7 lessons on motherhood from Black celebrities

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7 lessons on motherhood from Black celebrities

From buzzworthy pregnancy reveals to “mom guilt” and everything in between, ahead of Mother’s Day, we break down what we’ve learned from Black celebrity moms.

You have likely heard by now that on Monday night, when Serena Williams and her husband, Alexis Ohanian, arrived on the Met Gala red carpet, they had a third guest in tow.

On both Instagram and the Met Gala’s red carpet, Williams, dressed in a black mermaid gown with a matching cropped blazer exemplifying Chanel regality, revealed she is pregnant with baby number two. Ohanian proudly presented her bump as the two posed on the event’s carpet. In her accompanying Instagram post, Williams said she “was so excited when Anna Wintour invited the 3 of us to the Met Gala.”

Serena Williams and her husband, Alexis Ohanian, attend Monday’s Met Gala, where the two made clear they are expecting another baby. Celebrities, with or without public reveals, exemplify much about the different kinds of motherhood. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

It was the type of public pregnancy reveal we’ve come to expect from celebrities. From Keke Palmer’s big reveal during her “Saturday Night Live” hosting debut in December to Keisha Knight Pulliam’s reveal a few weeks later on “Tamron Hall” to, of course, Rihanna’s baby bump debut during her 2023 Super Bowl halftime performance, public pregnancy reveals are now an established a trend — and for good reason. All of these follow in the footsteps of Beyoncé, who ripped open her blazer during a 2011 performance of “Love on Top” to reveal her pregnancy with Blue Ivy.

Looking at these examples more closely, you may find they have something in common: These weren’t just mass communication efforts to get ahead of the story or any scrutiny around their changing appearance. They also shouldn’t be reduced to a braggadocious flex when you consider Black moms are three times more likely to die during childbirth or that this country’s maternal mortality rate is the worst across the board for any industrialized nation.

What celebrity public pregnancy reveals teach us is that parenthood, one of the biggest things that can happen to a person, is worth celebrating at the highest level.

As Toni Morrison once said, “There was something so valuable about what happened when one became a mother. For me, it was the most liberating thing that ever happened to me.” That sounds like a cause for celebration.

With buzzworthy pregnancy reveals already a trend worth following, we can’t help but wonder what else we might learn about motherhood from the stars. With Mother’s Day approaching, we’ve compiled a list of the six additional top lessons we’re learning from Black celebrity moms.

The reality of bouncing back

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Getting back into shape after pregnancy is not always easy. When celebrities “snap back,” says Keke Palmer, sometimes it’s because “the job is on the line.” (Photo credit: Getty / wera Rodsawang)

The pressure to “bounce back” — or get your body back into shape following a pregnancy, is real. So many products and diets target new moms, selling them on “bouncing back,” with influencers flooding our timelines with their postpartum progress. However, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, and it may not even be that necessary. As previously reported by theGrio, in a recent interview with People magazine for its annual Beauty Issue, new mom Palmer gave the world the tea on bouncing back.

“Anytime you see a celebrity doing a snap back or whatever like that, it’s part of the damn gig,” she said. “A part of our jobs is to look good and to look the part.” She said it’s not that they’re “‘doing it because we got it like that.’ No, the job is on the line.”

Palmer added that if getting into shape is “important to you, then hell yeah, put in the work, Miss Girl” and get the diet an exercise plans you need. But, she advised, “if that’s not what you’re worried about, then don’t worry about it.”

Blended families can be beautiful

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The blended Smith family (from left) Trey Smith, Willow Smith, Jaden Smith, Will Smith, and Jada Pinkett Smith arrive at the “Emancipation” Los Angeles Premiere on Nov. 30. (Photo by Steve Granitz/FilmMagic)

From Da Brat and her wife Jesseca “Judy” Dupart to Jada Pinkett Smith and even Gabrielle Union, quite a few Black celebrity moms have experience with blended families. Witnessing famous families come together in love and harmony can be inspiring for many in similar shoes.

Cardi B gushed about her blended family in Vogue’s January 2020 cover story.

“When I was pregnant with Kulture, a lot of people [were] like, ‘Oh, he has three kids already; why would you have a kid with somebody that has three kids?’” she shared. “And it’s like, how is that such a bad thing? My dad has eight kids, and we all get along, and it feels better, fuller. And with Offset, I feel like his kids just bring a pop of fun to life when they’re in his house. I actually love it. It brings out a different side of him that I like to see, and I love to see my baby interacting with her siblings. The more the merrier.”

