The Hip–Hop Socialite recaps the hottest celebrity news and gossip of the last week, and drops a few exclusives…
EXCLUSIVE: Jahna Sebastian Talks Swizz Beatz Co-Parenting Drama
In an industry chock full of baby mama drama, Swizz Beatz has managed to maintain a relatively calm co-parenting existence with the mothers of his children…until last month.
A couple of days before Christmas while the rest of us were wrapping gifts and getting tipsy off of spiked eggnog, Swizz was put on blast on social media by Jahna Sebastian, the mother of his 11-year-old daughter, Nicole. Among Jahna’s gripes include accusations that the music super producer’s wife, singer Alicia Keys, was “disrespecting” her as a parent by giving Nicole a phone and allowing her access to social media against Jahna’s wishes. The British singer/songwriter is also upset that her daughter calls her stepmom “Umi” (Arabic for mother), and claims her attempts to reach out to Alicia to discuss her grievances are met with radio silence.
In the comments to Jahna’s post, Swizz denied that Nicole has her own phone and insisted the girl chose to call her stepmom “Umi” on her own. Things went a little further a few days after the holiday when Swizz posted a since deleted video on Instagram in which he’s seen dancing with his mom. He captioned the vid, “These BMs playing with me like my mom can’t carry the 40 at all times BX.” Many took the post as a jab aimed at Jahna.
When I first saw Jahna’s post, I honestly didn’t think any of what she was upset about was a big deal, perhaps because I’m not a mother, so I got her on the phone to try to understand a little bit more. Keep scrolling to read what she claims are the issues that pushed her to her breaking point.
You aired out several of your grievances about your daughter’s step-mom…can you paraphrase what you view as the major issues.
There are many things that have happened over many years. It’s been a decade. I actually tried to be positive. She has been overstepping the boundaries, disrespecting the mother and enabling, being okay with misogyny towards me from Nicole’s dad. Recently, she was meddling with my parenting even in the UK, by handling Nicole’s phone, social media accounts and Apple ID in the stepparent’s own name, instead of mine or Nicole’s father’s. It was not discussed with me properly. Parental consent is required for children of this age by law to create or handle online accounts. Yes, the father has a say, but we are talking about the stepparent interfering in the lifestyle also here in the UK all the way from the US.
I had to get Nicole off social media due to concern about her school grades, after parents evening and talking to her teachers. I have been the only one attending parents evenings, school events etc during all of these years, so the school relies on me. Nicole’s teachers were even calling me personally on my phone recently to discuss her grades. It was advised by them to monitor and decrease her social media usage in order to increase her attention span and to spend more time reading books. She is a very smart child, a gifted architect, but measures had to be taken at this time as using social media was turning almost into an addiction and obsession over likes and followers, overshadowing studies at school. She even gave up on building Legos, which made me concerned as she has a talent as a potentially great architect. Nicole went on the trip as it was agreed with me to see her father and brothers. Instead, the father was not around for a few days, so she ended up staying with the stepparent, who disregarded all of the things I listed above. Social media accounts were used again. Furthermore, after the trip, she continued having conversations directly with 11-year old Nicole which included discussing legal rights, international trip dates, getting days off school, handling her phone, social media including passwords and even reinstalling TikTok, when I made it clear a few weeks prior to that, that Nicole needed to be off TikTok temporarily to better her studies and mind frame. This is while I am here in London, trying to get Nicole ready for school and get her focused after the impact of 8 hour time difference between London and San Diego. A stepparent has no legal right to be making such decisions, discussing with a child international travel or getting days off school. By law the stepparent cannot interfere. It must be discussed between the mother and the father, not a stepparent and an 11-year-old child. Furthermore, the stepparent was doing it behind my back in what was a secret communication, some of it Nicole has been deleting and hiding. Overall, the communication between them started only a couple of months ago as before, Nicole did not speak to her at all. I want to make it clear, she is not raising Nicole. More on that in a bit. It also coincided with the sudden change in Nicole’s behavior in the past few weeks, including at school. From that and a few other things my lawyer saw, that they may have been trying to turn my own child against me. This is not co-parenting. This is evil manipulation and triangulating. When I get married, my husband would not be overriding Nicole’s father’s decisions as a parent. For a stepparent to be discussing issues like that with an 11-year old child behind the mother’s back is simply immoral and disrespectful. It also undermines the parental authority in the eyes of the child, disregards the school system, the advice of the teachers and makes the child totally confused. This can have a very bad impact on behavior and work at school. She has been doing it from overseas.
