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Toni Braxton was born October 7, 1968, in Severn, Maryland, the daughter of an Apostolic minister and a vocalist. Toni, her four sisters and her brother were forced to live under the strict rules of their family’s faith. The girls of the Braxton family were not allowed to wear pants, sandals or makeup, were not allowed to have boyfriends, and the children were not allowed to listen to mainstream music. That didn’t stop them from listening to music; when their parents were out, they watched Soul Train and listened to music. Toni and her siblings no longer had to sneak around to watch television once her parents joined the United Methodist Church, which had less strict rules. Watching soul greats such as Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan eventually contributed to Toni’s musical style. Doe-eyed Toni discovered her talent as a member of the church choir, which her mother encouraged her to join. Although Toni knew she wanted to pursue a singing career, she received a college education at Bowie State University. While studying teaching, Toni never gave up music. She took singing lessons to fulfill her true passion in life. Remaining true to her love for music, Toni and her sisters formed a group called the Braxtons. Signed with Arista, the Braxtons released a single entitled “The Good Life”. Although the song was a commercial success, it did manage to catch the ear of Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and Antonio “L.A. Reid”, of LaFace Records. “The Good Life” was good enough for Toni’s career, as it led to her record contract with LaFace. The aspiring singer broke into the music industry when she had the opportunity to contribute to the Boomerang soundtrack, when Anita Baker backed out because she was pregnant. Singles such as “Give U My Heart” (a duet with Babyface) and “Love Shoulda Brought You Home” both appeared on the Billboard charts. Her work on Boomerang was only an inkling of what listeners would hear from the soulful artist. Her debut album, the self-entitled Toni Braxton, was released in 1993, and spawned the hits “Another Sad Love Song”, “You Mean The World To Me” and “Breathe Again”. Her critically acclaimed album and Aretha Franklin/Whitney Houston style garnered her the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1993. Her follow-up album, the 1996 Secrets, equally did not disappoint. The singles “You’re Makin’ Me High” and “Un-Break My Heart” were huge hits, especially the latter which can probably be considered Toni’s biggest international single. Toni also contributed to another soundtrack, the female bonding film Waiting to Exhale. After having won the 1997 Billboard Award for Female R&B Artist of the Year, Toni’s stroke of success crashed when she filed for bankruptcy in 1998, after litigation with her record company. This did not stop Toni, who got back into the record studio to develop her third album, The Heat, released in April 2000. Although The Heat has not had the same fiery success as her previous albums, her first single, “He Wasn’t Man Enough” has been on the Top Ten charts for months, and has become a staple on R&B, Pop and Adult Contemporary radio stations.

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