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Kelly Rowland Opens Up About Reconnecting With Her Father After 30 Years

"For 30 years, my dad was absent in my life."

Kelly Rowland

Kelly Rowland got candid about the emotional reunion she had with her father after not seeing him for 30 years. The former Destiny’s Child singer was joined by her father, Christopher Lovett, while guest co-hosting the Today Show with Hoda Kotb and they shared how they were able to build a bond after not speaking for three decades.


Kelly was raised by her mom who passed away three weeks after the singer gave birth to her first child Titan in 2014. “I had a wonderful mom who supported me and loved me, but the truth is, there was always a piece of me that was kinda missing,” she said. “For 30 years, my dad was absent in my life.” Prior to making the connection with her father, the “Motivation” singer admitted that she originally didn’t want to have anything to do with him due to him being absent.

She even went as far as to tell security not to let him come inside venues where she was performing. Her father revealed that once he figured out that Kelly was his daughter, he did try to make contact with her numerous times, but was unsuccessful. However, when the 41-year-old mother of two decided it was time to meet her father, she reached out to him and they met at a hotel in Atlanta where they spoke for two hours.

Christopher called meeting his daughter for the first time a “dream.” “People would say I saw your daughter [on TV] and I used to sit there and say, ‘I didn’t’ and it hurt,” he said. He also shared that he felt “sad” when security wouldn’t let him see his daughter in the past.

Christopher wanted to use the opportunity of finally meeting his daughter to share his side of the story such as the fact that he didn’t know that Kelly and her mother left Atlanta and moved to Houston until three or four years later.

During the Today Show, Kelly reflected on the first time she heard her father say those three words every young girl yearns to hear: I love you.

“It was necessary to hear it for the little girl in me,” she said. “It was necessary to hear it from a man. It was necessary to hear it from my father. When I thought about all the tumultuous relationships and trying to figure out men, like, that is the base and the foundation of it psychologically. So when I’m talking to therapists, and I’m asking them about this, it all runs back to the abandonment issue.”

For people who are thinking about reaching out to an estranged parent, Kelly shared these tips.

“Brace yourself and ask yourself a couple of questions. Am I ready for this? Am I ready for no matter the outcome whether it’s good or bad? Because the truth is you don’t want to set yourself up,” she said.

“Everybody is always scared of the other side and you don’t know if it’s going to be this person embracing you with open arms or they’re not ready. And if they’re not ready, that’s okay. That’s kind of their way of shielding you from themselves.”

Featured image by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for Disney Dreamers Academy

When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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