Allas.se, Sweden | 15 September 2022 | Text by Birgitta Lindvall Wiik. Photo by Theresia Köhlin. Translation into English by Anna Svarinskaya
Her three children are Therése's great happiness in life. The dream of a big family came true against all odds. She knows what it's like to long for children as a single mother.
The spray-painted message “We hate you, Tessan!” met ten-year-old Therése Neaimé when she came to school one day and that was the starting point for two years of exclusion and hell. Before that, the school friends had been more than happy to hang out at Therése’s exciting family's house.
— My father is from Lebanon and my mother was Swedish. I am very proud of my mixed origins. Perhaps our home was not like others. Dad often played Tom Jones at high volume, he flipped hamburgers on the grill to anyone who wanted one and there was a high ceiling in our home.
Little Therése had dark curls that she kept straightening all the time. She wanted to have nice "Pernilla Wahlgren hair" like the other girls in the class!
— Once, when the girl with just such hair visited me, we played a question-and-answer game. Among other things, I mentioned that I wondered what it felt like for her to have afro hair. It was after that game that the friend spread the word that I was racist and that's when the bullying and exclusion started.
Therése describes it as a tough time, and she found an escape for herself in running and being good at dancing!
— When we would run, I was often the fastest at Enskede sports ground. I was even faster than most of the guys and I loved that it was the result that counted. It built an inner strength in me. It also taught me that if I practice and get really good at it, I can influence my own destiny and get where I want to. I have carried that with me through all my life whenever I chose to follow my dreams.
Name: Therése Neaimé
Age: 52 years old.
Family: children: Lucas, twelve, Nikki, nine, and Lennox, three.
Location: an apartment in Stockholm's city and a cottage just outside Stockholm.
Profession: Artist, songwriter, actor, entrepreneur and lecturer.
Recent news: New album this autumn, writing the book From dream to reality.
The bullying did not end until Therése's father discovered what was going on.
— Our home phone rang, and someone hissed "We hate you" to me. Dad didn't give up until he found out who was bullying me. Then he drove around in his bright yellow Renault 12 knocking on each one of their houses and talking to their parents. "Do you know what your son is doing to my daughter?" After that day, the bullying stopped.
Therése says that in her role as a mother, she has chosen to get involved as a class parent and team leader for the children's sports team. She knows how important it is to be involved, and not to turn a blind eye on what happens in the children's everyday life. Therése waited quite a long time to become a mother and the children are always her priority. She has had to fight a little extra to create the family she wanted!
You shouldn't be afraid to follow your dreams
It hasn't been entirely easy. One of the children came about naturally, one via insemination, the third thanks to both egg and sperm donation in Russia. Therése was 46 years old, a single mother of two, and longed for a third child, but this time the inseminations did not want to succeed.
— I thought of my grandfather's sister Doris, who all her life regretted not having children. I didn't want to end up in the same situation. Whenever I hesitate in life, I look at a picture of me as a three-year-old. There I stretch out my arms and radiate that everything is possible. This image is my daily reminder that one should not be afraid to follow one's dreams. I have had two big dreams: to be able to stand on stage and sing and to have a big family. I have fulfilled both of them, says Therése Neaimé, 52.
Today, Lucas, twelve, Nikki, nine, and Lennox, three, are Therése's great happiness in life. And alongside her artistic career, Therése has dedicated her life to spreading the knowledge about egg donation.
— I help the O.L.G.A Fertility Clinic to spread information about how to become a mother even later in life. The egg donation is a fantastic opportunity for women to become mothers on their own up to the age of 51. Sometimes you have to borrow a heart, sometimes an egg - it doesn't get any harder than that! The incredible thing is that the embryo’s genes are actually influenced by the uterus where it develops.
Egg donation facts
Egg donation/double donation. Double donation means that both donated eggs and donated sperm are used in the same IVF treatment. In Sweden, egg donation is offered to couples and single women if the woman lacks or has severely reduced ovarian function. There is often an age limit, the woman must be under 40 to be able to undergo this kind of treatment.
