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Real Life Stories
By: LuRae Iwenofu
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A star was born on the 4th day of April 1978. Africans (Nigerians) have a lot to be proud of when it comes to this young man-By LuRae Iwenofu

His parents Edna and David Obika moved to England in the sixties and have three other children: Elaine, Derean, and Michael. Mrs. Obika sadly passed away from breast cancer a year after Lemar appeared in a reality TV show.

Lemar's meteoric rise to fame must have made his parents proud, particularly his mother Edna. Who can forget the televised visuals of her standing in the wings of the BBC's Shepperton studios, ecstatically cheering on as her little boy sang his heart out to the viewing British public? The initial series of Fame Academy, co-produced by the Endemol company, ran for over 10 weeks on BBC One every Friday night.

Lemar's journey into the world of music did not start on Fame Academy, where he came third place to the eventual winner David Sneddon. His take on the old Al Green song "Let's Stay Together", received rave reviews and plaudits from the judges and viewers alike. The winner of the show unfortunately has now slunk back into obscurity, suffering the same reality TV fate that seems to afflict other TV show winners. Longevity is not something that has been associated with many reality TV winners. Lemar, on the other hand, did it his own way-and succeeded.

Fame Academy gave Lemar the exposure that he needed to get his musical career on the road. Singing and performing is second nature to him, having sung numerous times as a child with his three siblings while growing up in a council estate in North London. He was a tender-aged 17-yearold when he had his first concert at the Junior Jam held at the Temple in Tottenham supporting US R&B singer Usher Raymond.

Having gone through primary school and college, he gave up the opportunity to go on and study pharmacy at Cardiff University in pursuit of a musical career. Lemar paid his dues by supporting established artists like Usher, Destiny's Child, Total, and many others. He got lucky and was signed by BMG where he released his first single "Got Me Saying Ooh". BMG was not to be his eventual home, as the record label went through restructuring and his contract was rescinded.

When he left BMG, Lemar worked a nine-to-five stint, like any other Joe Bloggs, as an Account Manager with Natwest bank in their Enfield North London branch. A lot of the so-called "celebrities", after tasting the cherry cake of fame, would have found this deviation-for doing anything other than their chosen art-embarrassing. But, our boy knew his priorities, his game, and he had belief in himself. This may be a testament to his upbringing in a Christian Nigerian household. His parents were Pentecostal ministers, who would have instilled in him his hardworking ethics and grounded, down-to-earth attitude to life. There was no way that Lemar would have gotten involved in the knife and gun culture that is now rife amongst the youth in the UK.

Fame Academy

This was to be the platform that a 24-year-old determined young man rode on to raise his profile in the cutthroat world of entertainment. Competing against 12 other contestants, the show was based on a combination of talent and reality TV. Lemar heard the ad for the TV talent show whilst on a lunch break at his old accounting job. In an interview, he reflected back and said, "As I went in, I heard the tail-end of the BBC ad for Fame Academy and, because I recognised the voice of DJ Trevor Nelson, I looked up just as he was saying, 'Any age, any type of music.' I wasn't sure what it was all about, but, the next day, while I was eating my lunch in the canteen, the ad came on again. This time my ears pricked up, and I thought, 'I'm going to go for it.'"

However, Lemar did have reservations about going for the auditions as he considered himself a Soul artist and not a standard pop artist. But go for it he did! DivaScribe can still remember the goose bumps that rose on our arms when Lemar performed his numbers in a deep husky, soulful baritone voice. This was raw talent at its best, comparisons to Marvin Gaye and other musical greats were not farfetched. His voice alone could carry a tune without backing beats. His Al Green belter "Lets Stay Together" may as well have been written for him. His "Easy" duet with soul legend Lionel Ritchie was also a humdinger of a performance.

This begs the question, why did Lemar not win? Not a question that we will ponder on, as he has moved on to new pastures and still remains grateful for the opportunities that have come his way. In his own words, he has spoken about his struggles to make it. He said, "Because I'd been doing music for a while before Fame Academy, I've seen this industry chew so many people up and spit them out," he says. "I had eight years of trying and, on the way, I saw so many people get record deals, then lose them. I knew one girl who was in the charts, then whoosh, nowhere. And I've seen some extremely talented people never getting a chance. You see the rise and fall of so many people, so I don't take any day for granted."

