Brandy on Broadway and learning to love yourself

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Brandy Gets Surprising Reaction When She Sings on the Subway

Underneath Roxie Hart's perfectly set finger-wave wig in the latest Broadway adaption of Chicago is an unexpected face: R&B singer Brandy, best known for the '90s hit "The Boy Is Mine." Brandy sat down with the Cut just a few days after going unnoticed on the subway to talk about how she took control of her life following a dark period of depression and what she's doing now.

What made you decide to do Chicago?
I did Cinderella when I was a bit younger, but this is my first Broadway musical. About six months before Chicago, I got into mental and physical discipline and changed my whole life around. I remember feeling like I was getting ready for something big, and then Chicago presented itself. I had always dreamed of being on Broadway, but I was never offered the right role until Chicago, which was perfect. Roxie Hart is such a versatile, colorful character.

How did that lifestyle change come about?
I was depressed for a little bit — actually, for a while — and I got tired of feeling sad. In order for my life to really change, I had to change what I was doing. I'm such an expressive person, I have so much to share, and I wasn't giving anything. I was just wasting time.

See photos of Brandy through the years:

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Brandy on Broadway and learning to love yourself
Singer Brandy poses with her award for Favorite New Soul/R & B Artist backstage at the 23rd Annual American Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Monday, Jan. 29, 1996. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Photo by: Russ Einhorn STAR MAX, Inc. - copyright 1998 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Telephone/Fax: (212) 995-1196 11/11/98 Brandy at the "I Still Know What you did Last Summer" premiere. (CA) (Star Max via AP Images)
Brandi, a Favorite Female Artist in Soul/Rhythm & Blues category nominee, arrives at the American Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Ca., Monday, Jan. 27, 1997 along with Brother Rayj. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Entertainers and co-hosts Brandy, left, and Melissa Joan Hart wave goodbye to the audience at the end of the 26th annual American Music Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Monday, Jan. 11, 1999. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)
Singer Brandy performs her new song "Full Moon" during a taping of American Bandstand's 50th Anniversary Celebration Friday, April 19, 2002 in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Krista Niles)
Photo by: Stephen Trupp STAR MAX, Inc. - copyright 2002 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Telephone/Fax: (212) 995-1196 8/29/02 Brandy at the MTV Music Awards. (Radio City Music Hall, NYC) (Star Max via AP Images)
Singer Brandy poses backstage at the 11th annual ESPY Awards after she presented an award, Wednesday, July 16, 2003, in Los Angeles. The ESPY Awards honor the year's top athletic performances and sports moments. (AP Photo/Jerome T. Nakagawa)
Recording artist Brandy poses for photographs in Los Angeles, Sunday, June 27, 2004. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Los Angeles Clippers guard Quentin Richardson, left, heads into a party with singer Brandy on Friday, Feb. 18, 2005, in Denver as part of festivities to mark the NBA All-Star Game. The pair were on hand for a party thrown by former NBA star Michael Jordan. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Brandy arrives at the Legends Ball, an award ceremony hosted by Oprah Winfrey honoring women who paved the way in arts, entertainment and civil rights, Saturday, May 14, 2005 in Santa Barbara, Calif. (AP Photo/Michael A. Mariant)
Singer Brandy attends the La Dolce Vita Event in Aid of The Sarah Ferguson Foundation at Cipriani's Wall Street, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2007 in New York. La Dolce Vita Entertainment is the largest global social philanthropic firm in the United Kingdom. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)
Singer Brandy makes an appearance on MTV's Total Request Live on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)
Singer Brandy is photographed in New York on Monday, Nov. 3, 2008. (AP Photo/Jim Cooper)
Singer Brandy attends the Conde Nast Media Group's Fifth Annual Fashion Rocks at Radio City Music Hall in New York on Friday, Sept. 5, 2008. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer)
Brandy arrives at The Universal Motown Republic Group GRAMMY Nominee 2010 Cocktail Party held at W Los Angeles - Westwood on Sunday Jan. 31, 2010, in Westwood, Calif. (AP Photo/Katy Winn)
Singer Brandy performs at Z100 Jingle Ball 2008 at Madison Square Garden on Friday, Dec. 12, 2008 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)
Singers Brandy, right, and Ray-J present the AOL Fan-Demonium mention at the BET Awards on Sunday, June 27, 2010 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
Photo by: Jackson Lee/ �2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Telephone/Fax: (212) 995-1196 4/22/10 Brandy out and about. (NYC) (Star Max via AP Images)
Brandy arrives at The Universal Motown Republic Group GRAMMY Nominee 2010 Cocktail Party held at W Los Angeles - Westwood on Sunday Jan. 31, 2010, in Westwood, Calif. (AP Photo/Katy Winn)
Brandy sings the national anthem at the Sony Ericsson Open tennis tournament in Key Biscayne, Fla., Saturday, March 26, 2011. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Brandy poses backstage at the "Vh1 Divas Salute the Troops" on Friday, Dec. 3, 2010 in San Diego, Calif. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
Brandy performs during the in memoriam for Whitney Houston at the BET Awards on Sunday, July 1, 2012, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
Hip hop artist, J. Cole and R&B singer, Brandy walks the red carpet at Lavo Nightclub on New Years Eve on Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Al Powers/Powers Imagery/Invision/AP)
R&B singer, Brandy performs at Lavo Nightclub on New Years Eve with her fiance, Ryan Press in attendance on Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Al Powers/Powers Imagery/Invision/AP)
Brandy performs at the Essence Festival at the Superdome on Friday, July 5, 2013, in New Orleans. (Photo by Adrienne Battistella/Invision for Essence/AP Images)
From left, Brandy Norwood and Tika Sumpter pose during the Hyundai NAACP Image Awards After Party on Saturday, February 22, 2014, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Invision/AP)
Brandy Norwood attends the The Paley Center Tribute to African-American Achievements in Television at Cipriani Wall Street on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 24: Brandy Norwood, Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent join the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Conventions Bureau (AOCVCB) as it unveils its new brand and brings the sun and fun of Anaheim to the Big Apple at the Flatiron Building, New York City. Photo by Raymond Hagans/MediaPunch/IPX
Brandy Norwood, left, and Ray J arrive at the BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Sunday, June 28, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 16: Brandy of 'Chicago' performs at 106.7 LITE FM’s Broadway in Bryant Park 2015 on July 16th in Bryant Park, New York. Photo by Raymond Hagans/MediaPunch/IPX

