Heat follows Usher Raymond IV. It’s been like that since 1993, when the former choirboy began his quest for R&B chart domination and ended up a decade and change later a multimillion-record-selling, abs-of-steel-having superstar. And Usher’s reign as the incumbent King of R&B has been pretty much tabloid-free. That is until the summer of 2007 introduced another type of heat and put the 29-year-old singer–actor–entrepreneur through fire of a very different kind.

In Hollywood speak, the spark that ignited a tabloid-fueled media blitz was surprisingly innocuous. No drunk driving or alleged illicit substance possession. No racist, homophobic or sexist rants followed by apologies and mandatory stints in rehab. Usher Raymond IV simply fell in love with a woman seven years his senior: his former stylist and current BFF Tameka Foster aka the newly minted Mrs. Raymond.

Usher on how the media and bloggers reacted negatively to the news of his engagement to Tameka Foster:
“It was like, wow. (Getting married) and having a child is something that everyone should celebrate. What’s happened to us as a culture and a people? I’m not ignorant, so I’m not going to go out there and lash out….”

Usher on how he and Tameka have stayed strong:
“Ours is not a typical love story, but it is a true one. Tameka and I have been fortunate enough to go through the thick of it in the beginning. We’ve had that opportunity to huddle up as a team, to make sure that we’re clear and speak as one voice.”

Tameka on when she knew to trust her instincts, instead of her girlfriends, about starting a relationship with her future husband:
“Thank God I didn’t listen to my girlfriends…. Usher was my road dawg. I’d seen him love, and I’d watched him date women who were not worthy of him. He was so sweet, going out of his way to cater to their every need. And I’d see them not even be grateful.”

Usher on what he’s learned about becoming a father:
“Tameka’s given me one of the greatest gifts I’ll ever have. With a child, now I have purpose. I understand love.”

Tameka on falling for her husband:
“I feel totally uninhibited with Usher. I’ve never been in a situation with anyone, even as far back as high school, where there were no secrets. I know I can tell him anything and he’s not going to judge me. I can finally share my dreams. And because of that, I know that man loves me.”

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Photo Credit: Jim Wright