Khadeen And Devale Ellis Have The Marriage We All Want

The Ellises on honesty, friendship, and their award-winning podcast about marriage, parenting, and life: Dead Ass With Khadeen & Devale.

Khadeen and Devale Ellis have done what few celebrity couples could without catching attitudes with each other or slowly unraveling. They’ve used social media, including their award-winning podcast, Dead Ass With Khadeen & Devale, to share some of the most intimate crevices of their relationship and family interactions publicly, minus the sugar and sweet nothingness that the average couple might layer over a tense moment.

Devale, who spent some time as an NFL player, is now a leading man in Tyler Perry’s series Sistas, and Khadeen, who was formerly an entertainment reporter, is now an actor and co-host of their podcast. The couple have been together for 18 years, have been married for 10, and now have three sons ages 10, 5, and 4.

Watching their relationship and career evolve from the social media comedy clips that kept us laughing has felt like watching your besties win at life, and the busy couple sat down with Romper on Zoom.

As Devale uses a sec to make sure the tech is working, Khadeen takes her seat with the familiar slump of a mom who did too many mom things just before a meeting. I can relate too well, and it’s apparent in my disclaimer: “Forgive me if my kids run in here and ask me questions.” “Oh, you know we know how it is,” says Devale. “You’ll probably see a little head pop in our room, too,” Khadeen adds. We all share an exhausted laugh and instantly it’s like I’m sitting down to have pizza and drinks with old friends.

The area in their new Georgia home shines as if each wall is made of glass, and it’s as bright as their magnetic vibe. After a few moments we got right into it...

You navigate a lot of spaces together. Marriage, parenting, the podcast and YouTube channel. Are you deliberate about having time apart?

Devale: Yeah. Khadeen takes her time. When she goes to get her facial, I know it’s gonna be five hours. When she gets her nails done, I know it’s gonna be four hours. When she’s shopping, I know it’s gonna be a couple extra hours thrown in there because she needs time for herself.

“We both remember that we’re doing this together, so that we could also be better apart.”

Khadeen: And he is purposeful with the gym. Working out is his time. We’re actually very deliberate about that and leaning on the village to be able to help. I literally say we cannot function without the village around us and each other.

Devale: We’re very deliberate about understanding that marriage for both of us was a choice to make us better as individuals. It wasn’t “now we’re married and we’re one thing and we can’t do anything without the other.” Khadeen is making a choice to be married because being married helps Khadeen be a better Khadeen. I got married because me being monogamous helps me focus on being a better version of myself. So we both remember that we’re doing this together, so that we could also be better apart.

Khadeen: It’s been difficult at times to get that separation because people see us all the time as the Ellises because of the podcast and YouTube channel. Devale recently did a photo shoot and I said, “Look at you, looking like a whole snack and a meal...” Some people started following us when I just had Kairo and I was pregnant with Kaz, so seeing me in a swimsuit, they’re like, “Oh, that’s a bit much.” No, this is Khadeen. Khadeen can be all the things. You were just introduced to Khadeen the mom. So sometimes it’s hard for people to separate us from family life, but we try to be intentional with how we create our content moving forward.

“And for me it was more about working through life and being a testimony for people that you don’t have to be perfect in order to be exceptional.”

When you decided to start your podcast, Dead Ass, did you notice something specific that was missing from conversations on relationships that you wanted to bring?

Devale: What was missing was testimony from people. There are a lot of people who give how to do XYZ or how to do this, but I felt like there weren’t a lot of testimonies that made people feel comfortable in their missteps or mishaps. And for me, it was more about working through life and being a testimony for people that you don’t have to be perfect in order to be exceptional. You know, and you can look at our marriage and say, “Hey, wait, wait, that struggle looks familiar. We’ve been through that struggle. Oh, and you’re still happy, you still smile, and y’all still love each other.”

Khadeen: I felt like there was a lot of honesty and transparency missing from people telling their stories or just in the social media era, there being this facade that people feel that they need to uphold.

