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HAVING IT ALL
"I've got one of those minds that never clicks off," says Usher, who was recently nominated for eight Grammys. "He thinks he's Superman," jokes personal assistant and best friend Keith Thomas.
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Usher's key to romance: "The best present a man can give a woman is his undivided attention." Since getting her phone number in August, he's been doting on supermodel Naomi Campbell. In November, she presented him with one of two trophies at the MTV Europe Awards (left), then for Thanksgiving Day, she jetted to Georgia to share his mom's fried turkey and collard greens.
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A GOOD YEAR
For Usher, 2004 was the year he had his cake and ate it too. The multiplatinum singer (whose bandmates playfully bashed him with cake on his 26th birthday Oct. 14 during his concert at New York's Madison Square Garden) put on one of the highest grossing tours of the year, taking in $29 million in ticket sales.
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Usher has an unabashed passion for fashion. The stylish singer (from left: jaunty in 2002; casual cool in June; dressed to thrill in 2003) owns thousands of hats and picks up a new one "every time I hit the mall." He's a clotheshorse too: In 2004, he spent $10,000 on a shopping spree at the Girbaud flagship store in New York City.
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Since releasing his quadruple-platinum fifth album, Confessions, in March, Usher (with rapper-producer Lil' Jon at a TRL appearance) has hovered at the top of the charts. In its first week, Confessions sold 1.1 million copies, and subsequently spent nine weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 – more time than any other artist in 2004.
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At a celebrity charity basketball game in Miami on July 25 (part of 'NSync's Challenge for the Children benefit event), Usher's jump shot helped his team win in overtime, 120-98. "I'm cool enough to get by with the guys. And just sexy enough to be cool with the ladies," says the singer.
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Mom Jonnetta Patton always saw a spark in her son (in 2001). After Usher won a middle-school talent competition, his fellow competitors "were so mad, they accused him of lip-synching," she recalls. "That's when I realized that this kid had something." Today, she's also his manager. "Usher takes care of me; I take care of him," she says.
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After snagging 11 Billboard Music awards (left), 4 American Music awards, 4 Teen Choice awards, 3 Radio Music awards, 2 MTV Video Music awards, 2 Source Hip-Hop Music awards, 2 BET awards and 1 Vibe award all in one year, what's the big plan for 2005? "To slow down and breathe," Usher says, "because you must find balance in the middle of mayhem."
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LIVE & IN PERSON
Before gigs, "I say a prayer to calm down," says Usher (performing in March). But onstage, the singing and dancing powerhouse – who launched his nationwide Truth tour in August – is electrifying "in his movements, his gestures, the way he expresses his lyrics," says former duet partner Monica.
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Though they met in 1993, it wasn't until Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas starred in Usher's 2001 "U Remind Me" video that the musical pair (at a 2003 pre-Grammy party) began dating. They split in January, with Chilli asserting that Usher "portrayed himself as faithful, and he wasn't." Says Usher: "Rozonda was my dream girl. I still love her, but we wanted different things."
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Usher and little brother James, now 19, have always been close (left, celebrating Easter when the budding singer was 9). Recently, his younger sib (right, in 2002) got to play a prank on Usher, pretending to shoplift for an episode of MTV's Punk'd.
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RIPPED & READY
To maintain his famous six-pack abs, Usher (in 2001) does 1,000 stomach crunches and works out and dances six to eight hours daily. "I don't touch weights," he says. "It's better to lift your own weight. That's why you see boxers punching the bag, doing jump rope. It makes you stronger."
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Usher has a lot in common with friend Justin Timberlake (in 2003), including chart-topping success and an abundance of devoted fans. "My security searches my hotel rooms to make sure there aren't women hiding out under the bed," says Usher. Some have even tattooed his name on their bodies. "That's one thing that makes you stop, like, 'Whoa! You did what?' "
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In 1992, after relocating to Atlanta, Usher (pictured in 1994) signed with LaFace Records. But the image makeover that producer Sean "P. Diddy" Combs had in mind for the Chattanooga, Tenn., native wasn't his style. "That whole bad-boy thing, me frowning for the camera – that wasn't me," says Usher, who got his start singing in a church choir.
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IN ON THE ACT
Usher made his acting debut in a 1997 episode of Moesha and has since appeared in several films (using his full name, Usher Raymond), including 2001's Texas Rangers (left, with Ashton Kutcher and James Van Der Beek) and most recently the Ray Charles biopic Ray, as Jackie Wilson.
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Already a two-time Grammy winner, Usher (accepting an award in 2003 for best male RampB vocal performance for "U Don't Have to Call") has a definite plan for his future: "I've got to become the richest man alive," he says. "I want it all – a little bit of Will Smith, Puffy and Michael (Jackson)."
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