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Lucille O’Neal and Sonya Curry Open Up About Raising Fame and How Their Faith Kept Them Strong

Don't miss Raising Fame on TV One Sunday, July 7, at 10 p.m. ET.

Raising two of the most successful basketball players in the world was no small feat. For Lucille O’Neal, mother of Shaquille O’Neal, and Sonya Curry, mother of Stephen Curry, instilling a “family first” mindset was a vital part of their tight-knit family dynamic throughout both of their superstar sons’ childhood. Now, in their new show, Raising Fame — premiering on TV One Sunday, July 7, at 10 p.m. ET — the mothers have come together to share even more about their lives and showcase other incredible parents of beloved celebrities — like Danielle Brooks, Usher, Magic Johnson, Fantasia, John Legend, Billy Porter and more.

Raising Fame show poster
Raising Fame premieres on July 7th on TV OneTV One/Raising Fame

FIRST for Women caught up with the ladies at an exclusive event to celebrate the show on Tuesday, June 18, at The Standard, High Line in New York City.

The concept behind Raising Fame began as a podcast hosted by Sonya and Dell Curry, but the duo quickly realized that there was more in their conversations that the audience needed to see.

“We were going into their homes and seeing emotions that were taking place during these interviews, I just felt like people were missing out. That passion wasn’t coming through the podcast alone,” says Sonya. “Fast forward, I needed someone to host the TV show with me. I’m like, ‘Lucille O’Neal.’”

When asked to join, Lucille’s response was: “Absolutely.”

Lucille O'Neal and Sonya Curry at the Raising Fame event
Lucille O’Neal and Sonya Curry at the Raising Fame eventJared Siskin/for US Weekly

“God had actually planted a seed in her for a TV show or a talk show, and I had pitched a talk show to my son. He wasn’t sure about it. So here we are with Raising Fame. I say all that to say, what God has for you is for you. No one can thwart that plan. You just keep walking.”

“I believe it was meant to be. I’m glad Sonya invited me because we’re both in a place where we can relate to a lot of the parents that we’re talking to. But you don’t know how much you have in common until you start talking,” Lucille says. “I keep reminding folks that we didn’t come with an instruction booklet. We believe that when you see the segments in the program, you’re going to learn something.”

Here, in an exclusive Q&A, Lucille and Sonya get candid about their heart behind the new series, how they relied on their faith to raise their famous sons and how they manage to balance it all.

Lucille O'Neal and Sonya Curry at the Raising Fame event
Lucille O’Neal and Sonya Curry at the Raising Fame eventJared Siskin/for US Weekly

Can we talk about how much faith you guys found in all of the parents and how that played a part in raising them?

Lucille O’Neal: “We don’t start out having faith. Our faith gets stronger along the way, and when we sat down and talked to most of the parents, we didn’t realize the faith that they had. We learned that faith in God is very important in a household. We’re not trying to press anything on you. But we believe in God, and we expressed that to those we talked to. We laugh, talk, pray, cry and it brought us closer together in faith. Not only just in the interview, but it helped us to build a relationship with the families that we spoke with because of our faith.”

Sonya Curry: “It impacted us. One of the things that we learned is that faith is what kept these families together. There were moments where there was division between the celebrity and their parents for a season. Their faith was the foundation and trusting and believing in God’s promises. You know, ‘Train a child the way they should go, and when they are older, they will not depart from it.’ That is absolutely true because God’s Word never returns void. Again, we’re not trying to press spirituality on anyone, but it was one of the common threads.”

The visuals of the storytelling were so beautiful. What was one of the moments when you thought, This is good?

Lucille: “When we sat down with Mary Martha, who is Billy Porter’s sister. We went to visit their mom in a nursing facility, and Billy Porter met us there. We saw love in action. It really blessed us. She reminded me so much of my mother. It’s stories that the world does not even know about. We were able to capture the essence of the family unit. We’re happy that we had the opportunity to spend time with her, and she left us with something.”

Sonya: “The show is mostly about the parents sharing their reality of raising their children. But it’s also an opportunity for the celebrity to show love to their parents.”

Do you feel like this series has brought you even closer to your children?

Lucille: “I’ve always been close to my children. But I do feel like it brought us closer because they are adults now and they’re able to express themselves a lot more. I’m grand-parenting now, and I love that part.”

Shaquille O'Neal getting a kiss from his mother Lucille in 2017
Shaquille O’Neal getting a kiss from his mother Lucille in 2017Kevork Djansezian

There are some serious names in the series this season, how did this come together?

Lucille: “We were just happy that the people who were asked to participate said yes.”

Sonya: “The beautiful thing is you’re going to see interviews by parents that have never done interviews before. We’re just sitting here going, How did we get this? They’re opening their homes, and we’re flying around because we want to see where they grew up and get a visual of the hometowns. People really trust us, and that’s why we are really proud of this show. We get to show our community in a positive light, and people are doing great things. We just want to bring as much positivity as we can into this world. I’m just thankful!”

How do you balance the love? How do you give each child the level of attention that they need to, not only just be good humans when they get older, but to be superstars?

Sonya: “It starts when you raise them. We had the expectation in our home that was: God first, family second and then everything else. In our family, everybody had their role, and if one slips, then it affects the whole family. So we started planting that in our children when they were tiny — to focus on family, and then we all succeed. When one succeeds, we all succeed. When one struggled, we all got to be there to keep that one up. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, right? So you have to be there for each other.”

“And it does start with the eldest in the family. There’s a lot of weight that goes in being the first — a lot of expectation. Kudos to Stephen because he always made his siblings feel good about themselves, and a part of his experience. Then they were eager to cheer him on because they knew that he loved them and he knew that that he wanted them around.”

Stephen Curry and Sonya Curry at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival
Stephen Curry and Sonya Curry at the 2023 Sundance Film FestivalMatt Winkelmeyer

As for Lucille and Sonya, they are just grateful to be part of this experience to showcase the power of faith and family. “We want you to be able to listen and learn because we know that’s going to happen,” Lucille says.

Sonya agrees. “We just want people to be encouraged. The whole point of the show was to build community and encourage people to live this life the best that you can.”

Where to watch:

Tune in to Raising Fame on TV One Sunday, July 7, at 10 p.m. ET.


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