Signing with Sony

Soul diva Beverly Knight also played a vital part in Lemar's rise. The songstress had caught his performance on Fame Academy and invited him to duet with her at her Hammersmith Apollo concert. Seeing his potential, record label bosses came knocking on his door.

Surprisingly, anyone would have expected him to sign the first record deal that came his way, however, Lemar actually turned down a recording contract with Mercury Records to go with Sony.

He signed a five record deal worth one million pounds. Sony is the home that he recorded the following: 2003 (Dedicated), 2004 (Time to Grow), 2006 (the Truth About Love), (2008) The Reason, and his latest offering in 2009 (The Hits). He also counts six UK Top Ten singles to his list of achievements, with some of the notable singles, "Dance With You", "50/50", "If There's Any Justice". Lemar won his first Brit Awards for Best British Breakthrough Artist in 2004 and a second for "Best Urban Act" in 2006. He also has three Music Of Black Origin (MOBO) awards under his belt, his The Truth About Love album debuted at number 3 on the UK albums chart.

As of June 2009, Lemar has sold over 2.1 million records! He has helped put a new spin on British pop by adding some serious soul and chutzpah to it.

Still Grounded

Whilst recording his latest album The Hits in Miami, Lemar recalls a moment when the surreal turn of his life hit him. "I was staying in a really nice hotel and my room overlooking the beach had two balconies. I remember waking up one morning, and throwing the shutters open to the view, and it was one of those pinch-yourself moments," he recalls. "I was thankful my life had turned out this way."

Not one to flaunt his laurels, Lemar still lives in North London, not far from the council estate where he grew up. "I like north London" he says, "the vibe of it. My view is, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I'm not in the same house I grew up in, but Dad's still in the area, so I go there and hang out."


Lemar is an ambassador for the following charities: The Prince’s Trust, In The Pink Breast Cancer Campaign, and Christian Aid.


Personal Life

Lemar is renowned for keeping his personal life private. In our celebrityobsessed culture, this must be an incredible feat to accomplish. He has been with his partner Charmaine Powell since they met as teenagers working in a supermarket. Theirs is a match that hasn't been tainted by jealousy or tabloid-slinging matches.

A few can remember the accusations made against him in April 2006. This does not require dignifying in print due to its falseness. At the time the allegation was reported in people.co.uk, Lemar vehemently denied this event taking place, and nothing has come to light since to discredit him. Further reports in the press also linked him to soul singer Joss Stone, which they both found laughable. It eventually turned out that, at the time, they were working on a song together and became good friends.

His partner Charmaine is a grounded, focused, quiet and strong woman. It is safe to say that she is not with him because of his fame and good fortune; she is also not a media whore as she prefers to stay out of the limelight. Of her, Lemar has said, "She knows this is my dream and that this is what I love doing, so she just takes a back seat'. She says, 'You do your own thing.' No one's stepping on anyone's toes."

This is an incredibly supportive stand to take as many artists are known to travel for long periods of time on tours and long hours spent in recording studios. Add to this the amoral, unscrupulous groupies who throw themselves at them to make a quick buck in the tabloids.

Lemar was incredibly close to his mother Edna. Her death from breast cancer devastated him, and it was well documented that it took a while for him to address his grief (though losing a loved one is not something that one never gets over from).

The birth of his first daughter Nyiema in London's private Portland hospital in January 19th 2008, was another emotional journey that was sure to have lightened his heart from the loss. He has said in the past that his greatest inspiration is fatherhood. He stated in an interview: "Honestly nothing in life can compare to having a child. Everyone had built up what I thought might be an anticlimax-like a movie you see an excellent trailer for and the film is a let down. But it's great'.

In the end, I've come to terms with my mother's passing, so it made me appreciate what my parents did for me. I remember texting my father (David) the next day and saying, "Thanks for giving me life.'Having a baby of my own, with all the nappy stuff and the sleepless nights, you appreciate immensely what it took looking after you."

Final word

In his own words, "Touring is what it's all about, the reason you make the music. Creating an album is exciting, but it wouldn't be half as exciting if I didn't know I was going to perform in front of a lot of people. For someone, in this credit crunch period, to reach into their pocket and take £20 out to come and watch me sing some songs, that's an amazing feeling."ds

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