Name: Toni Braxton
Birthday: October 7, 1967
Fav Dish: Mexican
Toni Michelle Braxton (born October 7, 1967) is an American singer, songwriter, pianist, record producer, actress, television personality, and philanthropist. She began performing with her sisters in a family group known as The Braxtons in the late 1980s, who were signed to Arista Records.
Toni Michelle Braxton was born in Severn, Maryland. Her father, Michael Conrad Braxton Sr., was a Methodist clergyman and power company worker, and her mother, Evelyn Jackson, a native of South Carolina, was a former opera singer and cosmetologist, as well as a pastor. Braxton’s maternal grandfather was also a pastor.
Braxton is the eldest of six siblings. She has a younger brother Michael Jr. (born 1968) and four younger sisters Traci (born 1971), Towanda (born 1973), Trina (born 1974), and Tamar (born 1977). They were raised in a strict religious household, and Braxton’s first performing experience was singing in her church choir.
Braxton attended Bowie State University to obtain a teaching degree, but decided to sing professionally after she was discovered by William E. Pettaway Jr., who reportedly heard her singing to herself while pumping gas.
On her appearance May 24, 2014 broadcast of NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!, she stated that she was not singing to herself at the gas station. Pettaway, working as an attendant at the Annapolis service station where she was refueling, recognized her from local performances and introduced himself, saying he wanted to produce her. Although skeptical, Braxton decided to, in her words, “take a chance” and accepted.
Braxton and her four sisters (Traci, Towanda, Trina, and Tamar) began performing as The Braxtons in the late 1980s and were signed to Arista Records in 1989. Their first single, “Good Life”, was released in 1990. Though the song was not successful, it attracted the attention of Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds
Braxton attracted the attention of producers Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, later recording a series of songs for them before being signed to their Arista-distributed imprint, LaFace Records. Her self-titled debut studio album (1993) reached number one on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States, selling 10 million copies worldwide and seeing the international success of the singles “Another Sad Love Song” and “Breathe Again”. The album brought Braxton three Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist.
Secrets (1996), Braxton’s second studio album, saw continued commercial success, selling 15 million copies and generating the singles “You’re Makin’ Me High” and “Un-Break My Heart”, which became her first singles to reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States. Secrets brought Braxton an additional two Grammy Awards, for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album.
Her third studio album, The Heat (2000), opened at number 2 on the Billboard 200 and saw the success of its lead single, “He Wasn’t Man Enough”, which reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and brought Braxton her sixth Grammy Award, for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
Braxton’s subsequent studio albums, More Than a Woman (2002), Libra (2005) and Pulse (2010), were released amid contractual disputes and health issues, including a lawsuit against her former manager for mismanaging her relationship with Arista Records. In 2014, Braxton and longtime collaborator Babyface released a duet album entitled Love, Marriage & Divorce, which earned the duo an additional Grammy Award for Best R&B Album in 2015.
Throughout her career, Braxton has sold over 67 million records, including 41 million albums worldwide. She has won seven Grammy Awards, nine Billboard Music Awards, seven American Music Awards, among numerous other accolades.
Aside from her success in music, Braxton has become a television executive producer and personality, being involved in the seventh season of the reality competition series Dancing with the Stars and in a reality series entitled Braxton Family Values, where Braxton is executive producer and star since 2011 on We TV. Braxton is also an executive producer of its spin-off, starring her younger sister, Tamar, the Tamar & Vince. In 2011, Braxton was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
Braxton has been recognized for her distinctive contralto voice. Her voice has been called “husky, sultry, elegant and sexy.” Due to the huskiness of her voice, Braxton often used male singers such as Michael McDonald, Luther Vandross and Stevie Wonder as vocal style models. Chaka Khan and Anita Baker were two of the few female singers that she could stylize. Steve Huey of AllMusic cites a key to Braxton’s success is the versatility of her voice, which he states as being “soulful enough for R&B audiences, but smooth enough for adult contemporary; sophisticated enough for adults, but sultry enough for younger listeners; strong enough in the face of heartbreak to appeal to women, but ravishing enough to nab the fellas.”
Braxton began her career singing traditional R&B and soft rock ballads and love songs on her debut and second albums. However, hip-hop soul and dance music elements begun to get spun into her sound on The Heat, More Than a Woman, and Pulse. She also showcased her classical training while performing in Broadway plays Beauty and the Beast and Aida as well as her duet with Il Divo, “The Time of Our Lives”.