By Jamie Foxx
With Nick Chiles
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From Academy Award-winning multi-talent Jamie Foxx, a hilariously candid look at the joys and pitfalls of being the father of two daughters.Jamie Foxx has won an Academy Award and a Grammy Award, laughed with sitting presidents, and partied with the biggest names in hip-hop. But he is most proud of his role as father to two very independent young women, Corinne and Anelise. Jamie might not always know what he’s doing when it comes to raising girls—especially when they talk to him about TikTok (PlikPlok?) and don’t share his enthusiasm for flashy Rolls Royces—but he does his best to show up for them every single day.
Luckily, he has a strong example to follow: his beloved late grandmother, Estelle Marie Talley. Jamie learned everything he knows about parenting from the fierce woman who raised him: As he puts it, she’s “Madea before Tyler Perry put on the pumps and the gray wig.”
In Act Like You Got Some Sense—a title inspired by Estelle—Jamie shares up close and personal stories about the tough love and old-school values he learned growing up in the small town of Terrell, Texas; his early days trying to make it in Hollywood; the joys and challenges of achieving stardom; and how each phase of his life shaped his parenting journey. Hilarious, poignant, and always brutally honest, this is Jamie Foxx like we’ve never seen him before.
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My dad (who I'm sure you know based on the cover of this book is Jamie Foxx) has led the most interesting life. He has laughed with sitting presidents, won numerous accolades, partied with the biggest names in hip-hop, chartered planes around the world—the list goes on and on. However, if you ask anyone who knows him, they would say what he talks about the most is not partying with Diddy or shaking hands with Obama. It's my latest acting performance, or how many points Anelise scored in her last basketball game. Being a father is one of my dad's greatest joys; it's apparent in everything that he does. He makes his entire world revolve around me and my sister. If he could spend every waking moment with us, he would—though my sister and I would desperately need some space. We're his pride and joy, and we feel that from him every day.
I think my dad wanted to write a book on fatherhood because when he started going through it, he had no blueprint on how to be a good father. He had to learn everything on the job, right in the moment. When I think of him at age twenty-six, holding me as a newborn, it must have been so intimidating for him. He had no idea what to do. But over the twenty-seven years of my own life, my father has been dedicated to figuring it out. He's always tried to get it right, even though his execution was unorthodox sometimes—not every dad is gonna hang out with his six-year-old at a topless pool. I feel like my dad wanted to write a book about fatherhood so he could share the lessons he's learned along the way. He can provide someone else with the map that he never got. I don't think this book is meant to portray Jamie Foxx as the perfect father. God knows, he got it wrong a lot of the time, as you will discover on these pages. But his intentions were always pure. I never once had to question if he was going to be there for me, if he would show up. I always knew I'd be the last thing he'd ever give up on.
I was excited to learn he was writing this book because I knew it would offer an honest, harsh but still delightful view on fatherhood. You don't need to be the perfect father; you don't even need to know what you're doing. The only thing that you have to do is try. Show up. Be there. Listen. My dad has always done those things—and my sister and I are better for it.
You Ain't Ready for It
The first thing I learned about parenting is that the kids ain't going nowhere. When Corinne was born, the responsibility smacked me upside the head, made me scared as hell. It dawned on me that this parenting thing is forever. And it's not like having a puppy—the consequences of messing up are way worse than some shit on the carpet. When you take the kid to school on Monday, you actually have to get up and take them again on Tuesday. Damn, they got to go every day? The things you took for granted when you were a kid—like breakfast, lunch and dinner—that's now on you. No one is coming to make food for them.
But lemme slow down and introduce myself. Hello, my name is Jamie. You may know me from film, television, stand-up comedy, the music world, being famous for my wild parties (which, by the way, are epic)—but there are two young girls in my life who don't give a shit about any of that and only know me as "Dad." Corinne is now twenty-seven, Anelise is thirteen. They have different mothers (don't judge me and I won't judge you).
