Brandy and Ray J's Mom On Launching the Norwood Talent Agency
Sonja Norwood has dedicated nearly twenty years to entertainment, first guiding the careers of her two children, Brandy and Ray J, later as CEO of Norwood & Norwood Entertainment, where she and husband Willie managed music acts like Silk and BeBe Winans, and most recently, as the co-creator of Brandy and Ray J : A Family Business, which aired on VH1 alongside the hit series For the Love of Ray J.
Now, she’s taking on her most ambitious enterprise yet: launching the Norwood Talent Agency with a roster of 62 would-be stars. The company, which is co-owned by Willie Norwood and talent executive Rayva Harrell (Nickelodeon's All That, The Steve Harvey Morning Show) officially got off the ground in March and has already seen a couple of key bookings, including a feature film role for client Orlando Brown (of That’s So Raven fame). Norwood spoke to THR about what she hopes to accomplish.
THR: What are your goals for the agency?
Sonja Norwood:To build the agency and develop a great children's department for commercial, film and voiceover work. We're looking to represent actors and actresses and hope to get some triple threats -- singers, actors and dancers -- on our roster. I'm really interested in finding those diamonds in the rough with untapped raw talent. Before we officially opened the doors, we sent out a notice and got over 2100 submissions. And I’m very much pleased with what we've done so far -- being in business only a couple of months, we've already booked a couple of movies and commercials. I’m excited: we signed Orlando Brown and he has a movie booked (The Lot) and we’ve got six-year-old Harmony Love Bailey, who I think is surrounded in stardom and is going to be really huge one day.
THR: When you were starting out with Brandy, what was your experience like with talent agencies?
Norwood: I didn't know anything about the entertainment business and when we got an agent, we rarely had any calls or submissions or auditions. You would wait months before you got a call. I remember that Brandy and Ray placed in the “C” group because they were new talent, while those who were in the A or B group got more jobs. I don't want our company to be that. I want our agency to submit for all clients and all categories. But I do understand agents a lot of better now than I did before – you could say I've learned to appreciate agencies a lot more since I've been doing this.
THR: Is there something you wish you knew then that you know now?
Norwood: No. I feel like with the 18-plus years that I have in the business, I bring a lot to the clients as far as hands-on experience. I don’t think I'm at a disadvantage. And I didn't only represent my kids, but I’m always going to be a mother so I have my motherly instincts and I top that with the experience of a manager… I’d like to see more women managers and female executives in the business…
THR: Did anyone mentor you?
Norwood: No one in this business. That’s been a struggle for me coming into this industry and people saying, "You're going to ruin Brandy's career." I had to face all of that. I had to stay on guard and be assertive.
THR: So what did you take away from that and how do you apply it to this new venture?
Norwood: I treat every client like they are already part of my family and make sure each one has the opportunity. But I'm learning everyday -- researching, double checking submissions, trying to make connections with people... I've been lucky enough to have other agencies give me some pointers but I’m always trying to continuously educate myself.