The Charmaine you met on VH1’s Black Ink Crew: Chicago in 2015 is not the Charmaine Bey of today. Her spice is still there, but she’s changed since becoming a mother–or at least her life has.
After dealing with her fair share of clashes with co-workers and former friends, she exited the popular show in 2022. She also left behind a career in radio at Chicago’s WGCI, and anything and anyone that didn’t serve her for the better. She has since packed up her family, with the support of husband Neek Bey, and moved out west to Los Angeles. These days, Charmaine’s focus is on her family, who just so happen to be one of the most entertaining broods on the Internet. “We’re the modern day Huxtables,” she boasts to ESSENCE.
The TV and radio personality is mother to adorable lookalike daughters Nola and Charli, and she creates comical videos with her husband, Neek Bey. She’s found that among her one million Instagram followers, so many love to see her family of four. So she’s starting over in LA, focused on building the Bey family brand. She and Neek have already started a relationships podcast called Marriage or Mirage, and she recently published a children’s book inspired by her daughters, called Nubians Come in All Shades. Because her girls are of a lighter complexion, with sandy reddish hair and colored eyes, she’s heard all sorts of “jokes” and comments about her kids. Some haven’t been the nicest. She wrote the book to address the commentary in a way that would encourage her daughters and all Black children of a variety of shades and features.
“My girls are obviously Black and I want them to appreciate their Blackness,” she says. “I want them to be proud of their Blackness and not feel like people are trying to be divisive,” she says.
ESSENCE chatted with Charmaine about how her new book came to life, this next chapter for her family, and how she’s managed to find joy in being a parent in the midst of losing both her mother and father.
ESSENCE: When we were first introduced to you on TV, you were dealing with a lot of drama as a cast member on Black Ink Crew: Chicago. You have since left the series and devoted your time and energy to promoting positive images of your family on social media. Why has it been important to show this different side of yourself and your life?
Charmaine Bey: It’s important for me to show not only just a positive Black family but to actually have one. You can show something and it not be what’s really going down. But it’s important for me to have a positive Black family because I’m sure many of us have grown up in situations that maybe weren’t so positive in the household. And when it comes to our generation and all generations, you have to make a change or it’s going to keep happening. I always knew what I wanted in a man and Neek fits that. And I always wanted my girls to know what to accept and not accept when it came to their relationship with not only a man but their father as well. I’m glad Neek and I chose each other. What you see is what we exude in real life and it’s important to show that. I want people to know that does exist.
How did you find yourself inspired to write your children’s book, Nubians Come in All Shades?
Seeing the comments online about my children really bothered me. You can choose for it to not be that serious but because of the way my kids look, people will ask if Neek is the daddy or say, “These kids look like Steph Curry. Where’s the paternity test?” I just think that’s beyond ignorant. Why do we have to do that?
I see that’s going to be a thing when it comes to my children because of their eyes and hair color. We’re all Nubians no matter your skin color, your features, we are all Nubians and we come in all shades. Let’s be proud of that. Let’s focus on being Black and proud.
Speaking on those types of comments and critiques, how do you handle them as someone sharing your most precious gift, your children, with your followers and the world at large?
It doesn’t make me feel happy. It really bothers me because those are my kids. Even if you’re joking, questioning who the father is, I don’t like that. Something about that really bothers me. They look just like their dad. I don’t want to consider taking my kids off the Internet or not showing them because I enjoy connecting with the people who love my family. That’s what I use social media for, to show you something you might enjoy when it comes to my kids. Nola making Rice Krispies Treats! Me dressing Charli up as a mop and making a funny video about it! There’s a lot of people who love and support my family. I know these are things that they would like. So I wouldn’t want to consider removing them from the Internet by any means. That’s why I wrote the book. Since this is a topic, let’s talk about it. They have this book now. I read it to them every night and as they grow, I’m hoping they can combat whatever comments come their way if people are still talking about this. “I’m a Nubian queen and what you’re saying is irrelevant. We’re all Black.”
How has being a mother of two daughters changed you?
It’s changed me for the better. But I think losing my mom and my dad, I think that’s really what changed me. I lost my mom when I was pregnant with my firstborn and from that moment I felt an even deeper connection to motherhood. My mom would always tell me, “You’re not going to understand how I feel until you’re a mom.” And there’s so many times where I’ve wanted to say, “I totally get it.” I think losing my mom is what really determined how I was going to be as a mother. I just want to be the best example I can for my kids but I want them to be themselves. Whoever they choose to be in life I support them, just like my mom did me, from Howard University all the way to twerking on Black Ink [Crew]! She supported me all the way through.
With that in mind, how has it been learning to parent while going through the process of losing your parents? And how have you navigated grief while being present for your daughters?
There’s different stages in mourning and having something in your face that reminds you of something you don’t have is really tough. But it just made me appreciate life and my role so much more. Even my health! I’m really trying to do whatever I can to be here as long as I can and to be in my children’s lives. I don’t want to have the same issues and illnesses my parents had. I don’t want to miss any moments, because I really miss my parents. I hate that they’re not here to see the things I’ve accomplished and where we are in life. But at the same time, not going to lie, some of my decisions they would have had a hard time coming to terms with. I’m glad we didn’t have to have those conversations [laughs].
So what’s next? As mentioned, with this book and the podcast, you seem to be focusing on promoting the Bey family brand since leaving Black Ink Crew and quitting radio in Chicago.
With resigning from my jobs in Chicago, my family and I moved to LA and we’re producing content that we’re hoping turns into TV shows, movies, etc. That’s the direction the Bey family is going. We have a production company, The Bey’s TV. We’re constantly having meetings to go the next level with our creativity. We just started our podcast, Marriage or Mirage, two months ago. The last two videos hit over 100,000 views. We have over 20,000 subscribers and we are just continuing to try and create great content that people like and hoping we can translate them over to television. I’m hoping to come back to TV, whether I’m creating or producing behind the scenes or I’m in front of the camera hosting, that’s where I’m trying to go in my life. Neek and I, we’re constantly coming up with new ideas that our followers like, things they want to see. They love our family and miss me on TV so I’m trying to give them the best of both worlds [laughs]. I just want to level up in the game, that’s what it’s time for.
The book is the beginning, the podcast is just the beginning. We’re definitely in beginner stages when it comes to pushing our brand as husband and wife and as a family.
Nubians Come in All Shades is available on Amazon.com.