The Untold Truth Of Kym Whitley

Kym Elizabeth Whitley — whom you might know from such shows as "The Big Holiday Food Fight" on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Food Network's "Worst Cooks in America," and the Freeform hit "Young & Hungry" (via IMDB) — has pretty much taken on every role in the entertainment business. From activism to reality television sensation, co-hosting radio talk shows to performing on stage, screen, and film, there is no title that Whitley can't handle or won't tackle (via IAmKymWhitley.com). 

But her biggest undertaking by far was assuming the rather spontaneous role of Mother, a job that she literally wasn't prepared for. While many parents can probably attest to this feeling, Whitley, during an appearance on the "Today" show, jokingly compared it to a pizza delivery. She is truly a versatile and talented force to be reckoned with, and her incredible career continues to flourish. This is the untold truth of Kym Whitley.

She's been in the entertainment industry for over three decades

Born and raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio (she would also spend some of her childhood years in Khartoum, Sudan), Kym Whitley didn't realize how passionate she was about show business until she went away to college at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee (via Right On! Digital). Though she was highly creative and incredible outgoing — and naturally gifted with the ability to make people laugh — her family was doubtful of her career choice, but still supportive.

Fueled by determination to prove she could make it, Whitley worked as a teacher in Compton, California until she landed a gig as Arsenio Hall's assistant. She was also a dancer on the one and only "Soul Train." In 2004, Whitley memorably joined Larry David as a paid passenger seat companion on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (via IMDB). She made another notable television guest appearance on the 2017 "Thanksgiving" episode of "Master of None," which won a best writing Emmy. Her role as Big Candi on the digital series "The Bay" earned Whitley a daytime Emmy nomination in 2010 (via IMDB).  Whitley is also the producer and subject of the OWN docuseries "Raising Whitley," which chronicles her unorthodox journey to parenthood.

Being as talented as she is, it's no surprise that she's also written the TV show "Oh Drama!" (via Film Reference), and just published a steamy novel called "The Delusion of Cinderella" (via IAmKymWhitley.com). What doesn't Kym Whitley do?

Her family owns an architecture firm

The HistoryMakers reports that in addition to entertainment — her paternal grandmother was an actress — architecture runs in the family. Back in 1963, Kym Whitley's father and uncle joined forces and formed the firm Whitley/Whitley Architects and Planners. Their sister, Joyce Whitley, joined the family business in the late '60s and served as the firm's vice president (via Black America Web). According to Whitley/Whitley Architects, the company's main focus is  on "redeveloping, building and rehabilitating urban communities and public facilities." 

Whitley/Whitley Architects has won awards from numerous organizations, including the Burlington Awards, the House and Home Award, the East Ohio Energy Conservation Award, and the Progressive Architecture Awards, which is considered to be the Oscar of the industry (via Whitley/Whitley Architects).

Although the founding members have since passed on, Whitley's two older brothers, Scott and Kyle, and her cousin Kent, carry on the family legacy and are actively involved in architecture and development. According to LinkedIn, Scott Whitley is the principal and co-owner of the firm along with their cousin. While no longer with Whitley/Whitley Architects, her brother Kyle is still prominent in the industry (via LinkedIn), and is also a practicing vegan, which Kym mentions on her Instagram account. 

She has a podcast and YouTube channel with Sherri Shepherd

Since its inception in April 2020, "Two Funny Mamas" — a podcast created by Kym Whitley and her long-time friend (and award-winning actress, comedian, and bestselling author), Sherri Shepherd — has amassed over 52,000 subscribers and contains over 285 videos (via YouTube).

But what would two comedic celebrity mothers talk about on a podcast? Everything is fair game. Not only do they have guest speakers on their show, but they also have a thematic schedule. For example, their "Tight'N Up Tuesdaze" episodes with recurring guest B-Phlat recently delved into the booming DIY industry and how COVID has helped these growing businesses.

This charismatic and dynamic duo talks candidly about motherhood and parenting, pop culture, fashion, products they're in love with, karaoke, adult content, their newest endeavors (like Whitley's gig as the host of "The Big Holiday Food Fight") and of course, food. For their Thanksgiving episode, the comedians discussed different holiday side dishes, like the quintessential sweet potato pie.

