out; she owed her fans something real, something heartfelt, something different.

"If I can't feel it, then I won't sing it," says the 19-year-old singer, with a firm shake of her braids and a smile that shows that she means business. "And many of the songs I heard were not "me." They didn't express what I wanted to say at this point in my career. And I critiqued myself. I'm not the little girl I was when I made my first record. My voice is a stronger instrument now, my vocals come from both my heart and my diaphragm. My heart, because I've matured in the four years since the last album, I'm more emotionally there. The diaphragm because I've been practicing, doing more scales with my father, just strengthening my sound."

Once she heard songs that expressed her own point of view and met up with producers like R&B hitmeister Rodney Jerkins and David Foster, who she says, "Brought out the desire in me, the vocals I didn't know I had" Brandy, the little singer who went from a small town choir girl in Mississippi to a worldwide star who regularly sees her name in lights, knew she was on the right track.

And she'll never say never again. "NEVER SAY NEVER ," the follow-up to "BRANDY," 1994's smash debut, sounds like a woman taking control of her art and her life with a melodic force unparalleled in contemporary pop R&B. From the sassy opener, "The Boy is Mine," a duet with Monica (which Brandy co-wrote and co-produced), to the slinky stylish funk of the title track, to the joyous, percussive groove of "You Make Me Happy, " "NEVER SAY NEVER " is a document from the soul of a young woman on the move, figuring out the winding roads of romance, the sure-footed initial steps to independence, the exhilaration and freedom of her own soaring vocals.

Perhaps the most-telling track is a sure-fire hit called "Top Of The World" which features hiphop star MASE in which Brandy manages to both address her critics who say she "thinks she's too good" as well as conquer her own youthful insecurities about life as she makes her way in the world. Over a slamming persuasive beat and a funky scratch guitar, she sings, "Just tryin" to be me, doin" what I gotta do/Just tryin" to be me, provin' what I gotta prove/Some people think that I'm just sittin' on top of the world."

Because, for Brandy, sittin' on top of the world is not what it's all about. Each project she's taken on throughout her career has been a challenge hard work and sacrifice that makes the beautiful moments worth it all.

"I don't think the producers really believed in me on Cinderella, " she says, about her early days on the set. "I thought maybe they cast me because of my name or because Whitney Houston wanted me in the part. I felt like I had to prove myself. There were dance rehearsals and music rehearsals, but on top of all that, I rehearsed by myself every day, an hour on every song. And you know what? By the time we got to the studio to record the score, they were shocked. I wasn't just the girl Whitney hand-picked. I was a real singer."

But this kind of fortitude is what drives Brandy. "I didn't think my record company believed in me at first. I didn't think the people on Moesha believed in me. I feel like my whole career has been a proving ground. But that's what I like. It makes things interesting, makes me work harder on my projects."

* * * * *

Your name is Brandy...

You're the star of Cinderella, a television event watched by more than 60 million people, giving ABC-TV its biggest #1 ratings win in over 10 years as well as home video sales of over 1 million copies. Your hit TV show draws four million viewers a week, receiving nominations from the NAACP. You swept the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards on your first trip as a nominee and have won 35 citations from other award groups. You've started your own TV production company based on a concept you pitched to Tristar Pictures, adding to your growing respect within the film and television industries.

You're a role model for people everywhere, and you've started the Norwood Kids Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving young people.

What haven't you gotten that you'd like to add to your list of achievements?

"I don't really want to answer that," says Brandy, "Because then I'd feel unappreciative. I haven't thought about that, because I feel like I have everything I've ever dreamed of. If I stopped today, I would look back, know that I've earned a lot and know that my dreams have come true. But I can tell you what I've learned.

"I can only make music that I care about. I can't listen to the people who say I'm too-good-too-be-true. I'm just gonna be myself. Brandy," she adds with a laugh. "I'm not going to lower my standards, I'll continue to surround myself with beautiful, positive people. It's hard being nineteen sometimes in this business, because I'm more of an adult than a teenager, I have to stay focused. But I'm not boastful. I'm going to stay low, keep moving, and believe in God. As long as people can relate to my music, to what I'm saying and feel the groove, then I'll know it was all worth it."



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