Brandy Rayana Norwood began her career as a child and performed as a backing vocalist for teen groups. In 1993, Norwood signed with Atlantic Records.
The following year, she released her self-titled debut album, which was certified quadruple Platinum in the US, selling six million copies worldwide.
Norwood starred in the UPN sitcom Moesha as the title character, which lasted six seasons and resulted in numerous other roles.
She resumed her music career in 1998 with the widely successful duet with fellow R&B contemporary Monica, “The Boy Is Mine”, which went on to become the best-selling female duet of all time, and one of the longest running number one singles in history.
Her second album, Never Say Never sold 16 million copies worldwide, featured two number one singles, and earned Norwood her first Grammy Award.
This launched her into international stardom, with films, endorsements, sold out concert tours, and her own line of Barbie dolls.
Throughout the 2000s, Norwood held a precarious position in the pop industry.
In 2002, she starred in the reality series Brandy: Special Delivery, documenting the birth of her daughter.
Her third and fourth albums, Full Moon (2002) and Afrodesiac (2004), were released to critical and commercial success.
She served as a judge on the first season of America’s Got Talent before being involved in a widely publicized car accident in 2006.
Driving home on December 30, 2006, Norwood was involved in a fatal automobile accident on Los Angeles’ San Diego (405) Freeway.
The accident claimed the life of 38-year-old Awatef Aboudihaj, the driver of the Toyota that was struck by Norwood’s Range Rover.
Aboudihaj died from her injuries at the L.A. Holy Cross Hospital the following day.
Norwood was neither arrested nor charged with vehicular manslaughter due to insufficient evidence.
Law enforcement officials reported that Norwood was driving her car at 65 miles per hour, and did not notice that vehicles ahead of her had slowed considerably.
Her vehicle then collided with rear of Aboudihaj’s, causing the Toyota to strike another vehicle before sliding sideways and impacting the centre divider.
As the Toyota came to a stop, it was hit by yet another vehicle.
A well-placed source in the California Highway Patrol, however, later reported that Aboudihaj actually struck the car in front of her and then slammed on her brakes before Norwood made contact.
The sudden stop caused Norwood to hit Aboudihaj’s car.
As confirmed, toxicology reports showed that Aboudihaj had “slight traces” of marijuana in her system at the time of the crash.
In December 2007, Norwood’s attorney Blair Berk stated that “after a more thorough and extensive investigation by authorities, the Los Angeles City Attorney has determined that Brandy Norwood should not be charged with any crime whatsoever relating to the accident back in 2006.”
She continued, “These past 12 months have posed an extraordinary hardship for Brandy and her family, who have been unfairly forced to live under a cloud of suspicion initially caused by the ill-advised and premature press release sent out by the California Highway Patrol accusing Brandy of wrongdoing before the police investigation was even finished. However, Brandy continues to be mindful that she was so fortunate to be uninjured in this accident and there was a life lost that should be remembered.”
Meanwhile, speaking in May 2009, Norwood herself stated, “The whole experience did completely change my life, and I can say that I think I’m a better person from it. You know, I still don’t understand all of it and why all of it happened, but I definitely have a heart, and my heart goes out to everyone involved. I pray about it every single day, and that’s all I can really say on the subject.”
Nevertheless, there have been multiple lawsuits filed against Norwood, all of which were ultimately settled out of court by Brandy’s civil attorney, Ed McPherson.
Aboudihaj’s parents filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against Norwood.
Filed on January 30, 2007, the lawsuit was initially set to go to trial in April 2009, but was eventually cancelled as Norwood had settled extra judicially with Aboudihaj’s parents.
Aboudihaj’s husband also filed a lawsuit against Norwood, suing her for an undisclosed amount of financial relief to cover medical and funeral expenses, as well as legal costs and other damages.
He rejected his part of a $1.2 million settlement offer in February 2009, but did settle in November of that year.
The couple’s two children, who also filed a lawsuit against Norwood, received $300,000 each, according to court documents filed in L.A. County Superior Court on June 2, 2009.
Two other drivers who were involved and injured in the accident also filed a lawsuit against Norwood. They settled with Norwood for undisclosed amounts.
Check out Brandy Featuring Ray J – Another Day In Paradise, below.