Nicole was born in London and has been raised by me all her life. Until 2016 Nicole’s dad’s current wife has only seen Nicole a few times for a day or two, or a few hours, briefly, in the presence of her father. That would be a day or two on average in a year or two from 2009 till 2016. Since 2016 it’s only the holiday trips during school breaks Nicole takes with her dad, while multiple babysitters, cleaners, chefs cooking meals and other family members are around also. This type of interaction with a child doesn’t qualify for a title ‘mother’ or a word ’Umi’, which means ‘mother’ in Arabic, that the stepparent wants to be called by Nicole. Teachers at school have more of an impact on the child, than she had ever had on Nicole. As for presents, friends from school and their parents give presents too, but they won’t be called ‘mothers’ or ‘fathers’ based on that. There are stepparents indeed, who do have a great involvement in raising the child together with biological parents in this world. I applaud them. This is not that type of situation though. We live in a different country. Day to day activities, cooking, teaching about life, school runs and everything else have always been done by me. This is not the case of a heavy involvement of a stepparent in raising a child, doing any of the parental work at all. She is simply someone who has been around like other people have from the family a few times every now and then. I have been also around her own sons, but I am not claiming to be raising them or interfering between her and them. She has been jumping in between the mother and child bond very recently, creating more issues where it’s not her place, and the same way she has also done this when I was trying to help Nicole establish a healthy relationship with her father in the past. I have a great relationship with the other mothers of Nicole’s brothers and none of these issues have been arising between me and them, ever. Nicole has also stayed at [Swizz’s first wife] Mashonda’s house and everything has always been respectful. When Mashonda’s son stayed with me, his mother was checking on him with me. I can also reach out to her about Nicole when she is with Mashonda. This is how it is done as a great example. Unlike the way Nicole’s dad’s wife is dealing with things. I am very aware of true co-operation between mothers, it’s not new to me. I have known Mashonda for more than nine years now. This was never forced when it comes to me and the other mothers.
Nicole lives with me and I am the main caretaker. For the first two years I actually raised her completely by myself without any child support even or help from the father, while struggling as a refugee. I came to the UK with one suitcase alone and built a new life all by myself as an independent woman, I am the female producer and the founder of a record label. A child born in the UK is not entitled to British citizenship or even a visa to stay in the UK by birth, the child only can get it if the parent sorts it out for themselves and then for the child depending on the parent’s status. It took ten long years and a lot of money spent on legal fees for me to win my immigration case and Nicole was also a refugee during all of that time. I did it all alone, while Nicole’s father and her stepparent were just watching, but never lifted a finger to help Nicole with her refugee situation in the UK. Then, in public the same woman claimed to be caring about refugees. I am fine, I worked it out myself, but Nicole was a refugee too. She clearly, did not care about Nicole’s situation. She shouldn’t be called ‘Umi’, meaning ‘mother’ by Nicole. I did all the hard work. In fact, Nicole’s father was in court with me for two years trying to get the lowest child support settlement possible, while I was trying to make ends meet paying thousands of pounds for immigration lawyers here, establishing the life for Nicole and I. I have done my best as a mother, bought the house in cash without help from Nicole’s dad, gave Nicole stability in the UK. This is what motherhood is about, it’s more than just playing with a child during holidays. True love is priceless. From 2009 till 2016, Nicole’s father was visiting Nicole 3-4 times a year for short trips, sometimes only for a day, then Nicole had her first holiday trip to the US in 2016. Nicole continues to live with me. I put in hard work, carried my daughter for nine months through hard times all alone, have been raising her by myself for 11 years now, and here is the stepparent coming and starting to interfere, creating chaos in my household in London from across the pond with her actions. She has not played a ‘mother’ figure in Nicole’s life, to deserve the name that means ‘mother’. It is not just my personal view, it is the reality of the input in real life. Nicole has a mother, me. There are thousands of witnesses of what had really happened. In this very specific case, the way she has been dealing with things, is an insult to the mother, who gave birth, worked hard for years, provided the real stability and upbringing for Nicole.
You believe your daughter’s step-mom bought your daughter a phone and created an Apple password, and the perception may be that it shouldn’t be a big deal. How do you respond to that?
