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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 August 2005, 12:39 GMT 13:39 UK
Lemar: From Fame Academy to fame
Singer Lemar has won the UK act of the year and best album prizes at this year's Mobo Awards. The former Fame Academy student is one of the few reality TV contestants to have forged a successful music career.

Lemar's Mobo nominations include best album, single and R&B act
David Sneddon and Sinead Quinn must be wondering where it all went wrong.

They beat Lemar Obika into third place in the BBC's TV talent show at the end of 2002.

But it is Lemar, the slick singer-songwriter who mixes soul with R&B, who has sold 1.3 million albums, won a Brit Award and had a string of hit singles.

"A few years on, and I've released two albums and I'm still going from strength to strength," he said at the Mobo nominations launch in August.

"The second album's done really well and I think that's reflected in the nominations. People are still receiving me well so I'm really happy."

He is one of the few reality TV hopefuls to have avoided sinking straight back into obscurity, alongside Will Young and Girls Aloud.

Did losing Fame Academy help Lemar in the long run?
Whether he has succeeded because of or in spite of Fame Academy is open to debate.

"The great thing about Fame Academy was that I was watched by millions of people," he recently told a newspaper.

"If I'd won Fame Academy, it might have been harder for me to make the music I wanted.

"The turnaround period for the winner is too quick. They usually have their first album out within weeks. Finishing third gave me time to make a record I was happy with."

Before Fame Academy, Lemar spent five frustrating years trying to break into the music industry.

Born to Nigerian parents, he dreamt of being on stage since pretending to be The Jackson Five with his brothers at home in north London.

Lemar and Jamelia at the Brit Awards
Lemar performed a duet with Jamelia at this year's Brit Awards
He managed to make a name for himself on the capital's R&B circuit while taking a succession of jobs in a bank, a supermarket, a parcel delivery company and a call centre.

Support slots with touring US stars Usher and Destiny's Child came his way and he recorded a single, Got Me Saying (Ooh), for BMG in 2001.

But it was never released and BMG dropped Lemar as part of its restructuring programme.

He declined a place to study pharmacy at Cardiff University, instead jumping at the chance to reach an audience of millions when the Fame Academy auditions came along.

As well as exposure, the BBC show gave him a chance to duet with one of his heroes, Lionel Richie - who he now counts as a friend.

Lemar says Richie warned him: "Make sure you don't win it, because then you can sit back and take your time and get the music right."

So as Sneddon hit number one before rapidly fading from view, Lemar was biding his time.

Chart success

His first single, Dance (With U), was released nine months after the Fame Academy experience and went to number two.

But, unlike most other reality TV singers, he managed to maintain his chart popularity and further singles 50/50, Another Day, If There's Any Justice and Time To Grow all hit the Top 10.

He won the Brit Award for best urban artist in 2004 and received a further two nominations this year.

Having carved out a niche at the smoother end of the soul spectrum, he manages to appeal to both pop kids and urban connoisseurs.

The key to his status may be in proving his talent as a songwriter and performer as well as just a puppet pop star.

Double Mobo win for singer Lemar
22 Sep 05 |  Entertainment
David wins Fame Academy
14 Dec 02 |  Entertainment
Fame three ready for reality
13 Dec 02 |  Entertainment


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