“In the acting world, all actors can hit rough patches, however, it’s been a little more difficult booking gigs for Ker’Arie because she has special needs. So with her father being a filmmaker, he said he would not let that stop her from doing what she dreams of doing,” Kinaya said in her innerview. Kinaya Tatum is an actress, model, writer, producer, director, and filmmaker known for her love for advocating for the Down Syndrome community. As a proud wife and mom of four, one with Down syndrome, she loves spending as much time as possible with her family. Her daughter, Kei’Arie is the inspiration behind her advocacy. Both Kinaya and her husband, Brandon are passionate about nurturing their daughter, Kei’Arie’s love for the arts. In addition to wearing many different hats, she enjoys reading and dancing.
Innerview with Kinaya Tatum
YVONNE PIERRE: When and how did you find out Kei’arie had Down syndrome?
KINAYA TATUM: I found out Kei’Arie had Down Syndrome when she was 15 months old. How I found out was very shocking as well. We were on vacation. Kei’Arie had gotten sick three days after getting to our destination. For the first time ever, I noticed she was breathing very unusually. So, I rushed her to the ER. I’m thinking, “Oh, she just has a little cold and she will be fine.” The nurse walks into our room, takes her vitals quietly, then asks, “How long has she been sick?” I responded, “Just a couple of days, we just got here for vacation to visit family.” She says, “Ok, the doctor will be in shortly,” then walks out. Five minutes later, my life changed forever, in so many different ways than I could have ever imagined. In walks the doctor, he speaks with “hello” first. The first thing he asked with a smile is, “Oh yes, she has Down Syndrome right?” I had no clue what that was or what the doctor was talking about. Looking confused and very speechless, the only thing I could say was, “I don’t know what you’re talking about doctor, and whatever that is, will it kill my baby?” Life for me seemed like it began at that very moment for my entire family. That’s how I found out Kei’Arie had DS.
YVONNE: What has been the most rewarding and the most challenging?
KINAYA: The most rewarding times are when I see and feel victories of things I was told our daughter would never do. Also, I feel rewarded in gaining knowledge about Kei’Arie having DS, which allows her father Brandon Tatum, and me in helping her more efficiently as well as others. The most challenging times are when Kei’Arie would get frustrated and say things like “what’s wrong with me mommy”, also other people’s lack of awareness, but sometimes my own inpatients I find challenging. Lastly, anytime Kei’Arie gets sick it’s quite a challenge because she is very quiet about when she is sick or if something hurts. Then it just seemed like when she got sick it was moments of fear for me, due to the sickness requiring her to be hospitalized. Now that she is older those challenges have gotten a lot better.
YVONNE: When did you recognize that Kei’Arie could paint?
KINAYA: Kei’Arie started at 4 years of age. Not like how she paints today, but really becoming infatuated with colors and the way it spread on paper. We would always color with her, but she held on tight to the first time she painted. We would always try and make her paint shapes and other things but she loves to just paint squares. Kei’Arie completely fell in love with painting her way at 6 years of age and now we call her little paintings Keiahsos.
YVONNE: Kei’Arie also enjoys acting. When did you realize this was a talent?
KINAYA: I recognized Kei’Arie’s gift of acting when she was 5 years old. She was sitting in her room one day and I heard her talking to herself, I thought. However, it turns out she was actually repeating the lines from one of her favorite shows iCarly. Not only was she saying the lines, but she was also acting out what they were doing. I continue to watch her as she watched her shows and noticed she started to put her own twist to it and it was hilarious. She began to ask her father and me daily, “Can I be on T.V., like iCarly?” We would always say, “Sure Cookie, you can do anything.” She took what we said and ran with it. At a loss for words at times of her asking, I would then tell her I am going to work on it to see if we can make that happen. Kei’Arie booked her first photo-shoot at 6 years old and did not want to stop taking pictures. I got her an acting agent and she has been climbing from there in the world of entertainment. Now that she is 17 years old, her new thing now is she feels she needs her own show titled “I am More” or “I am Kei’Arie.” Often asking her father and me, which one do we like best.
YVONNE: Tell us about the skits that she does on her social media.
KINAYA: In the acting world, all actors can hit rough patches, however, it’s been a little more difficult booking gigs for Ker’Arie because she has special needs. So with her father being a filmmaker, he said he would not let that stop her from doing what she dreams of doing. So her father and I came up with rolls for her and filmed them. Recently, her dad created her own show called the “Angel Baby & Mz Eggs McMuffin Show.” This show actually allows Ker’Arie to play two different characters, a girl her age with DS and older women with DS. It’s a comedy that is also educational and promotes Down syndrome awareness.
