With a baby in your arms, you can expect one of two reactions when walking around backstage at The Lion King: fascination or flight. The bulk of the creative types working on a Broadway show are typically child-less, so either way, the presence of a baby is a show-stopper. Years ago, when I brought my 8-month-old Max into Vegas’ Mandalay Bay where his dad worked, one of the first fascinated people to swoop in on him was the stunning, fierce lioness “Nala”, Kissy Simmons.
Kissy is literally the poster child for The Lion King, worldwide. She also claims my son Max was
checking out other ladies while she was holding him, but she’s not mad anymore.
Kissy’s determination is palpable. She’s a champion track and field athlete turned Broadway actress and model turned mama, and when her daughter was two weeks old, she returned to auditioning “like an idiot,” she says. “I was super anxious to jump back into it.”
Below, Kissy talks about her humbling foray into parenthood, and reveals the one thing she does — twice a day — to pamper herself, amidst her responsibilities to two-year-old Sadie.
New York, NY
Occupation: Actress and Singer
Being an actress and mama comes with a unique set of logistics. What’s it like to manage days that are never really consistent?
It’s a puzzle. Every time I have an audition, or a performance, I have to think of who’s gonna watch Sadie. I call it the third party factor. We don’t have family near us, and it’s really, really tough. My mom passed in 2006. It makes me really jealous of people who have their moms with them, helping out.
Aside from finding childcare, what’s the hardest thing about motherhood?
It’s a 24-hour, round-the-clock, not-one-moment-off job. Even when you’re under the weather, and even when you have someone else helping out, it’s still all you. There’s no one else that can be mama.
I see photos of Sadie, and she looks like a perfect mix of you and your husband Anthony. What kind of personality has your two-year-old daughter developed?
Sadie is a very happy kid. I tease my husband about how similar she and I are. Sadie has fabulous days, but she is demanding. She wants your undivided attention — all the time. She’s a princess. She likes her toenails painted. She doesn’t forget anything and if you tell her you’ll do something, she will remind you! It’s so funny — I thought that kind of behavior would start at age 4 or 5, not 2!
But she loves being taken care of and she knows exactly what she wants. The other day, she calls for me from the other room. “Mommy, I want more tomatoes.” I come in, and I find her with her hand and her bowl up in the air, extended in my direction, and she’s not even looking up from her iPad. It’s as if she’s saying, “Lady, get in here and get me some more tomatoes.” That just busted me up. [Laughing] I thought, “Wow, am I the hired help now?” And I realized that I have been the hired help since the day she was born. I went from starring in Broadway shows to being this little girl’s hired help.
As a former collegiate athlete and performer, you are used to taking good care of your body. Has your view of this physical maintenance changed since being a mama?
I feel stronger. As far as my desire and determination to maintain my body, that hasn’t wavered. I have never not worked out. I worked out my entire pregnancy. And of course, labor and delivery was a physical process. And now, I still take good care of my body. But I have to make time. Making time to do anything now is trickier, but it keeps me going, mentally. After Sadie was born, I wouldn’t necessarily make it to the gym, but we would go to parks and I’d do stairs, and I’d have her in the carrier and use my body weight plus her weight, and do things like squats. It was actually nice family time. My husband is a personal trainer and so he’s out there training me.
Do you have any advice for new mamas?
Pamper yourself! After Sadie was born, I made it my duty to pamper myself by showering both morning and night for my own sanity. That would be my time, to use body scrubs and oils. Of course, the showers were shorter than I would like, but I would get them in. I made it mandatory for myself.
What beauty products do you like?
During pregnancy I used Mother’s Special Blend skin toning oil. I think it has only 4 ingredients, and you’re supposed to use it on your belly but I used it all over. I swear by it.
What surprised you most about being a new mama?
I was so surprised at how often nursing happened! Because of this, I started to wear a watch for the first time, because I just couldn’t believe how often Sadie nursed. It was driving me little crazy. People tell you it’s every three hours, but it felt like every 20 minutes, even though it was actually an hour and a half. Honestly, I would put her down, and then she was up again so soon, I was like, “Really, again?! Oh my gosh, already?”
When do you feel most beautiful?
I feel beautiful when I’m well rested. That happens maybe once a month. [laughing] It’s the only thing that comes to mind. You don’t realize how valuable your downtime is until you have kids. There were actually a few times we woke up before her because she slept 8:30am, so that was a bonus — was I glamorous those days! But then we would worry about why she wasn’t getting up and then check on her.
How has motherhood changed you?
I’m constantly thinking of another person, all the time. It’s different than getting married; I do think about Anthony, but not in the sense of feeling so responsible for him. It really dawned on me… I take care of Sadie, and God truly takes care of me.
Top photo credit: Katie Fallon Hensley