Comedienne to Motherhood: Kym Whitley Tells Her Story
BALTIMORE -- Comedienne Kym Whitley has appeared in numerous movies and television shows. But her proudest role is one she says only God could have prepared her to handle.
Whitley hopes her life will inspire others to do more to help "the least of these."
Los Angeles is home to nearly 4 million people. A good number of them arrived in the city with dreams of making it big in Hollywood. Whitley shared those dreams when she arrived.
"I knew I was funny the first time I got a check," Whitley told CBN News. "The first time I got paid for it, I was like. 'I must be funny.'"
Beginning the Journey
Her confidence came early, from parents who encouraged it as they raised Whitley and her brothers in Cleveland, Ohio. She took that confidence with her after she graduated from Fisk University and moved to Tinsletown with only $50 to her name.
It took years to land more than 40 film and 40 television appearances, but Whitley does not call it hard work.
"Hard is relative. What's hard? I look at the other people's lives. Their lives, that might be hard," she said. "So what, I had to get on food stamps for a minute. So what, I had to do some jobs I wasn't comfortable with. No, it wasn't hard. I believe it is part of my journey."
Her Hollywood journey began as a substitute teacher in Compton, a working class city with a troubled history. It is known as the birthplace of gangsta rap.
"As I was teaching, I would find one parent who would say, 'Would you teach my child to read over the summer" or 'my little girl is out of hand, she is not listening to me' and then I would take that little girl, so it started then," Whitely said.
That Compton connection moved Whitely to invite young people to her home to mentor them, something her mother did when she was child.
She rallied fellow comedians to help with something she called Comics for Kids. They even hosted a sleep over, where they gave each child the most popular thing to have that time, a Sony Walkman.
Whitley later learned that one night meant the world to at least two of the boys who were there.
"I got an email, some years later. It was like, 'Hi, Ms. Whitley, this is Eric and I just want to let you know that the one night we spent at your house changed me and my brother's lives.' I was like, what?" she said.
"He was like, 'I just want you to know that you gave us our Walkman and we cherished it every day, but we both went to college and we completed college because of you. You showed us a better way,'" Whitley shared.
"I am getting so emotional. But I couldn't even believe that that one night impacted these two little foster kids and they were like thank you and please keep doing that," she said.
Life Gets Real
Even while juggling multiple television series, success only increased Whitley's drive to help.
"My whole life, some people don't know because I'm so crazy, my whole life, I believe is by divine order," Whitley said.
Whitley's mentoring days took an unexpected turn a few years ago when her phone rang. There was a hospital nurse on the other end.
within just one hour of that call, the comedian went from mentor to mother.
"One girl in particular, I had been mentoring for 15 years," she said. "And she had gone into the hospital to deliver a baby. And the social worker says she has chosen you as the guardian for this baby."
"When that opportunity came I was fearful and I had chills all over my body. I was like I can't take a kid," Whitley shared. "I mean I can take a puppy, but I can't take a kid. But my parents were in town. And growing up we always had to go to college, get married first, then have children."
"My parents were like that and my mom and dad were like, 'Okay, baby girl, why don't you go get this baby. This is truly your last chance at happiness,'" she said.
"They were like, 'You don't have a man. It doesn't look like you got one coming," she said. "Your eggs are old, boo. You better go get this baby'."
Her little boy, Joshua, arrived within an hour of the phone call from hospital. He was unexpected, but he was no accident.
"And I tell you this, the reason why this was divine, one of many reasons was he came at a time when my parents were in town. They are never in Los Angeles," she explained.
"They were there for a period of two weeks and they've never stayed past a week. Then they said we will stay for a month," she said. "Then they stayed for three months because they were worried I was going to kill the baby. Okay, I didn't know how to bathe the baby, or change the diapers, so they stayed with me."
"But six months later, my mother passed. How could that be planned? The time I spent with my mother and this baby," Whitley shared.
Whitley's unscripted journey from mentor to motherhood is the subject of a hit reality television series called "Raising Whitley," which airs Saturday evenings on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. It returns for its third season November 21, 2015.
"If I am going to put my life and my son's life out for public display, it has to be to help people," she said. "So that was the decision, that I would be safe and this would be a show that would help and bring laughter and hopefully some lessons."
They are lessons from a life Whitley never really imagined for herself - and a son she can't imagine living without.
"I don't know how all this happened. It was supposed to happen," she said. "From my charity work, to a child, to a great show, and a great career -- divine order."