Earlier this month on “The Real,” Jeannie Mai revealed that she and mother were estranged for eight years. Essentially, the two disowned one another. Jeannie left the family home, she and her mother didn’t speak and on the rare occasions when they did find themselves in the same place, at the same time, it was often tense and violent.
During the episode, Jeannie didn’t share why she stopped speaking to her mother. She simply said their relationship suffered “because she wasn’t supportive to me when I needed her most at that time.”
I had an inkling that she was referring to the sexual abuse she endured as a child, which she also spoke about on “The Real,” but I wasn’t sure.
Well, in a very emotional, tear-jerking video on her YouTube channel, she and her mother sat down to explain that the two didn’t speak from the time Jeannie was 16 until she was 24-years-old because of the way her mother reacted to the admission that Jeannie was being molested.
Jeannie: Coming from an Asian culture, specifically Vietnamese, Chinese, we don’t usually have therapeutic conversations. We don’t talk out our problems. We don’t usually have family meetings where we say, ‘Hey guys, I’m hurting.’ There are problems, but most of time, you keep it to yourself. Even though Mama Mai grew up in a culture where you hide your problems, you tried to teach me to be proud of who you are, to speak up, don’t let somebody else silence your voice. I grew up with an Americanized way of thinking but with my mom who still had traditional ways, there still is a learning curve to connect the two.
When my second brother was born, there were three kids in the house now, so Mama Mai had to take on a second job so she became very busy, we needed to find a babysitter. So we called upon a family member. This family member came over every single day and stayed with me after school and became a really cool, iconic person in my life. This person was about 16, 17 and I was 9…And I just remember one day, this person sitting really close to me, we were playing video games and he started to touch my thigh.
Every day, the touching continued a little bit more. Him taking off some of my clothes. I remember him pulling me into that shower. It was the first time I’d ever seen a grown man and what he looked like. I remember him telling me to touch him in certain ways. And this happened every day for a few weeks and then it turned into months and then I remember one year going by.
I didn’t want to say anything because I was afraid. Honestly, I knew that you and dad were struggling with money and I knew that we had to have a babysitter so I was afraid of getting him in trouble because then who would watch over us. And you were always really tired because you had two jobs and you were stressed out. He said certain things that would make me afraid of making you angry at me. He said things like, “Your mom’s going to hit you if you talk about the family.” “Nobody’s going to believe you. People think little girls like you are crazy.” I would come home and go to my room and I just kind of knew he would come in at some point. And there was nowhere in my house to run to.
At this point, I’m like a teenager, like 13, 14 and I remember getting quieter. I started getting nightmares. I feel like you and I got farther from each other because you were working so much. I approached my mom and I tried to tell you what had happened. You were in the kitchen you were cooking something and I remember telling her, almost pleading with her, ‘I don’t like this person. I don’t want to stay at home with him anymore, please stay home with me.’ I remember you were confused. I think you thought we were fighting like kids fighting. The words I was saying was trying to get my mom to get him to leave. But I wasn’t able to say it clearly. So she didn’t get it. SO she just said, ‘You guys don’t like each other right now, just ignore each other for now.’
And I kind of went back to my own corner and he was becoming more aggressive with what he was doing to me, in private. So I went to my mom and I said, ’[This person] was doing things to me that gave me nightmares. You looked really confused.”
Mama Mai: I don’t realize what you trying to say.
Jeannie Mai: I told you he tried to take off my clothes.
Mama Mai: I don’t believe it. That’s my reaction because his parents is divorced. So my father bring him to our house at one years old. He’s like a real son. He talked to me, he respected me. He’s very sweet, he’s really nice. If I ask for help, he’s going to do it. So when you tell me, I feel like it’s not right. It doesn’t match up. I don’t believe it and I just let it go. I should have get action to ask him. Maybe I can say I’m stupid or I didn’t pay attention. I never think he going to do that. I never because I love him very much.
Jeannie: But did you love him more than your daughter? Who was trying to tell you something?
Mama Mai: I love him more than you because at that time I’m thinking, he has no parents. I bring him to my house, I feel like I rescue him. At least you have father, you have mother. Him have nobody… I got tricked because I didn’t see anything bad about him. He’s a part of the family.
