Ronald and Phyllis Stephens have supported their son throughout his singing career
John Legend’s parents Ronald and Phyllis Stephens have had a major impact on his life.
“My father taught me about character. He taught us by example. He always conducted himself with such grace and dignity,” the "All of Me" singer once told PEOPLE. “My parents always taught me that if you’re going to succeed in life, part of success is having humility. It’s a good way to live life, treating other people the way you want to be treated.”
Ronald and Phyllis divorced when Legend was 10, but later reconciled. (However, they have since split. Ronald is remarried to Deidre Hamlar).
The family is very close. In 2019, Ronald (with his current wife) and Phyllis joined Legend and his wife, Chrissy Teigen, for his 40th birthday party. And both Ronald and Phyllis visited Legend on the set of The Voice in 2019 that same year.
Here's what to know about John Legend's parents, including what the singer has said about them over the years.
Ronald and Phyllis have four children together
Ronald and Phyllis have four children together. Alongside Legend, thare also parents to son Ronald Stephens II, son Vaughn Anthony Stephens and daughter Phyllis "Missy" Stephens.
In addition to their four kids, Ronald and Phyllis also fostered children.
“It was difficult for us,” Legend told The Guardian. “Whenever you introduce new energy into a house, it can be disruptive, and we had varying levels of success, especially with teenagers who were carrying a lot of trauma and loss.”
They divorced, reconciled and split again
Ronald and Phyllis divorced when Legend was 10. He told The Guardian that they split after his maternal grandmother died.
“It was a massive trauma for my mother,” he said. “She started to withdraw, she became depressed, she fell out of love with my father and they got divorced. She ended up turning to drugs to self-medicate what she had gone through and we were estranged from her, even though we were living in the same city.”
Legend shared with MTV that his song “Ordinary People” was inspired by his parents’ relationship.
"My parents were divorced for 12 years, and they got back together, so the song shows that there are ups and downs in any relationship," he said.
The couple later separated once again, and Ronald has since remarried his current wife, Deidre.
Ronald primarily raised Legend
During an interview with OWN Spotlight, Legend revealed, “I lived with my dad most of my adolescence. My parents got divorced, and my mom wasn’t in a good place during our adolescent years. So we all lived with my dad.”
He added, “So I’m not the norm when you see a lot of kids talking about growing up in a single-parent home because the single parent was our dad. And I’m still very close with him. I think our personalities are very aligned. ... I still carry a lot of lessons that he consciously or unconsciously taught us.”
Ronald was a factory worker
Ronald wrote on his hat company’s website that he supported his family as a laborer at International Harvester in Springfield, Ohio.
However, when times were tough, he also “made ends meet designing, tailoring and altering clothing while also drawing and selling exquisite graphite portraits.”
Phyllis was a seamstress
Phyllis worked as a seamstress, and loved making clothes for Legend.
In an Instagram video in honor of Mother’s Day in 2023, Phyllis commented on one picture, “I made this suit for you…your mama loved sailor outfits!”
Legend added, “You liked making outfits for us. Why did you make so many outfits for us?" to which Phyllis replied, “Because I wanted y’all to look good and have confidence in yourselves.”
They encouraged Legend’s musical talent
Legend’s parents saw his talent from an early age and encouraged him to embrace it — especially his mom.
“Whenever we had opportunities to sing in church or in school, my mom would suggest that I do it,” he previously told PEOPLE. “She always encouraged me.”
Both of Legend’s parents were also musical: Phyllis was the church’s choir director and his father was the drummer, according to The Guardian. “Every setting that I spent time in was filled with music,” Legend told the outlet. "And by seven, I had begged my mother to let me into the choir.”
Legend has been open about his mother's struggles with addiction
In an essay for TIME about his passion for prison reform, Legend opened up about his mom’s struggles with addiction and how it impacted him growing up.
“As a teenager growing up in Ohio, I watched my mother disappear into more than a decade of drugs and despair after my maternal grandmother — a person who filled our whole family with love — passed away,” he wrote. “My mother's addiction didn't just tear her life apart; it tore me and the rest of our family apart, too."
He added, “Drug addiction, for anyone who doubts it, is a serious problem, and our society is right to want to tackle it. But we've been going about it wrong. My mother didn't need punishment; she needed help. Criminalizing drug abuse only further shatters people and families that are already in pieces."
Phyllis and Legend reconnected in the late '90s
Although Phyllis did not raise Legend, they began to heal their relationship in 1999 after he graduated from college.
“It’s an amazing story because she came back and now she is healthy and not addicted to drugs any more,” he told The Guardian. “She’s a good grandmother and is in such a good place.”
Ronald owns a hat company
In 2012, Ronald started his hat company called Popz Topz. He told Page Six that the idea came to him when he started to lose his hair.
“I was doing some spring cleaning and I got ready to throw away one of my straw hats — very similar to the one Clark Gable wore in Gone with the Wind, which is called a gambler. ... I was looking at this gambler hat that I was getting ready to destroy, I said, ‘I wonder what this full-brim hat would look like if I turned it into a cap — just trim off all the back end of it and leave a visor or a bill on the front.' I was able to put it back together to make it look like it was made like that and it looked really nice!”
Although Legend doesn’t love to wear hats, he wears PopZ Topz to support his dad.
“John wears the hats,” Ronald told Page Six, “but he only does it strictly for business purposes and because I’m his dad. He’s not really a hat person, and I think the person who best represents Popz Topz is a person who likes hats.”
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