Brandy’s emotional new album B7 has been a long time coming – nearly eight years to be exact – and the R&B star says that’s for good reason.
“I was a little bit lost eight years ago musically, creatively, spiritually,” she tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story, opening up about the highs and lows of child stardom and her battle with depression. “I had to pull myself together, I had to pull it all together and make it all make sense.”
For the 41-year-old star, born Brandy Norwood in Mississippi and raised in Carson, California, the last two decades have been a tumultuous rollercoaster ride. After bursting onto the music scene at the age of 15 with her self-titled debut album in 1994, Brandy soon shot to superstardom thanks in part to her 1998 acclaimed sophomore album Never Say Never, which earned her a Grammy for “The Boy Is Mine,” her smash hit duet with Monica.
That, coupled with her popular coming-of-age show that ran for six seasons Moesha (now trending on Netflix) and becoming the first Black woman to play Cinderella onscreen in ABC’s 1997 TV musical, only made her star shine brighter. Early on, she says fame felt like “pure joy.” But despite her ever-positive, upbeat image, Brandy, says that as she matured, she began to feel trapped by her “perfect” public image.
In 2002 she welcomed daughter Sy’rai, with then partner, producer Robert Smith. The pair would split a year later and Smith would go on to reveal that despite what they’d portrayed while filming a reality TV show during her pregnancy, he and Brandy had never married. “It changed people’s perspective of me,” she says of becoming a mom and the situation with Smith, “but I had to focus on what was important, which was Sy’rai.”
Years later Brandy would confront both tragedy and controversy, when she was involved in a 2006 car accident that claimed the life of a 38-year-old woman. [Brandy, who wasn’t charged criminally, settled out of court with the woman’s family and declines to speak of the accident out of respect.] Following this, along with the heartbreak of failed relationships, Brandy found herself deeply despondent.
Once, she recalls feeling like her pain was insurmountable, and she contemplated suicide.
“I remember laying in bed super depressed,” she says. “I [told] myself, ‘So, you’re just going to go out like this? That’s wack. You have a daughter. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for her because this is not the way to leave a mark in her life.'”