In 2016, Ta’Kari Lee shared that her son had been badly burned at his daycare and that she was seeking help via a GoFundMe to pay his medical bills (which she successfully did). Since then, there has been a confusing, often negative portrayal of the 28-year-old. It’s a puzzling one considering that the GoFundMe, and the news stories about her son Jaxson’s accident, made no mention of her well-known mother, Jackie Christie. It wasn’t until blogs realized the connection, and that Lee had actually appeared on Basketball Wives once, that it was portrayed that she was a bitter daughter seeking some sort of vengeance against her mom. And that perception was used by Christie against Evelyn Lozada, who contributed to the GoFundMe, during the last and current season of Basketball Wives (which presently airs Monday nights on VH1).
But Lee is not thirsty for attention, money or revenge. She’s a stay-at-home mother of four, trying to provide structure and happiness for her family in Tacoma, Washington. She was raised by her grandmother, and didn’t have a “connection” with her mom growing up, however, she would like to have Christie in her life now for her kids’ sake. For the record, she says she’s always made herself available to speak with the reality star to mend things, but they haven’t spoken in years (and Christie has her blocked on social media).
With all of the misconceptions about her and her intentions, Lee decided to write a book, Lights to Her Shadow, which is currently available. She wanted to share her story, which has been told by others for so long. Lee shared her truth with us in an exclusive chat, and made it clear that whatever you thought about her before, you’ve got it all wrong.
MadameNoire: So first off, with your book, what is it that you want people to understand about you and take away from your story?
Ta’Kari Lee: My book is my story. I am a person. I’m a human. I have a testimony, besides everything you guys see on TV. That’s somebody else’s reality. I have my own. I hope to inspire everyone to let them know you can go through things, but that does not have to predict what you become. You don’t have to be bitter.
And just for background, what would you say is the root of the problems that you and your mom have? Is it the feelings of abandonment with you living with your grandmother or is it the mistreatment that you felt you dealt with? Or is it a combination?
That’s a good question. With me, being a mother, I would say it was a disconnection. A connection was never made. I don’t blame my mother for leaving me with my grandmother. That was the best decision ever. I don’t put it on that. I think if you read the book, you’ll see what I’m saying. I’m not calling my mother a bad mother. I’m not calling her a bad person. I’m saying, you just do not like me. We don’t have that mother-daughter connection.
And have you ever had a conversation with your mom about why the connection wasn’t made? Did you ever have the chance to ask, “Why is it that you treat me like this? Why is it we don’t have a connection at all?”
My feeling about the situation is definitely not something new. I have spoken to my mother multiple times growing up about how I felt. What I want people to understand most is the past is the past and that’s why I was able to write about it. I have some feelings about the more modern-day things that are going on. I feel some type of way about those actions. But I’m not dwelling on anything. I don’t hold any grudge toward anyone. I just want my point to be made and I think I did that with my book. It cannot be said, “I didn’t know. I didn’t understand.” I put it in the best words that I could, right there for you.
I know when you and your sister, Chantel, had a chance to be on Basketball Wives some years ago, you were hopeful. You seemed very calm. You were very much open to doing the family therapy and your sister was the one who, you could tell the resistance was there. But with all that being said, she has managed to kind of move on and rebuild a relationship with your mom. She appeared on these last few seasons, and she appears on this, you know, this new season. How has that been for you? Because it seems like, some moments she was fighting for you, and then other moments it’s like, she seems perfectly fine with your mom and everything’s good while you’re cast aside. How has that been for you?
That is a good question. First off, I’m a calm person in general. I don’t react to any situation. Life has just taught me that through different things. I don’t want to attack my mom. Like I said, I don’t want to make her feel bad. That’s not my goal, so I’m always going to come at her calmly, trying to explain how I feel. My mom and my sister are like one and the same. They are really alike. So they also have that connection. Chantel was with my mom when she was little. I remember visiting them in Toronto. Chantel lived there, I was the one visiting for two weeks or every few months. So they had that time to bond. I bonded with my grandmother. So me and my grandmother had that mother-daughter connection. We could have our ups and downs and be fine. But with my mom, I don’t even feel comfortable around her almost in a sense. I haven’t been around her in years. So I don’t know how I feel now, but I have never grown up around her and felt comfortable. So that’s why you kind of see Chantel, she knows and everyone else knows, it’s not a lie. That’s why she stuck up for me. It’s the truth. There’s no way to go around it. If you’re telling the truth, it’s going to come out that way.
So your relationship with Chantel is good to this day?
I haven’t spoken to my sister in quite a while. I guess we’ll see it on the show what her feelings are towards me. I haven’t spoken to her in about a year, but I’m always going to be good with my sister. I’m always going to protect Chantel. She’s my sister. There is no wrong. She’s done nothing to me, so I don’t have an issue with my sister. I’m good with her.
So when you last reached out to her, were you able to get a response?
No. I sent a couple of pictures of the kids to test the waters, and like you said, no response. I’m not going to force anyone to do anything. I don’t know what her issue is with me, but I’m fine with that. I’m an action type of person. People can say a lot, but if I see what you’re doing and it doesn’t match that, I’m going to believe what you’re doing versus what you’re saying. When I look at the situation with my mom, this is an entertainment thing for everybody now. But also with my sister, I think that the Basketball Wives‘ franchise, in general, is kind of playing a game with the situation and invited her to be involved with it. They knew the backlash that would come, in my opinion, by having [Jackie’s] other daughter and other granddaughter on the show when all this other stuff is in the media. So, it’s kind of like a little petty game, but I’m good. Like I said, I’m not taking people’s words. I’m seeing what’s actually being done.
