When Ebony and Denise made their first YouTube video in 2012, they just wanted to celebrate the fact that President Barack Obama had won a second term and had finally declared his support for marriage equality. Little did they know how much it meant for others to see a mixed-race lesbian couple hold their daughter on their laps and — well, just act like a family. More than eight years later, Team2Moms, as they’re now known, is still going strong, and they’ve got no shortage of meaningful moments to share with their 431,000 subscribers on YouTube and 4 million on TikTok.
Team2Moms doesn’t follow any fancy format or editing, because they don’t need to. It’s just Ebony, Denise, their 9-year-old daughter Olivia, and their 3-year-old twins, Jayden and Lucas, talking about their lives, tackling serious issues and silly topics, the way all families do. Sometimes they might relate a complicated conversation they had with Olivia about what a sperm donor is, or discuss their son Jayden’s autism diagnosis, and other times they’re doing a product smell test.
Ebony, who is now a full-time influencer, and Denise, a network engineer for AT&T, were recently named as two of the recipients of YouTube’s Black Voice Fund, a grant intended to ensure families like theirs see themselves represented online. We don’t have any doubt that this matters, but we let Ebony herself speak what it would have meant to her to see this kind of diversity in media when she was younger. (Check back here soon for more from another Black Voices Fund couple, too!)
The events of 2020 gave Team2Moms even more to share with their viewers. After this one-on-one chat with Ebony, we’re eager for all they’re going to bring in the years to come too.
SheKnows: YouTube seems like a pretty good gig to have in this pandemic era. What foresight you had!
Ebony: Absolutely. I’m very lucky to be home with my kids, to be there for their milestones and still be a businesswoman and a working mom. I took a leap of faith. I was a forensic scientist for the New York Police Department. Once I got pregnant, I needed a change of pace. And so we moved out of the city, which then put me three hours away from the lab, and I wasn’t going to do that commute. So I started doing advocacy work for patients here at the local hospital while concurrently making content on YouTube. And then one day I was just like, “I want to do this full time.” And my wife, being the supportive being that she is, was like, “Do it!”
SK: What made you decide to become YouTube creators?
E: Our first video was literally just us wanting to share our excitement at that time for President Obama being reelected for a second term. It wasn’t until that video was uploaded, and it got a lot of hits, and the comments had nothing to with what we were talking about. The comments were all about Olivia, because she was sitting on our lap and they were like, “How is she your daughter? You are two women.” That was our wakeup call.
We’ve been so lucky to be surrounded by supportive family and friends; we don’t seem like oddballs in our community. But it’s not like this everywhere, and so we need to normalize this. And then that’s how Team2Moms was born. We actually started as “Olivia Has 2 Moms,” thinking we would never have any more kids.
That’s where we started just literally documenting our lives, making content, normalizing same-sex parenting. We are only one piece of that pie, so we make sure to share other stories, whether it’s stories of two-dad families, cis-trans couples, trans couples, and their journey. Even our journey of how we had our children is very different from other families, so we make sure to continue to educate the world and normalize our family.
SK: You do you know what the breakdown of your audience is? How many people are also LGBTQ+ families and how many are people who just want to learn about families that aren’t like theirs?
E: I feel like the majority of our audience is the youth of the LGBTQ+ community. A lot of the feedback we receive are from the youth who never envisioned that this is possible
SK: What do you think it would have been like if you had someone like you and Denise to watch when you were younger?
E: If I had seen someone that looked like me when I was younger, I would have already been able to feel comfortable in my own skin. I would have been able to come out to my family sooner. I would have been able to envision things and work towards things a bit sooner than later on in life, because literally I came out to my mom in my mid-20s and then had children in our late 20s, early 30s. My family’s from Belize — this is not this is not something within the culture that is seen, so it took a lot of talking and fighting at times and talking with my family to get to a point of acceptance. You would never know what my life was like as a kid, as far as the struggles I had with my sexuality, because my family now is just so on board and with the times. And that’s because you’re seeing more representation. You’re seeing more things in mainstream media. You’re seeing more things in movies and in television shows. Better late than never is what I say.
SK: Do you let Olivia watch YouTube on her own?
