UB Interview: Sonja Norwood Speaks on New Website, Brandy, Ray J And More

Sonja B. Norwood is an accomplished talent manager, television producer, and dealmaker, but most importantly, a mother who has proven that dedication to family, and faith are powerful tools for success within the tumultuous, male-dominated entertainment industry. Armed with a loving family and savvy business skills, Sonja has navigated the stellar careers of her children, award-winning entertainers Brandy and Ray J. While the journey has sometimes been rough—taking the singer-actors from platinum records to tabloid headlines, from personal tragedy back to TV/film and music stardom – this Super-Mom has made sure that the Norwood Family has remained bonded together and it is her role as a mother that Sonja insists is most important to her.

In August 2012, she completed her first eBook, Change Starts With ME! Sonja is also launching her weekly webinars and monthly workshops and seminars, which will focus on the entertainment business, women empowerment and parenting development. Her goal is to help guide participants, especially women, to a new model of success, while maintaining her own personal growth as a business-executive and supporting her family.

Sonja is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Psi Chi Honor Society and the National Association of Professional Women. She is a 2012 recipient of the Pursuit of Dream Foundation’s Divine Divas Legacy Award, 2012 recipient of the Southern University Alumni Federation, Houston Chapter’s Jaguar of the Year Award, 2011 recipient of the Hal’s Cornerstone Award, 2010 honoree – Urban Music Executive, 2009 honoree – Dress for Success, and the 2006 BRE first Woman of the Year awards.

Recently Sonja Norwood spoke to Aries from UrbanBridgez.com about the launch of her new official website, her upcoming webinars and new e-book “Change Starts With Me,” also the success of Brandy & Ray J, the entertainment business, why VH1’s A Family Business didn’t do a third season and much more!

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UrbanBridgez.com: You’ve been working on your website for sometime now, now that it’s finally launched what do you want people to get out of it when they log on?
Sonja Norwood: I really want people to get the messages from the blogs I write. Those who are interested in learning the business will have the opportunity to register for my webinars on subjects that will help them navigate successfully in the industry. It’s been a long time coming for my website so I would love for visitors to feel free to browse around and enjoy. If you have a question, there is an “Ask Sonja” section that gives the visitor the opportunity to ask me questions about the entertainment business. SonjaNorwood.com is a place where I share information and knowledge based on my experience. There is a video section dedicated to my live and recorded webinars. I’m very anxious to help people understand the ins and outs of the entertainment industry – music, TV/film, acting and more. The material is understandable and relatable. Also it’s important to know that the skills needed to handle business are learned and I want to make sure you get it all.

UrbanBridgez.com: Tell us about your first webinar you’re doing on the 25th?
Sonja Norwood: Well, Change Starts With Me (name of e-book and webinars) is the introductory webinar to my learning the entertainment business series. I’ve found, through my own experiences, that you really can’t be happy, healthy, and successful for a long period of time, if you don’t know your “authentic self.” I believe the reason some of us find it hard to commit to things, accomplish goals; and is dependent on others is because we’re lost! We have lost touch with the most important person, YOU! So, Change Starts With ME! is a self-help, step-by-step, motivational, guidebook written to assist the reader through assignments and exercises to discovery his or her “authentic self.” In the end, you’ll never be the same again. Change Starts With ME! helps you peel back the layers of personalities and character traits acquired from other from childhood through adolescence straight into adulthood. When we can find any reason to mistreat, hurt, and harm another person, that’s a real issue! What causes us to do such? When one examines their journey, there are all sorts of reason why our character traits and actions are unacceptable. Many of us are still dealing with issues from our childhood, relationships and old baggage that we use as excuses to victimize family members, close friends and in some cases our co-workers My goal is to help one person to recognize the need to change and want to change behavior that hurt and harm others through action, word, or deed, as well as being nicer to self. I say, “ I can’t change anyone, you can’t change anyone; but if I can encourage one person to want to change, then I have accomplished something.

UrbanBridgez.com: What is your goal with your webinars and what will people get out of them who take part?
Sonja Norwood: I am often approached to manage other people, give advice to new moms wanting to manager and consult. Because those who are interested in working with me are not local, I thought to conduct webinars would be a great way to bring everyone together from the comfort of their own homes. Ah, what will people get out of them who take part? I want to share knowledge and experience. Knowledge and experience that I’ve gained over the past 18+ years and what I’ve seen of others. Some of the topics are: How to get in the entertainment business, How to get your kid in the show business? Should you sign to a major label or indie? Fear destroys careers, how to overcome! Watch out for the Gatekeepers! 10 things to do to screw up your career. Where’s the money – negotiation, and so on. I’m particularly interested in training young females to be managers, CEOs and entrepreneur in the business. I don’t believe we have an adequate amount of females out here. We have a lot to offer and we definitely can get the job done. We need to own some things and take control of what God has given us and exhale a breath of fresh air in the business.

