Brandy Talks Broadway, Battling Depression
It’s a given that everyone will endure their fair share of trials and tribulations on the path to success. What isn’t always clear-cut is whether or not the individual will come out on top. But R&B singer/songwriter, actress and most recently, Broadway superstar, Brandy always seems to bounce back no matter what is thrown her way. JET spoke with the “I Wanna Be Down” artist about her shift in focus and how she plans to challenge herself to become even greater.
JET: I grew up watching you on television. From the days of Thea to Moesha, I feel like you’ve been around pretty much my entire life. What changes in the entertainment industry have you witnessed since entering it more than 20 years ago?
Brandy: Well you know, the most consistent thing about life is change. The whole industry is different now. We connect with fans differently. Music has just changed a lot. But I think the beautiful thing about life is that how it works doesn’t change. I think that if you still stay positive and if you have you have a lot of belief and faith in what God has given you, you can still make things happen the way you want them to happen even when businesses and industries change.
JET: That makes perfect sense. Now, most entertainers stick to just one thing for a length of time and once they’ve mastered that, then they expand if desired. It seems like you’ve always done both acting and music. Have you always wanted to be a multi-dimensional entertainer?
Brandy: I’ve always just wanted to be a singer, but then I realized that I was something else. Now I have a new dream. I don’t just want to be an entertainer, I want to be an inspiration. I have a message now to never give up. To always strive to be the best version of yourself and that’s my message because that’s what’s happened to my life. I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs at the same time and then overcame everything that I’ve been through and now I’ve stepped into another dream. I know that I’m supposed to do theater. I know that I’m supposed to act, sing and dance. I know that I’m supposed to be a leader and bless people in different kinds of ways and help people to think and live better. So I have a purpose now that I didn’t realize I had before. When you’re young, it’s all about fame [and] people knowing who you are. But now, my life is about purpose and I want to inspire the world to be great and be better through the things that God has blessed me with.
JET: You talk a lot about purpose and some of the struggles you’ve been through. What do you contribute your tenacity to? What keeps you going?
Brandy: I have a 12-year-old daughter that’s looking for me to set the example. I have people who love me and I have fans out there that are looking for me to get it together. And I almost didn’t get it together. I almost gave up. But my mom always says that I always get to the edge of the cliff, but I never fall off. So I just said I’m not gonna keep going to the edge anymore. I’m just gonna get it right. And I’m just going to decide to be the best version of myself. And when you’ve been sad and have dealt with depression so deeply and so darkly, [you get] tired of feeling like that. I felt like that for so long and I got tired of my daughter seeing me like that and I wasn’t setting a great example. So through prayer and changing my mind and disciplining myself to get to where I needed to be, I changed my life. And now I know why I’m here. At 36, I know it now.
JET: Was there an “ah-ha” moment where you realized what you were created for?
Brandy: You don’t wake up and go, “Oh, that’s it!” It’s sort of like a montage where you gradually start to get it. Because I’ve done this work, and by “work” I mean meditation, speaking affirmatively, disciplining my mind and my body, going to the gym and putting the right foods in my body and keeping my soul in check. When you do that kind of work and you make it habitual, your life starts to change. And that’s what happened to me. My life started to change because I really decided to do the work on myself. And from there, Chicago the musical presented itself.
JET: Let’s talk about Chicago. How’d that happen?
Brandy: I got a call and I was asked to be Roxie Hart. And I mean butterflies, a little bit of fear, nerves ALLL of that just happened and I’m like, “I don’t care. I’m doing it. This is what I’ve been waiting for.” And the opportunity to trust God and trust the unknown because I didn’t know what this was. I’ve never done anything like this before. I’ve been on stage, but I’ve never been another person completely different from myself on stage. Eight shows a week, I’ve never done anything like that. So I had to trust that it wouldn’t have been put in front of me if I wasn’t supposed to do it.
JET: I imagine it’s been a lot of fun.
Brandy: It’s been so much fun! And really…focused, disciplined work. It’s something that I am loving more than anything. I love this play. I love the music. I love the people. The audiences, and the work ethic. I’m having the time of my life. To have done this in front of my family…for them to actually see that it’s me up there. That just makes me feel like this is just a magical experience that I’m so blessed to have and I want everybody to see it. I want everybody and they mama (laughs) to see this play. And you should definitely come after this conversation!
JET: You seem to enjoy taking on new challenges. What’s next?
Brandy: Everything’s next! Music is next. I have a TV show on BET called Zoey Moon. My talk show is next, my book is next, everything is next. It’s the next Brandy. I’m inspired. I’m ready to do everything and I’m ready to do it in a way that’s never been done before from me. There’s a machine behind it, a message behind it. That’s what I mean by machine and the message is inspiration. To never give up and helping my fans to dream. People need to start dreaming again. And people need to realize that their dreams are already true. All they have to do is affirm them and have faith in them and they’ll realize them and that’s my message! So everything is next! I think I just told you my whole entire life story (laughs).