Back in the early 2000s, we might all have thought that a young pop/R&B star and actor like Christina Milian was in her prime, releasing hit albums, making movies like Love Don’t Cost a Thing, dropping by TRL. But when we look at all that Milian is doing now — starring in Netflix movies, hosting a new YouTube show, running her own side businesses, and raising two children — it seems like she’s really hitting her stride in multiple careers now. Even with all the obstacles that 2020 has thrown to everyone, she has a lot to celebrate this holiday season.
It’s a testament to Milian’s sunny disposition that when she called SheKnows from her movie shoot on the gorgeous island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, while I froze my butt off on a dark New York November afternoon, I didn’t hate her for it. (She’s there starring in an Alicia Keys-produced rom-com for Netflix as a struggling pop star singing at her ex’s wedding.)
Do I envy her for spending Thanksgiving with her French boyfriend Matt Pokora, their 10-month-old son Isaiah, and her mom, sister, and nephew in a tropical locale? Sure. But to cheer everyone up about our altered holiday travel plans this year, she was eager to share a little promotion she was doing with Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, which are giving away holiday themed “ugly sweater” light-up face masks and steering wheel covers. It’s no trip to Mauritius, but OK.
In our conversation, Milian also sounded like every mother determined to raise her kids, Isaiah and 10-year-old Violet, as big dreamers like herself, but still making sure they’re grounded by education and their roots (Cuban, American, and French).
SheKnows: Where are you calling from? It’s got to be better than freezing New York right now.
Christina Milian: I don’t want to say! I’m on an island, and it’s warm. I’m in Mauritius shooting a movie.
SK: Will you still be there for Thanksgiving?
CM: The next day after Thanksgiving is when I return back home, so I will be here and we’ll still get a turkey. Luckily, in my room here I have a little kitchen. So, I’m going to pick up all of my little ingredients. I have my mom here — she’s my special secret ingredient, too — and we’re going to cook up all the things that we normally do for the holidays.
SK: Oh, that’s great! Do you have other family members in your quarantine bubble?
CM: We had to quarantine first before working, so my quarantine bubble consists of my man, Matt, my son Isaiah, then my sister, Lizzy, my nephew, and my mom. There’s more that come with the package, but that’s who we have for now with us. I don’t think anybody wants to leave.
SK: I wouldn’t want to! When you come back to the states, how different will your Christmas look than it would have without the pandemic?
CM: It’s not a dramatic change from my usual, because my mom lives in this neighborhood where everybody lights up their trees for blocks and blocks and blocks. So people just drive up down with their kids in the car, windows down drinking hot chocolate, looking, taking pictures. It’s not only Christmastime, it’s like the whole month of December, all the way through New Years. Once we get home, we’re going to light up our house, and, of course, start comparing our house to everybody else’s house in the neighborhood — who’s got a better Christmas light set-up? — and then spend way too much money adding more lights.
We’re definitely going to take the kids out to go tour to see the Christmas lights, and go out of our neighborhood as well, to just keep the Christmas spirit alive. I’m working with AutoTrader and with Kelley Blue Book because, obviously, we’re talking about spending a lot of time in our cars, but also not really having the opportunity to go out and do things the normal way because of the pandemic. So they really have the way of making it easier for us to feel safe in our cars or get a new car … and I know my family’s going to be OK.
SK: And it’s Isaiah’s first Christmas. Does your boyfriend Matt have any French holiday traditions he’s excited to show your son?
CM: This year, we’re going to miss out on his parents coming out to spend the holidays with us because of the pandemic. But usually his mom makes like special desserts, and his best friend has a bakery, and they make desserts there, and bring those over while I do all the savory food. Lucky for him, his best friend is a baker, so his mom’s not going to be able to bring her stuff, but his best friend is going to bring all the lovely nougat and all the things that he loves with the Nutella, pears, and tarts.
SK: Your new YouTube show, Really, Truly, Maybe, is such fun to watch. Violet killed me in the episode about her birth! She’s a natural in front of the camera.
CM: She’s been dying to do something on YouTube. She’s been asking me for years. We’ve made videos in the past, like eating or making random bubblegum or painting each other’s faces and stuff, but now we’re fully going for it. We’d love to just do storytelling and crafty things. I was like, all right, you can show up on my show and we’ll figure out when I’ll let you do anything on YouTube on your own.
SK: That’s a difficult request to navigate, I’m sure. Is she interested in acting and singing also?
CM: Violet’s just a little entertainer. I feel like she’s going to be a little comedian. She just likes to dabble in a little bit of everything. She’s asked me in the past and I have like taken her to an acting class for a certain period of time. …
I grew up with Michael Jackson and Madonna and all these amazingly mysterious, amazing powerhouse pop singers. So my dreams were really big. Now there’s so many things kids can be, like superstar TikTokers and superstar YouTubers. … But I think education comes first and foremost. And if you really love something and you’re passionate about it, it will be there and you’ve just got to work hard on your craft. But I’m like, “Get to school, girl. I need some good grades.”
SK: You also have your Beignet Box business, House of Fine Gold jewelry, and a number of other partnerships. Are you conscious of modeling other paths for her, with all your businesses?
CM: Violet’s always known both my businesses. She’s seen me work on them 24/7, and I talk to her about it and about her abilities, what she can be and what she wants to do. She’s seen successes. She’s seen things come and go. She knows that I am a dreamer, and that I don’t stop working hard on the things that I love. I also balance it well with mothering, with parenting and stuff, too. I want her to know that she can do it all and she can still be a good friend, a good mother, all that stuff when the time comes.
SK: Were the two of you excited about Kamala Harris becoming vice president?
CM: Oh, absolutely! She’s at her dad’s house right now … but we were both watching the second that we got the news about Kamala, and we were just so happy. For me, really showing her that she has the ability to become and be whatever she wants to be. I’ve been telling her that, and for her to actually see it in this time, in her generation and understand what this means, it brings me so much joy. It makes me so happy. I just never thought I’d get to see this. I never even imagined that any of us would even try to be the vice president or president, as a woman or a woman of color. It’s just amazing. This opportunity has come, and it’s here and my daughter is able to see that the future is bright ahead of her.
SK: I saw on your show that you’re raising Isaiah to speak Spanish and French. Is Violet bilingual? How is that going?
CM: Violet and I took French lessons together. She’s much better than I am. Kids pick it up way faster. She does know Spanish; she just gets nervous about speaking it out loud. But I was the same way, too. I still to this day get kind of nervous sometimes if I get in a deep conversation with anybody. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, are they judging me, or the dialect might be different from mine. … So that being said, I want her to be grounded with her roots. I think knowing multiple languages is a great asset to have.
SK: Is Isaiah walking and talking yet?
CM: He’s not walking, but he’s standing. And he’s he says “cat,” “baby,” “mom, “sister.” So, he’s got a couple of words under his belt already. He’s pretty smart!
SK: What are some of the pros and cons of having your children nine years apart?
CM: The pros are my daughter can definitely help me babysit, which is very helpful. The cons, I guess would be that missed opportunity of them being so close in age that they get to play with the same type of toys. But at this point, I just want them to have as much closeness as they possibly can before she’s out of the house at some point. She’s honestly such a great daughter and a big sister. She cares so much and she cares so much for me as a mom, too, making sure that I’m good, she’s very helpful… And the pro also is there’s only one car seat instead of two!
Here are some great books about girls of color to add to your child’s library now.