Jamelia: Musical success, murder and domestic violence survivor- everything you need to know

She’s one of the UK’s biggest selling R&B singers, having sold millions of records internationally, and she’s become a much-loved daytime TV figure. But how much do you really know about Jamelia? From her shocking childhood to becoming a star and escaping a violent relationship – there’s much more to the Birmingham-born singer than meets the eye.


by Jack White |
Published on

Early life

Jamelia Niela Davis was born on 11 January 1981 in the Birmingham city of Handsworth and was raised in the nearby Hockley. Her parents Paulette Davis and Donald Williams are Zimbabwean and Jamaican respectively.

Jamelia signed her first major record deal when she was just 15
Jamelia signed her first major record deal when she was just 15

She lived with her mum and step-brothers Tumbi and Mani, and went to local primary and secondary schools. Jamelia had one ambition: to be a star. When she was just 15-years-old, her dreams came true and she landed her first major record deal.

Family controversies

Growing up in one of Birmingham’s toughest council estates, Jamelia was exposed to things most people are fortunate enough to only read about.

Her father Donald is a convicted armed robber and was absent while Jamelia was growing up. Donald has been jailed numerous times and is believed to have at least five other children by other women.

When she was 13, Jamelia’s step-brother Tesrod Beckford was stabbed to death aged 15. Influenced by his surroundings, Tumbi became a member of one of Birmingham’s most notorious gangs – the Burger Boys.

Jamelia's brother Tobias was jailed for attempted murder in 2010 [image via West Midlands Police]

Tumbi is now serving life in prison for the murder of a teenager who was shot to death in 2003. That year another step-brother, Tafarwa Beckford, was investigated over the murders of two women.

Their brother Tessfa was later arrested for the same charges, but of them were cleared.

In 2010 Tobias Rowe, the brother Jamelia took to the BRIT Awards in 2005, was imprisoned for a minimum of 12 years for attempted murder.

Speaking to the Mirror that year, Jamelia confessed that she thinks her hard upbringing, particularly her dad’s behaviour, had a knock-on effect on her life.

She said: “My bad decisions in relationships are because I didn’t have a role model. When my first relationship ended, I didn’t have a dad to pick me up and say: ‘Don’t worry, you’ve still got your dad’. Things could have been different if I’d had that.”

Musical success

Jamelia managed to escape after signing to Capitol Records at 15. She released her first single with them in 1999, but it failed to make an impact and she parted ways with Capitol.

She was quickly snapped up by Parlophone and released a few singles to mediocre success. Her debut album was released in 2000 but entered the UK chart at number 39.

Despite the singles and album receiving mixed success, Jamelia won a MOBO Award for best video and at the 2001 BRIT Awards she was nominated for Best British Newcomer and Best British Female.

Jamelia’s breakthrough came when she released Superstar in 2003, the second single from her second album, Thank You. Superstar charted at number 3 in the UK, and is still her biggest selling single release.

Thank You was released shortly afterwards, but didn’t achieve the success expected after the reception of Superstar. The record company called for the album to be re-released, and Jamelia worked with Chris Martin of Coldplay for the repackaged version.

The title track from the album became Jamelia’s highest-ever charting single, entering at number two, and landed her nominations for best single at the 2004 MOBO and BRIT awards.

Although the album Thank You was certified double platinum, Jamelia’s third album Walk With Me didn’t perform as well and she parted ways with Parlophone.

Speaking to Digital Spy shortly afterwards, she said: “I probably wasn’t in the right frame of mind with Walk With Me. I love all the songs individually but I don’t feel it flows very well as an album, which makes it harder to relate to. It sold well over 100,000 copies – but I want double platinum every time!”

It was confirmed in 2010 that Jamelia had signed to All Around The World, the same record company as Tulisa, but she's yet to release any new material.

Television work

She's been a regular panelist on Loose Women since 2013

Since November 2013 Jamelia has been a regular panelist on ITV chat show Loose Women. During her time on the show, which is well known for discussing controversial topics, she has received backlash – most recently after claiming the high street shouldn’t cater to plus size women.

In 2013 and 2014, Jamelia appeared as a coach on The Voice of Ireland. Trying her hand at reality television, she took part in Bear Grylls: Mission Survive in 2015.

Later that year Jamelia was confirmed as one of the celebrity dancers taking part in the 13th series of Strictly Come Dancing.

Personal life

When she was 18 Jamelia got into a relationship with music manager Terry Wallen. Two years later she gave birth to their daughter Teja.

But Jamelia’s time with Terry almost killed her. She suffered daily beatings at the hands of Terry, and she previously admitted she kept her bruises hidden with make up.

She said: “He could’ve killed me, of course. The scariest thing was leaving. The psychological fear is much worse than being hit.”

Later she blamed her father’s absence, saying: “If I’d had a role model and guidance I wouldn’t have allowed a man to disrespect me. I’d have left the first time I got boxed in my face. I thought my dad didn’t love me so I thought it was normal for a man not to treat you with respect. But it’s not normal.”

She often says she's used everything she's been through to stop her girls from experiencing the same

Thankfully Jamelia found the strength to walk away shortly after Teja’s birth, and even insisted later that she’s ‘100 per cent forgiven Terry’.

In 2004 Jamelia started dating footballer Darren Byfield. They welcomed daughter Tiani in October 2005, but split in August 2007 following reports that he’d cheated.

The couple reconciled a month later and announced their engagement. They married in a private ceremony in June 2008, but just 18 months later it was announced that Jamelia had filed for divorce.

Charity work

In 2014 Jamelia teamed up with domestic violence charity Refuge to launch campaign #YouAreNotAlone.

She spoke about the abuse she faced during her relationship with Terry, and admitted: “It is still the hardest thing to talk about. The thing about domestic abuse is it’s something you never get over it. You can come to terms with it and forgive but the scars will always remain.

“For me, the best thing I could ever have done was to share my story – the best thing I could do was let other women know that they are not alone because that’s exactly how I felt. I felt as if no one would understand, no one would get it. I couldn’t tell anyone I was so embarrassed.”

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