‘The Real’ Co-Host Jeannie Mai Opens Up About Sexual Abuse and How it Broke Up Her Family
Family is hard to do.
In the land of #MeToo, women from all walks of life are coming forward and speaking their truth about unwanted experiences in the boardroom, the bedroom, and anywhere in between. This includes a few of the famous faces you’ve seen on TV like talk show co-host Jeannie Mai.
The Real personality Jeannie Mai is opening up about her childhood and the trauma she suffered in her own home on the latest episode of her YouTube series Hello Hunnay. Mai uses the near 20-minute video to explain why she and her mother, Olivia TuTram Mai, were estranged for nine years.
With her mom (literally) sitting by her side, Mai admits she was molested starting at the age of nine. And as a result, the two didn’t speak for nearly a decade because Mai’s mother didn’t believe her.
“We had a major falling out from when I was about 16 to 24. I’ve never actually talked about that incident with my mom since then,” the talk show host tells her quarter-million followers.
Before going into detail about their relationship, Jeannie shared a disclaimer about the conversation to come.
“We’re talking for the first time of how that affected us, and we hope that this can help you connect more with your mom, grow closer with your family and help you heal however you need to inside.”
Mai explains that by growing up with a Chinese and Vietnamese upbringing, she was taught to hide her problems and keep them to herself. Even her mom admits that needing to share emotions or discuss issues is “embarrassing.” So, she did just that — kept things to herself.
“We needed to find a babysitter, so we called upon a family member,” she says. “He came over every single day and stayed with me after school.”
She continued, “I just remember one day this person sitting very close to me, we were playing video games, and he started to touch my thigh. I just remember the whole time I keep thinking, This is my family member. I know him like this. I’ve known him for this long. He taught me this. I was also just stunned because I had never been intimately touched like that so I couldn’t tell if it was wrong, I just knew I was noticing it.”
The California native pauses intermittently as she looks in the camera saying, “I remember him pulling me into that shower and it was the first time I have a seen a grown man and what he looked like. I remember him telling me to touch him in certain ways. This happened every day for a few weeks, and then it turned into months and I remember one year going by.”
She adds, “I didn’t say anything because I was afraid.”
Jeannie says she tried to tell her mom, but “she didn’t get it,” and Mai eventually just became angry because her mom outright said, “I don’t believe you.”
Unable to comprehend or accept what was going on, Jeannie says her mom told her to stay away from her family member (and abuser) because they “weren’t getting along” at that time. It was at that time, Mai says, that she chose to run away to San Francisco at 16 and be on her own because that was better than the alternative.
It wasn’t until Olivia Mai and Jeannie reconnected when she turned 24 and heard her mom say, “All I can say is I’m really sorry,” that their relationship began to heal.
Watch their emotional conversation above.