In 2011, Brandy came to Atlanta to perform at her first Black Gay Pride and sang to thousands of people who packed several clubs for a chance to see the singing sensation live. She did not disappoint.
Atlanta’s LGBT fans didn’t disappoint either.
“I had such a great time last time when I was there,” Brandy says in an interview from Los Angeles, while holding the newest member of her family, a Maltese named Sugar, on the way to pick up her daughter, Sy’rai, 10.
“There is so much love for me when I’m in the city. And my gay fans are always so supportive and energetic,” she says.
This year, Brandy will receive the Vision Community Foundation Humanitarian Award on Sunday, Sept. 1, in Piedmont Park as part of the Pure Heat Community Festival sponsored by Traxx Girls and the Vision Community Foundation.
“I’m honored to be honored,” she says.
Of course, Brandy is no stranger to receiving awards. With some 20 million albums sold worldwide, she has racked up a Grammy, an American Music Award, two Soul Train Music Awards, two NAACP Image Awards, three Billboard Awards, four MTV Awards, six Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards, two Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards and three BMI Awards.
“This is a different kind of award because it is coming from my fans. My fans are like my extended family. I will probably cry,” she says.
Brandy will also host Wassup N ATL’s “The Boys Are Mine” party Sunday night at the Georgia Freight Depot and will perform at the Havana Club as part of Queendom Atlanta Pride for Women’s All White Party, also Sunday night.
“Atlanta is like a third home to me,” she says. “I work there all the time. I have friends there. … Atlanta feels like Mississippi, where I’m from, and LA, where I live now — it’s like the city and the South all in one. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Being an ally to her gay fans is easy work because all people should be able to love who they want with no judgment, she says.
“I love love,” she says. “I’m addicted to that feeling.”
Acting is fun, but singing is best
While Brandy is only 34, her career spans nearly two decades already. She released her debut album in 1993, when she was just 15, and her singles “I Wanna Be Down” and “Baby” made it to the top of the Billboard R&B charts.
In 1996, she was cast as the lead of the UPN hit TV show “Moesha” in which she played a high school student in a middle class family. She and her brother were also in VH1’s reality series “Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business” and she was a judge during the first season of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”
She has also guest starred in other TV shows, including Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva,” which is filmed in Atlanta and stars Margaret Cho. She currently stars in BET’s “The Game,” a comedy-drama about women and their professional football player husbands that is also filmed in Atlanta and is an offshoot of the hit series “Girlfriends.”
In “The Game,” Brandy portrays Chardonnay Pitts, who married NFL star Jason Pitts after a quick fling in Tijuana. The show was just picked up for its seventh season.
Brandy admits she prefers the acting business over the music industry “because it has a union,” she says with a laugh, and that means only having to work a certain number of hours each day.
With music, an artist might have to work all day and night with maybe two hours of sleep, she explains.
“But singing is the most natural way for me to express myself,” she says.
“Acting is so much fun because I get to be someone other than myself, because I’m always me. I look forward to doing more acting. It’s fulfilling in its own way.
“I appreciate the chance to do both. I’m not complaining,” she says.
Paying tribute to Whitney
Brandy’s current album, “Two Eleven,” was released last year under her new label Chameleon Entertainment and RCA Records. A grittier, edgier Brandy sings on the album that debuted at the top of Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums. It features collaborations with Frank Ocean and also Chris Brown, in which she raps as her alter ego in the song, “Put It Down.”
The title of the album pays tribute to Brandy’s birthday as well as to the date Whitney Houston died.
Houston was an idol for Brandy as she was growing up and became a close friend. The two starred in the TV movie “Cinderella” in 1997.
“It’s really tough,” she says of Houston’s death. “It was really tough to come to the realization I would never see her again. But I’m still blessed to hear her music and still feel her presence in my life. She’ll never leave me, never be forgotten. I can go back and revisit moments I spent with her. It’s one of those things I will never truly get over. I love her and I always will.”
Brandy says she often speaks to her gay friends about Houston and her music.
“Some of my closest friends are gay and we share and speak about her in a way that is special. I just think the gay community embraces great music,” she says.
Brandy’s Black Pride appearances
Sunday, Sept. 1
Pure Heat Community Festival
12- 8 p.m. @ Piedmont Park
Wassup N ATL’s ‘The Boys Are Mine’ party
10 p.m.-5 a.m. @ Georgia Freight Depot
Queendom All White Party
10 p.m.-3 a.m. @ The Havana Club