“I did not plan to go on The X Factor. It was a very spur of the moment thing for me as I decided to audition a week before. The moment I realized that I might actually be getting somewhere gave me real motive to grow up. I wouldn’t say that the show gave me a sense of what kind of artist I wanted to be, but it gave me a stronger backbone to be a performer.” -Tamera Foster
It takes guts to walk onto the stage of The X Factor and belt your heart out in front of millions, but Tamera Foster is not one to shy away from a challenge, despite the fact that she was only sixteen at the time. Now, two years later, it’s difficult to remember just how young she still is. From the moment she sang her cover of “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston, she caught the attention of both The X Factor UK judges and its fans, even though she had to take a moment to remember her lines. Her audition video has been watched over seventeen million times on YouTube. Just recently, she was signed to Simon Cowell’s Syco records, and has plans for a full length. “My album has taken me almost two years because I was also finding myself as an artist…The vibe of it is very dark. I wanted it to come from a very genuine place and I felt like I could draw out the most emotion from the bad place I was in three years ago. I won’t go into detail because I’m sure the album can do that once it’s out there. If I had to describe my album, I’d say it is the sound alternative to a Tim Burton movie.”
As a young artist thrust into the spotlight, having your personal highs and lows played out in front of the world can be stressful. “I’m shit scared of having people look up to me and look to me for guidance, because I believe that making mistakes should be a free thing; no one should judge you for them.” She credits Missy Elliott as her icon. “I loved her when I was growing up, so crazy and comfortable with it, I always wanted to emulate her.”
Tamera is slated to make waves once her debut album drops. Talented, and possessed of preternatural intelligence, she is sure to go far in her career. “There’s too much bullshit going on in the world today to be picking sides. I feel like the world needs to come together as one and help each other out.” It’s understandable why she shirks the responsibilities of being seen as a role model, though her words of wisdom certainly resound. “As a female you hold so much power, you are beautiful, fun and stronger than you will ever probably realize.”
Read the full interview with Tamera Foster and The Untitled Magazine for The #GirlPower Issue below.
The Untitled Magazine: What are your earliest memories of performing?
Tamera Foster: Before 2013 I hadn’t performed much, although I’ve always loved to sing everywhere I was. If I remember correctly the first time I performed was in my grandma’s church for a Christmas carol service, it was cute small, I sang “Silent Night”. I entered a few talent shows at school but to be honest that’s about it growing up.
UM: Do you come from a musical family?
TF: I certainly do come from a musical family. My mum, even though she’d never sing in front of anyone, has an amazing voice, very angelic, and she’d always sing to me as a baby and child, always singing around the house. I think she got that from my grandma who is also a good singer. My grandma kinda gave me the confidence to sing in front of other people, by having me sing at her church and if I were to do a musical workshop she’d take me and pick me up and that always gave me an extra push. God I love her. I have a small family but these two people are huge parts of it.
UM: Who are a few artists that influence you as a musician?
TF: Oh wow, the list of artists that have inspired me is very long. I’d have to say the top three people are Sammy Davis Jr., Michael Jackson. and Erykah Badu—all for very different reasons of course. Sammy inspired me so much by how much of an amazing showman he was. He was the first real respectable black performer and by making such a huge change in the game like that he inspired endless amounts of people and even though he was threatened, bullied, and slandered for the work he did and the decisions he made he continued to work hard and live his dream for everyone to see. Michael Jackson has just been in my life from the womb. My mum is a superfan so the amazing messages and melodies this great man channelled into everything he did were channelled into me. Everything about Michael was different to anybody else and that in itself is enough to make anyone look up to him. Erykah—Erykah is just a complete Goddess, everything about her just screams to me ‘This is what a woman should be and represent.’ She is cool as f*%k, very grounded, spiritually aware, and a natural woman that’s not afraid to age gracefully. All of her lyrics are real to the core, I feel like everyone and anyone can relate and she is undoubtedly naturally sexy. If I could be all those things I would!
UM: Tell us about how you came to the decision to audition for X-Factor? When you were selected, how did it change your perspective of yourself artistically?
TF: I did not plan to go on the X-factor, it was a very spur of the moment thing for me as I decided to audition a week before. The moment that I realized that I might actually be getting somewhere gave me real motive to grow up and very quickly at that—bearing in mind I had just left school, it was a very testing time for me. I entered this whole new playing field that I had to get used to as fast as possible. I wouldn’t say that the show gave me a sense of what kind of artist I wanted to be but it gave me a stronger backbone to be a performer and a person in the eye of the public.
UM: You made it so far on the show! It must have been incredibly taxing, and incredibly rewarding at the same time. What were the best versus the most challenging aspects of being on the show?
TF: It was such a huge change of lifestyle for me and I had to adjust there and then,
because of the responsibility you take on when getting far into a competition like the X Factor it can get very frustrating and daunting. I remember one night I was very ill and missing home so much and I spent like four hours crying and feeling sorry for myself but I spoke to my mum and she reassured me that I was in one of the best positions I could be in as an aspiring artist and that made me really get to work. One of the best times I had on the show would have to be when I met the hypnotist for the problem I had with forgetting my lyrics, he didn’t just teach me how to stop that but he gave me another way of looking and dealing with my own mind and I feel like that hour I spent with him really changed my life.
