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Daphne Wayans and daughters – photo credit Faye Sadou

Meet Daphne Wayans, Los Angeles native, mother of five and former wife of Hollywood giant Keenen Ivory Wayans. Spend five minutes talking to Daphne and it becomes clear that being a mom is what she was born to do. The fact that it’s something she always wanted may explain how she makes it look so easy.

But as we moms know, managing kids takes a lot of time and effort; and when those kids are born into a powerhouse family like the Wayans, and live in Hollywood, different things come into play. Do they plan to go into the family business? How do you keep them grounded? And what role does Keenen play?

Fortunately, Daphne was gracious enough to give us a glimpse inside her world. Read on as she dishes about raising the next generation of Wayans.


Mommynoire: So tell us, what’s the age range of your kids and what are they into?

DW: They’re 11-21 years old and they’re divided into the bigs and the littles. Jolie, my oldest, just finished college and she’s finding her way. I think deep down she wants to be a mom. And she wants a baby and to find her love life. She’s a homemaker type.

Nala’s 18 and she is what we like to call a natural born goal-digger. She wants to be rich for being her. She’s homeschooling for her last semester of high school. She wants to travel. She’s in fashion. She’s a social butterfly. She’s trying to discover it. Both Keenen and I encourage them to do what makes them happy and don’t worry about the money and the career right away.

Keenen, my only son, is 16. He’s a chip off the old block. If you could take all the talent of the Wayans he would be a hodgepodge of all of that. He’s in a play right now with the daughter of Omar Epps.

Bella is 14. She has so many things she could be or do. I’m not really someone who pushes a comic unless I really see comic ability, but she is very funny. I mean, all of the kids are encouraged to be funny. Keenen always said, ‘my children will never get in trouble if they make me laugh.’ So they got really good at making him laugh. He also wanted to teach them that you can get paid for selling jokes so they sell him jokes.

Daphne is 11 and she’s the most athletic. She just started dancing, which is interesting because we’ve never seen a dancer in the Wayans family.

I always knew I wanted to mother artists.

How do you keep them grounded?

DW: Well, I had to acknowledge the fact that what is is. Uncle Will and Auntie Jada are just that. They grew up around some of the biggest stars in the world and not just in their own family. It’s like growing up and your dad’s a doctor and all of his friends are doctors.They don’t know any other world. But I’ve always taught them that it doesn’t mean they’re entitled to anything. That person’s success is that person’s success. You’re in a proximity to be a voyeur to that and hopefully it will inspire something in you. When you get to see something in its fullness you get to see if it’s something you want or not.

We’re also a fun family. Laughing and games, joking and being silly is very high priority to us. Not to say that we live in a circus. They’re still disciplined within that. Everyone has to participate and contribute to the group. They have chores and responsibilities. I never wanted entitled kids.

Family sounds very important to you. How do you instill that?

DW: One thing I did when they were little to keep that closeness is I kept all five of them in one room, even though we lived in a huge house. I felt it was important that they learn to take care of each other. And they did.

Do you come from a big family?

DW: No. I’m an only child. I had to learn about big families.

Have you found situations where your kids have been exposed to other celebrity kids and wondered about the influence?

DW: Absolutely, but my kids know that certain things will never be ok. And Keenen and I have never once laid a finger on our children. Consequently, they’ve never been in a fight or hit each other. It’s a lot more talking and explaining to get them to really understand the importance of certain things. Some are more polite than others and if you see my videos they have a pretty foul mouth, but it’s not a button for me. I get more upset by things like, ‘hunh,’ or ‘what?’ That to me is rude.

How do you and Keenen work out co-parenting?

DW: We have time with them 50/50 and we love it. If ever I’m stuck, he’s my go-to person. We know them the most and love them the same. We’ve gotten into a rhythm over time. I find that I micro-manage and he macro-manages.

How close is the family?

DW: We live in Los Angeles. Specifically, the Valley. Keenen and I live 5 houses from each other. There are about 32 Wayans within a 15 mile radius. Not a day goes by where we don’t run into someone. It’s nice because having so much family and extended family keeps the kids in line.

In terms of going into the family business, do they have an expectation of being helped?

DW: I don’t know if they really expect help because Keenen is a humdinger. He definitely made his siblings audition for “In Living Color.” If you’re not ready it could be the death of you to be given something prematurely. He wants them to be ready. And a lot of times you have more regard for something if you have to find your own way. They do have a tremendous advantage because they’re in it. They get to see it. They’ve grown up with it. Anything you do for a lifetime you’re going to be pretty expert at. Then it’s the application of that. And they get to see that too. They have a whole family who can advise them on it and and people who are experts and at the top of the field. So they sit at a very unique position that allows them a lot of opportunities. And then in a way they’re going to be judged by that as well.

Do you worry about your daughter Nala getting into reality TV and that crowd?

DW: She’s a very strong girl and I don’t worry at all. Learning is experiential. Making mistakes, failing, not getting the outcome that you want is a part of learning. I try not to make decisions for them. Nahla knows exactly what she wants and doesn’t do anything thing she doesn’t want to do. Plus there’s no destination to finding your way. It’s important that they know that I’m still finding mine.

Do you feel that there’s a lot of unfair judgements about how parents raise their kids in Hollywood? Specifically, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith?

DW: People are extremely judgemental and want to shake their finger at people like Will and Jada, but I have to say they are my favorite parents because what they do is grant their kids beingness. Our children aren’t our item. We have children that are artists and we want them to be able to speak for themselves. Willow cut her hair and people were going crazy and Jada was saying if I can’t let her make a decision about the color of her hair, something that is going to change and grow, how am I going to teach her how to tell a man ‘no’ or how to stand up for herself in a situation that she doesn’t want? We are criticized for such.

What’s your main goal as mom?

DW: I’m the maternal leader of our group. I’m just pleased beyond anything to share life with them. It’s the thing that makes me get up every morning. Ultimately, what will make me feel like a success in life is if they go courageously after what they want and get it. That they are kind people. And that they laugh more than not.

To find out more about Daphne Wayans go to

Erickka Sy Savané is a freelance writer and creator of THE BREW, a social commentary blog. Before that she was a model/actress/MTV VJ. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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