By People Staff
June 23, 1997 12:00 PM

LIKE COUNTLESS LITTLE BROTHERS before him, Willie Ray Norwood Jr. got used to taking guff from his big sister Brandy, now an 18-year-old pop queen and TV star (Moesha). “When we were little,” says Ray J, as he has been known all his life, “Brandy would play teacher and line up all her dolls, and she’d make me sit there with them. She would teach the dolls, and if I got bold and talked, she’d whack me with a long ruler.”

There are new rules. Although sis’s 1994 debut album, Brandy, sold 4 million copies, now it’s her brother’s turn to throb teen hearts. With a poppy, funk-lite album, Everything You Want, hitting Billboard’s R&B chart, and “Let It Go,” a single from the Set It Off movie soundtrack, nearing gold, Ray J, 16, insists he’s his own man. “Some people still look at me as Brandy’s brother,” he says, “but others are saying ‘Ray J’ now.”

Comparisons are inevitable for the sibs, who sang at the Southside Church of Christ in Los Angeles they attended with their mom, Sonja, 46, and father, Willie Ray Sr., 48, the church’s musical director. “I always heard my sister and my dad sing,” Ray J says. “But I was kind of shy. One day I started feeling that I could do it, so I sang a couple of leads at church, and it went over real well.” Ray J, who has been acting since age 8 in TV commercials and who became a regular on Fox’s The Sinbad Show at 12, costars with his new pal Shaquille O’Neal in this summer’s action-adventure film Steel. And he no longer has to worry that his big sister is going to get out the ruler. “We help each other,” says Brandy. “He’s my best friend.”