She was born in East Cleveland, OH, where she and her brother were raised by a single mother. She grew up watching "Maude" (CBS, 1972-78) and "The Cosby Show" (NBC, 1984-1992) and began dreaming of a show business career as a ticket to a better life. Brown developed a strong singing voice and honed her performance skills in high school theatrical productions. Her senior year, she followed up on a news report about the then popular boy band Bel Biv DeVoe's Michael Bivins expanding into talent management and wangled her way into an introduction at his hotel when the R&B act played Cleveland. She impressed Bivins with her singing - enough that he put her on a "various artists" album called East Coast Family 1. Upon graduating high school, she attended the University of Akron, where she earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts, after which she moved to Los Angeles in search of acting work. She did an eight-week stint on David Talbert's African-American gospel-themed musical, "His Woman His Wife," and in 2002 she managed to net some background TV roles. In 2003, Brown won her first recurring guest-star job on the sitcom "Girlfriends" (UPN/The CW 2000-08) and began what would become a prolific career in national advertising with a turn in a commercial for AT&T's dial-through service, 1-800-CALLATT. In 2004, she won a cast on the family sitcom, "The Big House," co-starring venerable veteran thespian Keith David and up-and-coming comedian Kevin Hart, but the show shuttered after a few episodes. After its cancellation, she picked up a regular recurring role on the Nickelodeon series "Drake & Josh" as Helen, the manager of the boys' local movie theater.Her everywoman amiability continued to book her lucrative national TV ads, including successive spots for retailer Big Lots in 2004 and no less than six spots in 2005 for brands such as Dairy Queen, T-Mobile, Lexus, Chevrolet and Mazola. She landed a few feature film jobs; mostly small parts in such movies as the romantic comedy "Little Black Book" (2004), "The Kid and I" (2005) and the adaptation of 1960s-girl group-themed Broadway musical "Dreamgirls" (2006). Very much in demand, Brown began winning TV series guest roles nearly as fast as she did commercial ads, scoring 14 different one-off jobs from 2005 through 2007 on such hit shows as "That's So Raven" (Disney, 2003-07), "That '70s Show" (Fox, 1998-2006), "Malcolm in the Middle" (Fox, 2000-06), "House" (Fox, 2004-12) and "The Office" (NBC, 2005-13), with the latter outing marked by her memorable outing as a Staples employee butting heads with the overzealous Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson). Also that year, she scored a two-episode recurring part on "Boston Legal" (ABC, 2004-08), which afforded her the chance to show off her singing skills in an offbeat musical tack for the show. Brown began also picked up more supporting film work across a gamut of genres, as with the big-budget comedy "Tropic Thunder" (2008), which saw her as smarmy agent Matthew McConaughey's assistant; family fluff outing "Hotel For Dogs" (2009); the template romantic comedy "The Ugly Truth" (2009), in which she stood out as a TV producer inclined towards sentimental drivel; and the underperforming sci-fi adventure "Repo Men" (2010), which offered her the chance to break type as a gun-toting freedom fighter. Brown also reprised the role of Helen in the Nickelodeon special event movie, "Merry Christmas, Drake & Josh" (2008). Brown continued her guest-star and commercial work apace, but in 2009, she finally won her biggest spot in the limelight up till then - a plum role on the forthcoming single-cam comedy, "Community." Created by Dan Harmon, "Community" centered around Joel McHale as a slick-talking lawyer trying to earn a legitimate degree at a local community college after the bar association discovers his current one to be fraudulent. The plots revolved around the absurdist projects and daffy social interactions of the denizens of McHale's inadvertently composed study group - an uptight WASPy feminist (Gillian Jacobs); a Palestinian pop-culture-aping nerd (Danny Pudi); a destructive overachievement-junkie (Alison Brie); an underachieving, African-American high-school jock (Donald Glover); an aging, dithery capitalist (Chevy Chase); and Brown's character, Shirley, a sweet but long-repressed divorcée attempting to kick-start her life by going back to school. Their melting-pot fraternity fast became the kinetic charm of the show, with Shirley often playing foil to the wackier characters, but also developing busybody tendencies as they draw her out of her shell. In January 2011, amid the show's second season, Brown realized a childhood dream when Malcolm Jamal Warner, whom she had grown up watching on "The Cosby Show," guest-starred as Shirley's ex-husband.