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)