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Jahmene feels the love
7:00am Saturday 3rd August 2013 in Music
Former supermarket employee Jahmene Douglas may have finished second in The X Factor, but he's finally found his happy place, as Shereen Low discovers.
Jahmene Douglas saunters into the room, with a big grin and hugs for everyone.
Dressed in a black T-shirt, navy hoodie and jeans, which are "super tight" because they haven't been worn in yet, the X Factor runner-up is in an upbeat mood.
"I can't complain, I'm blessed," he says. "I've been up to so much. Half the time, I can't even remember what I did last week."
This outgoing Douglas seems a different person to the shy singer we saw on the ITV talent show last year, with mentor Nicole Scherzinger telling him to "grow some balls".
His sensitive soul and nervous giggles hit a note with viewers, and Douglas signed a record deal with RCA after finishing as runner-up to winner James Arthur.
"I think shy is a common misconception, I think they get shy confused with humble and reserved. I'll talk at the right times and when I feel the need to talk," says the 22-year-old.
"I'm comfortable now," he adds. "I came from witness protection and not being able to do things and go to parties. I was one of those kids that was just inside all the time, so to go from that to TV cameras in your face, it was intense. I wouldn't change anything though, because it's helped me grow to who I am now."
His earnest brown eyes and smile hide a nightmarish childhood, witnessing his mother Mandy suffer horrendous abuse at the hands of his father, Eustace, who was eventually jailed.
Along with his three sibling and Mandy, Douglas was later entered into a witness protection programme.
While he's not going into details today, he is using his experiences to help others in the same situation, by becoming a youth ambassador for domestic abuse charity Women's Aid. He also donated the profits from his single Titanium to the organisation.
"I got annoyed when papers said I'm a 'sob story'. I didn't want people going through the same thing to define themselves as being closed, miserable and sad, they should be happy and in control of themselves. People need to know I've switched the negative into a positive and am raising money for a good cause," he says.
"I wanted to get involved because of what I've been through. There are so many things that need to be done and aren't being funded by governments."
After five years in prison, Douglas's father was released.
"He went to prison but when he came out, he had a clean slate and we got left with the debt and all the trouble. Something's wrong - the victim needs to have the support," he adds.
Soon after, the singer's brother Daniel was found dead in an apparent suicide. Douglas has dedicated His Eye Is On The Sparrow, one of the songs on his debut album Love Never Fails, to him.
"It was played at my brother's funeral. That was one of the first songs I recorded when I was 15 so it was nice to re-do it," he recalls.
Douglas's first record consists of ballad covers including Coldplay's Fix You, Beyonce's Halo, Whitney Houston's The Greatest Love Of All and Sarah McLachlan's Angel.
"I'm inspired by these people. These are songs that mean something to me. I got emotional singing some of them, like I Look To You. It's a very honest album," he says.
He's glad he got to record with his X Factor mentor Nicole Scherzinger on The Greatest Love Of All. "To have my friend on the album, that's cool. You guys get to hear the magic between good friends."
He's also immensely proud that Stevie Wonder joined him on Give Us This Day, but he's yet to meet his idol.
"Stevie Wonder! Like what?!," he exclaims. "It's a blessing to have the eighth Wonder of the world accept you, and appear on my track. I'm meeting him in September. I don't get star-struck at all but Stevie Wonder is amazing, so I might have a bit of a fan-girl moment."
A soul singer at heart, Douglas is keen to do a gospel album in the future and has already been recording and writing in the US, though he's not in any rush.
"This is just my beginning so it's nice to have songs that people already know," he says.
Despite not being a "seasoned singer", he was adamant about what he wanted.
"It's been emotional and frustrating because I want it a certain way, and then the music industry want it their way, and I had to remind them it's my album. I've been very stubborn with a lot of things and the way things sound," he admits.
It's incredible to think that, not that long ago, he was working in the Swindon branch of Asda.
He says he had doubts about doing The X Factor initially, though. "I said no at first because it's a pop show. It really wasn't for me and I thought there was no point going on there because I won't get anywhere. But my manager convinced me," he reveals.
He was picked to be in Scherzinger's final three boys category alongside Arthur and Rylan Clark.
"I'm surprised I got through the audition to be honest. A lot of people don't realise that when I first went out there, they played the wrong track and I had to go off and come back on," he says.
"Coming second is much better for me. Syco [Simon Cowell's company] is One Direction and Little Mix and that's not my sound at all, whereas RCA is Sade and Alicia Keys, who are more my bucket of music."
Crediting his mother as his "rock", he also praises his mentor for re-instilling his self-confidence.
"Everything she said on the show, like 'Jah-mazing', has stuck with me. I had some shaky moments and she reminded me to believe in myself," he says.
"Nicole will insult you but you'll be laughing about it by the end of it. When she said, 'Grow some balls', I laughed but when I left, I thought that was quite intense."
With one album under his belt and a promising career ahead of him, Douglas has clearly settled into his own skin.
"I've become more comfortable in who I am. The real Jahmene is probably a little bit unhinged and probably needs therapy, but I'm happy."
Extra time - second place successes
:: Rebecca Ferguson (series 7) - Liverpool-born singer Ferguson may have lost out to Matt Cardle, but her debut album Heaven was a hit.
:: Olly Murs (series 6) - The Essex lad has hosted spin-off show The Xtra Factor, been nominated for a Brit and had a No 1 album. Not bad for finishing second to Joe McElderry.
:: JLS (series 5) - JB Gill, Marvin Humes, Aston Merrygold and Oritse Williams are one of the most successful acts who didn't win the show. Although they are splitting up, they've topped the charts, won two Brit awards and starred in their own 3D film.
:: Ray Quinn (series 3) - Although he lost the top prize to Leona Lewis, the cheeky crooner had a No 1 debut album, was crowned champion of Dancing On Ice in 2009 and starred on stage.
:: Jahmene Douglas's debut album Love Never Fails is out now
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