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Brandy role model

Source: Getty Images/Hulton Archive / Getty

There aren’t too many people who’ve had as iconic of a career as Brandy.

The singer was the first Black woman to play Cinderella, doing so alongside the legendary Whitney Houston as her fairy godmother. She had her own Barbie doll way before it was the norm. She had two hit albums under her belt by the time she was 19, not to mention a hugely popular sitcom in Moesha. She was doing things at a young age that many artists never get to, making her incredibly popular at that time, and at a young age.

But in an interview with PEOPLE, the now 41-year-old singer admits that her stardom came with a heavy burden — being a role model.  People viewed her as the wholesome Moesha Norwood or the Disney princess, and that ended up weighing heavy on the star.

“I struggled with being put in a box of perfection,” she told the publication for their latest cover story. “I felt like my mistakes would let down everyone if I made them. I had to make the transition from being a teenager to a woman and figure out what direction I was going to go in.”

“I felt like I didn’t have the space to grow and to grow up in a safe way,” she added. “I had to deal with so many other opinions about what I should do, how I should be and what I should look like. And that can get tough when you’re trying to find your own voice.”

So when she eventually got pregnant with her daughter Sy’rai at 23 (whom Brandy initially claimed was conceived in a marriage to producer Robert Smith in order to preserve her image), she found herself more confused than ever. She would lean on family in order to help her be at her best for her child.

“I did not know who I was,” she said. “I had to figure it out. But it takes a village. I surrounded Sy’rai with good people to help me if I needed to go and work on myself or change some things in my life.”

Now that the star is older, has done the work to care for her mental and emotional well-being, and no longer carries around the weight of other people’s expectations, she’s in a much better place.

“I’ve made so many mistakes — public mistakes,” she said. “Nobody is perfect. That’s not even something I try to be anymore. That’s a prison in and of itself.”

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