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Reality Star Karen Derrico On Being A Mother of 14

Motherhood

What do you get when you add two parents plus 14 kids? The delightful TLC reality series Doubling Down with the Derricos, following the lives of Karen and Deon Derrico and their fourteen kids – that include multiple sets of twins and triplets – as they navigate daily life with their larger-than-life family.


Just in time for Mother’s Day, xoNecole caught up with Karen to hear what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mother of 14 living children and how their story began. “We met at a nightclub,” Karen says about meeting her husband Deon for the first time. “There was just a boldness about him…and we just danced the whole night.”

It only took three months into their courtship that Karen says the couple discussed their plans around having children. “He asked me, ‘How many children do you want?” She replied: “I want as many as God blesses me to have.” She said it was those magic words that led to her life as a mother to over a dozen kids.

Sets of multiples run on both sides of the family. Karen says that she has cousins with twins and triplet aunts and her husband’s family has twins. Even Gigi – Deon’s mother who also appears on the show – tragically miscarried a set of triplets. “I guess I’m just carrying on Gigi’s torch,” Karen says.

But Karen is a medical anomaly having so many sets of multiple children without the aid of fertility treatments. It’s one of the reasons why TLC producer Lori Ansaldi reached out to the Derricos after reading their story in a newspaper article and asking them about the idea of doing a show. “We just realized there are things in our life that we had a blueprint from someone else to go by,” Karen says about their decision to do the show. “"If someone…says, 'Girl, I got five heartbeats in here and I got to carry them. How was it like for you?'... We just want to provide that loving, caring, non-judgmental blueprint for other families out there [with the show].”

There was only a bit of hesitation from extended family members about why Karen and Deon would want to invite a camera crew into their lives, but for the most part, Karen says that everybody was on board, especially their kids. “We introduced it to them as this is our way of telling our story and what we’ve been through,” she says.

Their lives before the show weren’t much different than now, with Deon working in real estate and Karen raising the kids as a stay-at-home mom. The newfound spotlight also hasn’t created any “pumpkin heads” as Karen describes it. “We don’t drop that ‘f word’ of fame,” Karen says. “We don’t use that word at all.” A part of keeping the kids level headed also includes their weekly Saturday morning cleaning rituals, which Karen attributes to her “old school” parenting style. “You turn your music on, you light some candles or some incense and everybody in the house knows it's time to get up and start cleaning,” she says.

It’s their faith and their commitment to a life of service that keep the Derrico family humble. Besides the ability for the kids to get big boxes of complimentary fruit roll-ups whenever they want (which Karen says she quickly nipped in the bud), it’s been fans' messages about how much the show has meant to them that have been a blessing to Karen especially. Opening up about miscarriage, Karen says she’s had fans reach out to her and thank her for her vulnerability on the subject. “You’d be surprised how much people don’t talk about going through a miscarriage,” Karen says. “I want other mothers to know that it’s okay, not to be okay.”

The emergence of a week-long tension headache told me that I needed to figure out a way to minimize and relieve my stress. In addition to daily magnesium supplements and meditation, I also found myself wanting to orgasm (the health benefits are hard to ignore) and do so at least every other day.

I was determined to set the mood and engage in some erotic self-focus by way of masturbation, and I wanted to do so with a little more variety than my wand vibrator provides. My commitment to almost daily masturbation was affirmed even further with the arrival of what would become my new favorite sex toy, the viral Lovers’ Thump & Thrust Dual Vibrator.

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If there is one artist who has had a very successful and eventful year so far it’s Mary J. Blige. The “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul” shut down the 2022 Super Bowl Half-time show along with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, and Eminem, she also performed at NBA All-Star weekend and now she is being honored as one of Time's most influential people of 2022.

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These days it seems that we’re all trying to heal from childhood wounds, and though I’m a big advocate for cutting people off – family included – I’ve come to learn how challenging that actually is. But also, it’s not always necessary if you have a parent who is open and committed to doing the healing work along with you, a mother, for example, who is receptive to her truth. But this also means you are receptive to the reality that parents are humans who often take cake crumbs from their parents and so on. It’s not to say that you have to accept piss-poor treatment because they’re human, but if any of us are going to embark upon a healing journey, we must acknowledge even the difficult truths.

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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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