How Kyla Pratt Uses ‘The Proud Family’ to Teach Her Kids About Emotional Health“I'm constantly trying to remind my kids how amazing they are and that they're individuals and not supposed to be like anybody else.”
Kyla Pratt has been gracing our screens since the early '90s, and her acting credits have become some of the best comfort TV and movie rewatches in the game. These days, Pratt stars as Randi (“a fish out of water around some very interesting people,” Pratt says) in Call Me Kat on Fox and as the beloved Penny Proud in the Proud Family reboot over on Disney+, which just returned for Season 2. But when Pratt isn’t acting, she’s all about family, protecting her peace, and spreading the word about how important mental health is.
We got the chance to chat with Pratt about how she cares for her mental health and why she doesn’t shy away from having tough conversations about feelings with her kids. “No one or nothing is more important than taking care of you and how you feel up here,” she says, gesturing toward her mind. Here, Pratt gets into her favorite comfort rewatches, the word she no longer feels guilty using, and embracing imperfection.
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WM: What’s it like to step back into Penny Proud, a role you played when you were a kid?
KP: It feels absolutely amazing to be able to be Penny Proud again. Not a lot of artists get the opportunity to play a character that they played 20 years before. So to be able to do that, you see your growth. Filming it the first time around, I was 14 years old. Now I am a mother—I am a grown woman. To see things from a different perspective this time around has been interesting, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I'm happy my kids' generation gets to have a show like this, just like we did.
WM: The Proud Family is such a good, nostalgic comfort show. Do you have any comfort shows that help you chill out?
KP: I think my comfort shows—because I'm extremely silly—would have to be Martin, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Friends. Those are my go-to when I want to put something on that I've seen a million times but makes me feel good and laugh.
WM: What's one thing you do for your mental health on a regular basis?
KP: Saying no. For so long, we all sit back, and we don't recognize [we’re] trying to be people pleasers and trying to make things easy for everyone else. Sometimes we don't recognize what that's doing to us. Practicing saying no is one of my favorite things to do now. I have no problem with it; I feel no guilt. One of my favorite things I always say whenever I'm feeling a little overwhelmed is, “You only can do what you can do, and that's OK.”
WM: You also talk to your kids about mental health. Can you share what those conversations tend to look like?
KP: I actually just had one a couple of minutes ago. … With kids in general, [sometimes they think], I want someone to like me. Or, How can I make someone happy? Or, The teacher talked to me in a weird tone. Now I think they don't like me because I messed up.
I actually told them, "You remember the first episode of Season 1 of The Proud Family when Maya (who's played by Keke Palmer) joins the school and Penny Proud is trying to be so nice to her? And no matter what Penny Proud did, Maya was like, 'I don't like you.’ And Penny Proud would try again, and Maya was like, ‘I don't like you.’ Then, ultimately, Penny realized, There's nothing I can do to make this person like me, and I'm a pretty good person, so that's OK.” We had a conversation about how it's OK if someone doesn't like you.
A lot of kids need to have those conversations because that's when they start following other kids and doing other things because they're looking for acceptance. All you have to do is remember how amazing you are and accept yourself, and the right people will come along.
WM: Do you set boundaries around how much you share with them about your mental and emotional health?
KP: I don't know if I share too much or in detail, but I'm with my kids all the time, and kids feel energy. When you're around your kids and trying to pretend like everything's OK, they can tell something's not OK. One of my big things when they were younger was I wouldn't want to cry in front of my kids—they might see me differently. Then I finally told myself, "No, I don't want my kids to feel like their mom is perfect and has everything together because they're not going to be perfect and have everything together all the time." I don't want them to think that that's abnormal. So I let them see Mommy have her moments, but only for a couple of minutes, and then it's back to business, and it's OK.
WM: Do you have any advice for parents who are trying to connect with their kids about mental health?
KP: It's easier to start the conversations early; it's a little harder later on, but keep trying. I'm constantly trying to remind my kids how amazing they are and that they're individuals and not supposed to be like anybody else. They're not supposed to know everything; they're not supposed to be perfect. [I just make] sure they understand that Mommy has their back regardless of anything. I'm like, "Who's got your back more than anybody in this world?" and they're like, "Mommy and Daddy."
“Exactly, so always feel free to come to me.”
Parenting [is a balance of] having respect but also making sure that I don't scare my children. I want my children to feel comfortable calling me if they're ever in a bind or talking to me whenever they're confused about something or want an answer to something. I want my face to be the first thing they think about, [like], "Let me ask my mom." So I have to be understanding.
If kids are not comfortable having conversations with adults, [then they] have conversations with other kids—and other kids are just figuring it out too. As much as it might be uncomfortable for us because we want them to be our little babies forever, we have to have those conversations.
WM: If you were to talk to yourself like a friend, what would you say?
KP: This is a little intense and a little foul language, but somebody I'm working with had to go on a red carpet, and they had never been on a red carpet before. They were like, "Do you have any advice?" And I was like, "You look in the mirror, and you remind yourself, I am that bitch." I'm like, "Whenever you are doubting yourself in any type of way, remind yourself who you are and believe it." That's basically what I try to tell myself because everyone doubts themselves in a lot of ways, or they're not sure if they can do something, or they're comparing [themselves to others]. There is no comparison—focus on you and how amazing you are.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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