She adopted a son in 2011

At the age of 49, Kym Whitley never intended to be a mother, let alone, a single parent. But in 2011, that's exactly what happened. When asked during an interview with Jet what she thought about motherhood, Whitley replied, "What I thought motherhood would be, would be with a husband ... I thought motherhood came with a man!" So how did she end up adopting her son? According to Amomama, a young woman Whitley had been mentoring for over 15 years gave birth to a baby boy, then unexpectedly left the hospital without giving notice ... and without the baby. What she did leave was Whitley's contact information and a declaration that Whitley was the baby boy's legal guardian. 

In an interview with "Today," Whitley said that she received, what she believed to be, a prank phone call from one of her friends saying that her baby was ready to be picked up at the hospital. It does seem pretty outlandish, after all. So she responded (most likely with perfect comedic timing), "I didn't order a baby," and hung up. Her phone rang a second time, except a social worker greeted her on the other line and proceeded to explain the aforementioned story. Ultimately, if Whitley didn't accept the guardianship, the baby would go into the system, and that was the last thing Whitley wanted to hear. An hour and a half later, and with the support from her mother and close friends, she took on her newest gig: motherhood. 

She made her TV hosting debut on The Big Holiday Food Fight

In 2021, Kym Whitley took on the role as host for "The Big Holiday Food Fight," which aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Like most competition shows, Whitley was accompanied by a panel of chef-celebrity judges: Food Network star Gina Neely, Darnell "Superchef" Ferguson, and James Write Chanel, who, according to BuzzFeed, earned internet fame when a video of him literally singing the praises of Patti Labelle's sweet potato pie went viral. 

But this show isn't quite like all the other semi-predictable foodie competition shows brought on by competing television stations. According to Oprah.com, "The Big Holiday Food Fight" pits every day home cooks against one another. The twist is that each contestant cooks their favorite personal recipes, not dishes assigned by the host. The winner earns $5,000 in prize money to help pay for their holiday gift shopping. 

As for the show's future, Premier Date reports that "The Big Holiday Food Fight" has yet to be renewed for a second season.

Cooking is not her strong point

You would think that the host "The Big Holiday Food Fight" would consider themselves at least an amateur in the field of gastronomy. But Kym Whitley admits that this is not the case. She simply can't cook. To improve her culinary prowess before recording the show, Whitley had two of her closest friends over once a week to give her some much-needed cooking advice. "Once a week, Tamala [Jones] and Lorna [Kyles] teach me how to cook. They are my culinary teachers," she tells Essence. But that doesn't stop her from attempting to cook on her own. She made tuna casserole for her son (a dish she loves and grew up on). Whitley told People, "I am not going to say whether he liked it or not."

To add to her cooking dilemma, Whitley's adopted son Joshua, now 10-years old, has numerous life-threatening food allergies. ABC News reports that his "most severe allergies included peanuts, chicken, corn, shellfish and peaches." Whitley goes on to tell Jet, "I have to feed him right ... the challenge is how can I feed my child with nutrients? Back in the day, we ate fresh; our parents cooked. Now, we're starting to think things are fresh because they're in a can, they're in a box, or they're frozen. That's not fresh ... I damn near have to grow vegetables and have a cow in the back!"

She placed fourth on Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition

Considering her self-professed culinary shortcomings, it was no surprise that Kym Whitley competed on Season 16 of the hit Food Network television show "Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition" (via Food Network). Hosted by Tyler Florence and Anne Burrell, The eight contestants were split into two teams — Whitley was tapped to be on Team Tyler. Actor/comedian Jimmie Walker was the first to be eliminated, followed by a surprise exit from singer/actress Taryn Manning in the second episode after she refused to eat a chicken foot during one of the challenges (via I Forgot It's Wednesday). 