Do you feel like that kind of sadness comes back? How do you cope?
It's never coming back. I'll never allow myself to get back into that space. Everyone has moments when they don't feel excited or happy all the time, but where I was, I will never go back there.

I heard you got into meditation and a new fitness routine
It's affirmative prayer, it's meditation, it's definitely fitness, it's going to the gym. It's really about changing your mind and your thoughts, replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. When you practice positive thinking enough, the picture of your life starts to look a little bit different. That's just the way life works; it happens in your mind first.

What made you gravitate toward Roxie? How do you channel her character onstage?
Roxie is very strong. She's a dreamer. She sees her whole life in front of her: She wants to be a dancer. I feel like I'm in that place, too — I'm dreaming again for the first time in a long time.

As an actor, how do you separate your role as Roxie from your everyday life?
I don't know if I really come all the way out of it, because I'm Roxie Hart every single night. To make her authentic, there has to be a lot of me in her. A lot of my personality is expressed through her character — you definitely see me onstage.

I heard you're coming out with some new music soon. What's the inspiration for the next album?
Love, not the way I have experienced it but the way I want to experience it. I want to make R&B music. I want to make music that I feel inside of my soul, and I want to sing, sing, sing.

Does that mean you wouldn't say you're in love right now?
No. I'm love with me right now, for the first time ever.

How did you get to that point? How did you finally learn to love yourself?
When you make a commitment to do the spiritual work, the love for yourself starts to come. I didn't realize how much you need to love yourself to get through your life and be a good example as a mom, a friend, a sister, or a daughter. You need the love for yourself to be able to have great relationships with everyone else.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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