Brandy Says Playing Cinderella in 1997 Movie Inspired 'Black Girls to Dream Bigger'
In her own little corner of history.
Over two decades after she portrayed Cinderella in Walt Disney Television's 1997 movie musical Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, Brandy tells PEOPLE she was "blessed" to be chosen as the first Black woman to play the iconic fairytale character onscreen.
"I think that I was so just blessed and humbled to be chosen to be that vessel, to be the young girl that other black girls could see," she recounts to PEOPLE ahead of the movie's streaming release on Disney+, Friday. "And just girls in general, just to see that this is possible. And I was just so happy to be that person."
Continues the 42-year-old, "Wow! I can't believe that I was chosen to do that. And even though I had my own dreams about it, but you just never know until it happens."
The movie featured a diverse cast, including Whitney Houston as Cinderella's Fairy Godmother and Whoopi Goldberg as Queen Constantina.
"I'm pretty sure, I know, for other girls that look like me — Black girls that look like me — it inspired them to dream bigger and to know that they can do anything if they put their minds to it," says Brandy, also noting that she wore her hair in box braids, a hairstyle that dates back centuries in Black culture. "I know it inspired girls my age at that time."
The film — which originally aired on ABC to 60 million viewers — is often remembered as one of the first, large-scale productions to use colorblind casting. Brandy recognizes that Cinderella "was ahead of its time" as she tells PEOPLE "we just need to do more of it."
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"When you have creators that are not afraid to take risks and see film in a different way and invite a diverse audience to enjoy a diverse film with a diverse cast, it was before its time," she says. "And I think it really helped other creators feel like that they can do it, too. And I love that. You want to be ahead of your time, you want to be influential, and set the bar, and set the example."
What resulted was a "timeless" and "classic" movie, Brandy reflects.
"To have a multicultural cast, diverse artists coming together to tell this classic, amazing story re-imagined," the singer and actress tells PEOPLE. "And I think the music just hits home. It really does. It's beautiful music."
And while the film will finally be available to stream, the long-awaited soundtrack is something Brandy promises she's still pushing for. "Trust me," she says with a smile. "I'm barking about that too."
Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella will join the "Celebrate Black Stories" collection on Disney+ alongside Soul, Black Is King, Black Panther, Hidden Figures, and others. It's now available to stream on Disney +.
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