Whatever happened to Ne-Yo?

There was a point in the late ’00s where Ne-Yo appeared to be on a one-man mission to take over the charts. Not content with scoring number one singles (“So Sick”) and albums (In My Own Words, Because of You) as a lead artist, the super-talented R&B star was also featured on Top 10 singles by Fabolous (“Make Me Better”), Keri Hilson (“Knock You Down”) and Plies (“Bust It Baby Part 2”) and penned and produced massive hits for Beyoncé (“Irreplaceable”), Rihanna (“Russian Roulette”) and Jennifer Hudson (“Spotlight”).

However, the once-ubiquitous star’s winning streak eventually came to an end. In fact, the man born Shaffer Chimere Smith hasn’t scored a genuine hit in any capacity since 2014 Pitbull collaboration “Time of Our Lives.” But that doesn’t mean he’s been simply sitting on his mountains of royalties. From talent show judging and small screen acting roles to weddings, births, and funerals, here’s a look at what the three-time Grammy winner has been up to in recent years.

He got married

Ne-Yo never made it down the aisle with the mother of his first two children, Monyetta Shaw. The star called off their engagement and, indeed, their entire relationship in 2013. Suddenly, a mere three years later, the singer finally said ‘I do’ when he tied the knot with model Crystal Renay. And unsurprisingly, for a groom who’s sold millions of records, it was a no-expenses-spared affair. The happy couple got hitched at an oceanside ceremony at California’s Rancho Palos Verdes in front of no fewer than 150 of their nearest and dearest.

Ne-Yo and Renay didn’t have the most auspicious of starts. The latter turned up two hours later for their very first date, having spent much of the evening researching whether the R&B star truly was the gentleman he claims to be. Despite this little hitch, the pair instantly hit it off, with Ne-Yo later telling People magazine that he “kinda knew right away” that his unpunctual date was the person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.

He also nearly got divorced

Ne-Yo’s happy ever after romance appeared to have come to an abrupt end in 2020 when the star announced that he was writing a new song — one inspired by his impending split. The singer confirmed speculation that he and Crystal were heading for the divorce courts in a February interview for podcast Private Talk with Alexis Texas. However, he had nothing but kind words about his soon-to-be-ex: “There’s nothing bad to say about her; she’s a fantastic woman. She’s the mother of my children. She’s always gonna be that, and I will always respect her.”

But in an unexpected plot twist just a few months later, Ne-Yo revealed that the pair had managed to save their marriage from the brink. And all they needed to realize that they were destined to be together was the small matter of a global pandemic.

Speaking on The Angie Martinez Show in May 2020, the chart-topper described the coronavirus quarantine as something of a blessing, adding, “I have to give this whole COVID-19 thing a little bit of credit and saving my marriage because it allowed us time to just sit still and really talk … That’s all we needed.”

A growing family for Ne-Yo

Ne-Yo now has enough kids to form his own mini-me vocal troupe. The multiple Grammy winner became a father for the third time in 2016 with the arrival of son Shaffer, who he shares his real name with. And then two years later, wife Crystal gave birth to their second son, Roman Alexander-Raj. Let’s just hope that the tot doesn’t read the interview his father gave to Us Weekly about his arrival.

The star admitted to the gossip magazine that he was left disappointed when he found out the gender of his fourth child: “I wanted a daughter. I did. I have one girl and now three boys. I wanted to kind of even it out with another girl. God said no, so it’s all good.”

Ne-Yo first became a father in 2010 when then-girlfriend Monyetta Shaw gave birth to daughter Madilyn. The couple added to their family unit a year later with son Mason before going their separate ways.

Ne-Yo turned his focus to acting

You might not think of Ne-Yo as an actor, but in the same year he released his first studio effort, he also made his film debut playing Maxx in direct-to-DVD sequel Save the Last Dance 2. Over the next few years, the triple threat also showed up in another dance drama, Stomp the Yard, apocalyptic sci-fi Battle Los Angeles and war movie Red Tails.

Ne-Yo has continued to add to his filmography more recently, too. He enjoyed a two-episode stint as Marcus on The Mindy Project, appeared as the Tin Man in NBC’s live staging of The Wiz and, in a role he’d probably rather forget about, also popped up as a secret service agent in Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!

The crooner’s most notable role has arguably been in YouTube’s Step Up spin-off. Ne-Yo has been an ever-present of the show as Sage Odom, the founder of the fictional High Water Performing Arts School in Atlanta. Step Up: High Water was actually canceled by its home network after two seasons before being revived for a third by Starz.

He contributed to Empire

Ne-Yo also made a significant contribution to the second season of Lee Daniels’ award-winning musical drama Empire. Firstly, he played himself in Season 2’s fifth episode, “Be True,” where he gave Jamal (Jussie Smollett) some words of wisdom on both the personal and professional front while also offering him an invitation to join his tour. 

If that’s not all, he also wrote and produced no fewer than seven original songs for the Fox show including “No Doubt,” a collaboration between his regular partner in crime Pitbull and Smollett, and heartbreak anthem “Never Live Again.”

The star told Billboard in 2015 how honored he was to be a part of such a ground-breaking show: “I’ve spoken before on how the art of storytelling has been lost a bit. I definitely feel Empire is helping to reprogram us back to that place where we pay attention and invest emotionally in the records and the artists.”

Ne-Yo's six pack is made in the kitchen

In February of 2019, Ne-Yo gushed about his transition from carnivore to vegan in an interview with Us Weekly. “I am loving it. I genuinely am. It’s been about two years,” he explained, further touting the benefits: “More energy, my face clears up, [the] weight falls off.” But what inspired the singer to give up all dairy and animal products after more than 30 years on the planet?

Well, apparently, it was the same eye-opening documentary film that has encouraged so many other Netflix users to swap their burgers for lentils: What the Health. The star revealed to the world his new dietary habits in a Facebook post and implored many of his loyal fans to do the same.

He also later showed that you needn’t give up your six-pack if you make such a notable lifestyle change with a blatant thirst trap posted on an Instagram Story (via Plant Based News). Alongside a shirtless bathroom selfie, Ne-Yo wrote, “Vegan Life. Me telling myself if I wanna keep this stomach I should probably NOT eat this bag of chips right now.”

He joined the Mute R. Kelly campaign

Ne-Yo wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of R. Kelly before all the disturbing allegations about the R&B star came to a head in the powerful documentary, Surviving R. Kelly. In 2007, he was dropped from Kelly’s “Double Up” tour after just a week, with the disgraced star citing a contractual dispute as to the reason and Ne-Yo claiming that jealousy over the crowd’s reception was to blame. The “So Sick” singer later sued Kelly’s tour promoter for his abrupt dismissal, winning $700,000 in the process.

Ne-Yo also wasted little time denouncing his very brief one-time touring partner following the screening of the aforementioned Lifetime doc in 2019. The singer was just one of over two million viewers who saw countless women detail the sexual abuse they had endured at the hands of the R&B icon.

And in an Instagram post captioned with the hashtag MuteRKelly, Ne-Yo wrote, “There is NO excuse. Music is important. It really is. But it’s not more important than protecting our children, protecting our little girls. PERIOD.”

He sang at George Floyd's funeral

Ne-Yo understandably struggled to keep his composure when performing at the funeral of George Floyd, the man whose death at the hands of the Minnesota police department sent shockwaves across the world.

Floyd died when a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes following an arrest for a minor offense. The incident, in which the victim repeatedly stated he couldn’t breathe, was captured on camera for the world to see and spearheaded a wave of protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

As well as delivering a rendition of Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye” at the service, Ne-Yo also gave an impassioned speech, telling mourners, “50 states are protesting at the same time, this man changed the world. He changed the world for the better. I just want to personally thank George Floyd for his sacrifice so that my kids can be alright later on. I appreciate the sacrifice, my brother, I genuinely do.”

