Imaj Thomas (born August 16, 1989), known mononymously as Imaj, is an American country singer, songwriter, novelist, visual artist, actress and humanitarian. She is the author of Harlow: A Novel and the daughter of actor Philip Michael Thomas.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Music Career
- 2.1 Diverse Influence
- 2.2 Traditional Country Style
- 2.3 Debut Album “IMAJ”
- 2.4 Industry and Media Reaction
- 3 Literature
- 4 Film and Acting
- 5 Personal life
- 5.1 Humanitarianism
- 5.2 Purity Ring
- 6 External Links
- 7 References
Imaj was born in Miami Beach, Florida to a model mother and actor father, Philip Michael Thomas who became an 80′s icon as detective Ricardo Tubbs on the original Miami Vice television series. Before Vice, Thomas was a broadway singer in the original San Francisco cast of Hair. Imaj attributes her various creative outlets to her eclectic parents and industry upbringing.
By the age of 6 years-old, Imaj had written her first book. She was considered a child prodigy by her private art teacher at the age of nine. At seventeen her self-portrait was displayed at the Dallas Museum of Art. Two years later, she finished a movie script which by the age of twenty-one she adapted into her first published novel, Harlow.
As a singer, Imaj has always spoken of her love of country music above all but has also shown that she doesn’t limit herself musically to any one genre or language. She taught herself phonetically to sing in six languages including German, Spanish and Japanese and crosses several genres including folk, pop, soul and southern rock. Still, her heart remains in traditional country music. She associates her love of country to her passion for writing stories and talks about the purity the genre has maintained through its life. Her mother who grew up as the black-sheep of her family, listening to Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt while everyone else was listening to the Funkadelics, was also a major influence.
Traditional Country Style
Imaj is known for her elaborate concerts, having no less than five costume changes per show. Her bejeweled and studded outfits along with her traditional style of music is a tip of the hat to her nostalgia for the golden age of country. She tends to make unique song choices from a platinum vinyl collection, spanning such icons as Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, Sr. to Loretta Lynn, Janis Joplin and Tammy Wynette.
Imaj has self-written many songs and has publicly stated that she learned to play guitar just so she could write her own music. Ron Grimes, multi-platinum songwriter best known for his work with LeAnn Rimes, came out of retirement to work with Imaj and they too have written many songs together. Imaj originals range from bubbly stories of first-love like “Blush” to the more traditional “Train Song” to serious tunes like “Fame,” a song she wrote about her own journey to The Grand Ole Opry and “Passport” an ubi sunt about the transition into death she wrote with a hospice patient. “Soldiers have a special place in my heart,” Imaj said during one of her shows just before performing a tear-filled rendition of Trace Adkin’s “‘Til The Last Shot’s Fired” and closing with her famous three little words, “Peace and Love.”
Debut Album “IMAJ”
Imaj is currently on a nationwide radio tour promoting her first single, “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” from her self-titled debut album, IMAJ. She co-wrote eight of the twelve songs on the album including her single. When asked about why she chose that song out of all the others, Imaj said, “Well, your first single is your first impression on the world. I wanted to choose a song that was most representative of who I am and I’m about and one that I feel everyone could relate to. ‘Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner’ was it. The premise of the song is that old cliche, ‘If you could invite anyone to dinner, alive or passed on, who would you invite?’. We’ve got everyone at the table from Jesus to Elvis to Willie Nelson and Lil Wayne. It’s all about being able to sit down and have that space where you can just be yourself, you know. It’s all about love.”
Industry and Media Reaction
Imaj has been seen as somewhat of an anomaly in the country music industry, being—not only one of a handful of artists to go the traditional route—but, like Charley Pride, she is one of even fewer Black artists in what is still a predominately white medium. Because of this, her pursuits have been an uphill battle as she does not mirror the current trend of mostly blonde-hair, blue-eyed pop country singers of today. However, the media has been receptive to her unusual story. ABC WFAA Channel 8′s, Debbie Denmon featured her story on primetime and compared her rarity to a jewel, dubbing her “Dallas’ Little Gem” and commenting that, “…the response from viewers on IMAJ’s story was huge! It was the biggest response we’ve had to a local story in a long time.” Good Morning Texas declared her the next “Diva-in-the-making in the music industry” and TV 33 and Pink Memo Magazine labeled her a “Pop Culture Trendsetter.”
As the media’s intrigue with Imaj grew so did her audiences. Live Nation reached out to her to perform at venues like House of Blues where she performed to a sold out audience. Imaj has opened for several leaders in the country music industry including multi-platinum selling artist LeAnn Rimes, grammy-award winning Billy Dean and five time multi-platinum selling artist Collin Raye who calls her, “Country’s next big star” and performing as Gretchen Wilson‘s special guest for her fan club during CMA Fest. Imaj has since returned to CMA Fest 2012 where she floated in the 8th Annual Kick-Off Parade and performed on the Chevrolet Roadhouse Stage.
Imaj published her first novel, Harlow, in 2011. It is the first book in her Harlow trilogy. The story takes place in 1937 England, in the fictional, posh country side of Mortalis, where a bi-racial girl is confined to her father’s castle in a labyrinth of secrets, surfaced by the hidden agenda of a global elite.
Imaj indicates that Harlow was inspired by a mix-up of stories from an unknown book she found in her mother’s library, wherein a bi-racial girl was born from a British royal heir and locked away, never to be seen again. In her mind, she had mixed up the stories of Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Louise Marie Thérèse (The Black Nun of Moret). The book was later identified as 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro With Complete Proof by J. A. Rogers.
