Some of the biggest artists in the game—Eminem, Mariah Carey, and Justin Bieber, to name a few—were raised by single mothers. So now we’re stealing the light from these major artists to shine it on the single mothers who raised them in honor of VH1’s upcoming “Dear Mama” television special! The event airs on Sunday, May 8 at 9 p.m. (Mother’s Day, y’all!), but it’s never too early to start showing respect to hard-working moms.
Find out which of your favorite artists were raised by single moms in the list below.
Christina Aguilera’s parents, Shelly Kearns and Fausto Aguilera, split when the singer was seven years old. Aguilera “rarely” saw her father after the split, according to US. “To remember the chaos that [my mother] went through, the abuse, I don’t know how she did it,” Aguilera said in an interview. “But it’s amazing how much you can trick your mind into surviving when you have to.”
To say things weren’t smooth sailing between Eminem and his mother is an understatement. Em, raised by single mother Debbie Mathers, has had a tumultuous relationship with her, but he seemed to start to make amends in the song “Headlights” on his 2013 Marshall Mathers LP 2. “I love you Debbie Mathers, oh what a tangled web we have,” he raps. “And I’m mad I didn’t get the chance to thank you for being my mom and my dad.”
Alicia Keys isn’t shy about praising her mother, Terria Joseph. In a recent Instagram post, Keys wrote that her mother was single when she was growing up and is responsible for her fame today. “My mama was single and raised me up just like that, and she is all the reason I am who I am!! Now having kids of my own I respect my mama more than ever. It’s not an easy job and doing it alone and doing it well is an even MORE difficult feat,” she wrote.
Justin Bieber’s parents, Pattie Mallette and Jeremy Bieber split just a few months after he was born. Mallette, who was 17 at the time, raised Justin on her own, overcoming “childhood sexual abuse and struggles with addiction to raise her son in low-income housing,” according to Billboard.
Kanye WestGetty Images
Donda West, the inspiration behind Kanye songs like “Hey Mama” and “Only One,” divorced Kanye’s father, Ray, when ’Ye was just three years old. Donda raised Kanye in Chicago’s South Shore and was a professor and the chairwoman of the Chicago State University English department. She underwent cosmetic surgery in 2007, which eventually led to her death that same year.
Patricia Hickey and Alfred Roy Carey split when daughter Mariah was three years old. Hickey raised Mariah as a single mother and opened up to Oprah about the struggles of being in an interracial relationship with Carey, who is Venezuelan and black, in the ’60s. You can watch Hickey’s interview with Oprah here.
Curtis James Jackson III, a.k.a. 50 Cent, reportedly never knew who his father was. He was raised by his mother, Sabrina, who was 15 at the time of his birth. Sabrina, a cocaine dealer, was killed when Jackson was eight years old.
Shortly after Missy Elliott turned 14, her mother left her father with her. Elliott’s mother had been the victim of an abusive relationship, which Elliott says she still thinks about every day. “We left my father with a fork, a spoon and a blanket. Ooooh, that was the scariest time of my life. I thought he would find us and he would kill us. I lived in fear for a long time,” she told The Observer of the experience.
Jay Z’s father, Adness Reeves, abandoned his family when he was a child. Jay’s mother, Gloria Carter, raised him and his three siblings. Later on in life, Jay forgave his father, who has since passed away.
Big Sean was raised by his mother, Myra Anderson, and late grandmother, Mildred V. Leonard, in Detroit. Sean paid tribute to his grandmother, who was “one of the first black women to serve as a police officer in Sean’s hometown,” according to Rolling Stone, in his video for “One Man Can Change the World.”
Kelly Rowland and her older brother were raised “almost exclusively” by her mother, Doris Rowland Garrison. Garrison divorced Rowland’s father, Christopher Lovett, in 1988, when Kelly was about seven years old. Garrison died in 2014, just a few weeks after Rowland gave birth to her first son, Titan Jewell Weatherspoon.
In this throwback video from 2005, Anthony Anderson visits MTV’s TRL to joke around about playing tricks on his mom during the holiday season.