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From VH1’s Divas Live to People magazine, it appears that—even if you can sing like Mariah, Gloria, and Celine—in order to be successful in the music business, you need both a record-exec husband and the same laundry list of long-term career goals: Sing in front of an audience of thousands. Write, produce, and record a CD. Land the lead role in the national tour of a Broadway show. Sing on TV. Get interest from major record labels.

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Bethesda-based singer Jennifer Hamady once shared these goals. But at 24, she has already achieved them—on her own, without the prima donna attitude: “Being a starving artist is not necessary,” Hamady insists. “But nothing worth having comes easy.”

Success may not have come easy to her, but it certainly has come fast. Hamady, who is of Spanish and Arab descent, began singing at embassies at age 15 and before long was singing the national anthem at RFK Stadium. After studying opera at the University of Maryland, she put live performance on hold to focus on writing, recording, and producing her eponymous four-song demo CD. A November review of the CD in The Album Network, a trade magazine, has generated plenty of interest from the major labels.

The president of Longevity Records, Ernesto Phillips, who helped launch the careers of Toni Braxton and Kimberly Scott, encouraged Hamady to write her own songs for the album. Phillips says that Hamady’s energy and dedication set her apart from other artists who share her talent: “Jennifer will not accept no as an answer to getting where she wants to go.”

Currently, Hamady is touring the U.S. in the lead singing role of the hit play Cirque Ingénieux, and the Broadway musical Rent is considering her for a role. A self-proclaimed workaholic, Hamady is her own manager, promoter, producer, and secretary, juggling her performance and recording with teaching voice lessons—and she’s always giving speeches to her voice students about the value of personal grit: Since the CD’s completion in June, Hamady’s has been on a mission of “shameless self-promotion,” she says.

“If you knock on 10 doors, maybe one will open. But if you knock on a hundred doors, 10 might open. And you can’t dwell on the 90 that didn’t.”—Amanda Fazzone