My three sons: Mother of ‘Queen Sugar’ star Kofi Siriboe on raising her Hollywood heartthrobs
Supermom Koshie Mills on her Mother’s Day surprise and her ‘three kings’
Koshie Mills’ three sons have distinct personalities, and they all correspond with the personas of well-known and accomplished actors.
The eldest is the life of the party, a charismatic cross between comedians-turned-actors Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx (“The party starts when he arrives,” she jokes). The middle son is more like Denzel Washington: “He is more introspective and philosophical; he’s my charmer; everyone flocks to him,” she explains. The baby is a Denzel/Will Smith mix in the group. Dubbed “the diplomat,” he’s “the spiritual conscience of the brothers and always pushing others to view life from different perspectives,” Mills said.
And this supermom knows her sons very well.
“I call them my three kings, like the three kings who visited baby Jesus,” said Mills, a Ghana-born, London-bred and “Los Angeles-curated” international media strategist. “Each brings his own unique gift, and there’s power in each of those gifts.”
Like most any proud mother, Mills can’t contain her excitement when she speaks of her “boys” — well, fawning and gushing is more like it. And she’s got plenty of reason to do so.
Her middle son, Kofi Siriboe, 23, is best known for his breakout role as Ralph Angel Bordelon on Ava DuVernay’s drama series Queen Sugar on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). The swarthy heartthrob began acting at age 6 with print work and television commercials, followed by guest roles on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and a recurring role on MTV’s comedy series Awkward. He made his film debut in 2008 in the comedy-drama The Longshots.
The eldest, Kwame Boateng, 25, got an early start too, acting and modeling at age 8 and appearing in more than 30 national commercials and movies, including Not Easily Broken, a film based on a T.D. Jakes book. He also snagged roles on television shows The Chicago Code, The Office, ER and Everybody Hates Chris.
At 18, Kwesi Boakye is the youngest of the brood. (“He booked his first job at 9 months,” gushed Mills.) He played Manny in the 2009 Tyler Perry film I Can Do Bad All By Myself and has also previously done voice work for The Looney Tunes Show and The Amazing World of Gumball. He has also starred in television shows such as TNT’s Murder In The First with Taye Diggs, ABC’s Mind Games, Touch, The Mentalist and Hawaii Five-O and as a series regular on Ray Romano’s Men of a Certain Age.
Being “mom” to three of Hollywood’s brightest rising stars is no small feat. Add in a flourishing, nearly 26-year marriage and helming her own full-service, boutique multimedia firm based in Beverly Hills, California, and it’s safe to say that this “mom-ager” is, like Jill Scott sings of, living life like it’s golden.
After many years solo, Mills now shares management duties and also serves as publicist and does branding for all three. Having dear old mom so inextricably intertwined in their lives both personally and professionally is not a problem, they insist, but a plus.
“Our relationship is very special. I’m a mama’s boy,” confessed Siriboe, who is slated to appear this summer alongside Regina Hall, Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith in the Universal Pictures flick Girls Trip. “My mom is one of those people with a big, nurturing spirit, so even simple moments with her feel like pure nourishment for my soul. There’s a level of assurance I carry that trickles into my work, no doubt. I fully trust my mom, and I know she always has my back; that trust allows me the space to be as expansive as God intended me to be.”
Boateng said he feels similarly.
“It was my mom that started me in the business, so obviously she has been instrumental in nurturing this passion I have for the arts and entertainment. She helped develop me and put me in classes and supported and cultivated my dream, so her impact is undeniable,” Boateng said. “My mom is my best friend, confidant, my ride-or-die, the person I go to when I need counseling or help dealing with life decisions and challenges. My mom makes me feel like there is nothing I can’t tell her, and our transparent relationship is precious to me.”
Kwesi, who graduates from high school next month and is currently in a recurring role on the USA Network’s Colony, echoed his brothers’ sentiments. “She’s very hands-on, and it’s dope,” he said. “She’s like a guardian angel. She makes sure that I am taken care of, that I’m not taken advantage of.”
