The Salvation Army for a new generation

Xpress yourself

‘X Factor’ finalist JAHMÉNE DOUGLAS tells Renée Davis how singing helped him overcome a traumatic past and how his faith affects his music

ON the final night of The X Factor last year, Jahméne Douglas stepped onstage. He sang ‘Angels’ and ‘Move on up’ and duetted with his mentor Nicole Scherzinger in ‘The Greatest Love of All’. Nicole cried. The audience cheered. Would he be the X Factor winner? How would the public vote?

It was an exciting night for the shy guy with the big voice. But life had not always been so positive for Jahméne.

‘I remember listening to my mother scream for help as she was being beaten by my father,’ he says. ‘As a child it made me shiver and took so much out of me emotionally. I had to zone out and pray. I said to God: “Please make it stop.”

‘When I was growing up, I would never know what to say or do. I wouldn’t know how to act. I could be the perfect little angel, but it still wouldn’t be good enough for my dad.

‘He did things that just shouldn’t be done to a seven-year-old. He’d throw me against the wall, punch me and use whatever he could to hit me. But it was my mum that got the worst of everything.’

To cope with the harsh conditions at home, Jahméne turned to his love of singing.

‘Music became my therapy. I had dreams of being a singer, but I never believed I could fully pursue them. My mother would always encourage me to hold on to my dream and try to focus on positive things rather than our tough situation.’

When Jahméne was 14, his father left and was sent to prison for various offences, including domestic violence.

‘I reached my lowest point when he left,’ Jahméne says. ‘A lot of people think I would’ve breathed a sigh of relief, but him leaving was a different type of torture. We were left with money troubles and suffered trauma from what we had been through.’

After his father was released from prison, Jahméne and his family moved to Swindon for their safety. They had to change their names and move into a safe house. The experience had a devastating effect on Jahméne’s oldest brother, Daniel.

‘He didn’t like being controlled and yet we were still being controlled by Dad, even though he wasn’t there any more,’ Jahméne explains. ‘My brother wanted to take that control into his own hands. He went missing, and then his body was found. He’d taken his own life.’

It was Jahméne’s faith in God and attending church that helped him and his family through the tragedy.

‘My dad didn’t want us to go to church, but hitting rock bottom allowed me to find God for myself. In college, someone invited me along to an African church. It was the best kind of therapy for me. I also realised that in church other people could get something from my singing.

‘A guy I knew told me that The X Factor was letting managers put acts forward, and he offered to manage me. Initially I said no and that The X Factor wasn’t for me because there was too much pop music in it. The guy promised me that it was going to be different as they were looking for artists rather than entertainers. I didn’t have anything to lose, so I thought I’d try it.’

Last summer, Jahméne impressed judges Gary Barlow, Nicole Scherzinger, Tulisa Contostavlos and Louis Walsh with a powerful rendition of Etta James’s ‘At Last’.

‘That audition was madness,’ he says. ‘There were a few little mishaps. When I went onstage for the first time, they played the wrong backing track, so I had to start again.

‘I was also wearing a suit that was very tight,’ he laughs, ‘but for continuity I had to keep my top button done up, and it was really hard to breathe.’

Jahméne sang his way through to the programme’s final and won the hearts of the public with his modest demeanour. Week after week of live shows, press interviews and appearances around the UK made him a busy man. His faith in God influenced his behaviour offstage and on.

The Sun reported that Jahméne refused to sing Katy Perry’s ‘Last Friday Night’ because it was ‘about boozing’.

Jahméne explains: ‘You can’t compromise when it comes to the foundations you have built your life on. If you do, you will start to fall down. And other people who look up to you will do the same thing.’

Jahméne was supported in his decisions by his mentor Nicole.

‘I didn’t realise that the media would go so crazy over my decision not to sing a certain song, but my fellow contestants also backed me up,’ he says.

On the final night of The X Factor, Jahméne sang his heart out, but he lost out to fellow contestant James Arthur. Yet he remained happy.

‘When I began on The X Factor, I never thought
I would even get second place,’ he remembers. ‘But I didn’t need first place. I’m signed to RCA with artists such as Alicia Keys and Sade.’

Jahméne’s debut album Love Never Fails is due out on 22 July. It includes a few gospel numbers, such as ‘His Eye is on the Sparrow’, as well as Beyoncé’s ‘Halo’
and Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’. He plans to do more gospel
in the future.

‘The first album is my interpretation of songs that have already been recorded by other artists,’ Jahméne says. ‘Because I’m an X Factor contestant, I don’t have complete control immediately of what sort of album I do. It was hard to come to terms with at first. But then I thought if I do a gospel album straight away, I might alienate people. Doing covers of songs that people already know and putting a gospel twist on them will prove more effective.

‘On my second album, I will be playing around a little bit more, because I do write a lot of gospel stuff.’

Being in the public eye as a Christian can be difficult. But Jahméne has demonstrated to his audience that he is serious about his faith. He plans to show the love of Jesus at any opportunity.

‘I’m a youth ambassador for Women’s Aid, a charity against domestic violence,’ he says. ‘I will be donating all the profits from my single “Titanium” to the charity.

‘For me, singing is not about the fame and money, but it’s about what others can get from it. Of course, I need to pay the bills, but there’s no need to be greedy.’

Jahméne’s life has completely changed over the past year. He explains what his faith means to him in these new circumstances.

‘I want God to be able to use me,’ he says. ‘I want to keep giving out the love God gives to me. It’s like a constant cycle.’

Thanks to War Cry for sharing this article with us

Add comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Related articles:


Worship Through Sport

By Nick Plant


Exam Season

How to survive!


Preparing Your Youth For Uni

A Fusion Partnership Blog