In the Q&A in the back of her book Imaj says, “Harlow is fundamentally a journey of self-discovery, an exploration of the human spirit,” and as far as what readers will come away with after reading Harlow, she explains, “Writing the book was like painting a mirror. Perhaps, some readers will find themselves basking in the beauty of their own reflection.”
Like the Harlow character, Imaj has been subjected to the familiar question of “What are you?” posed to persons of perceived biracial race. She has stated that she considers herself and others simply human beings (one of the many ways she chooses to inspire world peace through the example of non-identification). Her father is considered mixed race, with German, Native American, African American and Irish ancestry.
Film and Acting
Imaj has appeared in the film River of Stone (1994) with her father, actor Philip Michael Thomas. She also, filmed, edited and starred as the Harlow character in the book trailer to her novel of the same name.
Imaj has stated that when Harlow (book) is to be adapted to film she would prefer to play the Harlow (character) as the novel is semi-autobiographical – herself and the protagonist being doppelgängers. She always imagined the late River Phoenix as Harlow’s love interest, William Hart because of their similar brooding demeanor, rebel image and vegan diet.
Equally known for her humanitarianism as for her multi-talents, Imaj has stated that her ultimate goal is to inspire world peace. During her shows she speaks of bringing the world together through the “universal language” of music. She has campaigned against bullying, volunteered for hospice (two of the songs on her debut album IMAJ are co-written with a hospice patient), donated her albums for silent auction to the American Cancer Society and horse rescues, performed for children’s hospitals, retirement communities, dog charities and ran an Instagram contest to inspire world peace. She continues to keep charity work parallel to her musical endeavors.
Imaj has openly spoken about her purity ring which signifies her vow to abstain from premarital sex. However, she indicates that her decision is not of the True Love Waits movement (made popular by other celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and The Jonas Brothers) but a personal, secular choice which she does not impose on others. She states that staying a virgin until marriage is only one reason of why she wears the ring, that “like any diamond [to] see the true majesty [one] must look at [purity] as a whole.” She maintains that, “most deeply, [the] ring means living purely of heart and mind is to discover truth without the veil of ideologies—the authority of beliefs and non-beliefs—so that one can fundamentally explore the entirety of oneself.”
- Eakin, Dan (May 17, 2012). “Imaj Thrills Crowd With Beauty, Grace, Versatility”. McKinney Courier-Gazette. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
- Denmon, Debbie. “Frisco singer seeks country music breakthrough”. WFAA Channel 8. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
- Fowler, Jonathan. “NAM Welcomes Country Singer Imaj”. Nashville Artist Management. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
- “Bruce Lee”. Dallas Museum of Art. Retrieved 6 March 2007.
- “21 Year-Old Imaj Performs “Train Song”. ABC Good Morning Texas. Retrieved 6 July 2011.
- Riordan, Carol (22 November 2011). “Twitter Tuesday Live 11-22-11, Episode 52″. Butterflies Radio Interview.
- Grimes, Ron. “Blue (LeAnn Rimes album)”. Wikipedia. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
- “IMAJ “Blush” Concert, On Tour with Collin Raye and CMA Fest & Parade”. Official Imaj Newsletter. May 14, 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
- “Meet North Texas Singer Imaj”. ABC Good Morning Texas. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
- Proter, Roni. “Country Musician Imaj Chats with CW33 Roni Proter”. TV 33 and Pink Memo Magazine. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
- “The Foundation Room welcomes female country singer Imaj!”. House of Blues. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
- Raye, Collin. “Rising Star Imaj Opens Shows for Collin [Raye“]. Blog. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
- Eakin, Dan (May 5, 2012). “Frisco Singer [Imaj Called Country’s Next Big Star”]. Plano Star. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
- Carter, Jimmy. “Gretchen Wilson Welcomes Special Guest”. Ask Jimmy Carter. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
- Harlow. USA: Noble Hart Library. 2011. pp. 4–7. ISBN 978-0983677581.
- Green, Alexandria (2012-2-2). “Imaj, Writer and Country Music Cutie, Talks About Her Book, ‘Harlow’”. Rolling Out Magazine 12 (13): 8.
- Frappier, Jennifer (August 24, 2011). “Episode 222: Imaj”. Mixed Chicks Chat Radio. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
- “Philip Michael Thomas (ancestry)”. Wikipedia. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
- Zoglin, Richard (1985-09-16). “Cool Cops, Hot Show”. Time Magazine (Time Inc.). Retrieved 25 May 2012.
- “River of Stone (Movie)”. IMDB. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
- “HARLOW: A NOVEL by Imaj (Official Book Trailer)” (Video). Lewisville, Texas: YouTube. 2010-6-10.
- “Harlow: The Novel (Behind the Scenes)” (Video). Lewisville, Texas: YouTube. 2010-15-10.
- “Imaj – Biography at the Internet Movie Database”. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
- “Stop Bulling Now”. Facebook. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- “Fan Mail, Kansas, Nebraska, Imaj Art Gallery & More”. Official Imaj Newsletter. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
- “Collin Raye With Special Guest Imaj for Buddy Care Foundation”. The Franklin Theatre. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
- Raye, Collin. “Collin Raye With Imaj at The Franklin Theatre”. Facebook. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
- “Peace & Love, Imaj”. Statigram. Retrieved 13 February 2012.
- “My Purity Ring”. Imaj Journal. Retrieved 8 September 2011.