Tameka Raymond knows you know her name. But allow her —if you will —to reintroduce herself. Yes, she worked as a celebrity stylist before she met and married R&B heartthrob Usher Raymond—which meant in addition to being thrust in front of the camera—she also inherited a world of hate. She married the guy who’s poster was tacked on many-a-young girl’s bedroom. And she was eight years his senior. And she was a divorced single mom with three sons. And she wasn’t exactly who folks thought would capture the heart of the guy who has captured everyone else’s heart.
Their wedded bliss lasted nearly two years before divorce papers were filed. It was long enough to create two beautiful baby boys, and now they’re in the middle of what looks to be a rather unfriendly custody battle. (He filed for sole custody, then nine months later she did the same thing. And every other week, it seems, there’s a new blog posting about what is what.)
For the most part, Tameka says she avoids the thumb thugs – you know, the people who anonymously tweet and make some rather nasty and salacious comments on blogs without consequence.
She’s too busy trying to build her life as an entrepreneur (she opened a clothing and home-décor boutique, Estella in 2010, and she opened KangaZoom, an indoor children’s play facility in Alpharetta, Georgia. in 2011), be a good mother and put the past behind her.
EBONY talks with Raymond about Trayvon Martin, her ex and how she’s managing to keep her sanity.
EBONY: A lot of public personas—yourself included—have been very out front on social media about the Trayvon Martin case. Why did this connect with you?
Tameka Raymond: I am completely outraged about the innocence of Trayvon's actions before meeting the overzealous neighborhood watch guy, I mean going for a walk, buying the typical junk food at the store, calling a girl while out, and throwing his hood on when the rain started. All typical teenage things and indicative of his age. This could be my son or nephew, that very notion scares me.
EBONY: You're the mother of five African American boys—did that change the way you parent? Or talk to your sons?
TR: No, I am very candid with my boys we always have sit downs about current events in the news and things that I think could potentially effect them.
EBONY: What are your thoughts about the role of the media in this case? Is it helping or hurting his parents?
TR: This case overall reminds me of the John Grisham novel A Time to Kill. I don't think the media is going to make a difference in this case, they certainly do convolute and manipulate facts, but I am confident that the public is becoming wiser and using more common sense these days. The injustice is obvious and his parents are getting loads of public support, I'm really happy about that.
EBONY: You've certainly had your share of negative and invasive media, how does this affect you? How do you deal with it? Do you shield your children from it?
TR: I have oftentimes been positioned as the villain in many media stories, which tells me how oblivious they truly are to facts. Media can be very political — stories typically sway in the direction of the favored or popular. I am not defined by what others opinions are of me. I know the truth about myself; my children know me and what I stand for. I don't shield my sons, that's virtually impossible, they are clear about who their mother is and they laugh at how off base the stories usually are. I always say before you criticize a person, you should try walking a mile in their shoes.
EBONY: How is your current custody battle going? How did it come about?
TR: I'm not at liberty to discuss it, as it deals with my young sons, but I was very surprised about the initiation of it. I'm actually not sure what inspired it but my only concern is my sons’ best interests and to ensure that great values are instilled in them as future men.
EBONY: Do you keep your children away from this?
TR: I don't keep them away per se, it's just something they don't pay attention to.
EBONY: How is your relationship with your ex-husband?
EBONY: The bloggers haven't exactly been kind to you. How do you stay above the fray?
TR: Number one, I’m clear that oftentimes gossip blogs are started in someone’s kitchen while waiting on a Hot Pocket or pizza to bake, or after their boyfriend ran off with their BFF, or when their day jobs have cut their hours. For someone to bash another person, they are usually hurting; hurt people hurt people. Their negative words usually have no merit and there’s a real sickness in attempting to destroy others for hits or profit. It tells me that I'm doing something right to stay on their radars. It’s quite motivating and empowering. My neighbors are pretty oblivious to pop culture. My focuses are my family, my businesses, overall spiritual happiness. I am just focused on things that matter and the fray just simply doesn't.
EBONY: People who don’t know you spend so much time writing about you. What’s something that you think it’s important for people to know about who you are?
TR: I have a very, very dry humor. I make light and make jest of a lot of things, which is a form of keeping my sanity. You know what I mean? There was an old adage: ‘I was complaining about my shoes until I met a person who didn’t have any feet.’ So it kind of keeps whatever obstacles I’m going through relative, it keeps them in perspective.
EBONY: That sounds like medicine for when things get harried…
TR: Exactly. I just start laughing. But you know what? Twitter is my only vice. It’s kind of my only outlet. I like it because I virally meet people that have shared experiences. And even though I don’t always speak on exactly what I’m going through—they will have read whatever— and I get so many encouraging messages, and it actually has been good.
EBONY: You entered into this world when you married Usher. And there isn’t a blueprint for what you’re going through now …
TR: There is no manual. I look at people who try to jump into the celebrity life, and I always give them a disclaimer: be careful what you ask for. I don’t consider myself a celebrity. I hate actually even using that word next to my name or anything. I’m not. I married one and it’s just been a whirlwind of good things and bad.
EBONY: We’ve talked about the bad. What’s one of the best things to kind of come out of it?
TR: My sons. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world, any of my pregnancies or any of my sons. They were all great. They are huge rewards, they really are.