Brandy Recalls the 'Unbelievable' Feeling Being the First Black Princess with Braids in Cinderella
The singer and actress wore the protective hairstyle in the 1997 movie Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella
For ELLE.com's State of Black Beauty digital issue, the iconic singer and actress, 42, shared what Black beauty means to her and opened up about wearing box braids in the 1997 live action musical (in which she starred as Cinderella opposite Whitney Houston).
"It did feel like making history," she told the outlet. "I was so busy trying to be famous, but when I look back, I'm like, 'Wow, that was such an amazing time.' To be the first Black princess with braids — it was unbelievable. I'm just happy I was able to experience that."
Brandy, who's been rocking protective hairstyles since the mid-'90s when she rose to fame with the debut of her self-titled album, said she thinks braids are "so beautiful," adding, "It just speaks to the culture."
"I got a perm when I was about 15 and the perm damaged my hair. That's how I was able to get the braids—they were a protective style. It's a beautiful expression, it's an art, and it takes so much time for the braid artists who are doing my hair," the star continued. "The art they express is unbelievable. I want to wear them for the rest of my life. Now, people are wearing them even more than I've seen in such a long time. That's such a great thing."
When asked what Black beauty means to her, the Grammy-nominated artist said, "being Black is icing on the cake."
"Beauty is really within. It's really the person that you work on every day, to try to be the best version of yourself," she explained. "And it definitely reflects on the outside. It makes people feel like they can relate to you—it shows in your eyes, in your skin, it radiates when you've really done the work on the inside. Being Black is icing on the cake."
Brandy's ELLE.com feature comes after Disney+ announced that Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella will be available to stream at the stroke of midnight on Friday, Feb. 12.
Ahead of the movie's release on the streaming site, the star told PEOPLE, "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. And just girls in general, just to see that this is possible. And I was just so happy to be that person."
She continued, "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," Brandy told PEOPLE. "I know it inspired girls my age at that time."