YVONNE: How did you nurture her talents?
KINAYA: Kei’Arie’s dad and I began nurturing her talents by encouraging her in her ability to be great. We also involved Kei’Arie with independent thinking by taking her shopping, letting her pick out all her supplies needed. We sat down and had many paint sessions with her and allowed her to create her own lines for her skits, while we wrote it down for her and consistently showing her freedom in creativity without explaining it to her.
YVONNE: Why did you feel it’s important for parents, regardless of their child’s abilities, to support their child with their talents?
KINAYA: I feel it’s important as parents to support our children in their talents because; it’s our job as parents to help guide them to their purpose in life. Sure, their ideas may change from time to time, but why subject a child to just one talent when they can have many just as extraordinary as the next child. Society and our future generation need what we all have to offer. Even a child with special needs has something that is very much unique and needed from their raising talents. In my opinion, it also keeps the close and open bond between you and your child, as well as showing your child your interest in what they like and not what they’re told to like or do. Every person was born with divine purpose, having special needs or not. Some children just need to be told, some show, and some you may have to hold their hand and walk through the door with them. The point is, to make sure your guidance helps make purpose happen.
YVONNE: Kei’arie just graduated high school Class of 2020. As she is transitioning into adulthood what has been the most challenging and how are you overcoming it?
KINAYA: The most challenging as Kei’Arie transition into adulthood would definitely be keeping her active socially. Now that Kei’Arie understands she will no longer go to her high school and be amongst her peers. She has been having a hard time with that. The look in her eye’s longing to be with her friends to now having no friends sometimes breaks my heart. To listen to her say “Mommy I just want three or more friends and a boyfriend, when mommy?” leaves me very speechless at times. So, after I get myself together and my thought process going optimistically. I tell her I am your best friend, and we can do everything together. She gets happy for a while. I keep her busy, but she will come back to those same questions. Especially wanting a boyfriend now and that part my husband I am still trying to figure out. I am not really sure if we will overcome that part, we just pray that as she continues her journey of life she will possibly meet friends that will truly be a friend that sticks and possibly meet a wonderful young man that will love her forever and they share their lives together.
YVONNE: Tell us about Angel Babies Boutique and how people can show their support.
KINAYA: Kei’Arie having DS and knowing she is an angel baby inspired Angel Babies Boutique. Every time she would see someone that had DS she would say, “Look an angel baby like me” and would smile, wave, and laugh. Anytime we as a family would celebrate DS awareness in some type of way, she would light up with so much joy and excitement. Upon her completing the 12th grade we asked her what she wanted for her graduation present and she said “I want to work in my own store”, we then asked her what kind of store she said, “my store”. Her dad and I put the two together, and when we presented it to her, she was so overwhelmed, she cried. It caters to the DS community in a huge way of spreading more awareness, love, and inclusion in the DS colors. To see her want to work and come up with ideas makes us as parents overjoyed. Everyone can support Angel Babies Boutique by going to www.angelbaby.org and find a T-shirt, Hat, or Painting they like.
YVONNE: What do you know now that you wish you would have known when Kei’aire was a baby?
KINAYA: I honestly am a strong believer in timing. Everything that I know now versus when Kei’Arie was a baby was meant for me/us when coming into the knowledge of her having DS. If I had to come up with something, it would be for myself in not getting so mad when someone looked/treated our daughter like she was incompetent. I can say, the looks have not stopped and the treatments are mild. I have defiantly grown up from when it was done when she was a baby. I’m calmer now, and I will defiantly spark a conversation with whoever is staring just to get them to talk and get enlighten.
YVONNE: What advice would you share with other parents?
KINAYA: The advice I have for other parents is, embrace the journey with grace and have a lot of fun. Love and love harder, laugh and laugh harder. You may cry at times or may even have a lot of questions, but just know some unpleasant moments are not a life sentence and questions can always be answered.
YVONNE: Where can people go to see Kei’arie’s artwork, skits, to purchase her t-shirts?
KINAYA: You can see everything that Kei’Arie has worked on and currently working on most social media platforms except for Twitter:
- IG – @angelbaby_38
- Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/iammore13
- YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMGZpluK0YU