By Chris Azzopardi
Fitness guru Jillian Michaels, star of E!’s new reality show « Just Jillian, » and her partner Heidi Rhoades never expected they’d be able to adopt a Haitian child – they’d been trying for two tough years. Then, in 2012, just 72 hours after Rhoades gave birth to their son, Phoenix, Michaels jetted off to Port-au-Prince to bring home little Lukensia, now 5. This is their story.
Q: What do you recall of the moment you first met Lukensia?
A: I remember Heidi put her in my arms, and it was love at first hug. The minute she put her arms around me, I knew immediately that she was our daughter.
Q: How did you decide on Haiti as the place you wanted to adopt from?
A: We actually thought that Haiti was closed to international adoption after the earthquake, and because of that we were looking into Ethiopia and the Congo. Then Heidi was on a children-in-waiting adoption website and learned that Haitian children were, in fact, still being adopted.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you had in adopting a Haitian child?
A: Just the time the process takes. Once you are matched with your child it’s particularly grueling to know they are in an orphanage thousands of miles away and there is nothing you can do to bring them home any faster.
Q: What do you say to people who criticize white celebrities for adopting black babies?
A: People who say things like that are simply ignorant. There are millions of children who need loving homes and not nearly enough parents to adopt them. Table your racism for a moment and think of the child. Any child is better off in a loving home that can provide nourishment physically, emotionally and psychologically than spending their youth in an orphanage in one of the world’s poorest countries without resources to best provide for them.
Q: Have you been back to Haiti since adopting her?
A: Not yet. We want to take Lu when she is a bit older and better able to process her surroundings.
Q: How much of her upbringing will be steeped in Haitian culture?
A: It’s ever present. She knows she is Haitian. She is very familiar with Haiti’s history. We listen to Haitian music. We have Haitian art around the house. I was incorporating Haitian food, but oddly enough she doesn’t really like it!
Q: You’ve been visiting Haiti since you were 27. Why did you initially decide to get so involved with Haiti?
A: For some reason I always had this calling to go there. When I was old enough that I had a little spare pocket money to go traveling, it was the first place on my list. I am not a generally “spiritual” person. I am pretty pragmatic. That said, there was definitely always something calling me to find our daughter that seems to be bigger than myself and Heidi. It was a host of things from strange inner feelings of needing to visit Haiti to odd coincidences that led us there at just the right place and at just the right time.