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Toni Braxton is an award-winning singer and songwriter, actress and reality-TV star. Her musical career has been characterised by high peaks and very low troughs. She has battled through illness to win America’s hearts not only for her singing but also her dancing. She was recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disease but refuses to let it hold her back from her career or enjoying life with her family.
Toni Michelle Braxton was born in Maryland in October 1967, one of five daughters to Methodist clergyman, Michael Braxton. She was brought up in a strict religious household and at a young age began singing in her local church choir. She set her heart on becoming a teacher and attended Bowie State University but her life took a different course when record producer, William E Pettaway Jr, heard her singing on a garage forecourt whilst filling her car with petrol.
She began performing as The Braxtons with her four younger sisters (Traci, Trina, Towanda and Tamar) and they were quickly signed by Arista Records who released their first single, “Good Life” in 1990. It caught the attention of record producers Antonio “LA” Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds who signed her up to sing “Love Shoulda Brought You Home”, for the film soundtrack “Boomerang”. Braxton signed with the duo’s record label, LaFace Records and, leaving her sisters behind began recording her debut solo album.
“Toni Braxton” was released in July 1993 and reached number one in the US album charts. The first single from the album, “Another Sad Love Song” reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 but it was the follow-up, “Breathe Again” which became one her signature tunes and is still one of her fans favourite recordings. Not only did the album do well commercially, but it also scored Braxton three Grammys including the award for Best New Artist in 1994. To date, the album has sold over 10 million copies worldwide.
Three years later, “Secrets” was released in 1996. Braxton co-produced her second album and co-wrote several of the songs. The first single from the album, “You’re Makin’ Me High” reached the top of the US charts and was similarly successful in Europe and the Far East. Her second single gave Braxton the biggest hit of her career. “Un-Break My Heart” spent an astonishing 11 weeks at the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and became only the second biggest selling single by a female artist. The top spot being held by Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”. The album spent 18 months on the US album charts and sold more than 23 million copies worldwide. She also picked up two Grammy Awards on the back of the album, for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Female F&B Vocal Performance.
Braxton’s next album was released in April 2000. It again was successful, staying for almost four months on the US album charts and selling three million copies, but the singles from the album, including “Just Be a Man About It” and “Spanish Guitar” didn’t do so well commercially, barely making it into the top 100 singles chart.
Her next album fared even less well, partly because of Braxton’s inability to promote it due to a complicated pregnancy. “More Than a Woman” was released in November 2002 and was a commercial failure. Of the three singles released from the album, only one, “Hit the Freeway” made it into the Billboard Hot 100 charts and the album itself sold less than a million copies worldwide.
In April of 2003, Braxton left her record label and signed with Blackground Records that was run by her then manager, Barry Hankerson. The first album on the new label was released in 2005. “Libra” did make it to number two on the album chart for a very short period of time but disappeared just as quickly. She would later file a lawsuit against the record label claiming fraud and double-dealing.
Braxton picked herself up from the set-back to record the official 2006 FIFA World Cup theme song, “The Time of our Lives”, with opera group Il Divo, performing it at both the opening and closing ceremonies of the event in Berlin in June.
In May 2006, it was announced the Braxton was going to Vegas. To the Flamingo Hotel and Casino to be precise as the headline act replacing Wayne Newton. The singer performed “Toni Braxton: Revealed” six nights a week for a year to critical and commercial acclaim.
After completing her stint in Las Vegas, Braxton turned to the small screen and took part in the seventh season of “Dancing with the Stars”. She was voted off the show in week five when her West Coast Swing failed to impress the judges or the audience but she did go on to tour with the production alongside Lance Bass and Marlee Martin at the end of the year.
After switching to Atlantic Records, Braxton released her latest album, “Pulse”, in May 2010. The first single from the album was “Yesterday” which was to give Braxton her biggest hit in years, reaching number 12 on the US charts in late 2009. The single was finally released globally at the same time as the album, eight months later, becoming a moderate hit in the UK and across Europe.
In late 2010, the singer filed for bankruptcy but bounced back yet again, in early 2011, by announcing she would be starring in a TV reality series based around her life. “Braxton Family Values” was first shown on US television in April 2011 and looks at Toni’s relationship with her family, particularly her sisters, the problems of looking after a son with autism and also her recent separation from her husband, Keri Lewis.
Toni Braxton is a twenty-year music industry veteran whose career has never reached the dizzy heights of her earlier works. However, she continues to release music and to venture into other areas of the entertainment industry, including appearing on Broadway in the musical “Beauty and the Beast”, learning to dance and bearing her soul, life and wears her heart on her sleeve for all to see.