Thursday, November 23, 2017

MOTHER, MOTHER

With a hit series on the OWN, Kym Whitley offers a glimpse into her unexpected journey to single parenthood.

BY KIMBERLY BAILEY-TUREAUD

KYM WHITLEY AND HER SON JOSHUA | PHOTO BY DR. BOOGIE

Kym Whitley is known worldwide as a beloved comic actress, whose outrageous big-screen antics have been seen most recently in “A Haunted House 2.”

Meanwhile, she is making an even bigger mark on television, as the star of the OWN docu-series “Raising Whitley” — which chronicles her life as a single mother.

Her journey to motherhood was far from traditional, and the compelling story behind it quickly resonated with audiences: “Raising Whitley” debuted with an impressive 1.2 million viewers, making it one of the Oprah Winfrey-backed network’s highest-rated shows. Its window into the circumstances that made her a parent — virtually overnight — has given fans a fresh perspective on the woman who first burst into the public eye as the rowdy Sugar in the sequel “Next Friday.”

“I adopted my son, Joshua Kaleb Whitley, three years ago when he was a newborn,” she explained in an exclusive interview. “A young lady I had mentored decided that she couldn’t take care of him after giving birth … and named me as the guardian. The hospital called and told me that I had one hour to decide if I wanted to be a mother to him, or he would be put into the foster care system. So, after talking it over with my family, I decided to become a mother — and it has been the greatest gift.”

As seen on “Raising Whitley,” she has created a village of friends and love to support her in single motherhood.

“One of the things I have learned about motherhood is that you must have patience,” she said. “I have learned how you must always have your senses as it relates to raising a child. Children can push you, because they don’t know better. Sometimes all they know is to scream. You must remember that you are the adult, and find out what the child needs. It’s either a good nap — that is always the case if the child is under 4 years old — or the child might be hungry. Or maybe they need a diaper change.”

Kym Whitley and Joshua at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.

She added: “To hurt a child with a physical spanking or uncontrollable screaming is ridiculous. I have to admit my son has tested me, but at this age 99.9 percent of the time he just needs to go to sleep. Other times I just hold him and rock him until he quiets down, and then he usually just falls off to sleep. The more you scream, the more your child will scream. That’s the only way children communicate. Especially at a young age. I have learned that a child loves whatever you teach them. Whether that’s language or ABCs, they will love it. If you are practicing bad behaviors like cursing or anger, they will come to love that also. If the parent stays happy and sings songs to the child, more often than not the child will be happy.”

Although this phase in her life was quite unexpected, Whitley says the experience has opened her up to the possibility of having more children. “I really want a little girl,” she confessed. “I want Joshua to grow up with siblings like I did. But I know I better decide which way I am going — because he is already 3, and I want them to be close in age and grow up together.”

She’s also eager to share what she has learned. Recently Whitley participated in a live roundtable discussion — moderated by Winfrey and broadcast on Oprah.com — on the realities faced by single mothers. Also featuring actress Nia Long and author Iyanla Vanzant, it provided a global platform for single mothers to share their concerns. It also gave her another opportunity to experience the almost mystical hold that Winfrey has on the millions who turn to her for advice on how to live empowered lives.

“There were a bunch of single mothers, and Oprah had their questions addressed from the millions of tweeted questions from mothers who were looking for answers. It was amazing how many women need help,” she said. “Oprah is a lot of fun. I feel safe working with her. The OWN is the only network that has a real person attached to it, and it’s good to know your boss. Oprah is a smart woman and very friendly. People often ask me about Oprah, and whether she might one day have a child. I tell them that her students in her school in South Africa are her children — and she spends a lot of time with them.”

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