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The Story Behind Black Cinderella: Brandy, Whitney, and More

The Movie Book Black Cinderella: A Cultural Phenomenon


When Disney+ announced that it will finally stream Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella starting February 12, 2021, millions of fans rejoiced. The 1997 musical movie, starring Brandy and Whitney Houston, has been a beloved classic for many people who grew up watching it on TV or VHS. But what makes this movie so special? Why is it called Black Cinderella? And how did it become a cultural phenomenon?

The Movie Book Black Cinderella


What is Black Cinderella?

Black Cinderella is the unofficial name given to the 1997 version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, a musical adaptation of the fairy tale by Charles Perrault. The movie was produced by Walt Disney Television and aired on ABC as part of The Wonderful World of Disney. It features a diverse cast of actors, with Brandy Norwood as Cinderella, Whitney Houston as her fairy godmother, Whoopi Goldberg as Queen Constantina, Paolo Montalban as Prince Christopher, and other stars such as Bernadette Peters, Victor Garber, Jason Alexander, and Natalie Desselle-Reid.

Why is it important?

Black Cinderella is important because it was one of the first mainstream movies to feature a Black princess and a multiracial cast in a fairy tale setting. It also showcased the talents of some of the most iconic singers and actors of the time, especially Brandy and Whitney Houston, who were both at the peak of their careers. The movie also introduced a new generation of viewers to the music and songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein, one of the most influential musical duos in history.

How did it come to be?

The movie was originally conceived in 1993 by executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who had previously worked with Bette Midler on a successful TV adaptation of Gypsy. They approached Whitney Houston to play Cinderella, but she declined and suggested Brandy instead. Houston agreed to play the fairy godmother instead, and also served as one of the producers. The movie went through several changes in network and director before finally being made by Disney and directed by Robert Iscove. The movie premiered on November 2, 1997, to an audience of 60 million viewers, making it one of the most-watched TV programs of the year.

The Cast and Crew

Brandy as Cinderella

Brandy Norwood was only 18 years old when she played Cinderella, but she was already a star. She had released two successful albums, Brandy and Never Say Never, and was the lead actress in the sitcom Moesha. She was also a fan of Whitney Houston and had met her at the Soul Train Awards in 1996. Playing Cinderella was a dream come true for Brandy, who said that she felt like she was living a fairy tale. She also said that she wanted to inspire other girls who looked like her to believe that anything is possible.

Whitney Houston as Fairy Godmother

Whitney Houston was one of the most famous and acclaimed singers of all time, with a record-breaking career that spanned decades. She had also ventured into acting, starring in movies such as The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale, and The Preacher's Wife. She was the original choice to play Cinderella, but she felt that she was too old for the role and suggested Brandy instead. She also wanted to play the fairy godmother, a role that she said was more fun and less stressful. She also served as one of the producers of the movie, and was instrumental in assembling the cast and crew. She said that she wanted to make a movie that would appeal to everyone, regardless of race or age.

Whoopi Goldberg as Queen Constantina

Whoopi Goldberg is one of the most versatile and accomplished entertainers in the world, having won an Oscar, a Grammy, an Emmy, and a Tony award. She is also known for her comedic and dramatic roles in movies such as The Color Purple, Ghost, Sister Act, and The Lion King. She played Queen Constantina, the mother of Prince Christopher and the wife of King Maximilian. She said that she loved playing a queen, and that she enjoyed working with the diverse cast. She also said that she was proud to be part of a movie that showed that love has no color.

Paolo Montalban as Prince Christopher

Paolo Montalban was a relatively unknown actor when he was cast as Prince Christopher, the love interest of Cinderella. He had previously appeared in some theater productions and TV shows, but this was his first major role. He was born in the Philippines and moved to the US when he was five years old. He said that he was honored to play a prince, and that he felt a connection with Brandy. He also said that he hoped that his role would open more doors for Asian actors in Hollywood.

Other notable actors

The movie also featured other talented actors in supporting roles, such as:

  • Bernadette Peters as Cinderella's wicked stepmother

  • Víctor Garber as King Maximilian

  • Jason Alexander as Lionel, the royal valet

  • Natalie Desselle-Reid as Minerva, one of Cinderella's stepsisters

  • Veanne Cox as Calliope, the other stepsister

The Music and Songs

Rodgers and Hammerstein's legacy

The movie is based on the musical version of Cinderella by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, two of the most influential composers and lyricists in American musical theater. They created some of the most popular and enduring musicals of all time, such as Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, The King and I, and South Pacific. They also wrote the original Cinderella for television in 1957, starring Julie Andrews. The movie used most of the songs from the original version, but also added some songs from other Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, such as "The Sweetest Sounds" from No Strings and "There's Music in You" from Main Street to Broadway.

The soundtrack and its popularity

The soundtrack of the movie was released on October 28, 1997, by Walt Disney Records. It featured the vocals of Brandy, Whitney Houston, Paolo Montalban, Bernadette Peters, Whoopi Goldberg, Jason Alexander, and other cast members. It also included an instrumental score by Paul Bogaev and David Chase. The soundtrack was well-received by critics and fans alike, who praised the performances and arrangements of the songs. It also sold over two million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling TV soundtrack albums of all time.

The best songs from the movie

The movie features many memorable songs that showcase the talents and emotions of the characters. Some of the best songs from the movie are:

  • "Impossible/It's Possible", sung by Brandy and Whitney Houston. This is the song where Cinderella's fairy godmother transforms her into a princess and tells her that nothing is impossible if she believes in herself.

  • "In My Own Little Corner", sung by Brandy. This is the song where Cinderella expresses her dreams and fantasies while being confined to her attic room.

  • "Ten Minutes Ago", sung by Brandy and Paolo Montalban. This is the song where Cinderella and Prince Christopher fall in love at first sight at the ball.

  • "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?", sung by Paolo Montalban. This is the song where Prince Christopher questions his feelings for Cinderella after she runs away from him.

"A Lovely Night Here is the continuation of the article. The Impact and Legacy

The representation and diversity of the movie

One of the most remarkable aspects of Black Cinderella is the representation and diversity of its cast and characters. The movie features a Black princess, a Black fairy godmother, a Filipino prince, a multiracial royal family, and a colorful array of supporting characters. The movie does not explain or justify the racial differences of the characters, but rather celebrates them as part of a magical world where anything is possible. The movie also challenges the stereotypes and norms of traditional fairy tales, where the princess is usually white, blonde, and passive. In contrast, Brandy's Cinderella is Black, brunette, and active. She has dreams and ambitions beyond marrying the prince, and she also helps him find his true self.

The influence on other adaptations of Cinderella

Black Cinderella is not the only adaptation of Cinderella that has been made over the years, but it is one of the most influential and memorable ones. The movie has inspired and paved the way for other adaptations of Cinderella that feature diverse casts and modern twists, such as Ever After (1998), A Cinderella Story (2004), Ella Enchanted (2004), Enchanted (2007), Another Cinderella Story (2008), Into the Woods (2014), Cinderella (2015), A Cinderella Story: If the Shoe Fits (2016), and Cinderella (2021). The movie has also influenced other Disney movies that feature princesses of color, such as Mulan (1998), The Princess and the Frog (2009), Moana (2016), and Raya and the Last Dragon (2021).

The fan reactions and cult status of the movie

Black Cinderella has been a fan favorite since its premiere in 1997. The movie has received positive reviews from critics and audiences alike, who praised its cast, music, costumes, sets, and message. The movie has also won several awards and nominations, including an Emmy for Outstanding Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program. The movie has also become a cult classic among many viewers who grew up watching it on TV or VHS. The movie has been re-aired several times on ABC and other networks, but it was not available on DVD or streaming platforms until 2021. The movie has also spawned a loyal fan base that has created fan art, fan fiction, memes, podcasts, and social media accounts dedicated to the movie. The movie has also been celebrated by celebrities such as Zendaya, Keke Palmer, Ariana Grande, Yara Shahidi, Lizzo, Kerry Washington, and Billy Porter.


Black Cinderella is more than just a movie. It is a cultural phenomenon that has touched the hearts and minds of millions of people around the world. It is a movie that showcases the beauty and power of diversity, representation, music, and love. It is a movie that proves that anything is possible if you believe in yourself and your dreams. It is a movie that deserves to be seen and appreciated by everyone.


  • Q: When was Black Cinderella released?

  • A: Black Cinderella was released on November 2, 1997.

  • Q: Who played Cinderella in Black Cinderella?

  • A: Brandy Norwood played Cinderella in Black Cinderella.

  • Q: Who played Fairy Godmother in Black Cinderella?

  • A: Whitney Houston played Fairy Godmother in Black Cinderella.

  • Q: Who wrote the music and songs for Black Cinderella?

  • A: Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the music and songs for Black Cinderella.

  • Q: Where can I watch Black Cinderella?

  • A: You can watch Black Cinderella on Disney+.


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