Charmaine Walker of Black Ink Crew Chicago is known for speaking her mind, getting the party started and having multiple hustles. Business is currently booming for the reality star and radio host, who recently branched off to head up her own tattoo parlour called 2nd City Ink. She even married her college sweetheart Nick Bey (better known as Neek) and the newlyweds are now expecting their first child. However, all of these new blessings were tragically interrupted by the unexpected death of her mother, Glenda Walker.

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Charmaine, who is an only child, lost her mom on Oct. 23, 2019. Ms. Glenda had been married to Charmaine’s father, Michael Walker, for 31 years and was aware of her daughter’s pregnancy beforehand. After honoring her mother’s legacy at a beautiful memorial in her family’s hometown of New Orleans, Walker is doing her best to heal. Mourning, she says, takes on a different form every day. “There are some days where I feel like I’m okay, and the next day I’m a complete mess,” Walker tells ESSENCE exclusively.

“Obviously [my pregnancy] is something I wanted to share with her. It hurts so bad that she won’t be here for this. But on the other end, I am grateful that I’m pregnant right now because I have to process her death with a sober state of mind. I can’t run to any vices to get through this. Being reminded that there’s life inside of me does bring joy.”

What makes her days easier are the milestones ahead, such as the gender reveal she’s planning on stage at WGCI’s annual concert Big Jam.

“My plan is to have entire city of Chicago involved,” she tells me, trying to contain her excitement. “I would love if Da Baby could lead it after he performs. I was just thinking of coming on stage, doing a countdown and having the lights in United Center turn pink or blue to reveal the gender.”

Walker and her new husband are also enjoying the honeymoon phase of their marriage. Having a supportive partner has not only helped Walker process grief but has also encouraged her to see her worth after parting ways with 9Mag. “I can be a little passive-aggressive,” says Walker. “But Neek helped me boss up and understand people need to respect me. He supports me in everything I do. It’s the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in. I can’t wait to get home to him every day.”

With her newfound happiness comes the power to forgive – namely her former boss and 9Mag owner, Ryan Henry. The two have bumped heads over management decisions at the shop, leaving Walker feeling “disrespected” at times. “Our relationship is complicated. But if it wasn’t for Ryan and the legacy he’s made, I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in. I have nothing but love and respect for Ryan, no matter what our working relationship is.”

See more of Charmaine’s journey on Black Ink Crew Chicago which airs Wednesdays at 8/7c only on VH1.

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