Whitley’s Audible Original podcast, produced by Lena Waithe, is a not-so-loosely-based dramedy on her relationship with her now 11-year-old son.
Comedian Kym Whitley always yearned to be a mother, though she never thought she’d only have an hour to decide on bringing her son Joshua home back in 2011.
“The hospital called and said, 'We have your baby.' I thought it was another comedian, So I said, ‘Do fries come with that baby,’” Whitley quips to EBONY.
Things got serious when a social worker told her there was a note at the hospital asking Whitley to become the guardian of the four-day-old newborn. “It changed my life,” she shares.
Her new Audible Original podcast, Kym, produced by Lena Waithe, is a not-so-loosely-based dramedy on her relationship with her now 11-year-old son.
EBONY spoke with Whitley to find out why she’s once again sharing her motherhood story with the world, and what's most challenging and rewarding about being a mom, no matter how you come to the role.
EBONY: You first talked about your path to motherhood on your hit docu-series Raising Whitley. Why did you decide to come back again and share your story through a comedy audio series?
Kym Whitley: When you use audio instead of visual, it lends to people's imagination—they really can create the world themselves. It feeds your soul and other parts of your brain. And I also believe my story is about people who create their families, not out of blood, but out of friendship. I'm hoping it will help not only people who adopt and foster children but help mothers by saying it’s going to be OK because it's not easy.
Were you thinking about bringing a child into your world when Joshua came into your life?
Oh yeah. I always said, “Oh, I'm gonna have kids,” but I didn't end up getting married. I said I would adopt. I love kids. I was a teacher in Compton, [California]. God heard my whispers, and [Joshua] came.
How has being a mother changed your life?
Oh, my God. Because I'm pouring into another human being’s life, it made me make better decisions. They are sponges of us. So if I am doing something out of control, my son does the same thing. I catch myself and say, “Oh, I gotta be better.” He's a reflection of me.
How much of the podcast is based on real true life events that you've gone through with your son, especially ones that make you say, "I can’t believe that happened?"
A bunch. There’s definitely a lot of the truth in this Audible Original. When he was in second grade, he told all the parents that came to pick up their kids that his mommy doesn't give him any money, can he have a dollar for the vending machine? The teacher called me to the side because one parent said she didn’t have any cash, and my son said, “It's okay. It takes credit cards."
It's great you can look back on that and laugh because it might not have been funny at the moment that it happened.
It wasn’t. But you're right, you got to be able to look back at it and laugh.
You also talk about having a male influence for your son, because you are bringing up a Black boy in America. How have you dealt with that in the show and in real life?
On the show, we got Big T, who was played by the late great David A. Arnold. And that might not be the right influence. I'm trying to date on the show, but I have friends who are male, and I try to keep them around. It’s difficult, I mean, art imitates life. In my real life, I keep Black men around Joshua. He's got to see what he is and what he's going to be. My brother is here in Los Angeles and I have male friends. He has three males in his life.
That’s a good start.
But the hard truth is my son has not seen me in a relationship. Oh, that's bad, and he’s 11! Do you force it so he can see a relationship? Or do I keep going how I’m going? That's where we are right now. We'll have to deal with it on Kym, season two.
You have some pretty amazing people involved in the project.
Yes, between me and Lena, we called our friends in. There is a difference between being a screen actor and being a voice actor. But they all said yes and rose to the occasion.
Lastly, are you letting your real-life son Joshua listen to the show?
Oh, absolutely not because he will be horrified and think it's all true. There are some liberties that we've taken with the show. Joshua does watch the show I had, Raising Whitley on OWN, so he knows everything. And he comes and asks questions. But we made this Audible Original series a little grittier. I think he can listen to it, maybe when he’s 15.