Yeah, I understand. And so I do also want to ask, what do you think about all the people who have criticized Evelyn Lozada for helping you? There have been people who claim that she wasn’t genuine, and that she wasn’t right to donate because that’s not her business.
My biggest concern with that was making sure Evelyn knew that I was appreciative and that I don’t have a mindset wrapped in reality TV where I would be thinking such a thing. I think the focus should have been on my son. Nobody should have mentioned a dollar amount amount in any sense. It should have been the fact that my eight-month-old child had been burned to that extent at a daycare. I don’t understand how that got lost in the mix. So I made sure personally that I reached out to Evelyn and let her know. Evelyn donated the money. I posted a message on social media soon after that to her, and in her private messages, and a few months later, she noticed it and responded. I don’t think it was something where she was waiting for me to say something. When she got it she said, “You’re welcome,” blasé blasé. I’ve never spoken to Evelyn on the phone or anything like that. I have messages — that’s it. It’s just through social media: “Hi. How you doing? Take care.” I hear that people say it’s a fake storyline and you’re working against your mom. I am in no way doing that. I don’t know what the plan was, I just know that Evelyn donated the money to my family through a public GoFundMe, and that’s that.
In your book, you’ve mentioned cutting, the times that you wrote suicide notes, and you know, the depression due to the emotional ups and down that you had to deal with, you know, with your mom. And so I wanted to ask you, what have you done for yourself to build your esteem and work through that pain? Some people just end up stuck in a situation or a place because of past pain and they can’t move forward.
One thing is I learned to appreciate life. I had a reason to appreciate life, and that was having my first child. I struggled for a long time, but when I was 19, and I gave birth to my son, that nurturing feeling that I always craved, I was able to provide. I started to pray to the Lord, like “I’m so sorry that once upon a time, I didn’t want to be here. I didn’t know your plan for me.” I literally was scared for a while, because I was bad. I really did hate life. But I found an appreciation for it. I told the Lord one day, “It’s your plan. Whatever happens from here, I’m walking forward with you. I’m not listening to anyone else’s voices. I’m going straight.”
And I did want to ask, and you touched on it, but how has your upbringing and what you experienced informed the type of parent that you have become and the way you nurture your children?
I am more aware. As you know, I’m Jackie’s daughter. Some of her tendencies, her yelling, the way I talk at times, I’m aware of it. So I will catch myself. I look at my kids and I put myself in their shoes. I have sons also. I know I’m raising men, so I really think about their pride and their ego. I don’t want to bruise that. I try to come at them in a sense where, I have to be correct. I know that as a woman. I want them to be strong-willed men so I have to do my part. So that plays a big part in what I’m doing. My grandmother did not raise a fool [laughs]. It took a moment to just look around me, and I saw what I didn’t want. I don’t want it for myself and I definitely don’t want it for my children. So that’s what drives my motherhood. My kids are structured. And that’s what my goal is, to teach my kids structure. I am very involved.
That’s awesome. Your name was obviously brought up a lot last season on Basketball Wives. And from the first episode that I’ve seen, you’re mentioned in this new season as well. I was wondering, if VH1 reached out to you and asked you, would you ever want use that platform to share your story?
I don’t know. And that’s kind of what I’ve been speaking to people in my circle about in the last couple of days. Like I said at this point, it’s an entertainment thing. Me coming on there is not going to go along with the plan they have and I feel like I would be the bad guy. I’m not going to put myself up against a group of women I don’t know. And I’m not a charity case where all of a sudden, because people are really wondering what’s going on, I’m just going to hop and jump at their beck and call. But I do plan to get my side out. I don’t necessarily need their platform. They waited far too long for that.
And lastly, I wanted to know, do you think if you could have a real good conversation, a good cry even, away from cameras and other people, that you could rebuild your relationship with your mom while at the same time, guarding yourself and your spirit?
Of course. I know that I could be okay with my mom. My mind is mine now. Nobody is thinking for me. I know what I’m doing. I’m a strong-willed woman, we are equal, we can talk if she wants to, of course. I’m here for that at any time. She doesn’t have to worry about that. My mom knows I’m the one she can talk to. She knows I’m not going to be catty. I’m going to give her all of the sympathy. I’m open to her. I’m not under anyone’s control, so I wouldn’t be concerned about her doing anything to me. My concern would be my children. For example, my sister had been in their lives and now she’s not. I think that left an impact. And I don’t want to put that on them. If it’s not going to be genuine, then we might as well leave it as it is. They wonder about her and what not, but I don’t want them to meet her and then be snatched away.
That’s interesting, because on the show, she acts like she doesn’t understand why you don’t want to deal with her and whatever she’s done, so she’s “giving you some space.” For the viewer it’s like, okay, so who’s really mad? And the assumption was, it was you.
I never told my mother in any words that she could not see her grandkids. I have offered to walk to California with my kids. Whatever needs to be done. I want my mom to know my kids, like that would be beautiful. But I’m not going to force her if she doesn’t want to, and if it’s not a priority. I can only offer. And I made that perfectly clear last year, even to see my sister. These are choices that are outside me. We’re available. We’re just not being accepted, I guess. I don’t hate my mother. I don’t have any resentment towards her. And like I said, with protecting my kids, it’s not because of anything she did when I was growing up. My concern is that my son got hurt and it didn’t mean anything to even reach out to us. That is my concern. We still haven’t heard from her or had her come see them. He’s two and he hasn’t met her before. So that says a lot to me. That’s what I’m talking about. That has nothing do with the past, but that’s the real story.