Actress, singer and songwriter Tamyra Gray rose to prominence as a finalist on the popular reality television show “American Idol” in 2002, where she finished fourth. After leaving the show, she won a management contract with 19 Entertainment and launched her debut album, “The Dreamer” (2004), with 19 Recordings Ltd. The album was a Top 30 hit on the Billboard 200 (#23) and a Top 20 hit on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart (#16). The H. Hector & J. Vasquez Mixes of the first single, “Raindrops Will Fall,” which she co-wrote, peaked at No. 5 on Billboard's Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. Gray also co-wrote the No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 song “I Believe” and the tracks “If You Were Mine” and “The Lover In Me” on the Jessica Simpson 2006 album “A Public Affair.”
On the acting front, Gray is perhaps best known for portraying Aisha Clements on “Boston Public” (7 episodes, 2003), from which she was handed a Teen Choice nomination. She also played Mimi Marquez on the hit Broadway musical “Rent,” a role she played from May 2007 to June 2008. In addition, the winner of Miss Atlanta in 1998 appeared in the independent film “The Gospel” (2005), the movie “Rachel Getting Married” (2008) and the television series “Half & Half,” “Tru Calling” and “Las Vegas.”
Gray is married to singer, songwriter and record producer Sam Watters. They have one child together.
Childhood and Family:
Tamyra Monica Gray was born on July 26, 1979, in Takoma Park, Maryland, to a big family of 12 children. She was raised in Gaithersburg until age 13. Her family then moved to Atlanta, Georgia. Tamyra, whose nickname is Joy Bug, took choir as a young child and performed with her sister Kim in a duo called the Silhouettes. They also danced under the stage name Element for a hip hop company and appeared in local commercials. She was also a cheerleader and on the dance team in high school. After graduating high school, Tamyra enrolled at Georgia State University, where she majored in business law and entertainment management. While in college, she won the title of Miss Atlanta 1998. Tamyra continued to perform after college and also worked various jobs, including working as a preschool teacher, day care worker, telemarketer, party motivator, and waitress, before entering the “American Idol” competition.
On September 2, 2006, Tamyra married her boyfriend of two years, Sam Watters (born July 23, 1970, in Camp Springs, Maryland) of the group Color Me Badd, in Capri, Italy. On July 17, 2010, Tamyra and her husband had a daughter they named Sienna Marie. Tamyra also has a stepson named Kieran from Watters' previous marriage.
Raindrops Will Fall
Having performed since she was a child, Tamyra Gray received a big break in June 2002 when she made it to the top ten finalists in the reality television show “American Idol.” She emerged as an early favorite in the show and charmed audiences and critics alike with her renditions of such songs as Diana Ross' “Touch Me in the Morning,” Ike & Tina Turner's “A Fool in Love” and Luther Vandross' “A House Is Not a Home.” On her final night in the contest, she performed “New Attitude” by Patti LaBelle and “Feel the Fire” by Stephanie Mills. One week after she left “American Idol,” Gray was signed by creator Simon Fuller to his newly formed independent record label 19 Records, a division of his 19 Management.
On the “American Idol Christmas CD,” Gray was featured in a solo version of “Silent Night” and a duet version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” with Ruben Studdard. She also appeared in the TV documentary “An American Idol Christmas,” which aired on Fox on November 25, 2003, with other contestants like Clay Aiken, Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard and Kimberley Locke. The same year, she performed with the previous winner Kelly Clarkson on the track “You Thought Wrong,” which was included on Clarkson's debut album “Thankful” (2003). She also co-wrote the song with Clarkson, Babyface, Harvey Mason, Jr., and Damon Thomas.
Still in 2003, Gray branched out to acting when she landed the recurring role of Aisha Clements on the David E. Kelly drama “Boston Public.” While on the series, she appeared in seven episodes and was nominated for a 2003 Teen Choice for Choice TV Breakout Star - Female for her performance. Gray went on to appear as Zora Kane in “The Big Foot in My Mouth Episode” (2003) episode of the UPN sitcom “Half & Half” and an episode of “American Juniors.”
Gray's debut album, “The Dreamer,” was released on May 25, 2004. The album peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard 200 and No. 16 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. “The Dreamer” contained 13 tracks, including “Raindrops Will Fall,” “Ha Ha” and “Faces,” all of which she co-wrote with her then-boyfriend Sam Watters. The H. Hector and J. Vasquez mixes of Gray's lead single, “Raindrops Will Fall,” rose to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. A remix version of the song also peaked at No. 9 on the same chart. Although she later parted ways with 19 Entertainment, she has remained close to Fuller.
Also in 2004, Gray returned to “American Idol” on several occasions as a performer during its third season. She performed her songs “Raindrops Will Fall” and “Star” and the “National Anthem” to open the final results show of the season. She also co-wrote the season three single “I Believe,” which was performed by finalists Fantasia Barrino and Diana DeGarmo. The song was then released by Barrino and became Barrino's No. 1 hit single on the Billboard Hot 100.
Gray next played Carly Anders in an episode of Fox's supernatural drama “Tru Calling” called “Death Becomes Her,” which was broadcasted on April 15, 2004. She then received the two episode role of Danielle on the Amanda Bynes and Jennie Garth starring sitcom “What I Like About You” in October 2004. In November, 2004, she was cast as in an ill-fated Broadway production of “Bombay Dreams.” The show was closed on January 1, 2005.
In 2005, Gray made her big screen debut in “The Gospel,”
an independent dramatic musical about a successful young R&B
singer. Directed and written by Rob Hardy, the film was nominated for
a Black Movie Award in the category of Outstanding Achievement in
Screenwriting and three Black Reel Awards for Best Actor (Idris
Elba), Best Actress (Nona Gaye) and Best Screenplay, Original or
Adapted. Gray played the supporting role of Rain Walker in the movie.
She also contributed the song “Now Behold the Lamb” to
the soundtrack of the movie, which rose to No. 1 on the Billboard
Soundtrack chart. She then appeared as herself in “Creeping
with the Enemy” (also 2005), an episode of “All of Us,”
a sitcom created by Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith and Betsy Borns,
and portrayed Patty in an episode of the NBC series “Las Vegas”
named “Like a Virgin” (2006).
2006 saw Gray contribute to Jessica Simpson's fifth studio album, “A Public Affair,” as a backup singer and co-writer. The album, released on August 29, 2006, debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and went gold in the U.S.
Gray made her return to Broadway when she landed the role of Mimi Marquez in the hit musical “Rent.” She was on the show from May 29, 2007, to June 15, 2008, and was replaced by Renée Elise Goldsberry. After leaving the production, she resumed her film career by appearing in the 2008 drama “Rachel Getting Married,” which was directed by Jonathan Demme, written by Jenny Lumet and starred Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt. The film premiered at the Venice International Film Festival on September 3, 2008, where it received a Golden Lion nomination and the Toronto International Film Festival on September 6, 2008. It was nominated for Independent Spirit Awards in the categories of Best Actor, Best Picture, Best First Screenplay, Best Female Lead (Hathaway), Best Supporting Female (DeWitt) and Best Supporting Female (Debra Winger) and an Academy Award for Best Actress (Hathaway). The film grossed over $16 million worldwide.
Gray is currently working on a new album.