November 13, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST

The interview with the Hollywood mogul is scheduled for noon sharp, but she’s running late, the result of overbooked meetings with agents, publicists, lawyers, and other cell-phone-toting, Armani-wearing types eager for face time with her. Finally, she emerges from the bedroom of her suite in Los Angeles’ Four Seasons hotel wearing second-skin jeans and T-shirt, gives an I-mean-business handshake, and closes the French doors. While pacing the room and sizing up the reporter, she suddenly becomes distracted by a commotion of voices.

”Um, Mom!” she hollers into the next room. ”Can you keep it down?”

Okay, so your average Hollywood heavyweight doesn’t normally conduct business with her mommy in hugging distance. But the executive we’re dealing with here is Brandy, who has risen from the ever-growing rubble of nubile one-flick and one-hit wonders to become her own cottage industry.

Not that it’s lonely at the top. Right alongside her is Jennifer Love Hewitt, the Party of Five ratings magnet who faced down a raincoated, hook-handed murderer (not to mention negative movie reviews) in last year’s I Know What You Did Last Summer and helped the film rake in a surprising $105 million worldwide. Now she and Brandy have merged to keep the franchise alive in the horrifically titled sequel, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, which opens Nov. 13 and also stars Mekhi Phifer, Freddie Prinze Jr., and Matthew Settle. Making Last Summer last won’t be easy. Sony’s sequel doesn’t include the golden touch of scribe Kevin Williamson (Scream, Dawson’s Creek), who wrote the original but declined the follow-up. What it does have, in addition to Hewitt revisiting the role of stalked-after Julie James, is Brandy. As best friend Karla, Brandy brings her own line of devotees, thanks to her starring role on UPN’s Moesha, a new multi-platinum album, and at least some of the 34 million viewers who saw her play the title role of ABC’s Cinderella last November.

Both Hewitt and Brandy could teach a certain sassy Brit singing group a few things about real girl power. Both are 19, both carry high school diplomas earned while starring in their respective TV series, and both are reaping the benefits of a town currently dedicated to the art of grabbing money from the massive audience of free-spending teens and throwing money at anyone who can get young butts into the seats. Yet the careers of Hewitt and Brandy are also at that awkward stage. With youth and power to spare, will they be the next Jodie Foster or the next Alicia what’s-her-name? Will they be the next Tom Cruise or two more guys named Corey? This much is certain: So far, so good. Between their two resumes, Hewitt and Brandy boast seven TV series, five albums, and eleven movies; in the next couple of years, they’ll also be developing, writing, and producing their own projects. All of these accomplishments would be grounds for quite a toast — if only they were old enough to drink to their success.

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