Everything I learned about parenting came from Estelle Marie Talley and Mark Talley, the beautiful couple who adopted me at seven months. I consider them my grandparents because (and try to keep up because this story is messy) thirteen years before Mark and Estelle adopted me they had adopted my mother. Mark Talley was an uncle to my mother, Louise, whose family was the Rosebuds. From what I was told, my mother's mother, my biological grandmother, was stressed trying to raise my mom's other siblings. Believe me, I know how hard it is raising kids when you have money, and it's hard as fuck when you don't. So one day Estelle said to her, "I can't have kids because God didn't let me. I always wanted to have kids. Would you allow me to adopt Louise?" They agreed. I guess legally my mother is my sister—I know, it sounds like a country-ass Southern thing. But hey, I never married my cousin so, like I said, don't judge me.
My mother was thirteen when she moved to Terrell, Texas, after spending her formative years in Dallas. Terrell was culture shock for her, to say the least. Dallas was a fast-moving city—not LA or New York, but certainly faster than Terrell, with its six stop lights. Though my mother moved begrudgingly, when she got there she was a star—beautiful, talented, charismatic. In high school she was the lead of the majorettes, strutting across the field with all eyes on her. Everybody wanted to be in her world.
But she never really took to Terrell, even though she was a big fish in a small pond. She yearned to get back to the hood in South Dallas, to what she knew. After high school graduation, she fled back there. By the time she turned twenty-six, she had gotten married to a man named Darrell Bishop and gave birth to a bighead boy named Eric Marlon Bishop. That was me. Their marriage didn't work out. My dad converted to Islam while my mother was pregnant, which immediately drove a wedge between them. The people I grew up with didn't have anything against Muslims, they just didn't understand the religion—the only thing they knew about Muslims was bow ties and bean pies. And have you ever been to the South? No disrespect to Muslims or Jews but WE EAT PORK. Pork chops, pork ribs…Fuck it, we put pork in our whiskey! Oh yeah, that's the other thing. Texans love to drink.
So my mother was having a hard time dealing with that…and now add a newborn into the mix! Her family saw she was overwhelmed and offered lots of help. As a result, in my early months I would spend the majority of time in Terrell with my grandparents, Estelle and Mark. Finally, Estelle said to her daughter, "Why don't you let the boy stay here?" Soon that turned into, "Why don't you let me adopt the boy?"
I was five when I found out I was adopted. The news of my parentage was shocking—imagine learning who you thought was your sister was actually your mom and who you thought was your mother was your adoptive grandmother-slash-aunt-by-marriage (yeah, the story is complicated). But it didn't devastate me. This was a Black adoption—a kid is taken into a household by other family members, brought up with plenty of love and maybe somebody was getting a check in the deal. I had a family that cared for me. I was good. It didn't cave me in. The earth didn't stop spinning. I saw Joaquin Phoenix's Joker and shook my head when that dude choked his mom out with a pillow after he found out he was adopted.
Damn, bruh, did you have to kill her even after she took care of your silly ass?
Maybe that's the difference between white people and Black people—but then I learned Jack Nicholson also found out the woman he thought was his sister was actually his mother, and he turned out alright (he even has a few more Oscars than me, but I'm catching up). And he also played the Joker. Not sure what the connection is there but I think I should play the next Joker. There should be a Black Joker anyway, because he'd fuck Batman up and add some rims to his Batmobile. You know, hood shit, but I digress.
After I found out my grandparents weren't really my parents, I finally met my biological mother (as far as I knew, I had a sister who lived far away). I learned that she was not ready for the responsibility of parenting—I mean, I get it now, she was not ready to give up her youth, she was still out in them streets. But back then, I had a hard time with my mother being absent in my life. I got to see things from her perspective just a bit when my daughter Corinne was young and I sometimes had a rough time fitting fatherhood into my crazy schedule. Because I too was out in them streets. In fact, I still am sometimes.
One conversation that shifted my perspective was when I was chopping it up with my friend Phil and I told him I was tied up the next day because I had to "babysit" my kid. He corrected me and said, "No, you're not babysitting your kid, Black man, you're watching your child. When you 'babysit,' that's somebody else's kid. You got to lose that mindset."
