Thomas Rhett on Raising His Black Daughter to Embrace Her Culture (Exclusive)
By Jennifer Drysdale
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Thomas Rhett is teaching his daughter, Willa, to "embrace who you are." In an interview with ET's Nischelle Turner, the "Die a Happy Man" singer discussed how he and wife Lauren Akins are raising their Black daughter, and having "open conversations" about their similarities and differences.
"Willa Gray is one of the smartest that I've ever met," Rhett gushed of his 4-year-old daughter, who he and Akins adopted from Uganda in 2017, just months before welcoming their first biological daughter, Ada.
"She is so smart. Even when she comes from school, her teachers... the main thing they’re saying is how intuitive she is and how much she recognizes at a young age," the singer noted. According to Rhett, Willa has recognized that her family "looks a lot different" than other families.
It's "something that we talk about really openly," Rhett explained. "I think me and Lauren’s main thing we want to get across is how proud we are and that we want her to grow up proud of herself and of her family... and to embrace who you are and to embrace your uniqueness and embrace your culture as well. That's something we want to educate her on as long as she's still in our household and even beyond that."
Amid police brutality and the fight for racial justice, Rhett said "it's hard to watch the news." He and his wife are teaching their kids to lead with love and kindness, and fight for change.
"We just try to preach to our kids to shine your light everywhere you go and realize that the world is cruel, but that doesn't mean that you have to be," he shared. "We're still dealing with it just like everybody else and we're still trying to ask the right questions and educate ourselves as well."
In addition to Willa and Ada, Rhett and Akins are also parents to 7-month-old daughter Lennon "Willa Gray acts like such a mom now," the singer revealed. "Ada James is a little young to kind of take on that role, but Willa... I mean, she'll feed her. She'll comfort her. She'll hold her in her lap. She can hold her standing up now. So, it's been really cool to just watch them become amazing big sisters to Lennon."
In an interview with ET last month, Akins said that she and Rhett would likely adopt again, and try to have another biological child.
"I feel like at this point I perfected the girl dad role, so if we had another girl I would be thrilled. I would like a boy at some point, for sure," Rhett said -- before joking that his wife "might need a year just to come up for air." "Maybe in a couple years we'll start trying again, because my wife does want five kids. So, we'll see what happens."
"Adoption is very important to us and our family and there's a few people in our family who were also adopted, so it weighs pretty heavy on our hearts so we would love to do that again," he added.
For now, the couple does have a lot on their plates. Fans can catch Rhett's performance at the iHeart Radio Music Festival, which airs Sunday and Monday on The CW.
"Everybody's taking the right safety precautions and social distancing and all that kind of stuff, but it's crazy," he expressed. "I just did a virtual meet and greet with like, 30 people -- it's just still getting used to doing everything virtual, but I'm glad we're doing it regardless."
"We're gonna perform our new song called 'Be A Light,' which will be really fun. We're doing an older song called, 'T-shirt.' We're playing a song called, 'Look What God Gave Her,'" he teased. "We're playing that one first, so make sure you tune in at the beginning."
The two-night televised iHeartRadio Music Festival airs on Sunday and Monday at 8:00 p.m. ET on The CW.