UM: After you were eliminated, what was your next move?
TF: After I was eliminated from the show I took some time to rest over Christmas, I started writing songs and a lot of poetry to channel how I felt. Then we went on tour for two months and played every arena in the country including the O2 and Wembley which was amazing! It gave me so much confidence in myself as a performer and a person.
UM: How did you end up getting signed to Simon Cowell’s label, Syco?
TF: In that time I was in conversation with Syco, Simon Cowell’s record label, and they offered me a deal which was amazing for me, it was really as if all my stars were aligning all at once. It was the best feeling I could have ever felt.
UM: How has it been recording your album?
TF: Ever since the tour I’ve been working on my album as well as myself, it’s taken me almost two years because I was also finding myself as an artist and then developing that also. I remember my first studio session with a writer called Camille. I had been so nervous about it the previous day, I had written a few ideas down for the session on a piece of crinkled paper and brought it to my session with this A-list songwriter and we just did it. I admit it wasn’t the best song but I loved it, it was my first creation and the balls just been rolling ever since. I’ve had a lot of opportunity for inspiration over these last two years by traveling to different countries to work with new and different talents over the world, such as L.A and New York. I’m about to go over to Sweden for a writing trip too. I have to say I’m very thankful to my fans for being so patient with me, I’m just taking my time so I can give them the very best!
UM: What inspirations are you drawing from for the album?
TF: I like my music to be very visual and touching, so when I write I like to draw my inspiration from different interesting images, speeches, or sometimes even vivid dreams that I have so often.
UM: Does your album have a title? If so, can you tell us about the inspiration behind the title?
TF: My album is nameless for the moment, I’m gonna leave that until the very end, I feel like that will be the most fun part, to give my baby a name.
UM: Can you describe its vibe and how it reflects you as an artist?
TF: The vibe of my album is very dark, I will say that. I wanted it to come from a very genuine place and I felt like I could draw out the most emotion from the bad place I was in like three years ago. I won’t go into detail because I’m sure the album can do that once it’s out there. If I had to describe my album I’d say it was the sound alternative to a Tim Burton movie, haha.
UM: Do you consider yourself a role model?
TF: I don’t consider myself a role model, I consider myself an individual who has made a lot of mistakes and will continue to make them, but I love all of them because they make me who I am. Im sh*t scared of having people look up to me and look to me for guidance, because I believe that making mistakes should be a free thing—no one should judge you for them but should judge the way you overcome them and I’m really just happy doing my thing and not worrying about what other people think. I guess that’s one of the big messages I want to get across, especially for the young women out there, that are constantly being told what we should be, how we should behave and whatever—all that’s irrelevant, just do you and be happy doing it. If you’re not happy? You’re not doing you.
UM: This issue of Untitled revolves around the theme of Girl Power and female empowerment in general. Can you describe what that concept means to you personally? What helps you to feel empowered when you’re struggling?
TF: Female empowerment to me means being completely comfortable in yourself.
As a female you hold so much power, you are beautiful, fun, stronger than you will ever probably realize and most importantly, the giver of life. So female empowerment to me is just knowing all these things vibrate from you and being strong with that knowledge.
UM: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
TF: I do not consider myself a feminist, no. If I had to be something it would be a humanist, there’s too much bullsh*t going on in the world today to be picking sides. Although woman are amazing beings, I feel like the world needs to come together as one and help each other out, division is bad.
UM: If you could go back and impart words of advice to your teenage self, what would they be?
TF: Well, I’m still a teenager, but to be honest I wouldn’t change a thing or do anything differently. I love every mistake I’ve ever made because the reality is, our mistakes are what make us up.
UM: Your style is so cool! What inspires your look?
TF: Thank you, who inspires my style? I’d have to say at first it was my mum; she’s young and very cool so I always looked up to her as a kid and would always sneak into her closet to make up my own look, LOL. She’s very hippie inspired and experimented a lot when I was growing up so I saw that creativity and grew from it, also Missy Elliot. I loved her when I was growing up—so crazy and comfortable with it so I always wanted to emulate her.
UM: Can you tell us a little bit about your cool hand tattoo?
TF: Well I have two hand tattoos—one of a Buddha and a lotus flower and on the other hand I have finger portraits of Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King. The Buddha tat was definitely because of the spiritual influences that I have been drawn to over the last few years. I’m not a Buddhist but I do practice a lot of Buddhist teachings. I meditate as much as I can to keep my head level and my feet grounded. The tattoos on my fingers are simply because these men are great inspirations to me and thousands of other people—for fighting for what they believed in and making a difference with a price.
UM: What can we expect from you in the coming year?
TF: This year is going to be an exciting one for me, there is one-hundred percent going to be a release this year and I hope to God it goes well as me and my team have been working very hard on it. I’ve been writing everything so all you hear from me is coming from me firsthand. I have a lot of surprises up my sleeve for 2016 so bear with me.
Tamera Foster photographed by Erica Bergsmed for The Untitled Magazine’s #GirlPower Issue
Stylist: Ainy Naim
Hair by Rio Sreedharan
Make-up by Sarah Jagger
Photographed at Studio Zero
This article originally appeared in The #GirlPower Issue of The Untitled Magazine (2015), pick up a copy of the issue in our online store