You’re going to run late

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Rihanna and A$AP Rocky arrive fashionably late Monday to the 2023 Met Gala, which celebrated designer Karl Lagerfeld. Being on time can be challenging when there are little ones around to get ready or say goodbye to. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)

As Cardi B also told Vogue during her accompanying “73 Questions” video, the most challenging part about being a mom is that “You’re never on time.”

Whether getting your little ones ready for the day or saying goodbye to them – which some speculate might have caused Rihanna and A$AP Rocky to arrive fashionably late to the Met Gala on Monday – time works differently for mothers.

There’s more than one way to be a mother

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The 2017 American Music Awards drew the Ross family, including (adults, from left) Evan Ross, his mother, Diana Ross, and his sister, Tracee Ellis Ross, who revels in being an aunt. She says the role allows for “deep connection” as well as “a real sort of playfulness.” (Photo by Image Group LA via Getty Images)

It’s not just an empty platitude when people say, “There’s more than one way to be a mother.” If you keep your heart open, you might be surprised at all of the ways you can nurture and love in this life. Viola Davis, who adopted her daughter Genesis, with her husband, Julius Tennon, said being an adoptive mother was mothering to the fullest extent.

“I always tell Genesis she was born from my heart, not my belly. … There are so many ways to mother rather than to carry a child in your body. So many children need parents, and so many of us want to mother. Know that you will experience motherhood to the full extent.”

Our favorite “rich auntie,” Tracee Ellis Ross, who has empowered many to be their own partner in life, revels in being an aunt to her nieces, nephews and godchildren.

“I love being an aunt. I am an aunt to my nieces and nephews and, honestly, to my godchildren, too. And I — it is a role that I love, like, that I just cherish, that allows for, like, deep connection and also, like, a real sort of playfulness,” she told NPR earlier this year.

How to champion and support your children

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Gabrielle Union (right) and her daughter Zaya Wade arrive for the 34th annual GLAAD Awards in Beverly Hills on March 30. Union and her husband, Dwyane Wade, wrote of accepting and nurturing Zaya’s gender. “You can’t one-size-fits-all your parenting,” they said. (Photo by Valerie Macon / AFP via Getty Images)

Whether it is securing the trademarks to their children’s names as Beyoncé, Rihanna and Cardi B have all done, or fiercely defending their emerging sexuality and gender, as Gabrielle Union has become known to do, or even empowering them to shave their head, like Jada Pinkett Smith once did with daughter Willow, Black celebrity moms are showing us how to champion and support our youth.

In an open letter addressing the backlash around Pinkett Smith seemingly “letting” a then 10-year-old Willow shave her head, she said, “First, the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain.”

Union and her husband, Dwyane Wade, bravely revealed how imperfect their journey to accepting and nurturing daughter Zaya’s gender has been in an op-ed for Time magazine. Together, the pair explained they had a serious learning and unlearning curve.

“The biggest lesson we can offer is: listen to your child. Do you actually know your child, or are you just committed to forcing your child to conform to these impossible standards? You can’t one-size-fits-all your parenting. A lot of people are now wondering who they could have been, had their parents supported who they are,” the couple wrote.

Mom guilt’ is universal

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Cardi B and baby Kulture take the stage at her husband’s 2019 Offset In Concert in New York City. She admitted to having some mom guilt on Monday when she left Kulture behind to attend the Met Gala. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)

If celebrity moms have taught us anything, it’s that there’s not enough money, time, or privilege in the world to eradicate “mom guilt.” Just this week, Rihanna reminded us of that when she admitted she enjoyed attending the Met Gala on Monday night but felt guilty for having left Baby Fenty #1 behind.

Cardi B, ever unabashed online, famously tweeted about her experience with mom guilt in 2018.

“I missed two days in the studio! Its Kulture fault, her eyes be telling me, “don’t go momma” 😩😩,” she said.

Kay Wicker is a lifestyle writer for theGrio covering health, wellness, travel, beauty, fashion, and the myriad ways Black people live and enjoy their lives. She has previously created content for magazines, newspapers, and digital brands. 

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