UrbanBridgez.com: Alot of people like myself have been wanting you to write a book for sometime now. Tell us about your first e-book Change Starts With You?
Sonja Norwood: It’s really strange how the writing of my eBook, ‘Change Start With ME!’ came about. I don’t consider myself a writer, grammarian, or expert in the field of English but my soul yearns to reach and help people to dream and accomplish goals and be successful. The foundation of the book came from browsing the Internet one summer evening. On this evening, I was so caught up in the number of negative comments from people having the nerve to talk about an icon who had departed this earth and was disrespected like no other. It seems everywhere I browsed that night, some “anybody” was talking negative. Didn’t matter whether it was a preacher talking about God, a missionary feeding the hunger, or the birth of a new baby, the “any bodies” were out and about that night. I walked away with sadness because I wondered how did the world get this bad? I prayed to God. So the next day, I begin to write. And thus Change Starts With ME! One person can make a difference if they decided to change.Sonja Norwood: It’s really strange how the writing of my eBook, ‘Change Start With ME!’ came about. I don’t consider myself a writer, grammarian, or expert in the field of English but my soul yearns to reach and help people to dream and accomplish goals and be successful. The foundation of the book came from browsing the Internet one summer evening. On this evening, I was so caught up in the number of negative comments from people having the nerve to talk about an icon who had departed this earth and was disrespected like no other. It seems everywhere I browsed that night, some “anybody” was talking negative. Didn’t matter whether it was a preacher talking about God, a missionary feeding the hunger, or the birth of a new baby, the “any bodies” were out and about that night. I walked away with sadness because I wondered how did the world get this bad? I prayed to God. So the next day, I begin to write. And thus Change Starts With ME! One person can make a difference if they decided to change.

UrbanBridgez.com: How important is social media to you?
Sonja Norwood: Every business must be a social media user; it is no way around it! I’ve always wanted to be a new media person and I love the thought of building websites. That’s a goal, but yes, social media is very important for product promotions, artist promotions, etc. It’s very fascinating and there is plenty to say positive too. I use social media to educate myself, my granddaughter and enjoy traveling to places I’ve never been. You have to take the bitter with the sweet and avoid that which you don’t want to digest. So it’s very, very important!

UrbanBridgez.com: What’s your take on people, meaning the good, bad and ugly? How do you handle the negative compared to how do you deal with the positive?
Sonja Norwood: It’s important to know your “authentic self” to survive the wilds of this world period. Negativity is everyway! It is what it is! Individuals, who make it their business to turn on the computer, write a blog, record video footage or take a picture, and such likes to deliberately bring hurt and harm to the reputation is sad and they will have their day. You can’t fight those people, you can’t waste time listening to what they say and you shouldn’t support those places. Those individuals, who sit behind an anonymous name to talk about others without regard to him or her self, will have his or her day too. Aries, one thing about God’s law, you can’t get away with bring harm to others. You’ll have your day. God said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” What better way to have your “any bodies” silenced at the hand of God rather than you trying to fix it yourself. Be patience! People will believe what they want to believe; we have to pray for a better world and peace. Read my eBook on this subject. Being positive is critical. You have to know yourself and understand that no one can control your day or your destiny unless you allow him or her too. Don’t let someone kick your cat, stand strong and have the courage to know that your life is your choice. If you can walk away from negativity, walk away, don’t listen and don’t allow it in your circle. I pray that I can help someone to decide to change, that’s my goal. But, let’s face it, the world wants drama, good news, Aries does not sell, that’s so sad!

UrbanBridgez.com: Don’t I know it! What would the Sonja now, tell the Sonja who first started Norwood & Norwood after leaving her corporate job?
Sonja Norwood: The more seasoned Sonja Norwood today would tell the novice Sonja Norwood of yesterday, “You’ll understand it better by and by.” Sonja Norwood back then was more about protecting a minor child from those who only saw her as a commodity. Back then it was about learning the business from scratch, wearing two hats of which I didn’t have experience at either. You see I didn’t know about the entertainment industry. I didn’t buy magazines; I didn’t buy records, none of that. And, I was also trying to be a mother of two adolescences, which I had no experience either. You’re not born with a GPS for mothering. Learn as you go! It was rough! But no matter, it was my responsibility to make sure my children were safe and had the opportunity to move in adulthood safely. Looking back I will say to Sonja with a J, you have a long row to hoe and you can do this! Stand strong, stand firm and no matter what people say or think about you, protect your children. God will make your enemy your footstool. Learn everything you can, and burn the midnight oil. This is another reason I want to reach out and provide a way for new managers to learn and be trained for representation. It’s important that you don’t mess up another’s career simply because the lack of knowledge. There wasn’t a welcome wagon entering the business for me and today this Sonja Norwood wants to make sure opportunities are opened for more females and they are trained and ready to sit at the table and say, “Let’s do business!”

