How Usher Beat the Fatherhood Odds

He wasn't a model husband, but his recent chat with Oprah shows he's still a role model for dads.


“I really wanted to do things right or at least the perception of what right may be,” he told Oprah when asked why he’d decided to wed Foster in the first place. He admitted to not having the “best point of reference” when it came to making that type of decision. Usher Raymond III (the singer’s dad) wasn’t around to see his son grow up, so it’s no surprise that Usher Raymond IV would perhaps do the opposite to make sure “baby cinco” didn’t feel the same loss.

What did surprise me, however, was Usher’s assertion that his proud papa moment — the de facto fatherhood PSA I wrote about — was, in fact, a mistake.

“I can remember being on MTV, and I went on and defended her,” he said. “I shouldn’t have did that, that made no sense.”

If there was a thought bubble filled with all the blown expectations I had, Usher just popped it.

According to the now-divorced single dad, that impromptu moment on TRL made the personal public in such a way that it might have hurt his relationship in the long run. Instead of addressing the rumors and the haters and even the folks like me just eavesdropping, maybe he should have just skipped the over-the-airwaves affection and gone into relationship witness protection. Perhaps then no one could say I told you so.

But even with the vast difference between the Usher of four years ago and the Usher who admitted to cheating on his wife at the end of their marriage, I’m still optimistic about the message he’s spreading about fatherhood. It can not only survive a broken relationship; it can arise out of a family culture of fatherlessness — a stark lesson for the two out of three African American children without fathers in their homes.

“How can you be a great father when you have not been fathered?” asked Oprah.

“Having not had a father,” Usher begins, “that was all of the reason to be a good father because I didn’t have it.”

In 2008 I wrote that I wished the fellas watching Usher got the picture, and I still do.

Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter. 

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