Rule number one when you go visit Usher: remove your shoes.
Even if you’re Oprah.
The queen bee interviewer learned that quickly when she recently visited Usher at his Alpharetta home for an installment of “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” which aired on OWN Sunday night.
During the hour-long sitdown in a sunroom off Usher’s airy kitchen and a room with walls decorated with children’s (presumably his) artwork, Usher responded to Oprah’s questions about his failed marriage to Tameka Foster; his recently won custody battle of their two children, Usher V, 4, and Naviyd, 3; his relationship with his mom, Jonetta Patton (who also appeared on the show); the tragic death of his stepson, Kile Glover; and his fidelity to Foster.
Usher said he invited Oprah because he wanted her to see his “crib,” complete with treehouse in the backyard for the kids, and also so that he could “document” his experiences, with the plan to never discuss many of these issues publicly again.
“I’ve been a man of integrity throughout the entire process,” he said in reference to the custody battle, which Foster appealed, but was reportedly denied.
Here’s what he had to say about:
Relieving his mother of her duties as his longtime manager in 2007, shortly after his marriage, of which she openly disapproved.
“I never fired her…there was an opportunity to be a grandmother, to have what truly matters, which was family, which was why I wanted there to be that separation [so they wouldn’t have to fight over business issues]”.
How he felt about the negative reaction of fans and the public to his marriage.
“Of course it hurt me. This is supposed to be the light of my life, and nobody is responding the way I’d like them to respond. There were times when [Tameka and I] both spoke out and we shouldn’t. My relationship was always supposed to be about me and her.”
He also regretted his decision to go on MTV to defend his then-wife. “If this is someone you choose, then that’s who you chose.”
On being faithful to Foster.
“Towards the end of our marriage I found myself lost, and I just wanted out,” he said, then paused, licked his lips and stared out the window for a moment. “No. I was faithful at heart, but not faithful all the way. Even having a conversation with another woman, period, about matters of your relationship or emotions is, in my opinion, not being faithful.”
Oprah pressed, “But were you with another woman sexually?”
“When we were separated, yes, I was. We were not divorced,” Usher responded.
Oprah brought up the oft-discussed claim that Usher cheated on Foster with her friend who was a bridesmaid at their wedding.
“The conversation about the bridesmaid has always been one that’s been complicated,” he said. “Outside of my marriage and our separation and our divorce, I did have exchanges with [the bridesmaid]. We were friends. She was someone who was part of the children’s lives before.”
About the Kile Glover tragedy.
“I miss Kile,” Usher said, his voice cracking and eyes tearing up. He told Oprah he was in Los Angeles at the time of the accident and reached out “respectfully” to Ryan Glover, the boy’s father, and was able to get Foster on a plane back to Atlanta.
“We cooked together, we laughed, we sang. He loved to sing and dance, he loved to tell jokes,” Usher said of Kile.
He also put to rest the speculation that he didn’t visit Kile in the hospital or attend his funeral. He did visit the 11-year-old in the hospital and said, “It hurts me to hear people speculating that I wasn’t at the funeral. I absolutely was at the funeral. I was at the burial as well.”
Oprah lightened the mood and asked Usher if he had ever been intimate with someone with his own music in the background.
“Some may say this may be rather narcissistic, but, um, yeah. I’m a good motivator for the moment. Some guys don’t take their time; they don’t even put music on. I like to set the mood. A little Luther [Vandross], Marvin Gaye, then your more modern songs, like Usher.”
Usher’s mom, Jonetta Patton, who lives around the corner and is a daily presence in his home, joined the interview.
Oprah first asked her how she reacted to the news that Usher won his custody battle.
“I was so excited, for him, for myself, because I know it’s been really hard. It’s a lot of pressure, but for him to receive what he fought so hard for was so rewarding.”
Oprah also wanted to know if Patton ever gave Usher the “I told you so,” treatment about Foster.
“I never said, ‘I told you so’…if you learn something from this, [then] it’s OK. He said to me, ‘I’m sorry, I should have listened.’ He owned it. That was really special.”
And as for whether Patton is the type of mom who feels that no woman will be good enough for her son, she answered emphatically.
“I do have high standards, but there are women who are good enough for him.”
“You just didn’t believe that his ex-wife was the right person for him?” Oprah continued.
“Right,” Patton said. “I didn’t.”
Follow me on Twitter @ajc_music.
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene