Nia Long applauds raising kids as single mom on cover of Essence

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Nia Long on the August 2012 Essence

Nia Long on the August 2012 Essence.

“I’m in my forties, post baby and I’m thinner than I’ve been in years. The last step will be letting my hair go natural. That’s when you’ll know I’m free…” These are the words of Nia Long, the 41-year-old actress who has been a celebrated Hollywood talent for many years. To announce her appearance on its August magazine cover, Essence.com has posted the cover image, which features the gorgeous mother of two embracing her young sons, Kez and Massai, Jr.

Nia Long Essence cover with sons

Nia Long Essence cover with sons

Emblazoned over Long’s family photo is the headline “Single, Satisfied & Raising Her Boys” — and this is causing quite a stir. While Long looks radiant, and her children appear to be relaxed and happy, some are questioning the pride with which the seasoned thespian embraces raising two children out of wedlock.

“Is ESSENCE asking for more controversy by featuring the never wed Nia (but engaged) on the cover with her kiddies,” popular black celebrity blog The YBF asks about the cover, “or is it simply a beautiful pictorial, which reflects our current society, of a mom and her kids?”

Some online backlash to this idea has been fierce.

“My opinion may not be popular, but I really don’t care,” one user posted on Facebook in response to the cover. “She may raise them and the whole nine… BUT WHO WILL THEY LOOK TO WHEN IT’S TIME TO MIMICK [sic] WHAT MEN DO? Rest assured, boys always look for a male/man to mimick [sic]!”

Nia Long has made other statements regarding choosing to create a family without being married that have also spurred discussion. When she was pregnant with her youngest son, Long stated in a related Ebony magazine cover story that she “asked God” to have a child out of wedlock. One can imagine the myriad of negative responses her revelation garnered.

But, perhaps it’s the public that needs to cool out on the issue. Demetria Lucas in an essay for Essence.com questions why single mothers in the black community being proud of their status is such a cause of contention.

“Folks are going to have babies before or without a ring whether we like it or not,” Lucas wrote. “Of course, a healthy, stable marriage is ideal (for most), but if the folks we are talking about have the means to raise their children in a healthy, productive environment … — whether it’s co-parenting with a boyfriend, or even an ex — what are we really complaining about?”

Indeed. Ultimately, Long’s decision to bear or raise children without being married is hers alone. But that won’t stop her fans and detractors from chiming in. What do you think? Does this set a bad example, in terms of making choosing to have children without marriage  the “new norm”? Or do you approve of Nia being happy and strong in her choice of single parenthood?

Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.