In 1997, Brandy was sitting on top of the world, living her best fairytale life. Her new hit sitcom Moesha put her sweet face in people’s homes every week and her debut album released three years prior, was a multi-platinum success.
Brandy’s real teenage life suddenly seeped onto the small screen with her title role in the Disney classic story Cinderella with none other than her idol, Whitney Houston, playing her fairy godmother. It was a monumental moment for the 18-year-old star but more so for all the little Black girls and boys who were finally able to recognize her as the first Black Cinderella. Those of us in her age cohort (including this writer) were enraptured by her astounding display of grace, talent, and confidence.
Today, 24 years later with more than a dozen television and film roles under her belt and millions of albums sold, Cinderella still has a special place in Brandy’s heart. At the stroke of midnight on February 12, Cinderella will stream exclusively on Disney+ available for families to discover and enjoy.
Brandy chatted with BET.com to talk about the new generation of fans who will see the movie for the first time, her 18-year-old daughter’s music career plans, and what the songstress has in store for the future.
BET.com: What was it like when you first found out you were going to be Cinderella?
Brandy: It was Nippy who called me. I was so moved because I’ve always wanted to work with her. I've always wanted to meet her, and just feel her energy. It was just mind-blowing. My dreams were just coming true so fast and that was one of them. For her to put me in a position to be able to be a vessel to make history and to play my favorite princess in my melanin skin, it was just an unbelievable thing that happened to me and it inspired so many people.
BET.com: What do you think it will be like for a whole new generation to experience it?
Brandy: I'm just so grateful that we have another opportunity with a new generation. It's going to inspire them and make them believe in themselves. Families everywhere can really enjoy this because it's a multicultural cast diverse and it was ahead of its time. It's going to do the same thing for this generation than it did for you know my generation. I know my daughter is going to love it.
BET.com: Your daughter, Sy’rai [Smith] is about the same age you were when you filmed this, right?
Brandy: Yes! So, we haven't seen it together because when she was younger, she couldn’t really differentiate between mom and Cinderella. She just felt like I had evil people around me, so this will be our first time watching it together.
BET.com: Cinderella comes on at the stroke of midnight on February 12, so how do you plan to watch it?
Brandy: My birthday is the day before, so I plan to bring both days together and have a little Cinderella party. I might put on a tiara or something and maybe have a Cinderella color scheme. I’m going to watch it with my family and my daughter, of course. I know it’s going to bring a lot of emotions and I just can't wait to hear what everyone else thinks about it.
BET.com: If there is a reboot, say for the 25th anniversary next year, would you consider playing the Fairy Godmother?
Brandy: That's a dream. That would be amazing! I mean, I would have to pitch the song completely lower because of Whitney’s range...she’s unmatched. I know she would be with me in that role and I would try to copy everything she did.
BET.com: Speaking of moms, fairy and otherwise, on your latest album B7 you have a song called “High Heels” with Sy’rai. What was that like and when did you know she could sing?
Brandy: I knew she could sing at around six years old. She just loved music. The way she responded to it and then when she started to sing, I was like ‘O.K., she's going to be a little singer’ and then seeing her grow into her own and become this amazing songwriter and really want to take it seriously. At some point in her life when I feel like she's ready, I’ll work with her on her album. To see her in the booth and be really good and love the song and come up with her own arrangements and even giving me pointers; all of it is unbelievable. I just think that she has a chance to be everything that she wants to be, and I think her voice can touch a lot of people.
BET.com: You dropped your first album at just 15 years old, what keeps you grounded and compelled to remain in this industry after all these years?
Brandy: I believe in God. I believe in morals, values, respect, and integrity, I have a beautiful family foundation. I just know that I have a different perspective on why I'm here. I feel like being a vessel and being an example is my higher purpose. That keeps me humble and that keeps me grounded. it keeps it not about me, but about the work that I'm here to do to inspire others and that's what it’s about for me now.
At the stroke of midnight on Friday, February 12, watch “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” streaming exclusively on Disney+.
Photo courtesy of Patrick O'Neil/Disney+