Brandy reacts to ‘Cinderella’ going to Disney+, remembers co-star Natalie Desselle-Reid
EXCLUSIVE: The Grammy Award-winning singer/actress recalls Natalie Desselle-Reid as 'vibrant' and 'energetic' on the set of the 1997 film
Nearly 25 years ago, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella made history with its first Black Cinderella and a first-of-its-kind multiculturally diverse cast.
The 1997 film version of Cinderella — which starred Brandy Norwood as Cinderella, Whitney Houston as her fairy godmother and Whoopi Goldberg — became an instant classic and was viewed by more than 60 million people.
Now, Cinderella will be introduced to a whole new generation as its headed to Disney+ on Feb. 12.
In an exclusive interview with theGrio‘s Managing Editor, Gerren Keith Gaynor, Brandy reflected on the history-making project and its impact on her life and career.
“I’m very blessed to have experienced what I experienced in ’97 with Cinderella, with a multicultural cast, diverse artists from Whitney Houston to Whoopi Goldberg, Jason Alexander, all of these amazing people … just to have that experience is just something I can keep with me forever,” Brandy told theGrio.
“And then to share it with my daughter now and this new generation, I just think it’s going to touch them. It’s going to inspire them to dream big dreams … they’re going to love it. It’s going to bring joy to so many families.”
Brandy says Cinderella’s arrival to Disney+ is also perfect timing as it’s also Black History Month and comes only one day after her 42nd birthday. “It’s very magical,” said the Grammy Award-winning artist.
As the story goes, Whitney Houston, who served as executive producer of the 1997 project, handpicked Brandy to play Cinderella. Last year, Brandy told theGrio that being able to work with her idol and mentor was in itself a real-life Cinderella moment.
“I’m so proud of that. I can look back and see it and experience it. Even moments outside of Cinderella … just being in the studio [and] when I first met her … all of that footage, I can go back and see and keep that,” said Brandy. “I feel her presence. It means everything to me.”
Brandy also remembered her late Cinderella co-star Natalie Desselle-Reid, who played Cinderella’s step-sister. Desselle-Reid tragically died of colon cancer in December 2020.
Brandy remembered Natalie as “vibrant” and “energetic” on the set of Cinderella.
“Her spirit was just energetic, very funny, very down to earth. I just remember always annoying her and Veanne [Cox] because I just wanted to be everywhere they were — even scenes that I [was] not in — I just wanted to be around their energy,” Brandy recalled.
“Natalie was just so inspirational … I hadn’t spoken to her in years and I feel horrible that I didn’t get a chance to say anything to her.”
But Brandy said she’s happy audiences will again witness the comedic brilliance of Desselle-Reid.
“I know that she’s with us in spirit and I know that she is going to shine so bright in this film. And for people to see her, it’s going to be amazing,” she said. “She did that. She really did that.”
The story of Cinderella has been around for decades, but its overarching message of dreams coming true has continued to resonate through generations. “What I love most about the Cinderella story is that she used her imagination to see herself in a better circumstance than what she was in,” said Brandy.
“And I love the fact that no matter how she was treated, she remained calm, she remained humble. And I think that’s why so much magic was able to happen to her, because no matter what she went through, she was kind and she was able to use her imagination to see herself at the ball and see herself in better places.”
Another strong theme in the Cinderella story is the idea of dreams coming true. For Brandy, whose latest album B7 was recently nominated for an NAACP Image Award, her dream is to continue making music — more specifically, she wants to do more musicals.
“I have so many dreams; I dream for more music, more musicals, just more creativity, just things that I have never done before,” said Brandy. “I want to do those things and I want to go into that field of musical theater and try to bring that to television.”
As for Cinderella’s new home on Disney+, Brandy said she hopes it brings joy and love to the world.
“Everyone can feel like their dreams are possible after this film because it’s really true. It’s so magical,” she said.
“I just hope everybody watches it over and over and over …. [Disney+] is the perfect home for Cinderella.”
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