I was a little embarrassed. "Oh, okay, yeah, not babysitting."
At this point, Corinne was living with her mother, Connie, but I still saw her plenty. I even got pretty good at doing her hair—although sometimes the other moms at her school had to intervene (but I was smart enough not to use Gorilla Glue). So anyway, this one time Connie had to work and had asked me to watch Corinne. I should preface this story by saying I'm a musician/actor/comedian and most of my work takes place late at night, often after most normal folks have gone to bed. That means I'm not a daytime person. In my mind, daytime is for sleeping. So, when I got to Connie's apartment, I was already sleepy as hell. Corinne was barely two at the time. I put a few toys in front of her and settled in on the couch.
"Just play with your toys, baby," I said. "I'm gonna be right here." I was right there—and I stayed there. I fell asleep. And when I woke up, my little bundle of joy had disappeared.
At first I thought, Oh, she must have toddled into another room. But as I searched the apartment and called her name, she was nowhere to be found. Are you fuckin' kidding me?! I lost my daughter?! The panic started to set in, real hard. My heart felt like a giant rock in my throat.
"Fuuuuck!" I yelled out loud.
Just as I was about to start having heart palpitations, I heard a knock on the door. When I opened it, the guy who lived down the hall was standing there with Corinne beside him. He also had two little kids of his own with him.
"Does this belong to you?" he said with a smirk on his face.
"Oh my God!" I said. "Get in here." Corinne started crying and yelling, "Noooo, not him!" I was thinking, Damn, Corinne, what the hell? Making it look like I'm some abusive father?! I snatched her up and brought her into the apartment, both angry and relieved. It was just horrible. I have no idea how long she was gone, but it's twenty-five years later and I'm still breaking out in cold sweats right now just recalling that afternoon. I was lucky; it could have been tragic, horrific.
But back to my childhood. While my mother was out there living in the fast lane, my grandparents were there for me. They were the opposite of my mom, who might say she was coming to see me next week, or on Christmas, and never show up—leaving me with painful longings that took many years to recover from. But I had my grandparents, and though many of my nights with my grandmother were pretty dull—they mostly consisted of sitting through The Lawrence Welk Show, which she loved—they didn't have to be exciting. I felt her love—even if I didn't love her television viewing tastes.
Jumping ahead to when I first became a dad, I had become too busy building this guy named Jamie Foxx, and it was messing up my relationship with my young daughter—running off to do stand-up, gone for weekend after weekend, and not physically being there. That was not the lesson I had learned from Estelle and Mark. I knew I had to do better.
And that's what this book is about. It's an assorted mix of stories about the lessons I learned—sometimes the easy way, more often the hard way—about parenting. Was I a perfect parent when I first had kids? No. Am I a perfect parent now? No. I'll probably look at this book in twenty years and be like What the fuck was I thinking back then? So why am I declaring myself some sort of authority on parenting? I'm not. You are, because you bought this fucking book. If you don't get anything else out of it, just be there for your dumbass kids. But, stay with me here, keep reading and maybe you'll learn a thing or two on what to do. Or not to do.
My grandparents told me they wanted me to have every tool in my toolbox—the educational tool, the artistic tool, the discipline tool, the moral tool. My grandmother wanted me to be worldly enough that I would be able to connect with any person in any room I walked into. She also wanted me to have a strong moral compass, because she knew when I moved away from Terrell and got out in the world, there would be many temptations and times when I needed to be able to say "No." Probably should've said no to a few movies, but you can take that up with my agent.
Granny wasn't above using every form of manipulation that she could conjure, wanting me to understand that the only way I would become special was through hard work. And sometimes, when I didn't want to practice the piano, she would actually break down in tears.
"I done did everything I can," she said through her sobs. "You just don't care."
I looked at her and felt the pain working its way through my chest. Damn, bruh, you made Granny cry?
"I don't want you to blow it," she said. "I don't want you to be here. I don't want you to be stuck here in Terrell."