The Apple ID issue was just the tip of the iceberg. There is lot more going on. It was created in the stepparent’s name instead of mine or Nicole’s father’s, without properly talking to me. It is not about just the phone, but how things are being done while disregarding the mother. Social media was getting into my daughter’s head, there were disciplinary measures. It is about online safety, also security. Nicole logged into the same stepparent’s family sharing Apple ID onthe phone I got for her in the UK. Nobody told me initially about it. The stepparent told Nicole that she now handled her phone in the US and asked to walk her through it while Nicole is here in the UK. When you log in to the same Apple ID on multiple devices, you get access to the same photo stream. So if the stepparent is on Nicole’s phone in US, all of Nicole’s pics, social media accounts and even emails, including my personal emails to Nicole, would become available for her to see. Some of the emails contained my unreleased music that Nicole and I shared. If Nicole took a pic of me or us together on her phone here in London, it would become available for the stepparent to see on the other phone on iCloud stream, with the time and sometimes location. I don’t want private information to be shared with the stepparent. Nobody asked me personally if it’s okay for her to look through Nicole’s phone. That’s invasion of privacy on me too.
The effects of social media on school studies and the shortening attention span. In the UK online safety is taken very seriously while education is very important, more than spending hours on social media being obsessed with likes and followers. Parents are advised to monitor activities to protect children from the wrong interaction from weirdos in disguise. When social media turns into addiction, it can have long-term negative psychological impact on a child. A lot of scientific research has been done on this topic. The teachers’ and my concerns are well founded. I also noticed a change in Nicole’s values since being around the stepparent, where she became obsessed with vanity, fame and material things after two trips to the US in the past couple of months. This is not how children are raised in my culture. I put honesty, respect, love and helping other people over things mentioned above. When a child has rules in the residential household and then travels for a holiday to see all of that being stamped on by someone else, it sends mixed signals and ruins hard work of the residential parent. It wasn’t just an issue with the phone itself. She was playing the ‘good cop’ behind the mother’s back while getting in the way of my parenting and private information that shouldn’t be available to her. Again, by law she cannot do so. People are confusing the fact that just because she is married to the father, does not mean she has any rights over the child she did not give birth to. The only people that have rights are biological parents. The residential parent has also a big role as that is the overall lifestyle. Nicole doesn’t live between two households, like many other children, going back and forth every week or sharing school runs with a stepparent. I do all of that work.
Many people who saw your posts don’t understand why you aired out your issues on social media. Why did you feel it necessary to do so?
I understand their point, and yes I have tried my best for a long time to resolve issues through communication privately. It should be like this in the perfect world and in my culture this is how it is usually done. This is a very different situation though and I had to do it as the last resort. The reason for that was not being listened to, shouted at, disrespected, being ignored, undermined and shut down by these two people constantly over many years. I am tired of constant bullying and disrespect from them. They don’t want to have a constructive conversation. The amount of misogyny I have faced from that side is appalling. Multiple threats including a very recent one, abuse from the father of my child are also the reason I have to make this public. I live alone with Nicole and this type of pressure over the years is not nice. I am not looking for ‘clout’ – they are not even that known on this side of the world. I have a Master’s Degree from a prestigious Academy of Music, a solid foundation with my work here. I have made history here helping careers of many well-known artists as the only female producer in some places, being the pioneer and paving the way, I helped launch a whole genre in Russia as a producer. I have released two albums all written, recorded, produced, arranged, performed and mixed all by myself, one woman projects, at my own studio. On this side of the world, I am a respected artist and producer – we have a different music industry. My work is to bring knowledge and my philosophy to people about making this world a better place. I chose to be an independent artist and to build an independent record label plus TV platform to help other artists. I usually speak to the media only about work, but now things got to a point, where I just can’t stand the abuse and them constantly disrupting things for their own sake anymore. It started affecting my child and as a mother, it is my duty to stand up for us against the threats and hypocrisy. People, who have been around me for years have witnessed all of it and agree with me. Trying to work out issues with Nicole’s dad and his wife is very hard. If it doesn’t go their way, there have been threats to take over my child using their money. It is literally, if you don’t agree to bow down, to destroy your dignity and even identity, you are made the enemy of the family. It happened many times in the past. I am not the only one who faced it, but I will speak for myself. It is a very controlling and narcissistic environment. Nicole’s dad also was threatening me that they would use their money and connections to take custody. In the UK and other countries, motherhood is held highly and respected, custody cannot be taken just because someone else has more money. I am a good mother and I raise my child well. As Nicole lives with me in the UK, there are thousands of real life witnesses to that. The way these two people behave is fueled by the public thinking they are ‘saints’, which feeds their egos. I do not have money for expensive lawyers equal to the ones they have, as I had to go through many hardships and unfair treatment in this life, that’s why they feel free to bully. I also got tired of being in courts over immigration and child support in the past, my 20s were spent just fighting for basic human rights that a lot of people in the western world take for granted, when I was just trying to do my best for my daughter. I am a creative, I would rather spend time productively making beats, music, videos for my platform and helping other people. Where I come from, people usually talk instead of taking each other to courts for years.