E: She only has the YouTube kids app on her own, so we truly trust that the YouTube kids app is funneling kid appropriate content to her, but she does have access to see and like our videos.
And we did a video with her where we talked about stranger danger, and we used videos of another YouTube creator that did experiments with parents and children to see if they would be lured away by strangers.
SK: Do you feel like she sees other kids like herself on YouTube?
E: In other YouTube shows, I think she’s starting to. When JoJo Siwa came out as being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, she saw that and she reacted to it. And not necessarily that Olivia is a part of the community, but she is a part of the community because her moms are a part of the community. She’s never seen it from the perspective of somebody that she’s a fan of as a child, on mainstream media now saying that they are part of the LGBTQ+ community.
SK: As moms, how do you decide how much of this conversation you’re going to have for for the public and how much you’re going to keep private?
E: We decide based on our daughter. A lot of it has to do with her age, what’s appropriate to talk to her about at her age and how much she is willing to discuss with us, whether it’s on camera or off camera. But we always put her interest, and eventually the boys’ as well, first.
So far, with our daughter, anything that’s like has to do with being a two-mom family and her having two moms has always been something that she doesn’t mind sharing. She wants to share it, she loves it, she’s proud. It’s the typical things that kids get embarrassed about, like if she has a crush, that any child would get embarrassed about, where she’s like, “Mommy, no.”
A lot of things we go through first. We don’t always go through everything live as it’s happening. For example, my daughter, two summers ago in gymnastics, got teased for the first time ever for having two moms. And she was devastated and we were devastated. We thought we were so prepared for this, but when it actually happened, my wife and I wanted to crawl under a rock and cry with her. And so we had to work and figure out how we’re going to support her, equip her for the future, deal with this on a level with the teachers and so forth, before we could share it. We need to make sure we got this, we know what we’re working through as a family privately before sharing it publicly.
SK: How has your relationship with your audience changed in the pandemic?
E: I feel like we’ve grown closer to them on so many different levels, because 2020 was a very heavy year, and when you share some of that heaviness that you’re going through and you realize you’re not alone in feeling the way you’re feeling … that connection brought us closer to our audience. Sometimes, there’s this picture that “influencers” only share the good — everything tightly packaged, makeup done. But 2020 was the year where we all just let loose. This family was like, “Makeup who? Ironed clothes where?” I am stressed. My kids are stressing us out. We feel like we don’t have a break. And it was just amazing to see we’re not alone.
SK: How about when it came to conversations about race?
E: We had a few videos about that, and it was more about other parents, whether they’re part of the community or not, parents in general finding it difficult to have conversations with their kids about what’s going on and reaching out to us for advice. It’s a two-way street with us. We don’t come off as the know-it-alls. We come off as just a family who just happens to have a camera and we upload our story and what’s happening. And so it’s two-way dialog of how we’re all going to try to handle this situation [and how our audience does].
SK: What does the Black Voices Fund mean for you?
E: YouTube has always invested in their Black creators and in the Black community. With the events after George Floyd, I think it was a moment for the world to see how everybody needs to step up and support diverse voices. And with YouTube doing this grant and this fund, it will definitely give us the resources to continue to make more content, to be visible. When you have a huge entity backup such diverse voices, it sparks fires in others to do the same, and that’s what we see is happening right now.
SK: Do you have any reading recommendations for kids or their parents for Black History Month?
E: A really good book as an adult that I just read is The Purpose of Power by Alicia Garza, who is a founder of Black Lives Matter. It’s an amazing read for adults, because she talks about her childhood in that book and how her mom had crucial, very tough conversations with her and how that shaped her as the person she is today. So that’s a good read for parents to help them with what’s going on now and having these conversations with their children.
SK: Is there anything new or different Team2Moms has coming up in 2021?
E: From a personal perspective, we’re going to learn how to still live, even though COVID is here, we’re going to learn how to coexist in the world and still be careful and safe because quarantine life is rough. It is physically and mentally draining. so we need to figure this out. That’s on a personal level. But as far as the work that we’re doing, we just want to continue using our voices, make it louder, make it more present, make it more frequent.
Add these books starring boys of color to your kids’ shelves.