Upon its release, Tamia received a mixed to positive reception by critics, who complimented Tamia's vocal performance and the progression from her earlier recordings but found the material uneven. It debuted and peaked at number sixty-seven on the Billboard 200 chart and entered the top twenty of the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Five singles were released from the album. "Imagination" was chosen as the album's lead single, reaching the top 20 in Canada and top forty in both the United States and New Zealand. The album's second single, "So into You" was well-received and charted even higher. A remake of "Careless Whisper" was released as the album's fourth single in Japan. A critical success, Tamia garnered the singer two Juno Award nominations for Best New Solo Artist and R&B/Soul Recording of the Year at the 1999 award ceremony.
After dominating local talent competitions through her teenage years, in 1994, Windsor native Tamia performed at a multiple sclerosis benefit in Aspen, Colorado when she met music manager, Lionel Richie's ex-wife Brenda Richie, who was cosponsoring the event and introduced herself to Tamia after the show. A few months later, Tamia, who was being courted by Warner Bros. Records at the time, called Richie to say that she was coming to Los Angeles for a photo session, resulting in her lasting stay and a management deal with Richie. Weeks later, Richie arranged for her to perform at a star-studded party that she held for singer Luther Vandross. Her performance reportedly impressed all in attendance, including veteran producer Quincy Jones, who later offered her the chance to appear on his album Q's Jook Joint (1995).
Overwhelmed by his offer, Tamia recorded vocals for "You Put a Move on My Heart", which Jones later selected as the album's first single. A moderate commercial success, the collaboration earned acclaim from critics; it was later nominated for a Grammy Award along with their second collaboration "Slow Jams" and "Missing You", a song she recorded with Brandy, Gladys Knight, and Chaka Khan for the soundtrack of the 1996 motion picture Set It Off. All three track reached the top twenty on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart and gained Tamia additional recognition with nominations from the Soul Train Music Awards and the NAACP Image Awards. Following this, Jones signed her his label Qwest Records, a joint venture with Warner Bros., and enlisted the services of several producers to work on her debut self-titled album. Recording was reportedly intermitted when Tamia filmed the role of Sheri Silver in Speed 2: Cruise Control, playing the part of a featured vocalist at the dinner theatre aboard the luxury cruise ship.
Tamia earned generally mixed to positive reviews from critics. Leo Stanley of Allmusic remarked that the album "is an appealingly stylish collection of contemporary urban soul", while also stating that "it suffers from some uneven material." He rated the album three out of five stars. Cherie Saunders from Vibe found that "the disc is a deliberate attempt – and successful one – to free Tamia from the steely adult-contemporary cage". Impressed with the up-tempo songs on the album, she however found that Tamia's "strength clearly lies with ballads", concluding that "despite some inconsistency, Tamia's shining vocal skills prove that she won't get pushed around by anyone on today's music playground". In his review for Billboard, Paul Verna wrote that Tamia "excels at ballad and midtempo tracks such as "So into You", "Falling for You", and "Rain on Me". He was less impressed with lead single "Imagination", which he criticized for Jermaine Dupri's unsuitable guest rap and a lack of "vocal punch".
Upon its release, Tamia debuted and peaked at sixty-seven on the US Billboard 200 and reached the eighteenth spot on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album was certified gold in Japan in June 1998 for 100,000 copies shipped to stores. In total, Tamia sold 416,000 copies in the United States. It finished sixty-second on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums year-end chart in 1998.