UPDATE: This piece, on Nia Long’s cover story in Essence, has been updated with the actress’s quotes about marriage and motherhood and her choice to remain single.
Nia Long is gracing the August 2012 issue of Essence magazine with her sons, Masai, 11 and baby Kez—looking every bit as stunning today as she did when we fell in love with her decades ago in Boyz N the Hood and love jones, and repping hard for us 40-something moms who stay fit, fly and blessed with the ability to be good moms.
In the piece, the 41-year-old star waxes poetic on embracing life as a single mom, her relationship with Kez’s father, fiancé Ime Udoka, her recent connection with her dad and living a fulfilled life. “I’m in my forties, post baby and I’m thinner than I’ve been in years,” Nia tells Essence. “The last step will be letting my hair go natural. That’s when you’ll know I’m free…”
However, although confident in her choices, Long isn’t oblivious to the constant scrutiny from being in the public eye. “I’ll be at home with my man, having a perfectly loving time, and I’ll see all these comments on some site about how wrong I am for not being married,” she says. “I don’t feel less loved or less loving because I’m not married.”
Admitting she has “never seen a marriage work,” Long is instead focused on finally having reached “emotional maturity” — from her life with Udoka to her relationship with Massai’s father. “Massai’s dad and I have had the most challenging times, and I wasn’t always sure we wouldn’t end like my mother and father,” she says. “But we’ve arrived at a place where I can truly say he’s not a baby daddy, he’s my friend, finally. He is an amazing father.”
The mom-of-two has also recently reconciled with her own father—a growing bond that has allowed her to reevaluate and evolve in her personal life. “I’m a lot calmer. Less clingy and demanding. When Ime has to be gone for long stretches at a time, as he had to the first few months after Kez was born, I took it as an opportunity to nest,” she explains. “It had been a minute since I had an infant and I had to get back into the rhythm of being a new mom. I really enjoyed having the space to do that at my own pace.”
Long adds that her life with her family of four is very much wanted — and perfectly planned. “Motherhood is not easy, but it’s natural,” she says. “I worked hard to have the career I wanted, but I’ve also been deliberate about my personal life. None of this is a mistake.”
Of course, her beautiful cover does not come without controversy. Apparently, the headline—”Nia Long: Single, Satisfied & Raising Her Boys”—has some folk feeling some kind of way about celebration of single motherhood by Nia and Essence. I dared wade into the comment section of the YBF, where I first spotted the gorg cover, and there, people are going ape crap over the fact that Nia is unmarried and has two children by two different men. Witness:
I get so SICK of seeing Nia Long. This woman is UNMARRIED being paraded around like she is some SAINT. Nia Long is just a TYPICAL UNWED mother. There is nothing special about her at all.
Wow. Just… wow.
I have to say, I’m consistently amazed at how personal people take it when a single African American mom gets some shine for being a good mother to her children, sans the ring. Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Taraji P. Henson, Halle Berry, Nia—black people reserve a special kind of vitriol for these mothers, calling them and their children all out their names, with absolutely no regard for the fact that each of them is smart, beautiful, accomplished and, by most accounts, passionate about their babies and their roles as moms. Each of them CHOSE to have their babies with men whom they loved but either were not ready or did not want to make the big commitment with. How, exactly, does their choice not to marry the fathers of their children personally affect you? Are you any richer or poorer because of their decisions? Are your kids missing out on something because Nia Long has yet to marry the father of baby Kez? Is the Earth about to spin off its rotational axis because Lauryn and Erykah and Nia’s children mirror the 70-plus percent of black children in American being raised in a single-parent household?
And why, exactly, do we not call Angelina Jolie, Kourtney Kardashian, Padma Lakshmi, Kate Winslet, Madonna, Kate Hudson—the list of non-black single moms is damn-near infinite—all kinds of hookers and hoes and irresponsible and nasty and sinful and evil and, gasp, unwed mothers, when they grace the covers of magazines and prance across gossip sites and entertainment TV with their babies, being touted as “great moms”?
In the now infamous words of Erykah Badu when folk questioned her choice to have her babies out of wedlock: Kick rocks… Call Tyrone… Pack light… and if this post is not clear, Kiss My Placenta with all of that. Word.
And congrats to Nia Long, not only for gracing the July 2012 cover of Essence magazine with her adorable sons, but for showing that there is nothing more beautiful than an African American mom who is taking care of her family, loving herself and striving to live a fulfilled life on her own terms. Instead of criticizing, we should be taking notes.
1. EBONY Love: Nia Long, Common and MyBrownBaby Bare It All!
2. Erykah “Badoula” And The Business of Birthing: Can Midwifery Help Stem Black Infant Mortality Rates?
3. Going It Alone: Survey Says Black Mothers Get Little Help, Support While Giving Birth
4. Tackling Black Infant Mortality Rates—Without Stereotyping Black Mothers
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.