Toni Braxton (b. 1968)
Born in Severn, Maryland, on October 7, 1968, Toni Michele Braxton is the oldest of six children of Evelyn, who was trained to sing opera, and Michael Braxton, a minister. In 1990 Braxton was attending Bowie State University in Bowie, Maryland, and studying to become a music teacher when she and her four sisters, who all sang at their church, recorded a song, "The Good Life," with Arista Records. Though the single went virtually unnoticed, it brought Braxton to the attention of producers Antonio "L. A." Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds of Atlanta's fledgling LaFace Records. Braxton signed with LaFace and moved to Atlanta in 1991. When her first two singles ("Give U My Heart" and "Love Shoulda Brought You Home" from the soundtrack of the 1992 movie Boomerang) quickly climbed the rhythm-and-blues charts, Braxton became an overnight sensation and was dubbed "the First Lady of LaFace."
Braxton's first full-length album, Toni Braxton, was released in 1993 and sold more than 9 million copies. Her second album, Secrets, appeared in 1996 and eventually sold even more copies than the first. Braxton filed for bankruptcy in January 1998 following disputes with Arista and LaFace over her contract (she had filed suit against LaFace in December 1997). But by early 1999 it was reported that Braxton had reconciled with the record company, and in 2000 LaFace released her third album, The Heat. Her fourth recording, More Than a Woman, appeared in 2002.
In the late 1990s Braxton went to New York to perform the role of Belle in a six-month run of Beauty and the Beast on Broadway. She performed the title role of Aida on Broadway for four months in 2003.
Braxton married Keri Lewis, of the band Mint Condition, in April 2001. They have two sons, Denim and Diezel. The family splits their time between Atlanta and Las Vegas, Nevada.
Contemporary Musicians, ed. Brian Escamilla, vol. 17 (Detroit: Gale, 1997), s.v. "Toni Braxton."
Erin R. McLeod, Athens
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