“From Mama Bear to Mama Bear Times Ten”

Kelly Cherelle Price (April 4, 1973-) is the 2nd of 3 daughters born to Rev. Joseph and Mrs. Claudia Price. “Although music was deeply rooted in the family it was still a surprise to her mother when Kelly began to show signs of a musically tuned ear at just 9 months old. She was retaining melodies she heard during the day and humming them at night in the crib![1]” Kelly has the voice of an angel. Not only do I think so, but so too does the world. In 1998, Kelly released her mostly self-penned double platinum debut CD “Soul of A Woman,” which propelled her to the forefront of the music industry as not just a writer, but also as a solo artist. Kelly “made history by reaching #1 on the Billboard Charts and holding the top spot for 5 weeks consecutively with no video, a feat never before accomplished by any artist since MTV.[2]

Kelly’s subsequent albums went either platinum or gold, including her first gospel offering entitled, “This Is Who I Am.” After years with major labels, Kelly decided to release her own music on her own label. This risky and courageous decision resulted in 3 top 40 singles, 1 top 10 single and 4 Grammy nominations. In addition to music, Kelly has gained notoriety working in modeling, television, film, and as a published author (“Inscriptions of My Heart”). She even has a forthcoming cookbook! Okay, we can’t wait! If all of that wasn’t enough, she is also is a philanthropist. Kelly raised over $250,000 for research for the TJ Martell Foundation for Breast Cancer Research. In 2006, Kelly was inducted as an honorary member of the Sorority Sigma Gamma Rho for her philanthropy and service. In recent years, she has added motivational speaking and teaching to her resume.

With all of this on her plate, Kelly still prioritizes her family above all else. She is an amazing mother, grandmother, and partner! Kelly may be known to the world as the Queen of R&B Soul, but to her three grandchildren, she is “GiGi.” Kelly shared with RBGM the origin of Gigi, “True story. When I found out I was going to be a grandma the first time, Faith and me went out for one of our “catch up” lunch dates. I told her I’m too young and too fine to be anybody’s Granny or Nana. She said, ‘girl let that baby call you GiGi.’ I liked it. No, I LOVED it! She said it stood for Gorgeous Grandma or Glamorous Grandma! And so….mmmhmmm!!! YEAH! I was sold! …. So, from the time Sydnee was born I would talk to her and tell her she was “Gigi’s love” and when she started talking she knew I was GiGi.”

Sydnee, Lalah, and Charli are lucky to have a grandmother who is a self-described mama bear times 10! Kelly explains, “As a mother you don’t think you can ever love more fiercely than the way you love your own children but grandbabies definitely change that. You go from being mama bear to mama bear times ten.” She also associates “GiGisLoves” and “SnugglyGoodness” with grandmotherhood. According to Kelly, “Neither of which are real words but in the Grandparent Dictionary they exist.” We couldn’t agree with you more Kelly! Y’all grandparents come up with the absolute best words and nicknames to capture your roles!

When we asked her to use her five senses to think about being a grandmother she told us, “The taste I most associate with my grandchildren or with being a grandmother is milk for two reasons. First, checking the bottles to make sure the milk is not too hot. Second, because when I would kiss the babies their reflex when anything touches their mouth is to suck. I kiss on the babies all the time and when I would get anywhere near their mouths they would latch on to my lip and lock it down! I was a human pacifier!”

Kelly’s association of the sound of laughter with being a grandmother reminds me of something that Nelson Mandela said about what he missed most while imprisoned—the laughter of children. Kelly shares, “The sound I most associate with my grandchildren or with being a grandmother is laughter. The sound of a baby’s/child’s voice and laugh is the best sound in the entire world. Sydnee and Lalah are older now so they speak very well. They tell me every time we speak that they want to get on a plane to come stay with me in Atlantica! Charli is 4 months old so watching her look at me and lock into my face and crack up laughing when I talk to her is the best feeling and sound EVER! She smiles when I sing to her. And Sydnee and Lalah now sing to me! Lalah actually thinks I’m singing on the new Jay Z album. It has a sample of Four Women by Nina Simone. I did a live rendition of that song for Black Girls Rock with Jill Scott, Marsha Ambrosius and Ledisi, but Lalah wasn’t even born yet. For the life of me I don’t know HOW she knows to associate that song with me but she does. She argues with my son because he says that’s not Gigi and she insists Daddy, YES IT IS!!!”

Kelly’s testimony reminds me of another great—not surprising since great minds think alike. Frederick Douglass’s grandmother Betsey humanized him during slavery by keeping him ignorant of his slave status for as long as she could while he was in her care. She had to “turn him over” to their master to be put to work when he was 5-years-old. Kelly’s response to what she wants most for her grandchildren is in that same vein:

For them to be able to be innocent children for as long as they can be. Unfortunately WE HAVE to educate children about so much so soon to prepare them to be away from us at school, at church, at camp, in sports and extracurricular activities. It’s for their protection but it takes away from their ability to stay in the kid zone for as long as they should be able to stay there. And obviously with having all granddaughters I want them to grow up in a world where they can be equally celebrated, compensated and elevated as their male and non-black contemporaries.

What Kelly wants for her granddaughters is what black grandmothers have been wanting for their grandchildren since our time in this country—some time spent in the innocence of childhood before having to prepare them for the world “out there.” I think this is a poignant connection. One that Kelly emphasizes again when she shares, “The sight I most associate with my grandchildren or with being a grandmother is …It’s not really a sight but what I see is innocence. And knowing how crazy the world is right now, I just know I’d do anything to protect that innocence.”

Like so many others, Kelly’s biggest challenge related to being the kind of grandmother she’d like to be is distance. Kelly lives in Atlanta and her grandbabies are in Los Angeles. “It was the single hardest thing about leaving California and moving back to the East Coast.” She makes up for the distance with long conversations with the girls on FaceTime. “If they want to speak to me they will pick up the Ipad or my son’s phone and FaceTime me themselves. They never call, they FaceTime! LOL”

When she thinks about the traditional grandmother she thinks about “baking, cooking, spoiling, fun times, and structured freedom.” And by comparison she considers herself “all of the above with 21st century Glam Ma SWAG! My manager says I am a GRANDmother. Lol” She is a GRANDmother indeed. Well versed at coaxing her granddaughters into doing what they are supposed to do without having to do it like their parents. “I have a way of getting them to do everything they are supposed to do without having to chastise or fuss. That’s for their parents to do. Been there. Done that. I’m in the business of spoiling and hugging and kissing! LOL”

Being a grandmother is one of Kelly’s most important parts, melodies, creations, and offerings. “As a grandmother I have the privilege to love and spoil and pour into the next generation. AS a BLACK grandmother I have the responsibility to educate my grandchildren on who they are, where they come from and help move them through life with the wisdom and understanding that I have from being a BLACK girl, adolescent AND woman in America.” Kelly, at Real Black Grandmothers, we are here for all of this! As a BLACK grandmother, it’s y’alls time to Shine!

[1] http://kellyprice.com/bio/

[2] Ibid

For more about Kelly Price check out her website: