Tameka Foster Raymond has a message for anyone who thinks Usher’s new, divorce-themed single, “Papers,” is about their short-lived marriage. “It’s entertainment. People shouldn’t take it literally,” she says. “[But] given what we’re going through, it’s in poor taste.” That said, the lyrics (written by Sean Garrett) seem to have a ring of truth—especially when Usher sings about “so much drama.” Before she wed the R&B star, 31, in an Atlanta hotel suite in 2007, blogs called Tameka, 38 (a fashion stylist and owner of Swanky Image Group), a cradle robber, gold-digger, criminal—even a man! (She says she’s none of the above.) Earlier this year, the mother of five—including Usher V, 23 months, and Naviyd, 10 months, her kids with the singer—nearly died right before undergoing liposuction. And about a week after “Papers” hit the Web, a tape of a Sept. 11 911 call surfaced in which Usher said his car had been keyed after he filed a police report “because of potential domestic violence between me and my ex-wife.” (The case is closed, and no charges were filed.) With her divorce settlement still pending, Tameka spoke to PEOPLE’s Tiffany McGee about her difficult breakup, her children with Usher, her mother-in-law and the procedure that almost killed her.
How did you find out Usher wanted a divorce?
It was rumored [on the Internet], so friends and family called, saying, “Are you okay?” I didn’t understand why. But Usher and I weren’t really speaking then. He was away recording, and I was angry at other things going on. (At that time, Usher was spotted out with another woman.) He filed two days later.
Why do you think you split?
I don’t really know. It was a pressure-filled relationship with little support in the beginning. Pressure of children, career, fans, competition, aging—it was too much. I don’t blame myself.
Some cynics say you got pregnant with Usher’s child to trap him into marrying you. Your response?
We definitely tried for it. And last I checked, he wasn’t trapped, he did music videos while I was pregnant.
Did you get along with Usher’s mother and manager, Jonnetta Patton? She didn’t go to your wedding.
We’ve had a dispute. But it’s not that serious. We didn’t have documentable arguments. I don’t think she was happy about [me and Usher]. He was a sex symbol, and I don’t fit in the marketing plan. She probably felt it was career suicide. At times [she and I] felt a little off, but I’d say we were fine. We’re cordial.
What kind of partner was Usher?
Very romantic. Very caring. He’s the best egg scrambler! If we ever argued, it was about him being away [for work].
Did you plan to have a second child so soon after your first?
We were surprised but happy.
So when did things go wrong?
When he started doing this album at the top of the year. We disagreed over his schedule. But they were normal spats.
Did you try counseling?
It came up. But I can’t answer that.
There was speculation his new album would be called Monster—and that it’s a reference to you.
I’m not that bad. [Laughs] “Monster” is slang for a big hit.
What’s hardest about the split?
When I see my kids, I think of what should have been. I saw us growing old together. The world is probably saying, “She’s already old!”
What made you decide to have liposuction in Brazil in February?
I wasn’t there for surgery; I went for my employee’s son’s birthday. Usher was in Las Vegas. [In São Paulo] I heard, “The best surgeons are here.” It was two months after I had Naviyd. I wanted my stomach flat by Valentine’s Day.
Had Usher ever said anything negative about your body?
No. He never made me feel anything but beautiful. It was just me.
You went into cardiac arrest while being anesthetized.
I was in a coma for two days. I woke up like, “Where am I?” My husband was there. He was so sweet. He washed my hair and made sure I had quiet.
But he left before you did. Was he mad at you?
Probably! But he never said it. He didn’t say, “Why did you do this?” He left because his emergency visa expired.
Why did he call the cops Sept. 11?
I can’t honestly explain that. I heard it on the radio.
In his 911 call, he cites “potential domestic violence” the day before.
None of that happened. He said his car [was keyed]. That car is registered to me. Why would I key my own car?
What is your relationship now?
Cordial. We’re not beefing. We’ll be excellent co-parents. He sees our sons every week [when he’s in town].
Do you love him?
Of course. I still love him very much and I’m sure I always will. Do I want to be with him? I don’t know.