UrbanBridgez.com: Brandy and Ray J are both doing extremely well with Brandy releasing her highly anticipated album next month and Ray J staring in a brand new show debuting this month, just how proud of you of them both at this moment?
Sonja Norwood: I’m very proud of my children! They are my life! And I love my granddaughter, Sy’rai; she brings a whole new twist on what parenting and grand parenting suppose to be in the 21st century.

UrbanBridgez.com: If you could go back and change one thing about Bran and Ray’s careers that you made happen as a manager, whether it be a single release, video, etc. what would it be for each of them?
Sonja Norwood: Not so much as the things I would change but more so the questions I’d like to have answered.

UrbanBridgez.com: Have you heard Brandy’s new album in full yet?
Sonja Norwood: No, not yet! When she finishes a record, she brings over for her dad and I to listen and get our opinion. Thre is one song that I would die for. I told her that if this record does not make the album, I must have it on my iTunes.

UrbanBridgez.com: Tell us about that song and why you love it so much.
Sonja Norwood: Oh my god, I love it. It’s an anthem. So when I hear it, I just go crazy! I don’t know if it’s going to make the album, I surely hope so.

UrbanBridgez.com: Everyone knows you as the business one in the family, but does Mr. Norwood also help you create and bring ideas to the table when you’re working on different projects?
Sonja Norwood: Absolutely. He is very much a part of what I do because I have to have someone to listen to me especially when others have tuned me out. We burn the midnight oil together with what’s next.

UrbanBridgez.com: So many watched your family in Family Business on VH1, looking back now is there anything you would change about what was filmed?
Sonja Norwood: Family Business was definitely an experience for me. Took a minute to get use to being on camera. Hindsight is always 20/20. When looking back you focus on what you can use from those experiences to make the next project better and more successful and move on. I don’t believe in “if we had done this, then” in an emotional manner. That type of critiquing cripples business. BTW, we didn’t do season three because we had given all the drama the family bore and to drum up drama just because is not a reflection of who our family it. Kudos to Family Business.

UrbanBridgez.com: What’s the best part about being a Grandmother?
Sonja Norwood: The love, the questions and expectations from your Grandchild. I love her and she loves me and we have a solid relationship. Brandy has done a good job being her mother. Sy’rai has a heart of gold. I’m so happy to be here to know what grand parenting is all about. I tell her, my prayer for her is to be a Justice of the Supreme Court. She looks at me as if I should know already and says, “But, Gramma, I’m an entertainer.” I say, “Lord have mercy.”

UrbanBridgez.com: You’ve done it all, Management, TV Producer, major deals, you name it you’ve done it. What are you the most proudest of in your professional life?
Sonja Norwood: I’m proud that we are still family after 18+ years in the business. We love each other but we also like each other too. This business will strain relationships but the goal is to not allow it to destroy relationships. I’m proud of the careers my children have in this business, how grounded they are and how they’ve continued to love what they do. I’m very proud that my family was instrumental in helping Jessica Harris, hometown native to find a heart and receive a heart transplant. It’s a huge thing to help someone find a heart! How big is that? To me that tops it all. And I’m proud of you too. You’ve been around me for a long time now and you’ve always supported.

UrbanBridgez.com: That’s great to hear because you don’t hear parents often say they learn from their children.
Sonja Norwood: What? I’ve learned a lot from my children and still learning. I’m never too old to learn and learning from my children is actually a cool thing. Bran gives me more advice and always shares reading material. Ray is a great listener. Loves to spend time with family. Both are encouraging. They believe I should try whatever will make me happy. They’re always encouraging. I love them for that. God’s gift for sure!

UrbanBridgez.com: What are your future goals with Norwood Talent Agency?
Sonja Norwood: I never thought a talent agency could be so challenging. Here again I didn’t know. The challenge has been finding the right niche of clients to represent. Our initial goal was to represent children. Rayva Harrell, our partner, Willie Sr. and I we love developing children. So, after a year, we decided to work with young performers rather than adults. Now that we have our second wind, we’re ready to go. We have very talented young performers in acting and music. Visit: www.ntacla.com

UrbanBridgez.com: What would you like to leave with all of your supporters?
Sonja Norwood: I’d like to say thanks for the support over the years for Bran and Ray. I’m on a mission to education new artists and managers entering the business, continue to pray for us. Please visit my website: www.sonjanorwood.com for the details of my eBook: Change Starts With ME! for $9.99 and Register for the Change Starts With ME! Webinar for Tuesday, September 25, 2012 7-9pm EST and Register for the Change Starts With ME! Webinar for Thursday, September 27, 2012 7-9 pm PST. The introductory cost to my webinars is $29.99. Your life will never be the same again. It will change for the better..

7 Comments
  1. Have you ever considered creating an e-book or guest authoring on
    other sites? I have a blog based on the same information you discuss and would really like
    to have you share some stories/information. I know my viewers would appreciate
    your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me an email.

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