Out of all the things a child could refer to their stepparent as, Alicia Keys is a fan of “Umi.”
The 39-year-old singer shared in her new book and memoir, More Myself: A Journey, that her stepson, Kasseem Dean, Jr, son of her husband Swizz Beatz and his ex-wife, Mashonda Tifrere, called her “stepmom.” She didn’t get the best “vibe” from that, as she put it, so she suggested the kids try the Arabic word “Umi” instead.
“When KJ was little he started referring to me as his stepmom, which didn’t feel like the right vibe to me, especially when Egypt began mimicking KJ and also calling me stepmom,” she wrote. “So Swizz and I came up with an alternative: KJ would call me Umi (pronounced OOH-me), a beautiful word that means mother in Arabic. Egypt and Genesis now also call me Umi, in addition to Mommy.”
She went on to write that being a mother figure to her partner’s three other children, while also having two of her own, has been an incredibly enlightening experience.
“Umi is one of my favorite words and identities. And being Umi to a wide range of children also gives me parental foresight,” she said. “By walking alongside a thirteen-year-old KJ, I get a peek at what may be ahead for nine-year-old Egypt. It’s a real-life practice run. And Nas, who is navigating early adulthood has his own unique relationship with me, given that I’m not his biological parent. There’s a freedom and honesty in our connection, and I want to create that same safe space for my other children in the years ahead.”
She also gets support in cultivating these relationships with her stepchildren from their mothers. This is specifically true of Mashonda, whom she says “has her own relationship with our boys, independent of Swizz and me, and she sometimes even picks up Genesis from school, as well as brings the boys little gifts. None of this has to be planned. The blending, at this point, is fluid, relaxed, and second nature.”
However, being “Umi” to stepdaughter Nicole, whom Swizz shares with London-based singer Jahna Sebastian, has created some friction between Alicia and the child’s biological mother. Jahna lashed out on social media at Alicia over them asking for her child to call the star Umi, and it created some negative back and forth with Swizz.
“No one else will be called any kind of ‘mom’ name in English, Arabic, not an ‘Umi’ or anything else in other language by her,” Jahna wrote on Instagram in December. “I will not let nobody bribe her and change her by using material things against me, iPhones and other things. She will be raised as a human being, who cares for humanity and stands by the right principles.”
Despite that drama, Alicia seems to have a great relationship with all of the kids. Her blended family includes Prince Nasir, 19, Kasseem Dean, Jr, 13, Nicole, 11, Egypt, 9, and Genesis, 5. Hit the flip to see photos of she and Swizz looking quite content with their brood:
Alicia joined Swizz, his eldest son Nasir and son KJ for this pic from 2011.
Description: NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 06: ***EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE*** (L-R) Alicia Keys, Reeve Carney, Swizz Beatz and his children pose backstage at the hit musical “Spider-Man:Turn on the Dark” at The Foxwoods Theater on February 6, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
How cute is this throwback of KJ and Egypt at a Knicks game in 2012?
Description: NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 02: Swizz Beatz, Kasseem David Dean Jr, Alicia Keys and Egypt Dean attend the Miami Heat vs New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden on November 2, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/FilmMagic)
Basketball games seem to be the go-to outing for the Deans. They enjoyed another Knicks game as a family with Egypt, KJ, Swizz, Alicia and Swizz’s mom, in 2015.
Description: NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 27: Swizz Beatz, Egypt Dean, Alicia Keys, guest, Kasseem Dean Jr. and guest attend New York Knicks vs Miami Heat game at Madison Square Garden on November 27, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
It was all blended family fun for Alicia, Swizz, KJ and Mashonda Tifrere at the launch of Mashonda’s book Blend in 2018.
Description: NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 01: (L-R) Mashonda, Alicia Keys, Kasseem Dean Jr., and Swizz Beatz attend the “Blend” Book Launch Party on October 1, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
Alicia, Swizz, and sons Genesis, Egypt and KJ were all smiles (for the most part) at the iHeartRadio Music Awards in 2019.
Description: LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 14: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO COMMERCIAL USE) Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz and family attend the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards which broadcasted live on FOX at Microsoft Theater on March 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)
Look at baby Egypt! He gave a big smile while hugged up between his mom and dad at Alicia’s 10th Annual Black Ball for her Keep a Child Alive foundation in 2013.
Description: NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 07: Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys with son Egypt Daoud Dean attend Keep A Child Alive’s 10th Annual Black Ball at Hammerstein Ballroom on November 7, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Child 13/Getty Images)
Alicia carried a teeny Genesis through Paris back in 2016 and showered her son with kisses as paparazzi photographed them.
Description: PARIS, FRANCE – MAY 31: Singer Alicia Keys and her son Genesis Ali Dean arrive at Charles-de-Gaulle airport on May 31, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Marc Piasecki/GC Images)
Swizz and his self-proclaimed twin (we agree), Nicole, were hugged up together at his Bally x Swizz Beatz Collection launch in her hometown of London back in 2017.
Description: LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 04: Swizz Beatz and Nicole Dean attend Bally x Swizz Beatz Collection Launch Event at Bally Flagship Store on October 4, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Bally)
Swizz and a now very grown up Nasir shared a moment during a Harper’s BAZAAR event in NYC last September.
Description: NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 06: Swizz Beatz (L) and Prince Nasir Dean attend as Harper’s BAZAAR celebrates “ICONS By Carine Roitfeld” at The Plaza Hotel presented by Cartier – Inside on September 06, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Harper’s BAZAAR )
All the boys, with the exception of KJ, came out with their dad to help support Alicia when she held hosting duties for the second time in a row for the Grammys back in January.
Description: LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 26: Prince Nasir Dean, Swizz Beatz, Genesis Ali Dean and Egypt Daoud Dean attend the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)