Adrienne Bailon-Houghton on Being a New Mom, Her Fashion Line—and Group Chats With Kourtney Kardashian

The former Cheetah Girl gets personal about the birth of son Ever James and life on the road with her family.
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By Natalie Gontcharova, Senior Editor
Published June 3, 2024
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Image: Courtesy @adriennebailon | Instagram

When Cheetah Girls star Adrienne Bailon-Houghton was younger, she wanted to be an obstetrician. She even attended a school called the High School for Health Professions and Human Services. Then, of course, her singing career called. “I’ve always had a fascination with children, babies, the idea of families and motherhood and all of that good stuff,” she tells The Bump. “I joked that I would sing the babies out of the womb!”

Bailon-Houghton has also always wanted to be a mom. That dream came true when she and husband Israel Houghton welcomed their son Ever James into the world in August 2022, after a long journey with in vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy. Bailon-Houghton sat down with The Bump recently to discuss her experience as a new mom, going on tour with her family and the latest in her multifaceted career—including her fashion line La Voûte.

The Bump: You’ve worn so many hats during your amazing career. And now you’re officially a toddler mom! Did you always know that you wanted to be a parent? If so, why was that important to you?

Adrienne Bailon-Houghton: I absolutely always knew that I wanted to be a mom. I literally had an entire nursery—this is going to sound creepy!—at around 9 years old, and I had the most extensive baby doll collection, and then I had an obsession with buying them real baby clothes. If people gave me money for my birthday, I would go to Baby Gap and buy my dolls real outfits. I’m also super close with my mother, so being able to have that relationship was really important to me. Also, I still really enjoy shopping for my son, like putting together little baby outfits. I think there’s nothing cuter in life!

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TB: In August 2022, you welcomed your son Ever James through a surrogate after a long fertility journey, including IVF and miscarriage. Can you share what trying-to-conceive journey was like?

ABH: Surrogacy wasn’t my initial plan. It was my last option. And as much as it was a positive experience for me, there was a part of me that felt robbed of the bonding of the nine months where the child is in your belly. When he was born and we did skin-to-skin, I wanted so badly to create that bond I felt we had missed out on.

I did eight rounds of IVF and then we were implanting my embryos into my body and I kept miscarrying all of our embryos. Funny enough, my other embryos were all girls and I was so sure I’m a girl mom. But my last embryo was a boy. And the doctors were like, we really don’t recommend putting this in your body. You should put it in a body that has carried a child to full term. So it was recommended to me that I use a surrogate. I was devastated initially. My sister helped me find the silver linings. I think that’s what sisters are for, to come and lift you up in tough situations.

Image: The Bump

TB: Once you decided to make the decision of going the surrogacy route, what was that experience like for you?

ABH: I tend to be a private person about things that I’m going through emotionally. So my first conversations with the doctors about looking into a surrogate were super difficult for me because it was hard for me to be vulnerable in front of, for example, a surrogate lawyer. It just all seemed so businesslike. What I’m most grateful for is that I had the most incredible woman who made it comfortable and allowed me to be vulnerable with her. Both of us were crying and it was a very emotional, beautiful, intimate experience. I think it takes a really special person to make it feel that way. I know that may not be everyone’s experience, but my surrogate literally was an angel. On Ever’s first birthday, I got her on FaceTime and was like: “You gave birth to my son. I’m so grateful for that and it’s really special.”

It can all feel super strange, but so beautiful because the ultimate result is this beautiful baby who you’re just so in love with. He has my mother’s eyes. He’s my husband’s twin with everything else. He has my forehead. We have the same little fat feet. The whole nine months, I was obsessing about things. What would his personality be like? Who’s he going to look like? Is he going to be tiny like me as a baby? I was 6 pounds, 9 ounces. He was born 7 pounds, 2 ounces. Is he going to be fussy? Then he was here, and I couldn’t unsee his little face. It’s just so beautiful, and I get to bask in that beauty every single day.

TB: How did you and Israel choose the name Ever James and what does it mean to you?

ABH: The hashtag for my wedding was #HappilyEverHoughton. And we found out that we were pregnant in early November. Our wedding anniversary is 11/11. So I just remember going to post on Instagram that it’s our anniversary, and always using #HappilyEverHoughton and being like, “He’s our happily ever! His name will be Ever Houghton.” James came from Israel’s father. Israel’s dad passed away when he was 24. So his name is Ever James Houghton.

TB: Ever James will be 2 years old soon enough! This is the age when a lot of kids’ personalities really start to emerge. Which personality traits are you noticing in your son?

ABH: He has got a whole lot of personality, and I feel like we even knew that from his 3D ultrasound. Even the nurse who was helping us, she says, he’s got a lot of facial expressions. That hasn’t changed. He loves to be silly, and he loves a good reaction. So he’ll keep doing whatever he’s doing to keep you laughing. And I think that’s just so cute, that he enjoys being funny. He loves music, loves to dance. He’s also very determined. If there’s something that he wants to do, he’ll do it, whether that’s climbing the steps, or wanting to move furniture around. He has a little “grocery store” in his playroom and he’s very determined to move the little grocery cart around.

TB: Speaking of Ever James’ playroom, it’s so chic—what was your inspiration? Which items has he been gravitating to the most?

ABH: Since my family’s all girls, I didn’t know how to make something that feels cool for a boy, but also aesthetically pleasing. I didn’t want to necessarily do trucks or Noah’s Ark—those were some of the ones I saw when I went on Pinterest. So instead we ended up going with the theme “clouds and concrete.” It was this really cool vibe. One of the things he’s gravitating towards is definitely his little drum kit. He loves music and making any kind of noise he can with anything he can get his hands on. My husband actually was a drummer as well!

