Brandy

Brandy has sold millions of her R&B/pop albums worldwide and is also widely recognized as the star of the successful UPN Network situation comedy "Moesha."

She was born Brandy Rayana Norwood on Feb. 11, 1979, in McComb, Miss. She started singing gospel in church when she was 2. In 1986, she moved with her parents to Carson, Calif.

Inspired by Whitney Houston videos and seeing Little Richard in concert, Brandy — with her parents' help — decided to use her promising voice to break into show business. One of Brandy's first professional opportunities was singing backup for soul group Immature.

Her first break was being cast as a schoolgirl in ABC-TV's short-lived sitcom "Thea." She won a Youth in Film Award for the role, but after the series' cancellation, began to focus on her singing career. Brandy's mother, Sonja Norwood, helped her get a contract with Atlantic Records.

Brandy's eponymous debut LP (1995) made her a pop superstar, yielding the hits "I Wanna Be Down," "Baby," and "Brokenhearted." Brandy next had a major hit with "Sittin' up in My Room" from the soundtrack to the feature film "Waiting to Exhale," which starred Houston. Brandy also scored with "Missing You" from the soundtrack to "Set It Off" (1996).

She couldn't ignore acting, however. After a minor role in the film "Demolition Man," Brandy accepted the offer to star in her own show. "Moesha," which began in 1996 and is still on the air, is the story of a popular teenager and her family. Soul singer Usher also appeared in the series from 1997–1998.

Brandy starred with Houston in the 1997 TV adaptation of "Cinderella," which became ABC's highest-rated special in 13 years.

In mid-1998, Brandy released "The Boy Is Mine" (RealAudio excerpt), a duet with rising soul star Monica, that topped the Billboard Hot 100. The song was co-written by Brandy and producer Rodney Jerkins.

Never Say Never, featuring several Brandy compositions, followed the single. It included a cover of Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" and the hits "Have You Ever?" and "Top of the World," which featured rapper Ma$e. The LP was nominated for several Grammy Awards. Brandy and Monica won for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

Brandy had her first starring role in a theatrical movie in "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer" (1998), with Jennifer Love Hewitt. With her brother Ray J — who also acts in "Moesha" — Brandy owns Movin' On Productions, which handles their tours and other performances.

She teamed with Diana Ross on last year's television movie "Double Platinum." Also in 1999, she starred in "VH1's Diva Live '99" with Houston, Cher, Tina Turner and Elton John.

Brandy is studying psychology and music at Pepperdine University in California.

Other birthdays on Friday: Bobby "Boris" Pickett, 62; Leon Haywood, 58; Rochelle Flemming (First Choice), 50; H.R. (Bad Brains), 44; Sheryl Crow, 38; D'Angelo, 26; Gene Vincent, 1935–1971.