Ne-Yo increased his net worth

Ne-Yo’s net worth in 2020 stands at a whopping $9 million, but the singer had to fight tooth and nail to get his hands on much of that figure. Indeed, in 2014, the singer filed a lawsuit against his former manager Kevin Foster after claiming he’d been swindled out of millions of dollars. However, the case was only resolved in 2019 when a judge ruled that Foster had used “false pretenses” to coerce his client into investing heavily in a sports drink firm.

The chart-topper was no doubt left relieved by the news of this windfall as just two years previously, he spent nearly $2 million on a brand new home in Sherman Oaks. The luxurious property boasts five bedrooms and bathrooms as well as a “formal dining room,” lounge with fireplace, center island kitchen, and den.

It looks as though Ne-Yo is keen to ensure he’s never financially duped again. When asked who his dream dinner guest was in an interview on CNBC Make It, the star gave an unexpected answer — business tycoon Warren Buffett. Ne-Yo explained, “I would just want to sit and just pick up his demeanor, pick up his vibe and see what kind of man it takes to make that much money, to be that successful in business. Like what kind of person do you have to be?”

He spread some R&B holiday cheer

In 2019 Ne-Yo attempted to stake his claim as the R&B world’s answer to crooner Michael Bublé with his first holiday album. Another Kind of Christmas featured 11 songs suitable for the holidays, including cover versions of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want to Come Home for Christmas,” Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas” and Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas.”

Of course, being such a prolific songwriter himself, Ne-Yo couldn’t help but throw in a few original compositions, too. The nostalgic “Talk About It” was inspired by the star’s yuletide memories growing up, while “Just Ain’t Christmas” is the tale of a relationship breaking down at the worst possible moment, December 24th.

Sadly, Ne-Yo’s mix of soulful festive favorites and self-penned seasonal efforts probably didn’t end up in many fans’ stockings. In fact, it became his first-ever LP to miss the Billboard 200 altogether, while it also failed to produce a hit single.

Ne-Yo hasn't stopped collaborating

Ne-Yo may have lost his hitmaking touch, but he’s still very much an in-demand artist. The star has lent his vocals to singles by several other artists since he last graced the US Hot 100, including superstar DJs Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, fellow R&B sensation Jadakiss and trance legend Armin van Buuren.

He’s also ventured into the hip-hop world on several occasions, guesting on tracks by the likes of T-Pain, Problem, and Gang Starr. And he’s added to his production/songwriting credits with work on En Vogue’s comeback “Rocket” and American Idol runner-up La’Porsha Renae’s “Somebody Does.”

Throw in his appearance alongside Gwen Stefani, Fall Out Boy and Jason Derulo on the star-studded cover of “It’s A Small World” for Disney and his own collabs with Bebe Rexha, Charly Black, Jeremih, O.T. Genasis and his old pal Pitbull and it’s clear that Ne-Yo still has one helluva contacts list.

He became a talent show judge

“I feel like there are so many ways to get into the business now that weren’t around when I was trying to get in. It almost makes me mad.” That’s how Ne-Yo admitted he felt about the idea of talent shows in a 2012 interview with The Sun, despite the fact he’d just helped Nicole Scherzinger at the judges’ house stage of The X Factor.

The singer’s attitude towards such star-making vehicles appeared to become even more muddled when he willingly signed up as a guest judge for America’s Got Talent in 2016. And then in 2017, he joined Derek Hough and executive producer Jennifer Lopez on the panel of NBC’s World of Dance.

The star soon built up a reputation for being the harshest critic, as host Jenna Dewan Tatum pointed out in a chat with Access Hollywood (via World of Dance Magazine). Addressing Ne-Yo directly, she explained, “You know what it is? You’re tough love and your standards are really high because you’re going, “This is for a million dollars!'”

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