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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.
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