TB: You recently shared that the reason you turned Ever’s bedroom into a playroom is because you’re co-sleeping. Can you tell me what co-sleeping with a toddler has been like for you—some of the highs and lows?

ABH: I absolutely love co-sleeping. I feel like I was inspired to co-sleep because my sister did it with her two girls. I saw a beautiful experience. And skin-to-skin is so important, especially for me after a surrogacy journey. It was so important for me and my child to bond, and for me, co-sleeping was a big part of that. We actually ended up investing in a very special custom bed. It’s a 9-foot bed: two kings together. But I’ve got to say, it doesn’t matter how big a bed is, that child is going to find you and kick you. Still, there’s something exhausting and beautiful about it. We wrestle and play in bed until he falls asleep. He has the “zoomies,” all this energy and tossing and turning and just so much fun. And then I look over and he’s completely knocked out. It’s the best.

Image: Courtesy @adriennebailon | Instagram

TB: You’ve been traveling with your clothing brand La Voûte on a 22-city tour. Can you tell me a bit about the inspiration behind the brand—and the experience of touring with a toddler in tow?

ABH: It started during the pandemic in 2020. We actually launched with a vegan handbag line, and then we ended up pivoting because of the pandemic and started going into loungewear. Then recently, we launched suits, which are my favorites. I live and breathe in a blazer. We created three different silhouettes. One is a girly, flirty skirt suit. We’ve got a classic woman’s power suit. And then, we’ve got the oversized boyfriend suit.

I am all about being with my family. When my husband found out that he was doing his tour called the One Hallelujah tour—he’s a gospel artist—I was like, that’s going to be amazing. I grew up on a tour bus, so it’s like a second home to us as a family. Ever is so used to the bus now. But I was like, what can I do during the day since Israel’s concert is in the evening? We decided, let’s do La Voûte pop-up shops in all the cities the tour is going on. So I have my mornings with Ever. He takes a nap. Then we do the pop-up, and then I usually take him to whatever cool thing there is in the city. Then Israel’s concert starts at 7. I love that we get to have our careers and do what we’re passionate about and still be together as a family.

Image: The Bump

TB: You had said that you left E! News last year so you could spend a little more time with your family. Can you tell us a little more about that decision?

ABH: I really wanted to be able to create my own schedule. I joke that my work schedule kind of runs around Ever’s naps, but I recognize that even something as simple as all of us being able to travel the country together wouldn’t be possible if I had to be in studio at E! News Monday through Thursday. I was petrified of the idea of stepping down from such an incredible position, but ultimately, as a girlfriend of mine reminded me, you will never regret choosing your family.

E! was also in LA and I really wanted to raise my son in New York with my family, and just have a better support system with my mom and my sister. My mom will take my son for a day, once a month. She’ll stay with him so that Israel and I can have a date night or just spend a day vegging out, watching brainless TV and just decompress for a moment.

Image: Michael Tran/FilmMagic | Getty Images

TB: So many fans grew up with you and The Cheetah Girls franchise. Looking back, what do you think made The Cheetah Girls resonate with audiences, and how do you feel about its lasting legacy?

ABH: What I’m most proud of with The Cheetah Girls was the fact that we brought diversity and representation to the forefront, specifically with Disney Channel. It was the first time they ever had a majority minority cast. Even now, when I’m doing the La Voûte tour, I meet people in person and they’re like, “Oh my God, you were such a huge part of my childhood.” For some, it’s the first time they ever saw somebody that looked like them on TV. I think the message of girl power in those films was so much bigger than us. It was about following your dreams. It was about being proud of being different and celebrating your differences. I’m just so grateful to have been a part of that and that there’s a possibility of seeing what the next generation of Cheetah Girls looks like.

TB: Speaking of empowering women, who are your friends whom you turn to for advice, especially about parenting?

ABH: I’m very close with my sister and my mom, and that has been so special. Also Kourtney Kardashian, myself and Nic—[Sports Illustrated model Nicole English]—are in a group chat and we all just recently had babies and it’s so funny… I think there’s nothing like a great community of mothers that help one another out, that uplift each other, that aren’t the monsters we see online that are constantly being judgmental. We just encourage each other to find our own path.

TB: Kourtney seems to be very health-conscious with her kids, both on The Kardashians and through her lifestyle brand Poosh. Does she tend to give a lot of health advice in your group chat?

ABH: Constantly, she’s always sending the best products. I feel like what she does with Poosh, that’s actually who she is, she’s constantly finding out the greatest products to use, what’s safe. Those things really matter to her. So I think it’s great when I have that kind of advice.

Image: The Bump

TB: If there were one piece of advice you yourself would give to parents-to-be, what would it be?

ABH: The first thing is, it goes by so fast, so just to really soak in and be present in every single moment. My husband and I stopped saying, “I can’t wait for…” We started saying, “I’m really looking forward to…” and it shifted our perspective on being present in the now. Also, ask for help if you need it. It’s okay to delegate, to say, “I need to take a nap.” There’s got to be a moment for yourself.

TB: Do you have any other upcoming projects that you’d like to share with us?

ABH: We just launched a new collection of jewelry under La Voûte. It’s a new category we’re in now, so I’m super excited about that. The pieces are so much fun, just big statement, cool pieces. In May, my show on Fox, I Can See Your Voice, is coming back, which I’m super excited about. I absolutely love being on that show and being a part of it. And I feel like this summer I’m really going to focus on working on new music—so we shall see!

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