Pop/R & B artist Toni Braxton reaped numerous Grammy Awards and American Music Awards through her multi-platinum recordings, the 1993 debut album and the sophomore recording Secret (1996). “Breathe Again” (1993) won a Grammy Award and made her an international rising star. She continued to impress the music industry with “Unbreak My Heart” (1996), “Another Sad Love Song” and “You’re Makin’ Me High.” Facing some hard times during her career, the singer recently hit the charts with “The Time of Our Lives” (2006), her duet with Il Divo, which was made into a 2006 FIFA World Cup anthem.
Braxton, who is famous for her dark, deep, thick contralto vocals, made headlines with her contract dispute with LaFace/Arista Records in 1997 and the filing for bankruptcy in February 1998. In 1999, she reconciled with the label, but eventually moved to Blackground Records four years later. In 2002, she accused rapper Jay-Z of copying her cover of 2Pac Shakur’s “Me and My Girlfriend” for his duet with Beyonce Knowles, “'Bonnie & Clyde.”
Medically speaking, the artist suffers from the serious heart condition called pericarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart caused by a virus. Braxton is currently married to Keri Lewis, with whom she has two sons.
Childhood and Family:
Toni Michelle Braxton was born on October 7, 1966, in Severn, Maryland, to Michael Braxton and Evelyn Braxton. She has three sisters, Tamar, Towanda and Trina, and a brother. In 2000, her parents ended their 33 years of marriage.
Encouraged by her vocally trained mother, young Toni and her sisters began singing in church and competed in the local talent-show circuit. Graduating from Glen Burnie High School, she intended to become a music teacher and studied at Bowie State University.
On April 21, 2001, Toni exchanged wedding vows with the keyboardist of the Mint Condition band, Keri Lewis. From the marriage, she has two sons: Denim Cole Braxton Lewis (born in December 2, 2001) and Diezel Ky Braxton Lewis (born on March 30, 2003).
Unbreak My Heart
Toni Braxton, who used male singers like Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Michael McDonald and Chaka Khan as the models to develop her vocal style, entered the professional music business by accident. Singing to herself at a gas station, she was noticed by songwriter Bill Pettaway, who soon signed her and her sisters to Arista Records as the Braxtons.
With the group, Braxton released the debut single “The Good Life” in 1990 and caught the attention of new producers Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, which then led her to record “Give You My Heart,” “Love Shoulda Brought You Home” and “Give U My Heart” (her duet with Babyface), three popular songs that became the soundtracks for Boomerang (1992).
Braxton, who joined L.A.-Babyface’s label LaFace Records, prepared for her solo debut album. Released on July 13, 1993, the self-titled recording received enthusiastic response and perched on the top of the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart for two weeks. The eight-time platinum album generated the second top R&B Singles chart hit “Another Sad Love Song” and the international single “Breathe Again,” which earned two Grammys for Braxton. Also, she took home a Grammy for Best New Artist and three American Music awards for Favorite Soul/R&B New Artist, New Adult Contemporary Artist and Soul/R&B Album. In 1994, Braxton appeared in the sitcom “Roc,” playing herself in a concert-themed episode. She also provided “Let It Flow” to the soundtrack of Waiting to Exhale (1995).
The rising star continued to shine with the sophomore recording Secret (1996), where her also serving as co-producer. Resuming the previous success, the US No.2 album tossed out the first of the Hot 100 singles, “You’re Makin’ Me High,” the signature song “Unbreak My Heart” (written by Diane Warren) and “How Could An Angel Break My Heart” (featuring Kenny G), which was later included in a Princess Diana memorial album. Thanks to the successful album, Braxton collected two Grammys and two American Music awards.
Amid her dispute with Arista Records and filing for bankruptcy, the artist appeared in the Disney stage production of “Beauty and the Beast” (1998), playing the starring role of Belle. Returning to the recording studio, Braxton launched The Heat in 2000 under the label of LaFace Records, with the Grammy-winning lead single “He Wasn’t Man Enough,” whose music video was nominated for two MTV Video Music awards and a Billboard Music Video award. The double platinum album, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, received average response for its next singles, “Just Be A Man About It” and “Spanish Guitar.” Also in 2000, Braxton was handed the 2000 Soul Train Lady of Soul’s Aretha Franklin award for Entertainer of the Year.
In the meantime, after receiving some acting lessons from “Roc” star Ella Joyce, the singer had her first acting performance as Juanita Slocumb in the comedy Kingdom Come (2001), featuring LL Cool J and Jada Pinkett Smith. She also costarred as a rapper’s wife named Shonda, opposite Rashaan Nall, in the TV drama Play’d: A Hip Hop Story (2002).
The recipient of the 1997 Billboard’s Female R&B Artist of the Year, in November 2002, Braxton’s fourth studio album titled More Than a Woman was issued. However, the album did not do as well and the lead single, “Hit The Freeway,” failed on radio. Other singles, “Lies, Lies, Lies,” “Give It Back” and “A Better Man,” missed the Hot 100 Singles chart.
Braxton, who composed songs for the TV series “Inside Out” (2003) and guest starred in the drama series “Kevin Hill” (2004), moved to Blackground/Universal Records, under which she released a fifth album titled Libra (2005). Its first single “Please” only peaked at the 36th position on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Tracks Chart, but the album went to the 4th spot on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart and was certified Gold by RIAA.
Recently, the singer performed a duet with the male group Il Divo for “The Time Of Our Lives,” one of the official 2006 FIFA World Cup anthems. They performed the song at the championship opening day in Berlin, Germany, on June 9, 2006. Eventually, the single made Edel Records re-release Libra in Germany, with a new album cover, artwork and the new anthem. Tori will also perform at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas from August 3, 2006, to March 2007, under the tagline “Toni Braxton: Revealed.”