I also know, that there are many women, who are in a similar situation, who are afraid to speak out. For a long time women have been oppressed mentally and financially, told to be quiet and comply with controlling abusers. When a woman speaks up, she is often labeled as ‘bitter’, ‘negative’, being accused of only saying things because ‘she can’t move on’. This automatic labeling is something this society needs to overcome, because it literally silences so many women who are actually trying to just stand up for themselves. It enables abusers to continue also. Blaming the victim for saying anything. People over here, who have never heard the names of these two, believe it or not, but in many parts of the world, they are not known at all; people, who’s vision is not clouded by a false perception of them, have fully sympathized with me and seen it for what it is. I, for the record, have fully moved on a very long time ago, I am just trying to raise my child in peace without threats to my life. This is the time for change.
Did you try to speak to either your daughter’s step-mom or dad prior to your social media posts? If so, how were those attempts received?
There is no communication at all with her. Nicole’s dad starts yelling and shouting abuse anytime you even mention her name or if something is not his way. Very different from the way I have conversations with the other mothers.
You said in your posts that your daughter’s step-mom “got in the way of things in the past.” What “things” were you referring to?
There were too many things, but she does things through other people as well. Hereby I am going to mention a few in regards to parenting, although there is even more to the story outside of it. When Nicole’s father was not claiming Nicole publicly for a year after it was proven through DNA test that he was the father, and Nicole continued being a ‘secret’ from July 2009 till August 2010, this woman was promoting her own pregnancy, announcing it after Nicole’s father missed Nicole’s second birthday in May 2010. Nicole’s father came to London a few days later with his new fiancé straight after divorce from Mashonda to publicize her pregnancy. Prior to that in April 2010 some blogs leaked the story about Nicole being his daughter, but both of them ignored it and continued with their own narrative. This resulted in the media writing at the time, that she was pregnant with his third child, instead of fourth, when she was announcing her pregnancy. It looked to the public as if Nicole did not even exist for a time. Even after promotion of their wedding, Nicole was still a secret to the public. Only after the news were leaked online second time, through other people, Nicole’s dad had to confirm it. If it wasn’t for that and Mashonda’s confirmation, Nicole may have remained a secret ‘alleged’ child in the UK for a long time. I think it was disrespectful to Nicole and I felt bad for her. One time Nicole’s dad asked to take Nicole to meet her in Central London in winter 2009. His divorce to Mashonda had not been finalized yet. I had to travel for two hours by public transport with a baby in a heavy pram, just to be nice all for the sake of Nicole. A couple of hours later, this woman jumped into her warm big car and left without offering a lift anywhere, even though she asked before, how long it took us to get to where she was from our house. She left Nicole and I standing under a very heavy winter rain in London, freezing outside to spend another two hours in peak hour in public transport to get back home. I was thinking for a time, what was the point in taking a whole Sunday off under the heavy rain just to be nice. I have a witness to that and receipts.
You feel that the “blended family” your daughter’s father and his wife portray is a “fake idea” and that your child is being used for publicity. Please elaborate on that.