I didn't completely understand what she was doing and saying, but I did sit my ass down at the piano and finish my lesson. My grandmother truly whipped me into shape, and to really understand me and how I look at the world, you need to get to know her.
Estelle Talley was the most influential figure in turning little nappy-headed Eric Bishop into the man I eventually became.
Granny was a tough lady…Basically, Granny was a badass bitch. Everybody in Terrell knew you better not step to Estelle with nothing "messy," as she liked to call it, unless you wanted to get your ass handed back to you. But she never looked scary and was always well put together—all this power was in a tidy little box with a bow. She was Madea long before Tyler Perry put on the pumps and the gray wig. But unlike in Madea Goes to Jail, Granny wasn't going to no jail, because the cops were scared of her too. She was a typical Taurus—which means she was blunt and stubborn as hell. A muumuu-wearing, .380-packing, churchgoing Taurus. With a little bit of cursing-your-ass-out on the side.
She showed me that there are ways to get away with always acting your truth. Her reason for being able to get away with it is that she practically raised our entire town.
For thirty years, she had her own nursery-school/day-care/can-I-just-leave-my-kids-here-for-a-minute-so-I-can-go-hang-with-my-boo place. The children at the nursery ranged from the white mayor's kids from across the tracks to the Black principal's kids from the southside. And me. She watched over us all and carried a very big stick—though when she thought I needed an ass-whupping, she usually handed that job to my grandfather (unfairly, I'd get more ass-whupping than other kids). She believed that a strong foundation of discipline allows young men and women to grow into strong, responsible adults.
There were many great days I remember at the nursery, running around with my little homies, playing games, watching television. Granny made sure we took care and respected ourselves, and that our bellies were full, even if we weren't entirely sure what they were full of. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out the mystery of the brownish-gray mush on Mystery Meat Mondays, but my grandmother was as tight-lipped as a KGB spy. Years later, she slipped up and finally told me the identity of the mystery meat: possum. Before you trip, let me say it wasn't bad. Very fatty, a little gamey. But we were country-ass kids—we wouldn't have cared.
For three decades, I would see the kids she raised grow up to be men and women—Black and white—and come to her for advice as they were figuring out how to raise their own kids. She never turned anyone away. But she didn't have no time for people coming around and being "messy," which meant engaging in any kind of behavior she thought was tacky, crude or dumb. If you were messy, she definitely let you know what was going on. Once I came home from college and I could hear my grandmother on the phone before I even got into the house.
"Well, bring your ass on over here and see if I don't shoot clean through yo ass!" she was saying to somebody.
When I walked in, she had her hand on her .380, which was resting on the table next to her. She slammed the phone down and looked up. Her anger quickly softened when she saw me.
"Granny, can you please give me the gun? You could have shot your grandson coming in here!"
"Yeah, well whoever coming in better be ready, 'cause I'm not having it today! It's one of them days."
When she got into it with her family, she wasn't one to hold back. Her toughness wasn't reserved for strangers, it was practiced on strangers so she could give family the full treatment. And, more importantly, since she dished it out, she could take it (which, of course, I carried with me into my comedy). I would hear different women in the family hitting her hard with things like, "Oh, you better be glad you married to Mark." Mark was the patriarch of the family—quiet, strong, dignified and respected. Everybody loved him; he was the epitome of what I like to call "Grown Man." They were trying to get at my grandma—it would be quite the accomplishment to win an argument against her—but she'd fire back twice as hard:
"You humpback bitches, I ain't scared of none of y'all. And I will see you at the reunion!"
And at the family reunions is where it would really go down. My grandmother was the best cook, but she was the exact opposite of Christlike about it. She'd stand over her food like Peter at the Pearly Gates.
"You ate enough of that!" she'd say when the family member she didn't like approached for seconds. "Put that down! Put that pie down."
"Granny, why you do that?" I once asked her.
"I ain't gonna let these fools eat all the good food," she said. "Uh-uh."
