R&B/soul singer Toni Braxton arguably projected greater versatility in her said musical genres -- when she emerged as a superstar during the early '90s -- than any of her contemporaries. That versatility both gave Braxton tremendous breadth of appeal among diverse audience demographics and pushed her to multiplatinum status. The child of a deeply, religious (Apostolic) home, Braxton was born in Severn, MD, and reportedly forbidden from partaking in secular music from infancy, though she and her sisters began singing in church as youngsters and would habitually watch Soul Train when their parents were out. In time, Braxton's folks switched faiths and husky-voiced Toni discovered the musical influences of such artists as Michael McDonald and Luther Vandross. During late adolescence, Braxton briefly attended college, but dropped out after being discovered by songwriter Bill Pettaway, and soon after she formed a vocal ensemble with her sisters christened, simply, The Braxtons, who found it remarkably easy -- almost effortless -- to land a contract with the prestigious Arista Records.
Following the release of one of Toni's solo recordings on the soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy comedy Boomerang and the issue of a popular duet that she recorded with red-hot music mogul Babyface, she achieved her breakthrough in 1993; that was the year of Braxton's eponymous solo recording, which spawned numerous hit singles, including the iconic "Breathe Again." The record sold in excess of eight million copies through the end of 1995 -- astonishing sales for a debut effort -- and virtually guaranteed continued success for Braxton, who began touring extensively and issued numerous follow-up albums to remarkable acclaim. These included: Secrets (1996), The Heat (2000), and More than a Woman (2002).
Braxton debuted as a film actress in 2001 with a role opposite LL Cool J and Jada Pinkett Smith in the urban ensemble comedy Kingdom Come. The majority of her other on-camera appearances were directly tied to her music career, including music video releases and concert films. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi