In the video for Lion Babe’s ‘Radiant Child’ single, Jillian Hervey is piercing as she sings directly into the camera. Tears stream down her face as she sings, “you’ll find a world, and you’ll find my heart, never apart, radiant child.” The song feels, visually and lyrically, like a love letter from a mother to her child. And it would be apt given that Hervey and her partner in both music and life, Lucas Goodman, welcomed son Sunny Rise Goodman in December of 2021. But she tells me the video was shot in 2020 before her pregnancy. “I had no intention of crying. I don’t know if it was a preemptive sign that I knew that this was coming and I was speaking to him [Sunny], or whether I was speaking to my own inner child”.
She is fresh-faced and beaming as she greets me for our Zoom interview, cradling her newborn. I tell her that she has that new mama glow, to which she responds, “I finally got to wash my hair yesterday!” She speaks of her 59-day love affair with Sunny. “He can do no wrong. It’s such a calm love. There’s knowingness. It’s so pure, so simple”. She also tells me that she has no desire to fill her mother’s shoes. And to be fair, they are pretty big shoes to fill. Her mother, Vanessa Williams, broke color barriers by becoming the first Black Miss America before carving out an illustrious career spanning music, acting, and activism.
As she embarks on her own journey into motherhood and prepares to hit the stage again as a working mom, Hervey opens up about motherhood, her iconic mom, and what womanhood means to her this International Women’s Day.
How has life changed for you since you became a mother?
It’s something that I was always terrified of. I don’t know if it’s that I thought I was gonna lose myself, or that I would be compromising something. But I feel like I gained so much more understanding of everything. Understanding what my purpose is, and understanding what I want to do. So I’m relieved that I feel like I took to it, in a natural sense. I’ve always been a caretaker; I love taking care of people. But just to have a human that is mine, that I created is just so wonderful.
Did you always want motherhood to be a part of your journey?
I always saw children in my future. But just being in my environment in New York City, it was very hard to visualize it. Me and most of my friends are all artists. It’s always just about work, so where’s there time for that [children]? Also, just seeing my mom and her relationship with work and kids. She loved being a mom. But I also saw her career and the sacrifices she made to make sure she was with us. Knowing that and feeling like I didn’t get my footing on where I want to be in my career would sometimes deter me from thinking about it, for real, for real. But I think I knew that if it ever was going to happen, it just had to happen.
Do you feel, though, like there’s a shift in the way female performers can embrace motherhood wherever they are in their careers?
Totally. I was so scared to share the news because you have an artist identity that you cultivate and you think [having a child] will change it for some reason, but it was super welcomed. And that was nice to know that people support you.
Let’s talk about your pregnancy. What was it like being pregnant during a global pandemic?
As uneasy as the pandemic, I loved that I was able to take space, and like, have this time for myself. I just knew that I wanted this time to be for me and my family, and just my close circle of friends. I didn’t show until very late and we were still working. We were doing shows until I was, like, six months. I did a lot of journaling and just being still. Just appreciating and reflecting. It was really nice. The actual birth was the scary part (laughs), but I knew that was coming. I really did enjoy the pregnancy experience and everything that I thought I would care about, like, “oh my body is changing, I’m gaining weight”, I didn’t care about any of that. I just felt, like, an explosion of my divine feminine happening.
What was your birth experience like? Did you always know you wanted to have a doula?
One of my first friends to have a kid told me about her doula experience, and that it was amazing. After her birth, she started a doula practice and whenever we caught up I was like, “whenever I have a kid, I’m gonna call you”. And then I did. Having someone we both knew very well made it super comforting. All the women were phenomenal – we actually worked with three. My friend started initially, I had a birth doula and now I have a postpartum doula.
How are you showing yourself grace as you navigate postpartum recovery?
I’m definitely grappling with this, one hundred percent. Especially in the career I have. My first performance is in March. Going to the doctor I was like “so when can I start running?” (laughs) Even my doula was like, “you can start working out for three to five minutes a day”. And I feel like that’s such a low number. But she’s like, “you just went through a huge transformation, your body needs time”. Being a dancer, and having that be this way of healing myself, was the struggle of the initial weeks. Of not being able to really move. It was a struggle mentally, but it makes you lean so much more into body positivity. I had insecurities growing up, so when I attained this body I thought I was never going to have I was also so afraid of letting it go. But I’m embracing my body and just allowing myself to focus on Sunny (laughs).
As a new working mother, how are you feeling about entering this new phase of your career?
I’m really nervous, but I feel really excited about it. I like a challenge. I think just like trusting all these other parts of being a mom that are in me that are going to come out and I’m learning about them, I’m also trusting my love and passion for what I do – dancing, performing, and singing. I’m almost, sometimes, scared when I get on stage. Like I become this other part of me so I’m just making sure I don’t hurt myself on stage (laughs).
How is your mother enjoying her new role as a grandmother?
She’s obsessed (laughs). She’s just loving it. She’s been face-timing and sending me things and coming to drop off food. And of course, unsolicited advice but I knew that was coming. I’m just like, “ok, thank you! (laughs)
Your mom is such an iconic woman and a trailblazer who inspired so many women. What seeds of empowerment has she planted in you?
She was like 26 when she had me. She was working a full-time career – recording artist, Broadway, acting, everything. She’s literally Mama Bear and I have so much respect for her. She has this hopefulness, which I think is definitely something that can take you a long way. I think being a dreamer; she has been able to achieve a lot of her dreams because she believes it can happen for herself. And then it does. And she’s also very much about doing the work which I respect a lot, too. I’ve never put that pressure on myself of fitting into my mama’s shoes, because I know I’d never be able to. But I know that I’m gonna take the things I’ve learned from her and I’m gonna do it in my own way.
Are there any words of wisdom that you’re guided by as you’re embarking on your own motherhood journey?
The word that kept coming is ‘surrender’. Like, literally through the birth, postpartum, any moments that I feel a little overwhelmed, just to settle into the feeling and know that it will pass. And you know, you’re supposed to feel everything (laughs)
How do you define womanhood?
I think being a woman has a lot to do with intuition and gracefulness. I feel like the human connection is inherently woman – from wherever we came from to wherever we are now. My womanhood is all this – my body, my soul, my path as a woman, it’s all already here. That’s why when you link with your ladies, it’s so powerful and you leave feeling so reinvigorated because that’s a shared quality that we all have.
Your bandmate is also your life partner. You’re both new parents taking these parallel journeys together. How do you think that will inform your music moving forward?
We’re definitely trying to create smarter. We also know that time is super valuable so we just want to be efficient in what we’re doing. We just put out a new song with Busta Rhymes called ‘Harder’. That sound and that world are really cool and could be a fun lane for us. In a way I feel like a pioneer, coming out in 2012 with big ass hair, painted gold and now I see that stuff left and right. We’ve always been just left of center, but we just want to really find what it is that defines us and literally go harder (laughs).