Even before her tumultuous union with Usher, Tameka was no stranger to tension and drama. At 19-years-old, she was 3-months pregnant when the father of her oldest son died. “It was devastating,” she reflects. “I could have easily opted out; I’m sure there are many girls who choose to opt out every day, but abortion wasn’t an option for me. And I think that was a courageous move. I weathered the storm as a single mother for a very long time and I couldn’t be more proud of the man my son has turned out to be.”
That strength and dedication to her children is why she’s now able to brush off mean-spirited words that she previously found hurtful. Whispers that she married Usher for financial gain, and the outrageous tale that she abandoned her children to be with him, are two criticisms that had managed to get under her skin. “I’ve been a mother for a very, very long time and for anyone to think that I would put a relationship — especially a relationship they believed to be founded on superficial reasons — above my children is not something that I take lightly.” At this point in her life, Tameka no longer gives the rumors priority nor does she allow them to steal her positive energy. Still, she finds it more than a little ridiculous that people seem to not believe in true love.
“I had enough money of my own to last a lifetime and I think it’s an insult to my ex-husband to insinuate that I chased him for those reasons. What, because he’s affluent, he’s not lovable?,” Tameka asks incredulously. “It’s not dissing me to say he’s unworthy. He was really attractive, funny, sweet and we were friends first. Even more hilarious, is that these people spreading the rumors don’t even know him, yet they ‘love’ him. I’ve known Usher over 10 years, why is it impossible to believe that I loved him? There are over 100 ‘Mrs. Raymonds’ following me on Twitter and they’re married to a poster. It’s just a backwards concept.”
Now Raymond finds herself embroiled in an emotionally draining custody situation that is currently being played out for the public’s amusement. “I did not start this. I did not file this. Usher did. I begged him to withdraw the petition, but he didn’t listen. The media jumped on my answer to his petition for custody as if I initiated it, and I did not. Why would I try to keep his children away from him? We have joint custody and I want to continue to have their father around to help out. Raising children is a lot of work.”
Tameka prefers not to dwell on the past, but, unfortunately, she faces the hesitation of mutual colleagues who feel that they have to take sides. “My ex-husband and I are not enemies. We’re not. But people still find a way to make it more salacious than it has to be. I don’t know how he deals with it, but I refuse to let the media manipulate what should be a personal situation and turn me into the villain.”
Through all the innuendo and falsehoods, Tameka stands with her head unbowed – a mother, businesswoman, sister and friend. With the wisdom learned in this situation, she walks with purpose, joyful and confident about the days ahead. And if there is one thing that she would tell women going through the aftermath of divorce, it would be to keep their dignity and let the past go with a smile.
“Always keep your dignity and stand firm. My marriage was a beautiful thing, but I’m not stuck in that time. I loved my ex-husband more than air, but it’s over and that’s fine. I would rather have loved and lost, than to not have these memories. Life is nothing without real love – at least once.”
Concentrating on the launch of Estellaboutique.com, which will branch out to include bath and body products, as well as home accents, Raymond also encourages women to never lose their identity in a relationship. “I began having children early in my relationship because my ex didn’t have any when we married and we wanted them, but I never lost sight of my goals. I always stayed true to myself.”
So what’s next for Ms. Tameka Raymond?
“Next up for me is a clothing line, specifically a line for little boys,” she reveals with a smile in her voice. “I’m not simply moving on; I’ve moved on. And I’m so very excited about what lies ahead.”
Follow Kirsten West Savali on Twitter at @KWestSavali.