This past January when multiplatinum-selling crooner and actor Usher proposed to his longtime friend and former personal stylist, Tameka Foster, the rumor mill went into overdrive speculating about the sincerity of their union. Foster, the owner of Swanky Image Group and Hides & Dungarees denim and leather collection, has been under fire from disgruntled bloggers, naysayers in the industry and gossipmongers ever since. Essence.com recently checked in with the future Mrs. Raymond to ask her how it feels to be in the eye of the storm.
Confessions: "No, I am not pregnant with my ex-husband's child..."
Essence.com: Bloggers worldwide have criticized your relationship with Usher. You haven't responded until now. Why?
Tameka Foster: Unfortunately many people live for negativity and are brainwashed by the misinformation of bloggers, rumors, haters and speculators. They don't want to believe the truth because the negative stories have more appeal to them. Friends tell me about some of it and we'll laugh, but honestly, I don't pay attention to the gossip on the day-to-day. However, things have been said about my ex-husband and about me and my relationship with Usher's mom among other things, that I would like to clear up. I am not speaking because I feel the need to validate our relationship. We're good.
Essence.com: The media has accused you of being "difficult," "manipulative" and "crazy." Is it tough to hear these assertions about your character?
T.F.: I'm probably one of the most down-to-earth, non-Hollywood people you'll ever meet. I'm real, not plastic. So you'll never see me smiling perfectly in every picture or waving my hand for the cameras like a princess on a float. If anything, I'm always trying to avoid taking pictures. I'm shy in that way. The spotlight is Usher's lane.
Essence.com: Let's address some of the rumors. Were you creeping with Usher while you were still married and he was still dating TLC's Chilli?
T.F.: No, it's not true. For the record, I was legally separated from my husband, to whom I was married to for five years, not 10 as many have reported. He knew Usher and I were dating, and he was dating other people. I don’t understand why people act like it’s a crime to live, date and be happy especially once you're living apart and awaiting a divorce from your soon-to-be ex-husband. Also, it was the photographers who were creeping. Usher and I went to St. Bart's to celebrate my birthday in December 2005 and partied for five days straight all over the island. We weren't hiding! We didn't even know we were being photographed until we got back to the States. The funny thing is, my ex-husband was on vacation with his date in the Bahamas and having a good time. We were all chilling.
Essence.com: So Usher is not a home wrecker, as the tabloids suggested?
T.F.: Absolutely not. He was on tour when my marriage was officially over. He had nothing to do with what happened between my husband and me. Between my hectic travel schedule and our personality differences, my ex and I grew apart. There are no hard feelings between us. He is a wonderful father. I don't have any regrets or anger toward him. We have great, smart, well-rounded children. It's the media that wants to make it appear as if we have this big nasty beef with each other, and we don't.
Essence.com: When did your relationship with Usher blossom into romance?
T.F.: In November 2005. What people don't realize is that Usher and I were friends for nearly seven years and I worked as his personal stylist for five years. I was the only female friend he felt he could talk to. Because I was older, he would often ask me questions to help him understand the mentality of an older woman. He was really into Chilli. And when things began to get shaky in my marriage he was there to listen to me as well. But I want to make this clear: We only began dating when Usher was certain that there was no chance of reconciliation between me and my ex, because who wants to be known for breaking up a family or for sharing a woman?
Essence.com: Are you and Chilli friends?
T.F.: No, we've never hung out. I haven't seen or run into her in nearly four years. The media tries to say his album Confessions (which explores the themes of infidelity) was about me, but it wasn't. The album isn't even about Usher's life. But when you're an artist and sing certain lyrics they're often taken literally.
Essence.com: Bloggers have also reported that you are pregnant with some other man's child, possibly your ex-husband's, and that Usher has promised to raise it. Supposedly you two broke up and got back together in February when he found out you were four months pregnant. True or false?
T.F.: That is ridiculous. No, I am not pregnant with my ex-husband's child. If that were the case, the baby would have been born already. Yes, we had a brief split for about a month, but just to reassess and figure everything out.
Essence.com: Okay. Well, are you pregnant with Usher's child?
T.F.: Yes, I do plan to have children with Usher. This is the man I love and plan to spend the rest of my life with so why wouldn't I want to share that bond of bringing another life into this world with him.
Essence.com: Do you two live together now?
T.F.: We just bought a home together, but we don't officially live together. I still have my house that I bought, and he has his own house. I really hate that people are labeling me a gold digger. I've always had my own business, my own life. It would be hard to think a woman is just with Usher for his money. He's gorgeous, not to mention he's charismatic, sweet and gentle. There are women all over the world who want to be in my shoes.
Essence.com: You clearly love him—and so do millions of fans. How do you deal with fanatical loyalists and groupies?
T.F.: Oh my goodness, women don't even see me when we're out together. They say things to him like, "I love you! Call me!" Half the time, I'm dying of laughter and just shaking my head. I think it's flattering. I'm like, "Wow, they love my baby!"
Tameka Foster opens up about Usher's paternal instincts, her children and all the drama with her future mother-in-law
Family Matters: 'Usher's Mom Never Fired Me.'
Essence.com: Do you and Usher spend a lot of time together?
T.F.: Usher and I are friends. We are road dogs. We hang out like friends. We shop, laugh, work out, get mad in the middle of the day about what we want to eat, debate about what's fattening in a smoothie and just do regular things.
Essence.com: How does Usher get along with your three sons?
T.F.: Usher loves my children. My ex-husband and I have joint custody. It's a wonderful arrangement that allows me time to do things with Usher one-on-one and to spend time with the kids. I'm not looking for a father for my kids because they have one. They just happen to be lucky enough to have two strong men in their lives.
Essence.com: You've been labeled a "poor mom" because supposedly, you're never with the kids. Your reaction?
T.F.: Do you think Usher would really be engaged to a woman who would leave her kids? My children are with us much more than people think. They've gone to the Bahamas with us and attended play-off games. I purposely keep my children out of view. I don't want them scrutinized and talked about because that would be a problem. Everyone wants to know, "Where are her kids?" Out of these pictures, that's where.
Essence.com: Shifting gears a bit, is it true that Usher's mom fired you as his stylist and you in turn convinced Usher to fire her as his manager?
T.F.: I never worked for Usher's mom; I worked for Usher. Now, I don't know if she persuaded him to feel certain ways about me, but she never fired me.
Essence.com: So does that mean you and future mother-in-law have beef?
T.F.: No, we do not. Any mother with a son as successful as Usher is going to have raised eyebrows about any woman who comes around. I'd be the same way about any one of my sons. His mother and I have a great rapport. There are no hard feelings and I had nothing to do with his decision to no longer have his mother manage him.
Essence.com: So his mom didn't get a restraining order against you?
T.F.: Never. Even she thought that was ridiculous. And for what? Like we're going to fight or something? If she told me not to come around her, I simply wouldn't.
Credit: Moses Robinson/WireImage.com
The happy couple hit the red carpet at the 2007 Trumpet Awards in February.
Credit: Derek Blanks/dblanks.com
Tameka Foster looking radiant in white.