For more than two decades, actress and comedian Kym Whitley had been living her dream, working in Hollywood. She’d acted in movies and on television shows, traveled from place to place and performed stand-up routines that have had audiences in stitches. Her career had never been better. But her proudest role is one she says only God could have prepared her to handle.
“I knew I was funny the first time I got a check,” Whitley told CBN. “The first time I got paid for it, I was like. ‘I must be funny.'”
Kym left Shaker Heights, Ohio, graduated from Fisk University and then moved to Hollywood with only $50 to her name.
Hollywood didn’t come knocking, so Whitley went to try and knock down the door herself. Her journey began as a substitute teacher in Compton, a working class city with a troubled history. It’s also known as the birthplace of legendary hip hop group, NWA.
“As I was teaching, I would find one parent who would say, ‘Would you teach my child to read over the summer’ or ‘my little girl is out of hand, she is not listening to me’ and then I would take that little girl, so it started then,” Whitely said.
That ability to reach youth moved Whitely to invite young people to her home to mentor them, something her mother did when she was child.
She got a few of her fellow comedians to help with something she called Comics for Kids. They even hosted a sleep over, where they gave each child the most popular thing to have that time, a Sony Walkman.
Little did she know she was changing lives with every sleepover she hosted.
“I got an email, some years later. It was like, ‘Hi, Ms. Whitley, this is Eric and I just want to let you know that the one night we spent at your house changed me and my brother’s lives.’ I was like, what?” she said.
“He was like, ‘I just want you to know that you gave us our Walkman and we cherished it every day, but we both went to college and we completed college because of you. You showed us a better way,'” Whitley shared.
“I am getting so emotional. But I couldn’t even believe that that one night impacted these two little foster kids and they were like thank you and please keep doing that,” she said.
“My whole life, some people don’t know because I’m so crazy, my whole life, I believe is by divine order,” Whitley said.
Whitley’s mentoring days took an unexpected turn a few years ago when her phone rang. There was a hospital nurse on the other end.
Within just one hour of that call, the comedian went from mentor to mother.
“One girl in particular, I had been mentoring for 15 years,” she said. “And she had gone into the hospital to deliver a baby. And the social worker says she has chosen you as the guardian for this baby.”
“When that opportunity came I was fearful and I had chills all over my body. I was like I can’t take a kid,” Whitley shared. “I mean I can take a puppy, but I can’t take a kid. But my parents were in town. And growing up we always had to go to college, get married first, then have children.”
“My parents were like that and my mom and dad were like, ‘Okay, baby girl, why don’t you go get this baby. This is truly your last chance at happiness,'” she said.
“They were like, ‘You don’t have a man. It doesn’t look like you got one coming,” she said. “Your eggs are old, boo. You better go get this baby’.”
Her little boy, Joshua, arrived within an hour of the phone call from hospital, and he’s been an unexpected blessing ever since.
“And I tell you this, the reason why this was divine, one of many reasons was he came at a time when my parents were in town. They are never in Los Angeles,” she explained.
“They were there for a period of two weeks and they’ve never stayed past a week. Then they said we will stay for a month,” she said. “Then they stayed for three months because they were worried I was going to kill the baby. Okay, I didn’t know how to bathe the baby, or change the diapers, so they stayed with me.”
“But six months later, my mother passed. How could that be planned? The time I spent with my mother and this baby,” Whitley shared.
Losing her mother made the actress realize the importance of surrounding Joshua with a strong support system. “I’m like, ‘I might not have my family here in Los Angeles, but I’m going to build Joshua a village,’” she says. “‘I am going to rally up the good people in my life…