Brandy recalled how Whitney Houston changed her “life forever” while filming Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella and more magical memories in a new interview.
A new legion of little Black girls will get to see themselves in Brandy, who was crowned as Disney’s first Black princess in the 1997 musical TV film, when Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella arrives on Disney+ this Friday (Feb. 12). This will be the first time the movie is available on streaming services since it premiered on ABC 24 years ago on Nov. 2, 1997. The “Borderline” singer broke the news alongside her former co-star Whoopi Goldberg on The View Feb. 4. Houston, who co-produced and starred as the Fairy Godmother, bestowed Brandy with the titular role.
“She has changed my life forever and she’s gonna change so many others that never really got to see her in her prime,” Brandy told Entertainment Tonight Thursday (Feb. 11). “I’m so glad that they’re gonna see her in this light. This is the light that she should always shine in.”
The color-blind casting led to one of the most lauded multicultural casts in a Disney fairytale flick, which also features Paolo Montalban, Victor Garber, Bernadette Peters, Jason Alexander, Veanne Cox, and Natalie Desselle-Reid, who died on Dec. 7, 2020, from colon cancer. But the cast’s cultural impact didn’t quite hit Brandy while she was filming.
“I didn’t really understand what really was going on. I couldn’t really grasp the the history … I didn’t really know that it was gonna be historic in the way that it was, and [that] it was gonna have such an impact and be so revolutionary,” she told ET. “But I did know that something special and magical was happening. I was just so happy to be around my childhood idols and really work with them and learn from them. I was over the moon about it.”
She noted her fondest memory was recording in the studio with Houston after spending “my whole life trying to meet her.” The Grammy-winning singer recalled to Billboard about the time a 14-year-old Brandy snuck backstage to meet Houston at one of her concerts, telling security that she would be a famous singer one day. Even though she narrowly missed meeting her idol then, little did she know Houston would take her under her wing and open up more opportunities for her. Brandy told ET how being Cinderella led to her role as Roxie Hart in the Tony-winning Broadway musical Chicago.
“It impacted my life on so many levels. It opened so many more doors for me … I was just able to continue to do what I love to do,” she said. “Then later on in life, I was able to do Broadway. I just remembered all of my Cinderella moments and … I was able to take that with me and take it to Broadway.”
Unfortunately, Houston was never able to witness Brandy spread her wings and break out into the Broadway scene. The legendary pop star died on Feb. 11, 2012, and Brandy remembered having a “three-hour conversation with her before she passed away.”
“She went into depth about me staying true to who I am. She made me promise her that,” Brandy said. “So that has always been what I have vowed to do. I live my life every day being more and more myself. That can work in any area of your life … Being true to who you are just sets you free on every level.”
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella will be available on Disney+ on Friday. The 1997 classic will join the streaming service’s “Celebrate Black Stories” collection with other films such as Soul, Beyoncé’s Black Is King, and Black Panther.