Rosie O'Donnell on Why She's Happy Being Single and Bonding With Daughter Dakota (Exclusive)

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Rosie O'Donnell is living the single life in Malibu. The beloved actress and TV personality is opening up about how living with her 10-year-old daughter, Dakota, has been keeping her busy and fulfilled on a daily basis.

ET's Denny Directo recently spoke with O’Donnell -- while promoting her new Paramount+ documentary, Rosie’s Theater Kids -- and she opened up about her life in Malibu, and how she's gotten used to being single in recent years.

"I'm kind of OK with it, because I'm not alone," O'Donnell, 61, shared. "I have a very verbal 10-year-old, who wants to discuss everything in length that she learns [on] YouTube."

O'Donnell opened up publicly last year about how Dakota was recently diagnosed with autism, and she explained that she's happy to find subjects with which to bond and connect with her little girl.

"What I've learned from other families with kids with autism is, if you can, get entry into their world. Whatever they're obsessing on, whatever they're focused on," O'Donnell said. "And she's had a few!"

According to O'Donnell, one of the shows Dakota has become enamored with is an animated web series called Battle for Dream Island. "It was a very big hit in 2009 on YouTube. So, imagine me as the mother in 2023 trying to find the T-shirts for her," O'Donnell lamented. "It's not easy!"

O'Donnell has also found a creative outlet to collaborate with Dakota on TikTok, posting videos and embracing the platform for what she sees as its potential for connection and community building.

"I find it's a wonderful way to meet and have honest conversations with people with your specific need," O'Donnell said of TikTok. "I've met a lot of other mothers who have autistic girls, preteens, and that has been so valuable and so helpful for me in my life as a parent of this young, wonderful creature. So, I think it's a wonderful [thing]."

O'Donnell said that making videos with her daughter also gives her the opportunity to understand her a bit more: "I think I get to learn about her brain." 

When they make videos together, O'Donnell explained, "Whatever topic she has in her mind, she talks about, and I think it's really helped her self-confidence."

"I think it's really helped her to not be afraid of the camera and of performing," she added. "If you ask her what she wants to be, it's a YouTube animator. She wants to animate a show on YouTube."

As for her long history of nurturing, cultivating and encouraging artistic expression and passion, O'Donnell also opened up about the new documentary, Rosie’s Theater Kids, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the program O'Donnell started in New York to bring music and arts programs and funding to disadvantaged public schools.

"I started this program when I left my show in 2002, and I had raised a lot of money for a lot of organizations, but I never got that one-on-one, face-to-face kind of interaction that saved me as a kid in public school, with what happened to be a math teacher," O'Donnell explained. "Now, I failed math a bunch of times, but she was so loving and supportive. She was a new teacher. I was a young girl whose mom had just died, and she took me under her wing and it restored my faith in humanity and in life."

"I mean she was the first person to say 'I love you' to me. She was the first person to hug me," O'Donnell recalled. "So my getting to go meet all those kids in fifth and sixth and seventh grade, it's like looking back at myself and thinking, 'How lucky I am to be able to give to them what saved me.?' One teacher who cares. And who's going to hold on forever?"

Rosie’s Theater Kids is streaming now on Paramount+.


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