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Hard work paying off

Reality TV shows have their critics. But every once in a while a true star emerges from them.

Lemar

Reality TV shows have their critics. But every once in a while a true star emerges from them. With Pop Idol it was Will Young. And with Fame Academy it was Lemar - even though he didn't win the series.

And to cap a successful year which saw a trio of hit singles, Lemar Obika was crowned Best Urban Act at the Brit Awards in February.

Now he's gearing up for his first headlining UK tour, which takes in Newcastle City Hall next week.

"I have mixed emotions," he says. "I am a bit nervous but I am extremely excited.

"You work hard and hope something will happen and people will recognise what you are trying to do.

"I never knew how big it would get. Of course, I've been to Newcastle before, with the Fame Academy tour, and I remember what a great night that was. So I'm looking forward to returning, this time in my own right."

As well as touring, Lemar will also be busy over the next few months putting the finishing touches to his second album.

"I'm hoping it will come out probably around November. I'm not too worried about it. People talk about the `difficult' second album, but I'm just doing the music that I love," he continues.

Lemar has certainly made his mark, and has his Brit Award to show for it. "It's good to be recognised for what you have done," he says.

Less than two years ago, Lemar's hopes of making it as a singer seemed dead in the water.

Having achieved his ambition of securing a record deal with a major record label, the 25-year-old singer's dream suddenly turned to dust when, before even getting a record out, his contract was cancelled: a victim of internal changes at the label.

This was a cruel blow for the Tottenham born singer who had spent nearly seven years building his reputation on the London R&B scene: performing alongside the likes of Destiny's Child and Usher along the way.

Reluctantly, Lemar returned to his old day job as an accounts manager at the Nat West Bank and weighed up his options.

Chief among these was a return to full time education: the singer having earlier turned down a place to study pharmacy at Cardiff University in favour of pursuing his singing career.

But as it turned out, fate was to have different plans in store for him.

"I'd left my keys in the staff cafeteria one lunch time and went back to get them," he remembers.

"That's when I saw the TV advert for Fame Academy. It was completely a chance thing. I think if I hadn't gone through what I'd gone through with my record deal I wouldn't really have been interested."

Not only did Lemar make his way through the qualifying rounds and on to the finals of the BBC Fame Academy show but his performances of Al Green's Let's Stay Together and duet with Lionel Ritchie on Easy Like A Sunday Morning would become highlights of the programme's 10-week run.

With his all too obvious talent and charisma confirming him as an early favourite with the programme's huge audience, Lemar would eventually make it to the show's final week before ending up coming third in the overall competition.

The key point for him is that he managed to achieve his success on Fame Academy while staying true to himself, both musically and personally.

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