Toni Braxton was one of the most successful R&B singers of the ’90s with her distinctive sultry vocal blend of R&B, pop, jazz and gospel. With more than 40 million albums sold worldwide and six Grammy Awards, Braxton managed to score not one, but two albums that sold over eight million copies that were accompanied by hit singles on the charts, one of which — “Unbreak My Heart” — ranks among the longest-running number one pop hits of the rock era.
As of late, Braxton was struck with claims of unpaid bills, diva attitudes and sibling rivalry. She admits to having to file for bankruptcy twice, and an unsuccessful marriage and run at the Las Vegas strip audience; but no one can say that Braxton doesn’t have staying power, as evidence by the following pages of those influenced by Braxton’s appeal.
Braxton’s first professional experience was singing in the church choir with her four sisters (Traci, Towanda, Trina, and Tamar). The eldest of six siblings, she attracted the attention of Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds of the famed LaFace Records.
Braxton knows a thing or two about writing love songs; her music first came to popularity on the soundtrack of Eddie Murphy’s movie “Boomerang.” The album sold ten million copies worldwide, spawning the classics “Another Sad Love Song” and “Breathe Again.” She received critical acclaim for her second album, Secrets, with “You’re Makin’ Me High” becoming her first #1 Pop and R&B hit single. The release of “Unbreak My Heart” was
recognized with the coveted Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. It has become her signature song, and ranks as the second top-selling single of all time by a female artist.
Toni Braxton had two successful runs on Broadway starring in “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aida.” She made her debut as Belle in Beauty and the Beast in 1998 when she replaced Kim Huber. During her run in the show, Alan Menken wrote a new song for the musical called “A Change in Me,” especially for Braxton. It has been in the musical ever since. Her role in Beauty and the Beast marked the first and only time a black woman commanded the leading role of Belle on Broadway; and the first time a black woman would star in a Disney musical on Broadway.
The opportunity to star in another Disney musical came with the production of Aida in 2003. The lead role of Aida was originally occupied by songstress Heather Headley and later Michelle Williams.
Braxton was married to Keri Lewis, a former member of the R&B band, Mint Condition and they had two sons, Denim Cole Braxton-Lewis and Diezel Ky Braxton-Lewis. The youngest child, Diezel, suffers from autism. As a result of Diezel’s diagnosis of autism, Braxton has become very involved, serving as the International Spokesperson for Autism Speaks and appearing in public service announcements as an advocate for research. Braxton also is active with the American Heart Association as being diagnosed with Lupus.
In 2001, Braxton made her feature film debut as Juanita Slocumb in the ensemble comedy “Kingdom Come” starring LL Cool J, Whoopie Goldberg, Loretta Devine and Vivica Fox. The next year in early 2002, Braxton appeared in the VH1 original movie “Play’d: A Hip Hop Story” along with Faizon Love and Craig Robinson. In ’05, she appeared as Terry Knox in the UPN legal drama, Kevin Hill, with Taye Diggs. Last year, Braxton has some fun in a family film, The Ooogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, as Rosalie Rosebud and most recently starred in a Lifetime film, Twist of Faith, alongside her own son, Diezel airing February 9th.
Braxton is also enjoying huge success with her “Braxton Family Values” reality show on the WE network. Four episodes into Braxton Family Values’ run, Rainbow Media’s WE TV renewed the reality show starring Toni Braxton and her sisters, her parents and her sister’s husbands for a second season with a 19-episode order, up from the 10 episodes the network ordered for Season 1. Braxton Family Values, ranked as the #1 telecast for women 18-34 during primetime among all ad-supported cable. The series also ranked as the #1 show among African-American viewers. New episodes air as part of season three this March.