I started out singing at 13, and Iâ€™ve been in and out of studios ever
since. And American Idol was the one thing that Iâ€™ve done in the 16 years that Iâ€™ve been doing this that actually launched me. That got me out there and allowed me to get into acting. What I wanted from it was to get recognized and to get exposure, to get a deal, maybe a TV show, or whatever was going to come from that.
Tamyra Monica Gray was born July 26,1979 in Takoma Park, Maryland, but raised in Atlanta. While she was catapulted to national prominence as an American Idol also ran, the mesmerizing singer had already enjoyed a measure of fame before being booted off the program.
Earlier, she won the Miss Atlanta beauty pageant, and sang commercially for Coca-Cola and back-up for gangstaâ€™ rapper DMX. But since finishing fourth during American Idolâ€™s debut season, she landed a recurring role on Foxâ€™s Boston Public and released her first solo album, The Dreamer.
Here, she talks about her career and landing the role of Rain in The Gospel, her first full-length feature film.
BSN: How has life been for you since losing on American Idol.
TG: [laughs] Are you serious. This is
TG: This is your question, for real?
TG: Well, then, I have to say it hasnâ€™t been too bad. Life has been great,
BSN: How did you enjoy making The Gospel?
TG: It was good. I didnâ€™t really know what to expect, â€˜cause movies are a lot different from TV. But Boris [co-star Boris Kodjoe] and everybody in the rest of the cast were great.
BSN: How did you like filming in Atlanta? It must have felt like a homecoming.
TG: Yeah, I couldnâ€™t have asked for anything better. This movie seemed like it was meant for me to do it, because the choir thatâ€™s in it is from the church that I went to. And the main church at the end of the movie is actually my church. So, there were signs all over the place that I was supposed to do this.
BSN: Did you do your own singing in the movie?
TG: Yeah, thatâ€™s me singing. I was fortunate to lip-synch. I was like, â€œWait a second, Boris isnâ€™t really singing? Well, can I not really sing?â€? Rob [director Rob Hardy] was like, â€œRight,â€? because it was the lungs that got me here.
BSN: What do you think of the film?
TG: I thought that it was great because the film, in and of itself, makes you feel like youâ€™re in church. The music ties all the scenes together, and itâ€™s such great music that you just sit there, and youâ€™re bopping your head, and dancing in your seats. Itâ€™s a feel-good family film.
BSN: What do you see as the message of The Gospel?
TG: Itâ€™s just a good movie about God, and itâ€™s about finding God again. I feel if anybody is lost and still searching, not necessarily for religion, but searching for God, and who feels that thereâ€™s nothing there, I think that this movie will give them back the hope and the faith that there is still something there. Thereâ€™s no profanity or sex in this movie, just a guy
who starts out in the church, turns his back on it, but then something causes him to re-examine it.
BSN: How important a role has religion played in your life?
TG: I wouldnâ€™t say that religion, but spirituality, is important. For me, the only reason that Iâ€™m here is that Iâ€™ve had faith. Iâ€™ve had faith that it was meant for me to do more with my life, even though I might have been turned down with some things. It was that faith that itâ€™s going to get better, regardless of whatâ€™s going on right now. So, itâ€™s been my faith that
has led me through my life in general, my triumphs and my hard times. I know that itâ€™s not me solely, that there is a God, a higher power who gave me my talent, and whoâ€™s pushing me forward, day-by-day.
BSN: What do you see as the difference between religion and spirituality?
TG: Just the title. Iâ€™ve read parts of the Koran, Iâ€™ve studied some of the teachings of Buddha, and Iâ€™ve read the Bible. I think that religion is religion because of geography. People are only exposed to certain books based on where they live, geographically. But at the end of the day, every book is preaching the same thing, that thereâ€™s a higher power, that thereâ€™s a God, someone whoâ€™s made this Earth and is looking out for us and who has given us the blessings and everything that come into our lives.
BSN: What was the experience of being on American Idol like?
TG: I started out singing at 13, and Iâ€™ve been in and out of studios ever since. And American Idol was the one thing that Iâ€™ve done in the 16 years that Iâ€™ve been doing this that actually launched me. That got me out there and allowed me to get into acting. What I wanted from it was to get recognized and to get exposure, to get a deal, maybe a TV show, or whatever was going to come from that. So what I focused on week after week was doing better than I had the last week, to keep going. I figured that if you left the show too early on, and not enough people saw you, then you were not going to be able to get the most out of the experience. So, I was more competing with myself to get as far along as possible.
BSN: Were you disappointed that you didnâ€™t win?
TG: I didnâ€™t want to win, because I felt that winning would not have allowed me to do everything that I wanted to do, like writing music or going straight into acting. So, I was able to kind of able to take the path that I wanted.
BSN: What is it about you that has enabled you to succeed on your chosen path?
TG: Determination, I think. I wrote out a list before I did American Idol. I said, â€œI want to do Broadway, I want to do a movie, I want to put out an album, I want to write songs, and I want to be on TV.â€? And in the three years since then, Iâ€™ve done everything on the list. It just has to be that I never gave up on myself.
BSN: Why do you think you developed the persistence to hold on to your dream?
TG: There was no other job I could do. I tried all these other jobs without having a degree. I tried nursing, teaching, telemarketing, waitressing and hostessing. I had my own business, a cleaning company. It was like, â€œNo, this isnâ€™t going to work. I donâ€™t like sitting behind a desk and I need to sleep in.â€? I tried it, but I couldnâ€™t deal with it.
BSN: Are you still in touch with [first American Idol winner] Kelly Clarkson?
TG: Yeah, I speak to Kelly and a few other people from the show.
BSN: What do you think of Corey Clark, who appeared on American Idolâ€™s second season, saying that he had an affair with show judge Paula Abdul?
TG: I think things happen and people come up with stories at the right time because they need the press for whatever reason. Personally, I think it was a publicity stunt to get exposure for a book and album that was coming out. Weâ€™ll never know if anything did happen, because whatever went down is really between him and Paula.
BSN: How is your singing career going?
TG: I did have an independently-released album out. Itâ€™s called The Dreamer. It sold about 130,000 units. Iâ€™ve recently switched management, and Iâ€™m about to re-shop for a major deal.