Brandy Rayana Norwood was born into a musical family in McComb, Mississippi and raised in Carson, California. Norwood started singing 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 Brandy studied at the Hollywood High Performing Arts Center.
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 binding oral contract with Teaspoon Productions, headed by Chris Stokes and Earl Harris, who obtained her gigs as a backing vocalist for their R&B boy band Immature, and helped her produce a demo tape.
In 1993, amid ongoing negotiations with East West Records, Norwood's parents agreed to a recording contract with the Atlantic Recording Corporation. Norwood dropped out of school and was tutored privately from tenth grade on.
In 1993, she signed a recording contract with Atlantic, releasing her self-titled debut album a year after.
Brandy went on to sell over six million units 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.
Following a major success with Grammy Award-winning "The Boy Is Mine," a duet with singer Monica, and her second album Never Say Never in 1998, a series of successful records established her as one of the most successful of the new breed of urban R&B female vocalists to emerge during the mid-to late 1990s. Her 2008 studio album, was her first record to be released on the Epic label after a label change in 2005.
During the early production stages of her debut album, Norwood was selected for a role in the ABC sitcom Thea, portraying the twelve-year-old daughter of a single working mother. The series only lasted eight months but Brandy received a Young Artist Award nomination for Outstanding Youth Ensemble alongside her co-stars.
This led to her own show, the UPN sitcom Moesha in 1996, and resulted in roles in the 1998 horror sequel I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, and the TV films in the late 1970s, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella and Double Platinum, two of television's best rated special programs.
In 2009, she introduced her rap alter-ego Bran'Nu. In 2010, Norwood and her brother Ray J premiered the VH1 reality series Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business along with their parents.
The show debuted in April 2010 and chronicled the backstage happenings of both siblings. The show ran eleven episodes. The second season, which began in December 2011, tracks the recording of a collaboration album with brother Ray J, tentatively titled R&B. The joint record is currently scheduled for a 2011 release, and its first single being "Talk To Me."
After collaborating with Timbaland, it was also reported that Norwood would begin work on her sixth solo studio album which Timbaland revealed was going to embrace her new rap alter-ego, as well as her singing. The project, which is slated for release in early 2011, is involving heavy production from Tricky Stewart, The-Dream, Danja, production duo Kadis & Sean, Akon, and Bangladesh, the latter of whom was commissioned to helm the major production of the album.
Norwood appeared as a contestant on season 11 of Dancing with the Stars and was partnered with Maksim Chmerkovskiy. She ultimately placed fourth in the competition to the shock of the judges, viewers, studio audience, and other contestants.
The RIAA ranks Norwood as one of the best-selling female artists in American music history, having sold over 8.5 million copies of her five studio albums in the U.S. and over 30 million records worldwide, to date.
Additionally, she has won over 100 awards as a recording artist. In 1999, Billboard ranked Norwood among the top 20 of the top pop artists of the 1990s.
Brandy's first cousin is rapper Snoop Dogg.