Mills laughs at the assertion that all three of her uber-talented sons hold their own as bona fide “bae” status (some of their adoring fans have even nicknamed them “Triple Chocolate Crunch”). While flattered, she said, she’s most proud that they’ve developed into positive, respectful and upstanding young men who are equally proud of both their American and African roots and give back to the community.
When she thinks back to the 10 years she spent solo managing their careers in film, television, voice-over and modeling work, she can’t help but feel a personal sense of accomplishment. Somehow she juggled it all around their schooling, extracurricular activities and, through much of it, a full-time job working overnight as a registered nurse.
“Acting was just another one of their hobbies,” she said. “All of them played instruments: Kwesi played the violin, Kofi played the trumpet and violin, Kwame played the bass clarinet and viola. Then there was soccer, basketball and tennis too. Kwame and Kofi played golf, but Kwesi didn’t [because] I was too tired by then.”
Her husband, Kwame Boakye, cared for them while she worked and made sure they got to school each morning, giving her just enough time to rush home to grab two hours of sleep after work before calls from casting agents started pouring in around 10 a.m. There were always last-minute auditions or jobs across town that clashed with school schedules.
“At one point I had one in elementary, one in middle and one in high school — that’s three stops I had to make,” remembered Mills, chuckling at the memory. “Even if only one had a job, I had to [pick] them all [up] because I could not risk being across town [for their gig] and miss picking the others up from school in time. Sometimes I wonder, ‘Who was that woman back then?’ I did it with God and my husband right there holding us down financially and supporting us.”
Even with their natural, God-given abilities, Mills said, cultivating the talent within her brood took time and sacrifice. For example, on countless evenings after a long day on set, she’d meet her husband, style aficionado and fashion consultant, in arbitrary parking lots to hand the boys off to him, car seats and all, just in time to race to work at the hospital. And then there were the afternoons she’d meet up with teachers at McDonald’s to scoop up a child (or children) stuck at school late when another’s acting job ran long.
She finally ended her 19-year nursing career in 2011 to devote herself full time to her sons’ careers.
“I hope my story will inspire others to recognize, curate and nurture the talents of their children,” she said. “Never give up hope, and seize the moment when it’s at hand.”
She insists that her K3 firm, which provides media relations, branding, strategic support and talent management for her diverse mix of mostly international clients, was inspired by her sons because their “talents needed the various platforms to shine.”
Added Mills, regarding her company: “It was literally born out of a mother’s love to give her children the recognition they deserved for the great work they are doing in Hollywood.”
Her passion for her family runs as deeply as her West African roots, which she and her husband have always shared with their children through music, language and their favorite: food. Mills is far from meek when speaking of her cooking skills. During the holidays, one of the rare times the entire family is all together under one roof, her sons always flock home to Los Angeles, ready for one of her world-famous feasts.
“I’m very African but I am also very American, and so they were raised on a mix of both African and American foods, like jollof rice, fufu and soup,” she said. “My recipes for greens, mac and cheese, and gumbo will make somebody want to smack their mama.”
Mills said she remains committed to serving as a “connector to bridge the creative gap between Africa and America,” and she hopes to one day soon spearhead an initiative that helps to “rebrand the dastardly images [often] perpetuated in the media about our black boys.” Well, it seems her three sons have already gotten a jump on that idea.
“I always taught them to be strong black men, to be leaders and not followers,” she said. “We’ve tried to raise them with a sense of identity, and to let them know that they are vessels and vehicles for their talent, not the drivers of it.”
Mills said she’s not sure what her sons and husband are planning to pull off for her this Mother’s Day weekend, but she expects it to be epic. The K brothers don’t disappoint.
“For sure we have some plans, lots of designer gifts,” quipped Kwesi, stopping short of spoiling any impending surprises. “She has expensive taste, and she loves luxury. And she deserves it.”