The way she would use her tears at the drop of a dime to get what she wanted, she would also use food. And goddamn, was she a mean cook. But it wasn't just what she cooked, she would hold sweets over my head if I wasn't behaving how she wanted. One of my enduring weaknesses is a fondness for sweet snacks—and because my grandma rarely let me have them, I'm still obsessed with them. I was also deprived of jelly back in the day. Sometimes we would have peanut butter, but never any jelly! Can you imagine? That's like spaghetti without meatballs, salt without pepper, Simon without Garfunkel—which would just be like a Bridge over Regular Water. I've since overcompensated and, to this day, when you open my refrigerator, all you see is bottles on top of bottles of delicious grape jelly. When the kids are at my house, they know to never, under any circumstance, touch my grape jelly, or else…Sometimes when I go in the refrigerator inside the pantry, I'll see that my stash has a big dent in it.
"Hey, I told y'all—nobody take my jelly!" I yell at them, but they ain't trying to hear me. I had to move to more drastic action—I set up a sting to catch them in the act. I waited down the hallway, out of sight. From there, I could hear the refrigerator open in the middle of the night and I knew they were in there trying to get my stuff. At one in the morning! I hid out like that sheriff on the long highway that you didn't see when you were going 90 mph.
After the fridge opened, they scurried out with all kinds of snacks and sodas hidden in their clothes. I jumped out—to their screams. I lined them up and set out to frisking each one, finding loads of jellies and cupcakes and Reese's. All my stuff.
"Y'all eating bread and water for the rest of the week!"
Sorry, I got way too lost in that story. But I had a Snickers and I'm back on track talking about Granny.
I was the only child in the house, so my grandmother was my crew—a crew that didn't let me do shit. She liked to keep me busy and often made me do chores instead of playing with the other kids in the neighborhood. From my perspective, it seemed like her decisions were guided by one simple fact: She was a killjoy.
For example, when I was ten, if I looked out the window and saw the kids from the block playing outside, naturally I wanted to go out and play too. They weren't troublemakers, but I guess to my grandma they were, because they weren't encouraging me to do the dishes.
"Granny, they playin' across the street! Can I go over there?"
"Well, go on over there. See don't I cut your ass clean in two!"
"Granny, why you got to do that?"
"Go on, nigga. They can come over here but your ass ain't going nowhere." It was literally eighteen feet away.
I knew she didn't actually want to cut me clean in two, but I didn't want to test it.
At the ripe age of fifty-three, I now understand Granny. Kinda. She ended up teaching me discipline and that you can entertain yourself on your own side of the street. She didn't want anything bad to happen to me. But at the time, I just felt like she was being difficult as hell. I loved her though. In her mind, it came down to "That boy got something. I don't know what it is, but I don't want him to fuck it up hanging with them little badass kids down the street."
She ended up teaching me how to be a leader and not just a follower. You have your energy, you do your own thing and eventually the kids will come over and play with you—which they did. She told me she wanted me to learn how to enjoy my own space—in some backwards-ass way, but it worked. Now I don't chase the party. I create what I want and the right people find their way to me.
And she also taught me to be a leader by…well, being a leader herself. Even in small-town Texas, she was forward thinking. When I was in fifth grade, we were sitting in the pews on a Sunday afternoon listening to the reverend thunder from the pulpit of the local Baptist church.
"God created Adam and Eve," the reverend bellowed out. "He did not create Adam and Steve!"
Before the congregation could say "Amen," Estelle Talley rose up from her pew and yelled out, "You stop that!"
In the middle of the sermon. In the middle of the church. Smack dab in the middle of Texas. Nobody was gonna check Estelle Talley—including the reverend. The entire congregation probably stopped breathing. "You stop that!" she repeated. "God made sissies too. You stop preaching that!"
Now, I know the word "sissy" is hurtful to a lot of people, but please bear with me. This was Texas in 1976—we hadn't evolved yet and most of us didn't understand the connotations. But I will tell you this: Keep reading and you will see that Estelle Talley was most definitely an ally, even if she didn't have the right words for it at the time.
