As one of Birmingham’s best loved celebrities, Jamelia accepts an accolade from her beloved home town and tells us it’s one of her career highlights
Jamelia’s accidental role as a teen pop star has developed into a long and varied career that keeps her excited and pays the bills. Thrust into the spotlight aged just 15, the girl from Handsworth found herself touring the globe with the likes of Usher and Destiny’s Child, but she managed to keep her cool, handling the pressure and the significant hype brilliantly and emerged from those crazy years unscathed.
With seven top 10 singles, two gold albums and one double platinum in the UK alone, Jamelia is one of the country’s most successful black artists as well as a regular on our TV screens. And now, probably most exciting of all, Jamelia was awarded her very own star on Broad Street’s Walk of Stars which was presented to her last month at a ceremony at Symphony Hall.
Of being immortalised in her home town – the fortieth person to be given the honour – the 37-year-old said: “I am absolutely chuffed to be receiving this. I am and have always been a very proud Brummie, so to be immortalised in this way in the very heart of my hometown has to be one of the highlights of my career so far! Thank you so much. It’s like Birmingham’s answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.”
Launched in 2007, Birmingham’s Walk of Stars was developed to recognise high profile people either born or having lived in the city who have put Birmingham on the map nationally and internationally. The mother-of-three daughters – her ‘Magic Girlz’ as she refers to them – is in good company with other high-profile figures immortalised through the scheme including Lenny Henry, Beverly Knight, Ozzy Osbourne and Julie Walters among scores of other big names.
Comedian Jasper Carrott who is also the chair of Walk of Stars tells us why Jamelia deserves the honour: “Jamelia is a shining example of how to come through from difficult beginnings and succeed in such a spectacular way. Her musical honesty and dedication hits the nerve, leads the way and that is why she so deserves her Walk of Stars award. Birmingham is rightly proud to call her one of our own.”
Full name Jamelia Niela Davis, the superstar came from humble beginnings in Handsworth and was always singing. She remembers: “If my family and friends were seated that was my cue for a show. Under duress they listened and applauded.” Jamelia started recording homemade albums and listening back to them on her Walkman.
One of the albums was taken to EMI by one of Jamelia’s cousins and they liked what they heard. Fiercely protective, her mother who was in on the initial meeting with the record label, let the music executives know fairly forcefully that her daughter wouldn’t be signing anything until she’d passed her exams. This was the incentive Jamelia needed to get her head down at school. She got the grades and clinched the deal.
During the Noughties, Jamelia’s catchy R&B tracks stormed the charts. Top 10 spots became the norm and singles like Superstar and Thank You still feel fresh well over a decade on. A clutch of MOBO awards, nine BRIT nominations, a Q Award and a meeting with Nelson Mandela followed. The stuff of dreams and yet the down to earth Brummie took it all in her stride.
She says: “Don’t get me wrong. I love the glitzy side of my life, but it’s not the way I live day-to-day.” Many of Jamelia’s ‘inner circle’ is made up of old friends she went to school with and she is immensely proud of her home town. “Showing the city off to friends from the South is one of my favourite past times. They arrive with misconceptions about what Birmingham is like, but leave thinking it’s cool and can’t wait to come back.”
After 10 years in the music industry, Jamelia tried her hand at television and the versatile star has become a regular panellist and TV presenter as well as making documentaries and judging talent shows. She’s also enjoyed acting roles alongside the likes of Michael Madsen, Vinnie Jones and Daniel Mays and her successful modelling career has seen her fronting campaigns for brands such as Reebok, Pretty Polly, Toni and Guy and Boux Avenue. She’s also graced the covers of Cosmopolitan, Elle, Harpers & Queen and more illustriously, our very own Birmingham Living magazine!