In public, they speak about communication and understanding in the blended family between all parents, about making relationships work with the mothers of the children. In reality, I have been alienated by them from the start in different ways, beginning with the times when Nicole’s father was hiding the fact from the public that he had a child in the UK. I have been told by them to not come to the US even when I was only coming for my own personal trips, like the one in 2014. I tried, I really tried to cooperate, be compassionate and even go along with their last minute wishes. I was told: ‘You must love his wife or don’t come to the US’. I don’t have an obligation to love her, I can be cordial. I love my child. Love is also for my future husband. One of the reasons Nicole and I were not in the ‘Blended Family’ video was, that just before the release of that, I had to secretly fly to New York in 2016 to pick my daughter up as there were concerns about her possibly not being returned back to London due to threats of taking custody. I also found a ticket they purchased for Nicole to another state that was not discussed with me. When I landed, immediately I had a phone call from Nicole’s dad objecting to my mere physical presence in the US, even though I did not bother anyone. I paid for my own flight and hotel far away from their house and did not intend to come around. I just came to make sure I could take Nicole back at the end of the trip as advised by my lawyer. I was bullied by the family for having these concerns. The same year this woman was claiming in her public statements to not have known any refugees in the family while promoting her new video, even though Nicole and I have been refugees and struggled all by ourselves with the immigration case for many years. I was bullied heavily by the family for speaking out, and even insulted for the way I dress. It would’ve been complete hypocrisy to participate in the ‘Blended Family’ video after all. When positive communication started between the other mothers and I, both times Nicole’s father was not happy about it at all and was even interfering, telling them lies, bad things about me. They did not believe it. Even when Nicole did not want to go on the first trip to US without me as she was only 8-years-old and had never traveled that far without me, Nicole’s dad blamed it on me, when the problem was within themselves. Nicole’s dad saw her rarely at that time. it took him a year to even acknowledge her publicly after paternity. I, on the other side, went far and beyond, to make sure Nicole had a relationship with her dad, cancelling my own plans last minute, even once missing my own dentist appointment just to respond to last minute request from her dad to see her. Nicole did not even want to stay by herself around him and it was me telling her that she needs to be nice to him, because that’s her dad. I also didn’t go to court with him from the very beginning to avoid Nicole becoming the reason for his divorce and having this stigma in Nicole’s biography for the rest of her life. I made sacrifices and struggled alone as a refugee, paying for everything myself for two years for the sake of my daughter. I did it all as a mother first to protect my child. All I have been getting in return is disrespect and even attempts to put lies on me in the media to paint me as a homewrecker from that side. Mashonda however, always spoke the truth about me. That is why her and I have always been good.
I love the idea of blended families, I have always been happy to embrace the idea that mothers and their children can co-operate, but everybody has to be mature and put their egos aside. It cannot be all about one person while others are treated as underclass. I have done my best to co-operate, it has been working with the other mothers absolutely naturally. I actually have been hanging out with them, but it’s real life and not done for the cameras. I have never entertained the idea, that just because women have children from the same father, they can’t get along. On the contrary, I believe that in life it is important to find balance, where possible. However, if there is ego and narcissism at play while shutting down another, I will not be the woman, that can be pushed over.
Your daughter’s father recently posted something that some people took as a threat against you. What did you think when you first saw it?
I felt threatened. Just because I am in the minority as a woman of color, an immigrant who was a refugee in the UK and eventually became British Citizen without any help; just because I have no family in the UK apart from my daughter; just because I am a single mother, does not mean I can be humiliated, bullied, threatened or harassed. Even if it is coming from a group of people. They claim to be a part of the movement of women empowerment. I thought, his post was violent and very disturbing. Who in their right mind threatens the mother of their child publicly on social media like that? That’s crazy. This is exactly why I have to speak now, as this online and offline behavior has been making things unsafe. Promoting violence against a woman, a mother of your child, is very low and unmanly, to say the least. His post also is popularizing the idea of violence against the mother of the child, which is on one hand, aggravating the public to think it’s okay to do so, in case they want to win their idol’s favor, on another hand, sets a bad example to men. He posted it to millions of people publicly. If the public sees him and his wife as one, they may as well look at this threat as coming from the same side. It is a complete contradiction to the women empowerment movement they both claim to be supporting. Also, threats like this could potentially put in danger not only me, but my daughter, as she is with me walking down these streets.
What are your next steps?
Creating a safe environment for myself and my daughter. As by making that terrible post, he promoted possibility of violence, which his and his current wife’s fans can potentially see as a green light to do whatever. One of her fans even threatened coming to the UK to make a physical assault. Some of these people don’t even show their face, hide their identity. Imagine, you could potentially bump into any of them, while walking down the street with a young child, the same person threatening and having the ill intentions online. They know you and your life, they may think they would get a pat on the back from their favorite if they do something like this, but you don’t even see their face online. I have also seen attempts from Nicole’s father to discredit me. This literally reflects a very common situation, that has been happening throughout history to discredit a woman, when she is standing up for herself. I would urge people to be more compassionate. When a man speaks out, he often gets praised for being ‘strong’. When a woman does it, the society often seems to still not be ready, making assumptions based on stereotypes and in this climate of unequal perception, it is important to be even more on point with safety.It is time for change.
Ultimately, what do you hope will happen in your co-parenting situation with your daughter’s father and his wife?
All communication has been currently shut down. My hope for the future in general is that there will be more respect for the mothers and no more misogyny.
Drama, drama, DRAMA!! Let’s hope for the sake of Nicole that the adults learn how to play nice and come up with a co-parenting situation that’s agreeable on both sides. No one in these situations suffers more than the child.
Photo Credit: Maurice Sparrow
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