This left Team Tyler (Whitley, actress Morgan Fairchild, and actor/comedian/writer Alec Mapa) going head to head with Team Burrell (actor/producer Jonathan Lipnicki, actor/comedian Jim J. Bullock, and infamous ice skater turned television personality Tonya Harding). Whitley proved her cooking chops by winning two of the elimination challenges. Through the first five episodes, she only faced the chopping block once, but in a surprise double elimination challenge, she was eliminated along with rival team member Bullock in episode six (via IMDB). Tonya Harding ultimately came out as the winner and, as reported by Oregon Live, donated her winnings to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

She's always up for a challenge

Even though cooking is not her forte, Kym Whitley still enjoys the process and actually participates in live cooking demos on her social media pages. Her older brother Kyle (the vegan) joined her for one of these events. Whitley clearly looks up to him, and has praised him on Twitter, noting that he "has proven to me that changing your eating habits can change your life." To show off her foodie versatility (and have fun with family) the siblings teamed up to do an Instagram Live vegan cook off where they created a meatless pulled pork dish made out of jackfruit

She also participates in mini motivational cooking "competitions" with friends, chefs, and fellow WW ambassadors. These little social media videos are fun and educational, and cover everything from positive affirmations (via Instagram) to kitchen prep work to proper knife skills. Over the summer, Whitley joined forces with actor Rodney Van Jonson to illustrate the proper way to cut a watermelon (via Instagram). She also teamed up with Chef Millie Peartree to cook a classic southern cabbage dish (via Instagram).

She's a WW ambassador

Kym Whitley says that one of the main reasons she's made her health a priority and chose to become a WW ambassador is the ever present and ongoing global health crisis (via WW). That being said, teaching her son how to make good decisions about what he puts in his body as well as life decisions in general is a very prominent driving factor. In order to accomplish this guidance, Whitley insists she needs to lead by example (mom points!). By taking on the role of WW ambassador, she's committed herself to adopting a more holistic, overall health and wellness view, as opposed to a diet focusing solely on numbers and pounds lost (via People). 

While hosting the food competition show "The Big Holiday Food Fight," Whitley credits WW with teaching her to live a healthier lifestyle and not fall back into old negative eating patterns. She told People that during the filming of the show, "If I had not already learned how to live healthily, it would've been bad ... I got to enjoy the food, but without the bad habit of overeating that I had my whole life."

She co-created a T-shirt line for kids with food allergies

According to the CDC, roughly 8% of children in the United States (one out of every 13) are affected by some type of food allergy. After hearing that Kym Whitley's son Joshua had abnormal reactions to eating eggs, a friend advised her to have him tested for food allergies (via ABC News). When the results arrived, the doctor told her, "Yeah. It's a lot." 

Whitley is now fully aware of how easy it is to accidentally feed a child food they might be allergic to. Unaware of his multiple allergies, Joshua's nanny unintentionally fed him peanut butter. Whitley was home at that time and heard the unmistakable cough that she recognized as a symptom of an allergic reaction. 

To help bring awareness to kids with allergies, Whitley helped co-create the "Don't Feed Me" T-shirt line that declares "Don't Feed Me," (via KymWhitley.org). Under the warning "Don't Feed" and a blank space to write a child's name, it lists 10 of the most common food allergies — peanuts, corn, strawberries, gluten, eggs, wheat, shellfish, milk, dairy, and soy. Each allergy has a checkbox next to it that a parent can mark off. There is also extra space below to write in other potential allergens like dust, mold, or animal dander (via AAFA). Whitley has also branched out to offer refrigerator stickers and clear plastic zipper bags for holding important allergy-related medications like Benadryl or the EpiPen. All products are also available in Spanish.

She has a website dedicated to parenting

While most celebrities have a single website that focuses solely on promoting their next film, show, product, or endorsement, Kym Whitley has two. Her primary website, IAmKymWhitley.com, focuses on her career and professional life, while KymWhitley.org (also known as "Joshua's World" — the pages themselves are written as if they're from Joshua's point of view) focuses on her son, his food allergies, and wholesome parenting tips.  

Sections of Joshua's World include "Mommy Tips," where readers can send in their own tips and tricks for other mothers (anything from sleeping to belly button care to eating). The "My Favorite Toys" page is dedicated to educational toys that help a baby's brain development. Then there is the "Celeb Moms" section, which isn't quite what you'd expect. Instead of a slew of paparazzi photos of new celeb moms or mothers to be, it's a small collection of candid snapshots of Whitley's friends, and tips and tricks of the parenting trade. Her "In the News" page has a few blogs about food allergy information, and "My Mommy" is Whitley's personal page dedicated to her professional career. For a woman who never really had motherhood on her mind, she most definitely dove head-first into the role with plenty of passion.