Therése's other dream was to be on stage, and it was her dancing talent that first took her there. She has been a go-go dancer at Sturecompagniet and danced behind many great artists.
— When I was 26 years old and was dancing behind Pandora on her tour in Mexico, I strongly felt that I wanted to sing myself. I had sung in a gospel choir but often ended up in the back row when we performed. I decided to put all the money I earned from dancing into singing lessons. I was going to practice until I was good enough, just like I learned as a child.
Therése pursued her dream with determination, applying to a music school in Hollywood where she continued studies and made connections.
— At a music school there were lots of much better singers than me, but I was fearless! I had experienced "We hate you, Tessan" before and therefore I dared to share my early songs without performance anxiety. I was on a big TV show “Soultrain” and got to work with several famous producers. I was also in Ben Affleck's TV series. It was a great time!
As long as you have your life, you have everything
Therése was supposed to stay in the United States for one year but stayed for five. After two years, she got the call no one wants. Her mother was dying of breast cancer.
— I went home and got two weeks with her. At my mother's deathbed, I vowed to hold on to my dreams even more. Losing my mother at such a young age was a great sadness. She died far too soon and none of us know how long we have left. My life motto is “as long as you have your life, you have everything”.
During the years in the USA, Therése regularly sent demos of her songs to a major producer in Sweden. One day he replied that Therése had become so good that he wanted to sign a contract with her as a songwriter. That's when she decided to return home. But Therése says something happened to her when she landed at Arlanda. Suddenly she became Tessan who didn't think she could make it.
— Producer Jörgen Elofsson worked with really big international artists and it was easy to disappear in the crowd, but I was stubborn. I sat and wrote songs day after day. Something I've learned is that if I don't give up, things happen, laughs Therese.
Eventually, Therése released her first album where one of the songs, The night has come, was dedicated to her mother. Her another song ended up on the top 40 list in the US and overtook You´re beautiful by James Blunt. The song Color of love was played at Svensktoppen.
The career unfolded just as Therése dreamed of, and during her cousin's wedding in Lebanon she made contacts that led to a contract with the major company Universal Middle East and acquaintance with a celebrity in the Middle East.
It is important to stand up for everyone’s equal rights
Sometimes chance seems to have played a big role in Therése's success, but really it's all about hard work and taking the chance before it flies by. Like when Therése had created dance choreographies for the new boy band with Robin Stjernberg and Erik Saade and ended up on the record company's mailing list. A luxury hotel in Dubai was looking for a singer!
— The email was not addressed to me, but I received it in my inbox and decided to reply. I got the job and learned several hundreds of songs starting from Elvis to Norah Jones. I sang six nights a week, four times 45 minutes, and that's where I became a really good singer and did my 10,000 hours in the profession.
For several years, Therése spent six months every autumn in Dubai. Even the children eventually got to join her on her adventures.
— I was 39 when I had my first child together with my partner at that time. We struggled for a long time and tried artificial insemination before miraculously conceiving on our own. When Lucas was born, he got to come with me and live a life of luxury in Dubai. After all, I had plenty of time to devote to my child because I didn't have to clean or cook. During the evenings, when I sang, a nanny took care of him.
Therése has been a single mother ever since Lucas was two years old and she raised the siblings all by herself. All the children have been able to keep up with mom's exciting workplace and Nikki has even been on stage with Therése when she gave a speech and performed in front of 40,000 people during the Pride Week in South Africa.
— I sang the song I wrote for Nikki, Heartbeat. Standing up for everyone's equal rights feels important and that is why it feels honorable that I have been invited to perform in the countries around the world. I love the exciting atmosphere.
There has always been full speed in Therése’s life, she likes to go to premieres and likes to be where things happen. But it is equally important for her to get a stopover in her family's own paradise in the countryside just outside Stockholm. Here, she and the children have their oasis in the cabin, which is surrounded by forest and a splendid playground with a trampoline, ping-pong table and hammock.
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