Tameka Foster-Raymond is no stranger to the spotlight, the good and the bad. She began her career as a celebrity stylist and then emerged from behind the scenes to the forefront after her union with singer Usher Raymond.
Through it all, from her public divorce to the passing of her son, Tameka has remained resilient. The serial entrepreneur tragically lost her eleven-year-old son, Kile Glover, in a jet ski accident in 2012. She’s since launched a foundation in his honor and is breaking ground in a new industry to continue his legacy. Tameka created the animation series titled, The Odd Life of Kile Lyles, in honor of her son.
The mother of five shows no signs of slowing down and talked to Her Agenda about rebuilding after adversity, what scares her and breaking new ground.
Her Agenda: You’ve worked in many industries and had a successful career prior to having children. After you became a mother, how did you redefine what success looks like?
Tameka Foster-Raymond: Honestly, my priorities changed. Things that were once important to me became trivial. I’ve had to make some tough business decisions. As an example, at the time of my son’s passing in 2012, I owned two boutiques, an indoor kids facility and I still styled clients. I decided to close those businesses and step away.
Her Agenda: How did you get into styling?
Tameka Foster-Raymond: I was first introduced to fashion working at my Aunt Sadie’s boutique in Oakland, CA when I was young. My passion for fashion led me to attend the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. A friend asked me to style a new group in the entertainment industry. They really liked my ideas and creative outlook. From there, I gained new clients through word of mouth. My career as a stylist took off.
Her Agenda: After Kile’s passing and subsequently closing your businesses, how did you find the strength to tap back into your creative juices?
Tameka Foster-Raymond: It took time. I sat still for about 8 months. I hid out. I became a bit of a recluse. I didn’t go to many places, I laid low. People wanted to talk to me but I needed to drown out the background noise and figure out what was next. I drew strength from my children. I have four other sons that are equally as important. I couldn’t wither away, Kile wouldn’t have wanted that.
I sat still for about 8 months. I hid out. I became a bit of a recluse. I didn’t go to many places, I laid low.
Her Agenda: What advice would you give to others going through tragedy? How can they use grief as the fuel to spark creative endeavors?
Tameka Foster-Raymond: The pain will never go away but time makes the healing process a little more palatable. Keep yourself positively occupied and do something productive. If you do these two things the creative spark will naturally come.
Her Agenda: After taking time away, you launched Kile’s World Foundation on what would have been Kile’s twelfth birthday in 2013. What do you think he would be most proud of? What are you most proud of?
Tameka Foster-Raymond: At the time that Kile passed, I had two existing non-profits. I started Oakland Natives eleven years ago. The mission is to give back to the Oakland community, where I was raised. The second, The Lost Ones, provided mentorship to school-aged girls to help them realize their best selves. When Kile passed, my priorities shifted and I refocused all of my attention. I launched the foundation eight months after he passed. The focus of the organization is to reach kids in underserved communities and afford them the same exposure to the arts that Kile had. Kile loved the arts, he wanted to be an actor.
I’m so proud that we’ve been able to watch kids in the programs bloom. There were kids that joined that had never performed in public. Most of them had a lot of bottled up talent but were really shy. Their parents were in tears because they never knew their kids had the ability to perform. They couldn’t believe their kids had the voices, the acting ability or the ability to learn choreography. It’s been amazing.
Her Agenda: Reflecting on all that you’ve fearlessly accomplished, what scares you?
Tameka Foster-Raymond: The animation series, The Odd Life of Kile Lyles. It’s a huge learning curve because I’ve never done work in animation. It’s an untapped field in terms of Black people, Black women especially. There are not many of us. I feel like I’m an outlier in this field. I am in a league of my own. When I speak to my peers and people that I’ve worked in the past, none of them know anything about animation. Outside of Regina King, who worked on the Boondocks and Estelle, who did voice-over work for Steven Universe, I don’t know any Black women that are working in the animation field. I am excited to hopefully break some glass ceilings and bring back positive animation for Black kids.
The project is also self-funded. People make assumptions because of who I was married to that I should be able to just pay for it. If I could, I would have already. The animation is very expensive and I am relying on donations to help fund the project.
Her Agenda: A lot of us find ourselves being the first, only or one of the few in any space that we are in. What does it mean for you to be one of the only in the animation field?
Tameka Foster-Raymond: Naturally, I’m afraid of failure. However, failure is not an option for me. It’s a huge learning curve but I’m up for the challenge. I am learning on the job every day.
Her Agenda: You mentioned wanting to bring back positive animation for Black kids in The Odd Life of Kile Lyles. What are some of the themes the series will explore?
Tameka Foster-Raymond: The plan for the show is for it to be very pop-culture heavy so that it’s relatable. It will get kids’ attention with current terminology, good music, and relevant fashion. I’m going to marry each of those elements in every episode. There will also be learning lessons. One of the main characters on the show is Kile’s best friend, Dream Rivera. Dream is a Mexican immigrant. The kids tease her about her name and other things. Kile stands up to defend her and she explains how she got her name. Her family came to America [as] Dreamers and the episode explores what that looks like. The series will discuss topics that are on the news every day. When you put these topics in front of children, they become teachable moments. I’m going to sneak a lot of lessons that will facilitate conversations with kids and their parents.
The series will discuss topics that are on the news every day. When you put these topics in front of children, they become teachable moments.
Her Agenda: You are working on a lot through the foundation and the animated series, in addition to taking care of four children. How do you make time for self-care?
Tameka Foster-Raymond: I’m a multi-tasker so I’m always working. I have to slow myself down. I’m able to do that because I have a beautiful co-parenting situation. My kids are with their father half of the time. When they are not with me, I use that time to work. I also plan my facials and spa days. I definitely make time for myself.
[Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]