When 'Down' Is Up

updated 11/21/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/21/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

BRANDY NORWOOD NORMALLY acts like a grown-up lady. But when the 15-year-old songbird's manager-mother, Sonja, 42, announces that Brandy's peppy first single, "I Wanna Be Down," may face some competition after three weeks at the top of Billboard's R&B chart, Brandy frowns like a disappointed teenager. "Don't be afraid," Sonja comforts her worried daughter. "That's why you come out with a second single."

Growing up is hard to do when the first single from your debut album (Brandy) goes gold. Sure, it's great to perform around the country and to meet singing heroes like Boyz II Men and Whitney Houston. But friends have fallen by the wayside ("They get jealous"), and days of three-hour tutoring sessions, promotional chores and voice practice are a grind. Brandy also misses her dad and vocal coach, Willie, 44, a choir director back in Los Angeles, and her brother Willie Jr., 13, who starred on Fox's 1993 sitcom The Sinbad Show and will release his own album next year. "He sings like me," Brandy says, "but in a boyish way." Not that Brandy's complaining. "I knew I had to make a sacrifice to do what I've always wanted to do," she says.

Born in McComb, Miss., Brandy was singing before she could walk, and by 14, she had a recording contract with Atlantic. Three months later she had an acting role on ABC's short-lived '93 sitcom Thea, which was less than fun. "I'm always smiling and happy," she says. "Other people on the set weren't. I was miserable. I couldn't wait for it to go off the air."

Although she may act again one day, Brandy is committed to music—and to being a kid. Once she gets off the road in December she wants to shop ("The mall is my life"), sleep late and hang out with her overprotective" best friend, Willie Jr. "He's very strict with me," she says, laughing. "He tells me I can't wear something because it shows too much, and I'm like, 'Excuse me, little boy.' "

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