Father’s Day: How an Instagram Photo Didn’t Get the Whole Picture

Kordale Lewis and Kaleb Anthony, the gay dads behind a photo that went viral, share their views of fatherhood and what it means to them.

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Kordale Lewis (left), Kaleb Anthony and their three children.

Instagram/KordalenKaleb

Father’s Day in the Lewis-Anthony household will probably not be a grand event this year. There’s nothing special planned—their three kids are young enough to be let off the hook for not presenting any special surprise for their dads. But for now this doesn’t bother Kordale Lewis and Kaleb Anthony, who are raising their two daughters and one son together in Atlanta.

“I don’t need a day to feel like I’m a father. I’m a father every day of the year, but when they’re older I will be expecting maybe a gift or two,” Lewis, laughing, told The Root.

You see, things in the Lewis-Anthony household aren’t that much different from scenes in other middle- to upper-class households across the United States. Monday through Friday the pair get their kids ready for school: They get up early to make them breakfast, comb their hair and get them dressed, and they make sure the children have completed everything they need to do for their classes. When they come home, they feed the kids, who are 5, 6 and 7; go through homework; and put the kids to bed.

Rinse and repeat.

If the children have been good, they get a weekend treat in the form of a family trip, like going to the movies or a theme park. If they misbehave, then Lewis and Anthony, not fans of corporal punishment, prefer to speak to their children about what they’ve done wrong.

Typical, modern-day parents—except their lives became the focus of attention across social media and in articles around the country back in January when a photo of Lewis and Anthony, an obviously gay couple, combing their two daughters’ hair in the morning hit Instagram.

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The photo of Kordale Lewis and Kaleb Anthony combing their daughters’ hair that went viral, sparking a huge social media buzz

Instagram/KordalenKaleb

The resulting frenzy of both criticism and praise ultimately inspired Lewis to write a book called Picture Perfect? Lewis’ goal was to make sure that everyone who assumed so much from one photo—a perfect gay couple raising beautiful children—got his story straight.

“It took a lot for me to actually want to sit down and do this project,” Lewis told The Root. “I never in a million years would want to tell my personal business to the world, but being I did go viral, so many people wanted to know about us, and they thought the picture was so perfect ... and everything beyond this picture is not as it seems.”

In the memoir-type tale, Lewis details his rather “hectic” (as he described it) situation growing up: being sexually abused as a child and coping with a drug-addicted mother and an absentee father, who was incarcerated. The book progresses into his teen years and how he himself ended up becoming a young father, the struggles with his sexual identity and meeting his current partner, Anthony—everything that led up to the taking of that seemingly “perfect” picture.

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Kordale Lewis’ book, Picture Perfect?

Instagram/KordalenKaleb

In a way, Lewis’ tragic childhood experiences did inform the father he is today, as cliché as that might sound. “As a little boy, I’d always dream of this perfect father that would come and rescue me from all this BS that I was experiencing. As a child I often cried at night ... me, my brother and my sister, we’d all cry together—and this father never came home to us,” Lewis said. “Once I knew I was going to be a father, something in me just said, ‘You have to be that father you always wanted.’”

The couple’s three children—Desmiray, Maliyah and Kordale Jr.—are the result of Lewis’ previous relationship with a woman during his late teens.

He said that even before his first child was born, he made a point to tell himself that regardless of how much money he had, regardless of what happened, he would always be there for that child—and now he has a partner to help him along that journey as well.

“Me and Kaleb, we are here for our children, hands down. There’s nothing nobody can say that we have not done,” Lewis added.

Anthony’s childhood was notably more idyllic. He and his siblings grew up in a close-knit family, and his parents are still together today. To this day everyone in his immediate family is involved in his and Lewis’ life. But his own experiences have also informed the father he is today.

“It’s kind of hard because Kordale and I are so different, and I guess that’s what draws us together so much; it’s because we came from two different walks in life,” Anthony, who joined his fiance for the interview, told The Root.

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Kaleb Anthony and Kordale Lewis

Instagram/KordalenKaleb

“The role model that my father is, he set examples for the person that I would like to be,” he continued. “My father was such a hands-on guy with my siblings and I. We were very close. He raised us to be very close, and I want to do the same thing for our children. I don’t like to see our children fight amongst each other, because they’re siblings. The same values my father instilled me are the same values I want to instill in our children.”

Of course, at age 25 (Anthony turns 26 on Sunday), both young men have their work cut out for them, and readily admit to the sacrifices that have to be made in order to care for their children.

“People our age are in the club, are in a bar, are in the streets, are taking vacations and going to crazy places, but we can’t really do everything that everyone else is doing at our age,” Anthony said. “It’s not easy for us to just get up and go.”

However, it is a sacrifice the couple were well aware of and for which they were prepared. “Being a father, you have to prepare yourself, you have to plan, you have to have a structural foundation. You have to be involved in everything,” Lewis said. “You’re not too much concerned about yourself anymore. ... It’s just something that you just do. ...You have to do what’s necessary: love, support, shelter, food. You’ve got to be there, be responsible, be affectionate.” 

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Kordale Lewis, Kaleb Anthony and their children

Instagram/KordalenKaleb

Being gay dads, they also have to contend with constant prejudice, even in their own home state. Although they are engaged, it is illegal for them to get married in Georgia, meaning that they will not enjoy the financial benefits of marriage, such as filing joint taxes and getting tax breaks. Georgia also has no laws on the books addressing hate crimes. Although Georgia does extend hospital-visitation rights, it’s based not on their status as partners or spouses but on a state statute that permits individuals to appoint a designated health care agent.

Although lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families like theirs represent the changing dynamics in American society and are increasingly portrayed in television shows like Modern Family and Grey’s Anatomy, and even though same-sex-marriage bans are slammed down time after time by judges in states across the country, their story still represents one of struggle for acceptance and basic human understanding. This is especially true in the black community, where concepts of homosexuality and masculinity tend to be skewed and overemphasized.

“[I want my kids] to love everybody and never judge another human being,” Lewis told The Root. “To never look down on anyone. All humans are created equal.”

True equality is what the couple hope to achieve—and the message they hope to spread to the world and to their kids, along with an indomitable fighting spirit.

“My one thing would be [to teach them] to always hold your head up, to fight what anyone has to say about you or is saying about you. Just hold your head up and fight through it, strive through it. There’s always going to be a better day,” Anthony said.

Breanna Edwards is a newswriter at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.

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