Charlamagne tha God wasn’t always this polished media maven we see today. When he first emerged, he was hip-hop’s antagonist. The controversial voice of the culture that said what you didn’t have the audacity to say. So when he began opening up about his struggle with anxiety and depression I was shocked. How could an anxious and depressed person be so bold? So unafraid and brutally honest? Since I also deal with anxiety and depression, I often freeze when I get anxious and become avoidant. But not Charlamagne. He defies myths about anxiety every time he touches a mic or appears on the television.
How does someone with a worrisome mind remain so unfiltered?
“If I’m not honest about what I’m feeling, it makes it worse,” he told MADAMENOIRE. “If I don’t say it, I feel like everybody sees it anyway… I just feel like if I don’t express it openly and honestly, it’ll just drive me crazy.”
Charlamagne tha God, born Lenard McKelvy in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, has been open about dealing with bouts of depression and anxiety from childhood. While he was battling something he couldn’t quite understand, so were members of his family. His father slept with a gun and a knife by his side every night. He also survived a suicide attempt. His grandmother often had to “take her nerve pills” and would warn him about the people in the woods listening. Paranoia was normal.
“When you come from certain environments, people think [mental illness] is normal. It’s either the devil or you’re just acting out of turn. Or you just need an ass whooping. That would be the language.
Once he got to therapy as an adult, he gained the language and knowledge needed to understand what he and his family had been going through. His therapist isn’t the only Black woman in his corner though. Outside of his wife and mother of his three children, he has a team of Black women working by his side. He credits them, especially showrunner Rachel Edwards and Comedy Central exec Bianca Brunette, for empowering him, bringing him stability and keeping him in line.
“Black women are the CEOs of our lives and have been since day one,” the father-of-three said. “Growing up, I studied Islam and they teach that the Black man is the foundation of the family like the sun is the foundation of the solar system. And as I got older I was like, ‘I don’t see it that way’. I think the Black woman is the foundation of the family, and when that foundation is strong, it allows the man to be able to build on top of that foundation…Black men and Black women make the best team.”
“If we’re all being honest with each other, women held down the household. Women are the glue.”
The New York Times best-selling author jumpstarted his career alongside a Black woman: Wendy Williams, whose health has declined and show has been canceled recently. Even though their relationship has had its ups and downs, Charlamagne has never spoken ill of hip-hop’s shock jock. When we spoke about his former mentor, he said he noticed that something wasn’t right four years ago. He pointed out how Wendy watchers were upset that Debmar-Mercury executives recently spoke out about the final days of The Wendy Williams Show. Charlamagne was more disappointed with the company for not stopping the house she built from collapsing.
“I was more mad at Debmar-Mercury for putting Wendy out there all the time knowing clearly something’s wrong,” he said. “I been watching her for the past four years. She fainted on live television but they just kept putting her out there [and] propping her up knowing she wasn’t at her best. And in my mind, if she would’ve gotten help three, four years ago, it might not have gotten to this point.”
While Williams made her resistant exit from television, his The Breakfast Club co-host Angela Yee is gladly moving on. She recently announced that she would be parting ways with Charlamagne and DJ Envy to launch her own show, Way Up With Angela Yee. While there have been rumors that The Breakfast Club will end after Yee’s exit, he said that’s not happening. Besides, his contract isn’t up until 2025.
“I’m not going away. Envy is not going away. Angela Yee can’t be replaced, but we are a club. So that club has to expand and we’re going to bring in new members. So if people are wondering, are there going to be new members in The Breakfast Club? Yes.”
He emphasized that more than one new-co-host might be added.
“I don’t think it’s gonna be one person. It might be two.”
Charlamagne tha God cheers on all the Black women who have contributed to his rise to the top. For they have played a vital role throughout his journey into manhood and mental wellness.
“I was always around women. That’s what makes me feel safe [and] secure. That’s what empowers me to show up and be the best version of myself.”
A Hell Of A Week With Charlamagne tha God airs every Thursday on Comedy Central.
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