Brandy Reveals Her Darkest Moment of Depression and How Daughter Sy'rai Saved Her Life
Back with her first album in nearly eight years, the R&B star opens up in this week's cover story, discussing fame, family and her decades-long battle with depression
"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.
- Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Brandy streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.
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."
RELATED VIDEO: Brandy on Her New Album: I Had to Get Myself Through Tough Times and Music Was a Way to Pull Through
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.'"
She credits Sy'rai, now 18 and a 2020 high school graduate, with pulling her out of the darkness she felt. "If Sy'rai wasn’t here, I wouldn't be either," she says. "The place that I was in, it just felt like I wasn't going to make it through."
When it comes to songs like her new single "Borderline" or the album's ender "Bye Bipolar," Brandy — who clarifies she has not been diagnosed with bipolar disorder — says she had second thoughts about how candid she was being in her new music.
"I was thinking, 'Did I go too deep? Did I go too far in what I was singing about?' But I didn't dwell on those thoughts," she says. Staying on top of her mental health with therapy, meditation, journaling and her faith, Brandy says she's finally feeling back on track.
"I'm in a place now," says the singer, "where I can be proud of moving in the right direction."
B7 is currently available on all music streaming services. For more on Brandy's life as a teen star and how she found peace after depression, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
- Jessica Springsteen Opens Up About Olympic Equestrian Debut: 'Timing Is Really Everything'
- Kevin McDowell Survived Cancer and Just Won a Silver Medal in Tokyo: 'Let's Make the Most of It'
- Soleil Moon Frye Sells 'Magical' Hidden Hills Farmhouse for $3.5M — See Inside!
- MyKayla Skinner Tells Simone Biles She's 'Doing This for Us' as She Steps Up for Vault Final in Tokyo Olympics