On the podcast, you talk about your different perceptions of what marriage was versus what it actually is. What was your preconceived notion of how parenting would be versus reality?

Khadeen: One thing that kind of took me aback was how different three children can be coming from the same two people with the same parenting style and, for the most part, pretty much being raised in the same situation.

Our 10-year-old is gonna have more stories because he remembers us trudging in and out of the apartment, taking the train and dragging laundry up and down. But raising three people under the same roof and watching their personalities unfold. Realizing you have to style step when you parent to each child’s needs, strengths, weaknesses, and characteristics. There’s so many different things to take into consideration.

How does your Dead Ass approach to situations flow into your parenting and how you interact with your boys?

Devale: As transparent as we are with you guys, we’re just as transparent with our children. Because if there’s one thing Khadeen and I both say, it’s that we wish our parents were more upfront about their flaws.

Khadeen: Of course, we want our children to be better versions of us, too. But with that comes a different style of parenting that probably would have been frowned upon from my parents. There’s a lot of conversation that happens in our house with our 10-year-old, even with our 4-year-old, who I feel like can just comprehend so much more than his age; he’s just like an old soul. There’s very transparent conversation, of course, age appropriate as they grow, but it’s very necessary because we want this to be a safe space for them. We want them to understand that yes, you know we’re striving for you to be excellent, but also, along the way there are going to be bumps and there are going to be lumps, but home is a safe space for them.

“The ego has now been removed from parenting, and that’s something we’re conscious about. There are lessons that you can learn from your children, and the grace and the space that you give them to vocalize that is so necessary.”

As millennials, we look back and talk about what our parents’ generation could have done differently. What will our kids say about our generation?

Devale: My sons are going to look back and say, “Dad, you could have done this, you should have done this,” but I’m going to be that first generation to not say, “Well, I was doing my best.” But I’ll say, “Thank you for telling me that. So now that I’m a grandparent, I’ll do better by your kids because you’re able to teach me something.” Generational wealth and knowledge is not only passed down; you can also pass it back.

Khadeen: The ego has now been removed from parenting, and that’s something we’re conscious about. There are lessons that you can learn from your children, and the grace and the space that you give them to vocalize that is so necessary.

What is it that allows you to keep it 100% with each other so publicly without getting your feelings hurt by the raw honesty?

Devale: I think a large part of the reason why we’re able to go at each other is because we can laugh at each other. We’ll have full arguments and then afterward just be cracking up about everything.

Khadeen: We dissect arguments. Like, “Oh your face. Did you see when you did that? Ha ha.” We don’t take anything too seriously.

Devale: Life is too short to hate anybody or be that mad for too long. At some point, it’s like, “Whatever. We’ll figure it out. Let’s just go have sex and laugh.”

Devale: [to Khadeen] You’re my person, I’m your person. Are we gonna be mad at each other and just walk around mad? No.

Khadeen: Our arguments have gone from being like a day long to now being like, “All right. This is how you feel. My bad. I’m gonna do this differently.” … The friendship here outweighs everything. It’s literally been the glue for us for so many years.

You shot this entire season of Dead Ass in your new home. Has COVID permanently changed how you will move through the world with your family?

Devale: Absolutely. I’ve realized there’s so much more we can do comfortably within the space of our home.

Khadeen: The kids were running around and virtual learning at the same time, and we brought our team in after they got negative COVID tests… In between shoots, we can hang with the kids and break for lunch. Being that involved parent that we always wanted to be is so much easier now… The confines of COVID made us realize there are certain things that we may not have to go back to doing.

When I followup over email to ask the couple what’s next, they tell me they’re looking forward to diving into their first book together, and are eager to take Dead Ass With Khadeen & Devale back on the road for a live tour. As a follow-up to Devale’s best selling children’s book, The Ellises & Time Machine: Why We Have To Say “Black Lives Matter,” Khadeen is releasing an activity book for children this summer, and Devale will be back on the screen June 9 for Season 3 of Tyler Perry’s Sistas.