By: Tess Koman
Kimberly Henderson first got pregnant at 16 and is now raising four kids as a single mother. Though she went to nursing school, she always loved music and tried to make time to perform.
One night in December of 2014, she filmed herself singing to her youngest child, Vaida, when the then-1-year-old wouldn’t fall asleep. Her sister convinced her to upload the video of her singing to Facebook. Within a week, 20 million people had watched. Henderson went on to do myriad press, including appearing on TV.
A few months before that, Henderson and Vaida were in a car accident in which she was injured but the baby was unscathed. Vaida had been in a car seat made by Cosco Kids, and after she posted the lullaby video, the company reached out to her. She recently partnered with them to film her first official single “Tiny Hearts” (video above).
"[They] flew me out to LA," she said. "They paid for everything, my hotel, my plane. They were really inspired by my story."
On a trip to New York to speak with potential record labels and sponsors, Henderson took a break to talk about life as a single mom and who she’d love to record with.
Tell me what your life has been like since you posted that video.
Single moms don’t really get the chance to follow their dreams. But radio stations were calling, major labels were calling. That’s why I’m here now, because I’m meeting with a major label to see if they’re interested in doing a record contract. It’s exciting! TV shows have called. A lot of things are in the works.
It’s crazy how something as simple as singing a lullaby to your daughter has led to partnering with Cosco and potential record deals.
To me, that’s not the crazy part of the story. The crazy part of the story is that when I was pregnant with Vaida, I did not plan her at all. I was on birth control. I was like, Oh my god I cannot do this. When I was 12 weeks and six days along, I sat in an abortion clinic for six hours — I almost went through with it. And then I left. Fast-forward seven months later, this baby’s in front of me and her dad’s not in her life. I didn’t even care at that point. I was like, I have this beautiful baby.
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And how do you feel about your decision today?
It’s crazy because nobody knew about the abortion thing. But I’ve been transparent about it now because it’s not a political thing. I used to be pro-life and now, going through that same unplanned pregnancy, I feel for people. You never know someone’s situation. You never need to judge.
Have you just started writing your own music? Did you write “Tiny Hearts”?
I’ve been writing since I was 15. It’s funny because I have this notebook of cheesy love stuff, and now I’m going to be able to publish it. Kind of like Taylor Swift! I wrote “Tiny Hearts” awhile back with Break Entertainment in LA.
Is your songwriting based on personal experiences?
I lived a really crazy childhood. My mom left when I was little, and I haven’t heard from her or seen her since. My dad was just working to support six kids. My aunt helped raise us and my dad was working, so I got pregnant when I was 16 because I didn’t have a lot of direction. I’m not blaming that on anyone because that was my choice at the time, but I didn’t know anything about periods or boys. That’s how “Tiny Hearts” was inspired. I saw my friends going out to the movies and going on dates, and I’m at home with this 6-month-old. I’m like, What am I doing?
So the song really is about your circumstances at the time.
The song is more about realizing that I needed my daughter more than she even needed me. Because I had the baby, I never smoked cigarettes in high school, I never drank. I didn’t get drunk for the first time until I was 23 years old. But at the same time, I felt like if I didn’t have her I wouldn’t be where I am. The thing is, before I even posted that video, I did little gigs around town, and I would sing and people would say negative things to me like, “You’re a mom — you don’t need to be out playing in bars.” You know what? This is how I stay sane. I was a working single mom and I still spend time with my kids, but I did put aside time to pursue music at the same time.
What is the craziest reaction you’ve gotten on the Internet in response to the videos?
I get thousands of messages a week, so when I’m sitting at home and the kids are in bed, I go through my emails and I try to respond. I [got] a picture of this little girl — she had earbuds in her ear and on the iPhone is a picture of “Tiny Hearts” and she had been listening to it all day. Her mom was talking to me on Facebook about the photo, and she was like, “[My daughter] had chemo today and she was very weak, and she went home and she wanted to listen to your song.” So I called her. She was crying on the phone. She was like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe you’re calling me.” She likes scarves, so I signed a scarf and sent it to her.
How have other fans responded to the song?
I’ll get grandmas and single moms who don’t really have an anthem or anything reaching out to me. So “Tiny Hearts” is, like, our song. Not even just for single moms, just for moms, period. You’ve got, like, all these Ariana Grande types, but I’ve got, like, grandmas and aunts and older people, even single dads messaging me: “Oh my god, I love your song, I can relate to it.” “I’m a 40-year-old, I’m married, and I’ve been married since I was 20 and I listen to your song and it takes me back.” People from all over the world reach out.
Do you have any plans to go anywhere else other than New York City? Are you just going to see how all your meetings here go?
I’m going to see how things go. There are these TV shows that are in different places that have asked me to be on so that’s kind of in the works. Wherever life takes me, I’ll go!
If you could collaborate or duet with anyone in the entire world, who would it be?
Sam Smith, oh my god. He is my favorite singer now. Whitney Houston was always my favorite singer and Christina Aguilera too, but I guess the number one would be Sam Smith because of his voice.
What else do your babies like to listen to?
Taylor Swift. They love Taylor Swift. My son is 5. He likes Justin Bieber.
What kind of negative things have people said about you?
Commenters had found my Facebook, and they were like, “Oh my gosh, she is a single mom. What a trashy person.” I’m like, I’ve got 30 million views on that video — where are you?
What do you want to say to people who judge you for being a single mom? Or people who judge you in general?
I feel like with women, even single moms, it’s empowering to just be able to say it’s not selfish to go after your dreams. I’m not saying neglect your kids. I’m saying teach your kids that it’s OK no matter what obstacles you have to still pursue your dreams. So I think that’s my biggest thing to tell moms because I never gave up and I have four kids.
What is next for you? It sounds like you’ve got a bunch of opportunities arising.
Yeah, I have major label interest, but I could go off on my own like Macklemore did. I have people that are willing to invest in me right now because they like what they are seeing from me. I was waiting for something like this to happen, but in the back of my mind, I was like, This isn’t going to happen. This doesn’t happen to people like me!