I don't know what the rest of the congregation was thinking, but I had no idea what she and the pastor were talking about. I had no concept of what gay was. Neither did the other kids. As on most Sundays, we were just trying to get out in time for the football game. During his sermon, half the church was probably already thinking, This dude is gonna make us miss the Cowboys!
Granny's words were greeted with stunned silence. The preacher stared at her for several seconds. Then he changed the subject. Granny kept standing for a minute to let him know who was boss and then sat back down.
I never forgot what she said that day. A few years later, I asked her a question. "Granny, do you remember when you said, 'God made sissies too'?"
"Mm-hmm, I remember."
"What's that mean?"
"God made sissies," she repeated. "God made everybody on the planet. So when people trying to separate everybody, that don't make sense. We ain't here unless God said to be here." Like I said, I don't condone her use of the word "sissies" but I give her a pass for being old. Her heart was in the right place.
She told me that over the course of thirty years, she had raised many little boys in her preschool.
"I would raise little boys who like to play with army men, and I would raise little boys who like to play with dolls. Now, those little boys who like to play with dolls, being in Texas, they didn't know who to talk to, since the preacher talking crazy, so they would come talk to me. So I would protect them and their secrets."
She said she was trying to tell the reverend that he needed to "open the umbrella of Christianity."
"Open up the umbrella and let us all stand under it," she said. "Because we are not here by chance. Nobody is. We have this blanket of 'we are created equal,' but then we don't allow everybody to warm themselves. There's enough blanket."
Years later, she got to see her blood, sweat and tears pay off in a big way when she came to the set and watched me do my thing on In Living Color, at the time the hottest television show in the world. She even appeared in one of the sketches. I couldn't have been happier.
When Granny passed away on October 23, 2004, just four months before I won the Oscar for Ray, it was the close of an incredible American story. She got to see me rise to the highest heights. And she knew it all came about because of the hours and the toil she put in. That's what every parent wants to see—our children soar.
When I won the Academy Award, I paid tribute to her in my acceptance speech.
"She was my first acting teacher," I said from the stage. "She told me 'Stand up straight, put your shoulders back, act like you got some sense.'…She still talks to me, only now she talks to me in my dreams."
- "In this debut full of genuine reflection and heartfelt humor, actor and comedian Foxx riffs on parenting (“You ain’t ready for it”) and the life experiences that gradually helped shape him as a father. . . Foxx writes in a jovial manner, with jokes flying constantly. . . Yet where this book truly excels is in its honesty, offering an intimate look past Jamie Foxx the famous actor to reveal a relatable figure."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
- “Wise, joyful and hilarious."—People
- "A practical, sometimes profane, always entertaining guide to the fine art of parenting."—Kirkus Reviews
- "In cheerfully meandering stories, Foxx displays his comedic timing and pacing and is always entertaining, blending the folksy yet hard-edged wisdom of his adoptive grandmother with hard-won, more worldly "New Dad" sensibilities. . . Foxx's parenting-advice book is the equivalent of a vitamin-packed smoothie: sweet, fun, and easy to enjoy, full of slyly concealed nourishment and goodness."—Booklist
- "Act Like You Got Some Sense—its title gleaned from a phrase his late grandmother Estelle told him often—hilariously and poignantly details [Foxx's] upbringing as well as his experiences raising daughters Corinne, 27, and Anelise, 13, while orbiting Hollywood as one of its biggest and hardest-working stars."—Men's Health
- "[R]eally funny. . . If you weren’t already a fan [of Foxx], you’ll be one after reading this heartfelt and honest book."—CNN
- "Foxx’s tales of fatherhood are heartwarming and humorous, and he offers sensible tips that serve as strong reminders of how to treat today’s youth with respect and patience. . . Foxx's many fans will embrace the opportunity to learn more about the enigmatic actor, and parents will appreciate his commonsense, relatable approach to raising independent humans." —Library Journal
- On Sale
- Oct 19, 2021
- Page Count
- 240 pages
- Grand Central Publishing