Stop making fun of Nick Cannon for having so many kids

It's hard not to be invested in a celeb's outrageously high kid count. But what if our jokes are missing the point?

By D. Watkins

Editor at Large

Published September 23, 2022 9:00AM (EDT)

Nick Cannon speaks onstage at "Hip Hop & Mental Health: Facing The Stigma Together" at The GRAMMY Museum on June 25, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Prince Williams/Getty Images)
Nick Cannon speaks onstage at "Hip Hop & Mental Health: Facing The Stigma Together" at The GRAMMY Museum on June 25, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Prince Williams/Getty Images)

Nick Cannon is having another baby. He announced the pregnancy in August, about a month before his ninth child was born, and two months after the eighth arrived in June. 

This isn't a setup for a joke or a math problem to solve. I'm not trying to poke fun at Cannon and his notorious fertility. I'm just going to attempt to unpack the idea of Cannon expecting his tenth child and what that means.

On September 14, Cannon, the 41-year-old actor and "Wild 'n Out" host, announced his ninth child, Onyx Ice Cole Cannon, to the world. After the delivery, Cannon shared a reel of himself with baby Onyx and her mom, former "Price is Right" model Lanisha Cole, on Instagram, along with a lengthy post, in which he wrote, "I am learning that it is not the limited amount of time we have on this planet but it's the limited amount of love that is the issue."

As a father, I often drift off to the moment I watched my wife bury the back of her head into hospital pillows, grit her teeth while squeezing her eyes shut as she pushed out our beautiful baby girl. Our daughter was so small — palm-sized — and so slippery, so precious. My wife and her strength, with our newborn, red and brushed with pale vernix, was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. There isn't much I wouldn't trade to recreate that moment minutes after the baby had entered the world — that experience, those feelings that rushed through my body the first time we held each other as a trio. I totally understand why Cannon would want to recreate that feeling, over and over again. 

Cannon's nine children also include two sets of twins — 11-year-olds Monroe and Moroccan with ex Mariah Carey, and 15-month-olds Zion and Zillion with former radio personality Abby De La Rosa. He has a son, Golden Sagon, 5, and a daughter, Powerful Queen, 19 months, with model Brittany Bell, with whom he is expecting baby number 10. Model Bre Tiesi gave birth in June to a son, Legendary Love. His son with Alyssa Scott, Zen, died from brain cancer last year at 5 months old. 

It appears as though the entire clan is supportive of Cannon's extended family. Some of Cannon's peers, on the other hand, have comments. 

Comedian Kevin Hart, who stars with Cannon on BET's "The Real House Husbands of Hollywood," sent him a vending machine full of condoms for Valentine's Day. Actress Vivica A. Fox chimed in, not finding the situation funny at all, when she addressed Cannon's fatherhood journey on an episode of the Fox Soul show "Cocktails with Queens," saying, "I don't like it." 

"Y'all can be like, 'It's cause he got money, this, that, and the third.'" Fox continued. "But the foundation of Black families, especially a strong father figure is needed. This isn't a good representation of it … in my opinion."

Social media introduced me to Cannon's quest to exemplify what he calls a "virile man," but I mostly ignored the commentary on him until it found its way into my circle of friends. Multiple conversations began referencing Cannon's rapidly growing family, calling him "crazy" and "out of control," around the time babies five and six appeared. 

"Nick Cannon lost his got-damn mind!" my friend Teon typed into our group chat of a few neighborhood guys who are all fathers. "Look at his IG." 

On Cannon's Instagram I found a collection of images and videos of him promoting his shows and music and engaging with his children. 

"That dude is single-handedly replacing the lives lost during the pandemic," my friend Chuck chimed in. They continued to make light of the situation. Shortly after news broke about another child, and then another child, and the internet began to levy its harsh judgments. And what's worse, people were going as far as attacking the mothers of his children, too. De La Rosa addressed the harassment on the "Lovers and Friends with Shan Boodram" podcast, saying of the public's perception of their relationship: "I've never been hit with thousands of people just telling me their hate for me."

Having 10 kids is pretty far from normal, and when celebrities do strange things, we pay attention.

"He had a lover over here that, they were going strong, and they had been involved for years. Then he had another beautiful family over here that he has. And then he has his ex-wife, who's the queen of all queens," De La Rosa said, referring to Carey. "People feel so invested."

Invested we are. Mainly because having 10 kids is pretty far from normal, and when celebrities do strange things, we pay attention. According to Statista, the average family in 2021 had under two children, which still sounds like a lot of kids to me. 

My daughter, now 2, pops up starving for waffles and pancakes and oatmeal at the crack of dawn and is wired until bedtime, demanding to be entertained all day. She is enrolled in gymnastics and swimming and music and dance and early learning; has questions and needs answers; and must be held, needs to be held, read to and taken to the pool and hugged and kissed and played with, and all of these things need to be repeated again and again. And my wife and I proudly comply. Even though we both pull 60-plus hours of work per week and have help, we still end up gushing over our busy baby with bloodshot eyes before making our way back to our laptops to squeeze out some words before treating ourselves to three or four hours of sleep. That is our normal, the recipe for family that we subscribe to. 

"I've seen where people believe a traditional household works, and [yet] there's a lot of toxicity in that setting," Cannon told Men's Health. "It's not about what society deems is right. It's like, what makes it right for you? What brings your happiness? What allows you to have joy and how you define family? We all define family in so many different ways."

Cannon is also fighting against the stereotype that says Black men make a lot of babies but don't take care of them. Cannon and I came of age in a time when there weren't many fathers present in homes. The crack era, in combination with the rise of mass incarceration, wiped many dads out. Cannon knows this. Maybe that's why he takes every opportunity to talk about how he is present in the lives of his children. 

Who gets to define what a good or appropriate family is?

And contrary to what many may believe, Cannon may be right. Who gets to define what a good or appropriate family is? What makes a good family: money, stability, exposure, consistency, or all of the above? Should there be a mom and a dad, or two moms or two dads, or nonbinary parents? Do two-parent households equal guaranteed success? Are single parents capable of creating healthy environments for their children? The answer is yes and no to all of these questions, because there is no right answer or cheat code to raising a healthy, happy kid. Every child has different needs, wants and desires, and will respond differently to different types of parenting. I like having one kid. Maybe Cannon wants a dozen. Our value systems are different, and that's OK. 

I know latch-key kids from poverty-stricken, single-parent households who grew up to be respected filmmakers, doctors and bestselling authors. I also know children who came from two-parent homes in upper-middle class neighborhoods who spend their time as scammers, fake gang bangers and deadbeats who bring babies into the world and then act like they don't have children. 

The ugly truth is that you can give a child everything — a great home, the best education, and more resources than they know what to do with — and that child can still grow up to be a jerk. And then, that jerk can find their own journey of healing and end up growing into an amazing person. Human life is unpredictable. Maybe the more effective thing to do, instead of worrying about the number of children Nick Cannon has, would be to direct that energy toward children in our own communities who don't have rich dads but still need love and support. 

By D. Watkins

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a writer on the HBO limited series "We Own This City" and a professor at the University of Baltimore. Watkins is the author of the award-winning, New York Times best-selling memoirs “The Beast Side: Living  (and Dying) While Black in America”, "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir," "Where Tomorrows Aren't Promised: A Memoir of Survival and Hope" as well as "We Speak For Ourselves: How Woke Culture Prohibits Progress." His new books, "Black Boy Smile: A Memoir in Moments," and "The Wire: A Complete Visual History" are out now.

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Celebrity Commentary Nick Cannon Parenting