The Gayles’ decision to adopt their daughter Kimani from Ethiopia brought them closer in ways they never dreamed. Read their story.
For more than a decade, music industry veteran, Yvette Davis Gayle, has helped elevate the careers of artists like Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, and Keri Hilson, as Vice President of Publicity at Interscope-Geffen-A&M Records. Her husband of twelve years, Colin, has also made a mark as a former music manager to artists like Jazzy Jeff, Jill Scott and Kenny Lattimore. These days Colin owns a successful branding company that requires travel to Africa several times a year to bring artists to the motherland to perform. The eleven-hour time difference combined with a busy family life that includes seven-year-old Mekhi and three-year-old, Kimani, keeps the Los Angeles-based power couple on the go. Yvette and Colin (who called in from Uganda to speak with us) shared how they make love and life work in a busy industry and why choosing to adopt was one of the best decisions they ever made.
ESSENCE.com: You both have such exciting careers. How hard is it to balance marriage and hectic careers with two small children.
YVETTE DAVIS GAYLE: I don’t travel for work as much as I used to. Colin and I arrange our schedules so that one parent is always home and that’s important to us. I’m able to pick and choose when and where I travel and I’ve gotten better at delegating duties.
COLIN GAYLE: Being away from my family is tough, especially with the eleven-hour time difference. When I’m awake, they’re asleep. It’s about cherishing the time we do have whether it’s five-minute phone calls, a few days together, or family getaways, especially to Africa. There are a billion people here. It’s where our strength is. If more of us did business in Africa, we’d be so much stronger.
ESSENCE.com: How did you and Colin make the decision to adopt?
YVETTE: In the 90s, I traveled with The Fugees to Haiti and visited an orphanage where I met a little girl who stole my heart. I wanted to take her home but I was in my 20s and not in a position to adopt then but the yearning stayed in my heart. I had a difficult first pregnancy that left me severely ill and hospitalized three times. At six months, I went into pre-mature labor and lost the child, a girl. We decided to try again. When I became pregnant with Mekhi, who I call my miracle child, the doctor sowed my cervix closed and put me on bed rest for six months. I was sick the entire time, gained sixty pounds, and developed diabetes. After he was born, my doctor and I agreed that was it. Colin and I didn’t want Mekhi to be an only child and we really wanted a little girl. That’s when we decided to adopt.
ESSENCE.com: Tell us about the adoption process.
YVETTE: I started researching adoption agencies and found Children’s Home Society in St. Paul, Minnesota. We were able to meet other families that adopted through them and it felt like a good fit for us. We thought international adoption would be faster than domestic because international adoptees are wards of the state. Baby girls are the most requested and Ethiopia is the only African country that has a systematic protocol with U.S. agencies. We were told it would be a seven to nine month process but international celebrity adoptions became popular and what was supposed to be a nine-month process turned into nearly three years before we received the dossier on our daughter.
ESSENCE.com: How has adoption changed or strengthened your family?
YVETTE: It has made us stronger, all three of us, to open our hearts in this way. I don’t think the three of us could love Kimani any more. We deeply wanted her and were deeply committed to the process of getting her. Mehki would tell everybody my sister is in Africa, he loves her so much. It’s been such a remarkable experience. When we went to Ethiopia to get Kimani, we brought Mekhai along and then took a seven-week vacation to South Africa to bond as a family.
ESSENCE.com: What kind of father is Colin? And Colin, tell me about Yvette as a wife and mother.
YVETTE: Colin is a remarkable father. Sometimes, I’m spread too thin and feel I don’t do enough. Colin pays attention to all the x’s and o. If it’s flower day at school he remembers to get it done, he’s on time for school pickups, flag football and t-ball practice, everything the kids are into, he is engaged and a completely hands on father. I love that about him. It is interesting that we got Kimani from Ethiopia because Colin in Jamaican and Ethiopia and Jamaica have strong cultural ties.
COLIN: I knew I was going to marry my wife the first night we went to dinner. I needed a woman who understood my drive, having my son brought us closer together. God built her for me. She understands me better than I understand myself in most cases. Now that we have a daughter, I never felt a love like the love I have for her and Kimani. Having a daughter has made me realize the kind of man I am is the kind of man she will end up with. The love little girls have for daddies and uncles is priceless and from the moment she became my daughter, she’s been glued to my hip. It is so interesting because Kimani has my mother’s spirit.
ESSENCE.com: You recently launched a candle line called, the Sitota Collection, what inspired it?
YVETTE: Colin and I had been toying with the idea of creating a brand. I’d been making candles as a hobby for years. One day, Mekhi came into the kitchen and said he thought we should have a manufacturing plant where people help us make the candles and sell them in every country. I couldn’t believe his insight. It gave me a new creative outlook. I asked what he thought about naming the company after his sister and he loved the idea. Our daughter’s name is Sitota Kimani Nnenna Gayle. Sitota means, “gift.” Kimani means one who travels. That’s how the Sitota Collection came to be. For nearly twenty years, I’ve helped build the careers of so many talented artists. This gave me a chance to creative something that highlights our life and family. The collection features four petite hand-poured scented candles inspired by our travels: Aigyptos with aromas of amber and sandalwood. Havana with hints of leather, tobacco, musk, and palmetto berries; Blue Nile, a blend of rich bamboo, wild grasses, bergamot, and red grapefruit, and Coco Noir, inspired by our travels to Thailand. I like to say we pour love into each candle.
ESSENCE.com: Tell us about Kimani and what you are teaching her about her Ethiopian heritage?
YVETTE: We are incredibly blessed that Kimani is a healthy, happy little girl and such a smart cookie. She recently tested just below profoundly gifted. The orphanage offered us a life book about her story. We’ve incorporated art from her birthplace throughout our home, dine at Ethiopian restaurants, and add cultural touches to her birthday celebrations. It’s important to us that our baby girl grows up to be proud of who she is and where she comes from.
Sherri McGee McCovey is Los Angeles-based Television Producer, New York Times Best-Selling author, and Journalist.