Sonja Norwood remembers the exact moment when she realized that her daughter Brandy’s career was about to take off. Brandy had just wrapped taping for the first and only season of the sitcom Thea when an offer came for the then 14-year-old to sign a production deal with a well-known music executive. Norwood, a district manager with H&R Block at the time, waded through the contract and was struck by one immediate thought: she needed advice from someone who understood the terms of the deal before she signed anything.
“I called my boss and asked him to look at it because he had some knowledge of contracts,” says Norwood. Although he admittedly knew little about the entertainment business, he knew enough to raise an eyebrow at the offer. “The production company was asking for 70% of Brandy’s earnings, and it would have been a hard deal to get out of,” explains Norwood. “That’s when I knew I needed an entertainment lawyer.”
Norwood and her husband, Willie, saw a substantial opportunity for Brandy, but they were also determined to protect her interests. With the help of an entertainment lawyer, the Norwoods carved out a more equitable contract for their daughter. A little over a year later, Brandy had a recording deal with Atlantic Records and a debut album that sold over 4 million copies. At the same time, her younger brother, Ray J, was co-starring in the sitcom Sinbad and launching his own music career. The Norwoods, both of whom had full-time jobs, had to decide who they were going to trust with making decisions about their children’s careers.
Norwood decided to quit her job and take on the challenge herself. “I already had management skills, but I knew I needed help in other areas,” Norwood says. Five short years later, with the help of a good lawyer, an agent and a business manager, she has mapped out a multimedia career for her daughter that includes music, television, film and modeling. “When Brandy was little, she came to me and said, ‘Mom, I want to be as big as Whitney Houston.’ That’s a tall order. It was my job to figure out how to get her there.” Norwood has since taken her success in guiding her children’s pursuits and launched her own management company, which handles the careers of her son, Ray J, and R&B singing groups 702 and Silk.
Like Norwood, many parents have young children who dream of being superstars. You may even believe that, like Brandy, your child has what it takes to move beyond school plays and local talent shows. But there’s a lot to consider if you want to help her get to the big time.
You certainly want your child to succeed. But perhaps you don’t have the desire to shoulder management responsibilities. In that case, you’ll want to choose the best manager or agent for your child (for more insight into the roles of managers and agents and their responsibilities, see “The Power Behind the Stars,” December 1998).