Today we’d like to introduce you to Bri Norwood a.k.a. Mannequin.
D(M)V born and P.G. County Native singer/songwriter Mannequin is no stranger to the spotlight. Her eloquent approach of merging musical theatre, jazz funk, and neo-soul to neo-swing is truly unmatched, Pulling inspiration and vintage appeal from Duke Ellington, Phyllis Hyman, Liza Minnelli, Erykah Badu, and Jill Scott, she will surely leave you mesmerized with every skat. Walking out of the shadows of commercial dance, Motha Top Hat has emerged to the forefront with her debut single, “RUN” releasing mid-June. Full of body positivity, class, and Hollywood glamour prepare to be entertained by this gem. Welcome world… Mannequin.
I come from a family of hardworking people. My mother and father worked 9-5’s to provide for my siblings and me to never have to want for anything. Although quite strict, and not always easy to convince of my entertainment dreams, deep down I knew they only wanted what was best for me. At four, I found my calling and wanted to be an entertainer. So to know that now I’m living in that purpose every day is truly amazing.
My first memory of anything music related was an old tape of Liza Minnelli playing at a Virgin Records Store singing, “New York New York” while in the mall with my grandmother. I was mesmerized. And I knew that day, being on the stage was where I wanted to be. The lights, the sparkle, the smiling faces looking back at you, the sweat, the curtain calls, it all ignited what would be a journey I am happily on today. I wanted to be on Broadway, to touch people with my own music, create elaborate productions and to deliver what God had placed so deep in my heart. I begged my parents to put me in dance classes and with the help of my grandmother, they did.
However, seeing the cost of dance and musical theatre lessons with three kids, a mortgage and bills in Prince George’s County, MD, these dreams weren’t feasible for the family budget. But my grandparents stepped in and supported my lessons in order for me to follow my dreams. My grandmother bartered with my company director, Francis Peters to sew and alter costumes in exchange for reduced tuition and extra classes. I owe it all to Fran and Hilda. It was their sacrifice that brought me to where I am today.
Seeing that my dreams of moving to New York to become the next big Broadway sensation hadn’t quite panned out after not getting accepted into AMDA(American Musical Dramatic Academy) my dream school, I attended and graduated from Virginia State University. I must say it’s nothing like an HBCU experience. I was able to spread my creative wings, meet my husband, join and gain an amazing sisterhood as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc all while getting on the China Bus in D.C. to New York in between midterms and school performances to audition for agency calls, musical ensemble auditions, and any other performing opportunity I could come across. Upon graduation, My husband and I moved to Atlanta with retail jobs, 400.00 in savings and big dreams. This story is being written every day.
I have gone on to be in three Netflix films, HOMECOMING, Step Sisters and Honey 4:Rise & Dance, worked on countless T.V. Series including, Star on Fox Season 1-3, BET’s American Soul, Youtube RED’s Step Up Highwater, WGN Network’s Underground Season 2, USA’s Hault and Catch Fire, TRUTv’s Misfits and Monster, danced for Beyonce, Pharell, N.E.R.D., Diddy, Tyrese, Migos, Janelle Monae’, and The Zac Brown Band all while recording and investing into my own music career. You can’t tell me what faith, hard work, and grit can’t accomplish.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Has it been a smooth road?
Ha, absolutely not. But who wants a smooth road? It’s the roads less traveled, the roads with the most hills and the most valleys that test the strength of a person and decide who you will become. I thank God every day for faith and for what I’ve overcome. Transitioning from commercial dance to music full time was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I battled with dancing for crowds of thousands, even tens of thousands, with ease and yet found singing in front of fifty terrifying.
Finding the confidence to support my own ideas and wishes no matter if I had the support of a label, investor, or friend. Even standing on the vision that God gave me and to not question if others would be open to receive it. Financing everything by myself, using dance residuals, Lyft, and teaching to keep me afloat. But I’m here. I’m trusting my process and ready for the next break to come!
My advice for any woman out there fighting for their dream I work off the following:
1. Unwaivering Faith
2. Tunnel Vision
3. Allow Opportunity To Meet Preparation
Somebody is not able to proceed in their journey without the things you offer, so get it going! It was given to you, assigned for you to complete. Everyone won’t get it, but it is not up to them on whether you succeed or not; it’s up to YOU. Age and career have no bounds in 2019. One of Rihanna’s latest covergirls is in her 60s. So don’t allow your age, your financial circumstances, or your doubts, keep you from getting it done. Im rooting for you all.
Please tell us more about what you do, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
As stated earlier, I began my career in entertainment as a commercial performer in Atlanta. In my career I have danced for Pharrell, Janelle Monae, Diddy, Beyonce, been in films such as Step Sisters, Homecoming, Honey 4 and on TV Series such as Star on Fox Seasons 1-3, BET’s American Soul, WGN’s Underground, TruTv Misfits and Monster’s, and YouTubeRed’s Step Up Highwater been in musicals such as The Wiz, Cindy: A Different Cinderella Story, and A Soulful Christmas to name a few.
Soon, I will be launching my vintage store: Top Hat Vintage in late Summer and gearing up for the releases of my debut single, RUN coming out mid-June and EP directly following in August. Truly exciting times! Somebody pinch me.
It would be great to hear about any apps, books, podcasts or other resources that you’ve used and would recommend to others.
Apps: Fiverr and Canva have become my best friend lol these apps are great if you’re in need of creating content, flyers, logos, merchandise, websites etc for your brand.
Podcast: Black Girl Podcast, my line sister Caryn and good friend Jaznee put me on to this podcast. It is the epitome of Black Girl Magic.
Books: The Bible, The Secret
DVDS: Tours from the Greats. I watch a tour, Broadway production, or Old Hollywood film once a week to stay inspired and a student. I also watch a lot of Theatre Wing production notes and The Royal Opera House’s BTS on Youtube. Those two channels will push any creative to think bigger and deeper on their ideas.
- Website: https://www.gofundme.com/mannequin-run-music-video
- Instagram: @iammannequin
- Facebook: iammannequin
Photographer: Ace Drewman @acedrewman