Jeannie: So, in that moment, I was about 15. I remember distinctly those words, ‘I don’t believe you. He wouldn’t do that. That’s your cousin. This is in your head.’ I felt by myself. I even got to the point where I asked myself, did I imagine these things? I knew that it wasn’t just in my head. And that’s when I started to separate from you mom. I decided at 16, I ran away from home. So I packed up my things, I left the house and moved to San Francisco. And pretty much have been independent since 16. I spent 9 years, almost ten years never celebrating Mother’s Day, never celebrating Christmases with my family, all of the traditions we always did, it stopped completely. My mom was mad at me for running away because she felt that that was disrespectful and I hated you at the time…
Mama Mai: At that time I feel like, if you want to run away, you want to learn the hard way, go ahead, run. I don’t need that kind of daughter. That’s how I feel.
Jeannie: For anybody who has distance from your family member or maybe even a broken connection with your mom, you feel it. So at that time, my mom was doing her own thing and I had to find a way to reconnect with her. I finally got to where you were at that moment. I knocked at the door and as soon as the door opened, we went at it, the ugly cry, the ugly scream, the scene from “Love and Hip Hop” everything you can think of. And I said it one more time, ‘You never believed me when I needed you to.” You listened. You said, ‘What do you mean? What are you talking about?’ I said, ‘I told you this person, this family member has been touching me and has been doing things to me for years and you never helped me.’ All of a sudden you stopped and you said, ‘Tell me everything.’ And I told you everything he did.
Mama Mai: I don’t know why I really listened to every single detail and I’m really shocked. This is a real thing that happened to my family. It make me feel guilty and make me feel so bad and make me cannot sleep. And I want to come over to his house. I want to punch him, I want to put him in jail. I cannot believe this happened to my daughter and she run away because I don’t believe her. I have to say I’m really sorry because I don’t know what happened. I don’t know why I loved that boy and I take care of like a real son and he do that to you. I cannot believe it.
Jeannie: Mom, I obviously forgive you now. You’re my best friend. But I’ll never forget why you didn’t believe me. And even when you say that you loved him more than me because you felt bad for him, I don’t understand.
Mama Mai: That’s how I feel. The only thing I can say is that I’m really sorry. The whole night I cannot sleep. And in the morning, I came over to his house. I ask him ‘Why you do that to my daughter?’ What did you do? Can you tell me what’s going on? He’s shocked and then he said, ‘I didn’t do anything. Who told you?’ I say, ‘My daughter told me. You better tell me right now before I call the police.’ I’m so mad, I just do it without you. I almost slap you and he begging me. ‘Please don’t say anything. Please don’t say anything.’ He told me forgive him because he’s too young, he doesn’t know what he’s doing. And that he know he stupid.’ Then he said, ‘Can you please tell Jeannie that we can talk so I can buy a present for her.’
Jeannie: Oh my God.
Mama Mai: I try to tell him, my daughter hates people like that. And if she writes a book she’s talking about you. And I cannot stop my daughter. I feel embarrassed. What did I do to her? How come I don’t on her side? I be on your side. Right now, if I can kill you, you the first one on my list.
Jeannie: I wish you told me you went to his house. That part was all I needed, that you supported me and you defended me. How come you never told me? That right there was all I needed to know that you believed me and that you listened and that you would go and try to do something about it. I know that I’m crying right now but I feel like you just set something free in me. Because you believed me enough to go to his house and say something to him. That’s all I needed to see mom! You didn’t tell me this for years.
Mama Mai: The reason I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to think back again. It’s already over. Let me take care of him. I feel like if I bring it back to you, it would make you more hurt. And I don’t want that, that’s why I let it go.
Jeannie: I understand you now mom, but you have to realize what he did to me, that hurt. But my own mother not believing me that hurts more. I’m so happy right now because all I needed to know is that you are behind me, you support me and you believe me. This is all I needed my entire life. My mom knows her daughter and when her daughter says she’s not okay, you will be there for me and fight for me.
You can watch the full video of the conversation in the video below.