Brandy on her depression: ‘If Sy’rai wasn’t here, I wouldn’t be either’

Singer/Actress Brandy seems to be making a major comeback in 2020. Her syndicated 90s show, Moesha, was bought by Netflix and made available for streaming. Plus she’s is now in talks for a reboot of the same show AND she recently released a new album. For someone who has been silent for the last eight years, it ain’t shabby.

Brandy was seen as every Black person’s little sister in the 90s. She had a squeaky clean persona until her image took a hit in 2002 when everyone discovered that she wasn’t married to the man she had a daughter from. Yes I get it, many people who are not married have have babies, but Brandy’s case she and her “husband” were doing a reality how in which they pretended that they were.

Fast forward eighteen years later and Brandy’s daughter is graduating high school and Brandy is releasing an album after being on hiatus. In her cover with this week’s People, Brandy talks about battling depression and how her image made her feel trapped. Here are a few excerpts from the interview.

On why it took eight years to release new music
“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.”

On her clean image
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.

On the birth of her daughter
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.”

On contemplating 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.”

On staying on track
“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.

From People

When I sat down to write this story, it hurt a little. I am slightly older than Brandy and I remember when she burst on to the R&B scene in the early 90s. You knew she had a bright future ahead. She was extremely talented and seemingly very well adjusted. Once the news hit about her pretending to be married it was confusing as to why she would lie about such a thing. But it made so much sense once you realized it went against this image of purity her parents and producers created for her.

It was then wonderful to see her empower herself and begin again after the non-scandal. But when she disappeared again, I honestly just thought that she was hit hard by the passing of her friend and mentor Whitney Houston and that she was busy being in love or raising her daughter. It hurts to read that she was in such a dark place that she considered ending it. Talking about mental health issues, especially depression in the Black community, is something that I wholeheartedly advocate for. I am sure it took a lot of courage for her not only to write this very personal album but to talk about such a taboo and personal subject. I am glad she is finding ways to cope and that she has channeled that into her music. As someone who suffers from PTSD, anxiety and depression, I do understand that feeling of hopelessness and that dark cloud that seems to follow with it.

I hope that celebrities from the Black community, like Brandy and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, continue to talk about therapy and mental health. And maybe just maybe the stigma of it will eventually disappear.

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19 Responses to “Brandy on her depression: ‘If Sy’rai wasn’t here, I wouldn’t be either’”

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  1. Priscila says:

    I would assume the car accident also contributed to her depression, but might be something she is not prepared to talk about ?

    • Jenn says:

      It’s SO effed up. I NEVER got the impression that Brandy was at fault, but she kind of slipped off the map after it happened. I 100% understand not feeling any guilt because you did nothing wrong, but feeling shame nevertheless, because you know some people DO blame you. It’s complicated.

      Anyway, I’ve always liked her. I hope someday she’s able to forgive herself. It makes me so, so sad. It isn’t right for her to deprive herself of a full life over a mistake, even a fatal mistake.

      • osito says:

        I remembered the accident differently, but I just read about it, and she was not the direct cause of the other motorist’s death, you’re absolutely right. She did cause the initial accident that started the chain of events, which must have been and still is horrifying for her and the other drivers involved. But then the California Highway Patrol released an unauthorized and apparently premature press release recommending that she be solely held accountable for the accident with a charge of vehicular manslaughter before the investigation was completely over? County prosecutors eventually declined to charge her saying there was insufficient evidence.

        My memory of that was completely influenced by the CHP’s statement and recommendation, and I know I’m not alone in that. That stigma has probably followed her for most of her life to this point, and that’s heartbreaking. Talk about gaslighting — I don’t know how a person would be able to come to terms with what their actual role really was in a fatal accident if an entire investigative agency tries to misrepresent that role. Add to that the misogynoire, and the media scrutiny because this was around the time of young, female celebs publicly acting out, and this must have changed the trajectory of her life in a significant way.

    • Belle says:

      @Priscila, as a child that grew up in the Brandy years, I was surprised that the reality show is being labelled as the event that caused the most damage to her image. All I see when I see her is the accident because so much of her negative publicity from my memory is about that. Whether she was responsible or not, her association with the accident, in my opinion, was the thing that saw her image nose dive.

  2. MarcelMarcel says:

    As a nineties child I have such fond memories of Brandy. Can’t wait to hear her new music!

    I can’t imagine how fame could complicate and exacerbate depression. I’m glad she’s on a journey of healing and has reconnected with her creativity.

    • Sid says:

      The album is fantastic! And she has been getting a ton of love from other musical artists on SM who have been raving about it.

      • MarcelMarcel says:

        I just started listening to it on Spotify and I’m already enjoying it. She’s so gifted. Creativity and the arts are a real life saver for those of us struggling with mental health & trauma.

  3. nicegirl says:

    I was in high school when my bff and I went to see Brandy for the best friend boy is mine tour. She gave autographs after and she gave us hers on a broken drumstick. I gave it to my sister (she’s 36 now) and she still has it. Brandy was super sweet to us then and I love her still.

    There’s one thing that never changes and that’s you as my best friend! Loved it

  4. Lindy says:

    As a mom, I can relate to that feeling of digging deep for your child even when you’re in a dark place. I’ve never been there in the same way, but in the middle of a vicious divorce I remember lying in bed in the early morning thinking to myself that I have to get up and go to work so I can make life feel as normal as possible for my little one (who’s now 11 and doing really well). I’ll be excited to see what Brandy does with her comeback–I always thought she was so talented.

    Oya, you should check out books by Monica Coleman (she’s a friend and former colleague who writes about Black women, spirituality, and mental health–her writing is fantastic).

  5. MsIam says:

    I’m many years older than Brandy but I enjoyed her show too. I remember reading back then when she was a teenager that she felt trapped in this “perfect teen“ persona and she really struggled with it. I’ve read that a lot of teen actors have these same issue, maybe that’s why so many of them drift in the opposite direction to differentiate themselves from their characters. I’m glad she’s doing better now.

  6. Keira Lee says:

    She is sooo beautiful. I can’t stop looking at her face.

  7. Lizzie Bathory says:

    Thanks so much for covering this! Mental health issues are so tough & I really appreciate when people feel able to talk about their experiences. Glad Brandy is doing better.

    And gorgeous pics of her & Sy’rai!

  8. Meg says:

    her daughter is 18 already? UGH i feel old. I remember loving her on the reality show and the album she released at that time, the song full moon i played constantly.
    I was shocked when her ex said they were never married, were non disclosure agreements not a thing yet? i think celebs make nannys maids etc sign them- youd think theyd make him sign one if they were going to the effort of the lie about the marriage to protect her image. This didnt seem well thought out by her and her team.

  9. emu says:

    aww I love Brandy. Loved her Never Say Never album and Moesha! Glad she’s in a better place now