IF YOU GO
* Who: Brandy at Riverbend
* When: 9:30 p.m.
* Where: Coca-Cola Stage
• In 1996, she went to the prom with Kobe Bryant. It was before he became an NBA star.
• She was chosen by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the world in 1996.
• In 1999, she and Monica Brown won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group for their collaboration "The Boy Is Mine."
• She is close friends with Serena and Venus Williams.
• She was once anorexic.
• She uses the alias "Bran 'Nu" when rapping.
• She is engaged to music executive Ryan Press.
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Lorean Mays has been a fan of Brandy since the 34-year-old singer hit the music scene at 14 years old.
A Grammy Award-winning rhythm and blues singer, Brandy, who also has a lucrative career in TV and film, will perform at Riverbend on the Coke Stage tonight.
"I started listening to Brandy when I was around 11 or 12," says Mays, 29, of Chattanooga. "I even wanted braids like hers, by my mother said no."
"She has been very transparent with her career, and I like that about her. She's never pretended to be someone she isn't and always seems to keep it real," Mays says.
Brandy (full name Brandy Rayana Norwood) is also loyal to her fans, says WJTT-FM Power 94 radio personality Eric Foster, who notes that she has a huge fan base locally.
"One of the things that's cool about Brandy is that she keeps coming back to Chattanooga," says Foster. "We've supported her from the beginning of her career, and she's been to Chattanooga a number of times, including a visit for a celebrity basketball game and a meet-and-greet she did for us."
Foster says her most recent visit to Chattanooga was after she released her last album, "Two Eleven," in 2012.
"Brandy has done really well," he says. "She's also a good actress. She did a good job on the "Moesha" TV show, and a big highlight of her career was when she did 'Cinderella' with Whitney [Houston]."
The 1997 made-for-TV film starred Brandy as Cinderella, Houston as the fairy godmother and Bernadette Peters as the evil stepmother.
"Brandy playing Cinderella had an enormous impact on little girls," Mays says. "We felt like this beloved Disney character looks like us. She has inspired a lot of girls to pursue their dreams despite their odds by staying faithful to God and putting family first."
Brandy continues to be inspirational to all races, Mays says, particularly young black women.
"Never being a trend follower, Brandy has always had her own signature look," Mays says. "This is important to young African-American girls because the media is geared to make them believe they are not beautiful,."
Marquita Ector, 29, of Chattanooga has been a fan of Brandy's since the singer released her first album in 1994.
Ector says that, though she's a huge fan of Brandy's music, she's an equally big fan of her acting.
"Her latest film was Tyler Perry's 'Temptation,' " Ector says, and she and her friends saw the movie at least twice. "She did an awesome job with that role. She played a young woman who contracted HIV from her abusive and wealthy boyfriend, and she was on the run from him. It was so good."
Donna Elle, host of WRCB Channel 3's "Trends on 3," says she grew up listening to Brandy's "inspirational" music.
"I've followed her acting career on the 'Moesha' sitcom, and now on the BET television show 'The Game,'" Elle says. "Brandy is an amazing role model for young girls today. She's inspired me my entire radio and TV career."
Contact staff writer Karen Nazor Hill at khill@times freepress.com or 423-757-6396. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karennazorhill. Subscribe to her posts on Facebook at www.facebook.com/karennazorhill.
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...