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If there's one word that can best describe Brandy, it's synergy. Dominating pop charts wasn't enough for the young R&B singer, so she followed in the footsteps of Madonna, Charo, and many a one-named diva and began to take more acting and modeling gigs. Brandy was born in McComb, MS, on February 11, 1979, but grew up in Carson, CA, with her parents and younger brother Ray-J, another aspiring musician. She declared precociously at age four that she would sing professionally and drew attention performing with youth groups in her middle-class neighborhood. Brandy made her acting debut in 1993 with a supporting role on ABC's short-lived television series Thea. Shortly after Thea's demise in 1994, the uniquely pretty 15-year-old released her self-titled first album, which went triple-platinum and featured hit singles like "I Wanna Be Down" and "Baby." But interestingly enough, music sat on the back burner while Brandy pursued her acting career. She won the title role in UPN's family drama Moesha in 1996 and starred a year later as Cinderella in ABC's star-studded TV-movie version of the fairy tale. During breaks from these and other projects, she recorded Never S-A-Y Never, the eagerly awaited follow-up to her first album. Powered by "The Boy Is Mine," her duet with fellow teen star Monica, the 1998 album sold extraordinarily well and also produced the hits "Have You Ever" and "Almost Doesn't Count." 1998 and 1999 were busy years for her. In addition to Moesha, she starred in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer with Jennifer Love Hewitt and starred and executive produced Double Platinum, a TV-movie feature with Diana Ross. Brandy also spent time touring in support of her album, performed on VH1's Divas Live, and became a spokesmodel for Cover Girl cosmetics. It's a wonder she had time to go to the prom with future basketball star and good friend Kobe Bryant. But it was all due to catch up to her. In November 1999, amid rumors that she was addicted to diet pills and squabbling with producers on her TV show, Brandy collapsed and was hospitalized three days for dehydration. Since then, she's slowed down a little. Moesha ended its run in 2001 and Brandy focused her energies on attending classes at Pepperdine University and spending time with boyfriend Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men. She didn't totally given up showbiz for the academic life, though -- she voiced a character in Osmosis Jones, the 2001 Farrelly brothers' Innerspace-esque comedy.

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