Emmy Award winner Jeannie Mai Jenkins is best known for her eight season stint co-hosting The Real talk show. She also gained a legion of fans in 2020 as a competitor on Dancing with the Stars, and many others found her on social media (on Instagram alone she has almost 3 million followers!). Married to rapper Jeezy with an 8-month-old daughter, Monaco, she is passionate about advancing the fight against human sex trafficking, and has executive produced two documentaries on this important topic, Stopping Traffic: The Movement to End Sex Trafficking, and “Stopping Traffic 2: Surviving Sex Trafficking” (available on iTunes and Amazon).
For this week’s Meet a Mom interview, we spoke to Jeannie Mai about her family life (split between CA and GA) with Jeezy and Monaco, how she met her husband, her passion for protecting women and children, and more.
Can you please share a bit about your bicoastal family life?
I’m a working mom and even though I’m in a different place every other week I’m close with my family and they’re my village. Jeezy and I recently had to travel overseas and my mom, dad, and brother helped watch Monaco and sent video and Face Timed all day long. My husband’s family does the same! I’m passionate about my work and things that I’m creative about and my husband still tours a lot so we are grateful for family.
That’s wonderful! And congratulations on all the success of The Real!
I was on the show for 10 years, and we won an Emmy, an NAACP Image Award and did a tour with Michelle Obama. I can’t believe I was able to be a part of it.
What was your experience like on Dancing with the Stars?
It was an intensely challenging time but the most fun. I was diagnosed during the finale with epiglottitis which basically means your throat can close up at any moment. I was very lucky to catch it early and it revealed who my friends are—there was overwhelming support from everyone in the competition and in my world.
Amazing. You’re the daughter of immigrants—how has your background contributed to how you’ve approached life, and parenting?
My mom came to the US two years before I was born. I believe my parents both being refugees from Vietnam is why I’m so grateful for everything in life, and so fearless to work hard. The Communists took it all so they had nothing. The mentality to rebuild what you’ve lost is always in me and the only valuable things I can’t replace are my family and my self-worth.
Love that. How did you meet your husband?
I met my husband on my talk show! He was a guest. After five years he reached out and it was the perfect time. He tells me now he was working on himself in that time. I had spent time designing who I was going to be in my 40 years plus in my life.
You’ve executive produced two powerful documentaries about human trafficking. Why is this cause so important to you?
As long as I live I will fight for the voices that are unheard – women and children. That was because one time in my life I was very violated and the people around me didn’t know how to support me and give me the help that I needed. I will never forget what that pain felt like and it wasn’t until my 40s that I understood it and found my voice.
Today as a television personality and as a mother and a wife I am dedicated to speaking up against sex trafficking and for survivors. The average person doesn’t understand that trafficking can take place in your neighborhood – suburbs, cities, overseas. Trafficking doesn’t mean witnessing a white van throwing kids into the back. It’s a process. It’s a relationship—an introduction and a grooming that can be months or years, and before you know it that this person is profiting off you or violating you. It can be online, through texts, or over a few dates or even through a work relationship. Empower your children to know their worth and boundaries. Every single child that has been trafficked came from a place of feeling insecure, and traffickers pray on these insecurities.
Thank you for doing that crucial work. How would you describe your husband as a parent and how would he describe you?
My husband is the vibe with my daughter. My husband is super chill and unbothered, and that is Monaco. He’s the best dad because of that. My side of the family is intense—we’re hyped. He describes me, in his words, as the best mom over. He tells me that every single day and I think it’s because he appreciates the intentional time we spend with our children. [My husband has] an 8 year-year-old daughter and a 24-year-old son [from previous relationships] and we’re very intentional about the time we spend with all our kids, doing things that they want to do and being emotionally aware of their needs. We didn’t have that growing up.
What is your best advice for new moms?
Have an understanding during pregnancy and post -pregnancy of what your needs are so your partner can be that. Jeezy and I are so busy and I’m so “do it all myself” that I never prepared him for how to be there for me. My emotions fluctuated so much that it was a heavy toll on us. I live with anxiety and wasn’t educated on postpartum anxiety and I would have prepared him to be there for me.
That’s great advice. What else surprised you about becoming a mom?
All the cliches are true. You don’t get grossed out by anything. I can have poo on my elbow and I’m grabbing my keys and I’ll just wipe it in the car. Also, when they say it goes by so fast, it is beyond accurate.