Over the past three decades, singer Toni Braxton has been an icon in R&B music. The contralto, who was once considered the meld of Anita Baker’s sultriness and Babyface’s passion, might have been on top of the charts, but her troubles with money have also placed her at the top of headlines.
Hard work, financial discipline, and the ability to diversify her gifts have helped the seven-time Grammy Award-winner achieve a net worth that is estimated in a range between $8 million and $10 million.
Early LaFace Success
The Maryland native started out her career singing alongside her sisters in a group called The Braxtons. Despite a valiant effort from the group, the quintet did not do well and was eventually dropped from their label after the release of their 1990 single “Good Life.”
In 1992, Braxton got a second chance at a music career, this time without her sisters, landing a recording contract with L.A. Reid and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds’ newly formed LaFace Records.
The next year, the songstress’ debut album “Toni Braxton” was released to much fanfare, earning her No. 1 Billboard charting album in several countries: the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, and New Zealand. It sold over 10 million units worldwide.
In 1996, the artist released her second album, “Secrets,” and that album was also a massive success, selling over 15 million units worldwide and solidifying her not only as a soulful pop star, but a glamorous diva able to be mentioned in the same conversations as artists like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and the blueprint, Diana Ross.
However, at the apex of her glory, a startling revolution shocked her fans and the music industry alike. The singer declared publicly that she was flat broke and owed her creditors tens of millions of dollars.
While the label was still floating on top of the world, celebrating Braxton’s dodge of the sophomore jinx, the pint-size powerhouse’s life was crashing to new lows. According to the BBC, she was forced to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in January 1998, despite selling out world tours and moving so many records.
The LA Times reports while LaFace and Arista Records were making between $170 million and $188 million in sales, the deal she signed afforded her only 33 cents per album.
In her filing, she said she owed a debt of $5 million.
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Braxton allegedly owed to the IRS, Tiffany & Co, AT&T, Neiman Marcus, and more. She also is said to have spent $2.5 million on makeup, clothing, and hair in under two years.
In a Variety article in 1997, the singer’s lawyers said she tried to negotiate a better deal with LaFace that would include a royalty rate and a higher advance for her, but despite how sound an investment she was as an artist, the negotiation fell flat.
Things were bad. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey she shared that even with almost 30 million records sold, she received a royalty check from her album sales for $1,972 and had been living off of the advance from the label and some touring.
Braxton had to sell her property in order to cover expenses, Showbiz Cheatsheet reported. She sold clothing, jewelry, a baby grand piano, cars, and auctioned off her Grammy awards. In addition to being embarrassed, she also was unsure about her future as a rostered artist.
In addition to filing for bankruptcy, she also sued the labels, hoping to force their hand on the deal or to be released from her contract. Eventually, in 1999, the Arista/LaFace settled with the singer for an undisclosed amount. One condition of the settlement was a 10-year gag order prohibiting her from publicly speaking about the deal.
In 2017, when the gag order was over, she revealed in her memoir, “Unbreak My Heart,” the label cut her a check for over $20 million.
Rebirth and Diversification
After the bankruptcy and the legal struggles with her label, she decided to do something different. She turned her talents to Broadway and joined the cast of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” in 1998, a choice that provided a more stable income for the star.
She also went back into the studio and released her third album called “The Heat” another chart-topper that earned her two top-charting singles and another tour to promote her music and connect with her fans.
But she also made room for her new love, Broadway. This time, she joined the cast of Disney’s “Aida.”
A musician at heart, she released in 2002 the album “More Than a Woman” and in 2005 “Libra.”
In 2006, she led a wave that many urban artists are clamoring to ride. She announced a Las Vegas Residency at the Flamingo Hotel, replacing Wayne Newton as the headlining act. The show was called “Toni Braxton: Revealed” and ran six nights a week and was supposed to extend until 2010.
In the middle of the run, during a 2007 show, she collapsed on stage and was immediately hospitalized. No one knew the details but three years later, after taking a break from the industry, she revealed she was diagnosed with Lupus, suffered from a form of angina, and a severe heart condition.
Her health hindered her ability to perform, leaving her to have to formally cancel her self-financed Vegas show.
Canceling the show brought different financial challenges as she had to break contracts with vendors that she said she “could not afford to pay.”
As a result, for the second time, she had to file for bankruptcy.
Braxton’s lawyer Debra Grassgreen said filing for bankruptcy a second time in 2010 was a “very difficult decision,” but she had no choice.
“After months of trying to work out an acceptable arrangement with her principal creditors, she determined that the only way to assure that she could meet her tax obligations and provide for her two small children was to commence these bankruptcy cases,” she said.
This time she owed between $10 million and $50 million.
In 2009, while bouncing back from her last bankruptcy, she joined the cast of “Dancing With The Stars,” but missed the finale because of additional health troubles. She had surgery to have a benign breast tumor removed.
Braxton returned to the studio and put out her 2010 album “Pulse.”
But it was in 2011 when the singer reconnected with her sisters did she achieve her biggest comeback, endearing her to a new generation with the hit We TV reality show, “Braxton Family Values,” which was one of the network’s top shows for years.
The success of this project and some independent albums and tours allowed her to settle her bankruptcy case in 2013. As a result of the bankruptcy case, she lost the rights to 27 of her biggest songs, including “You’re Making Me High”, “Always” and “How Many Ways” and is no longer eligible to receive the lion’s share of royalties from the sales of the music that made her a star.
Luckily for her, she is still a highly sought-after performer and can command top dollar for her performances, comfortably living off $750,000 and $1 million per year from live shows and personal appearances.
Braxton professionally reconnected with her friend and producer Babyface to produce the joint project, “Love, Marriage, & Divorce,” in 2014. The album won them the Grammy Award for Best R&B Album in 2015. She later followed up that project with “Sex & Cigarettes,” her ninth album, in 2018, while enjoying her success as a reality star.
Today, Braxton is a classic rages-to-riches hero, selling almost 70 million records worldwide and becoming one of the best-selling female R&B artists of all time.