Be My Baby Now

updated 03/11/2002 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/11/2002 01:00AM

When music producer Robert Smith started calling Brandy his "wife" last summer, the singer-actress's close pal Karu Daniels gave it little thought. "All these hip-hop kids refer to their partners as 'wife' or 'wifey,'" he says. Which explains Daniels's shock when the 23-year-old star announced on Jan. 30 that she and Smith had wed in secret over the summer. "I guess," says Daniels, "it was literal."

So is this term of affection: mom-to-be. On Feb. 21 Brandy revealed she and Smith, 22, are expecting a baby in July. "I've always wanted to be a mom at 23, 24ish, ever since I was a little girl," she says. "I'm right on schedule." Her just-beginning-to-show pregnancy hasn't deterred her from traveling worldwide to promote her new album, Full Moon, out March 5. "Now that the baby is coming, I will do a lot more balancing," she says. "I'm going to be a real mommy."

To prepare, she's poring over parenting books alongside Smith—who produced three songs on Full Moon under the guidance of his cousin, Brandy's longtime producer Rodney Jerkins—at their home outside Los Angeles. A vegetarian, she hired a personal chef to ensure she gets nutrition for two. "She's very mature for her age," says Warren Hutcherson, an executive producer of her recently canceled sitcom Moesha. "A lot of [showbiz] people are wild and crazy, but not Brandy."

So why all the secrecy? (She's still mum about the details.) "It was kind of fun, everyone speculating and wondering," Brandy says. The star has been media-leery, says Daniels, since her 1999 hospitalization for dehydration sparked rumors of trouble. Even her mother and manager, Sonja Norwood, 51, got the nuptial news after the fact, he adds—but no hard feelings. "It's her first grandchild, so she's really, really, really excited," says Brandy. "I guess my mom is a little more stressed out than me."

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