To the world, Bernie Mac was a groundbreaking comedian and character actor who brought some of their favorite films to life. To his daughter Je’Niece McCullough, he was a tough dad whose real-life parenting was not as fun as the way he raised his fictional kids on The Bernie Mac Show.
Bernie Mac’s Larger Than Life Celebrity
Born Bernard Jeffery McCullough, Bernie Mac’s stardom did not come right away. The Chicago native spent years as a background actor, quietly stealing scenes before getting bumped up to leading man. This included smaller roles in cult classics like House Party, Friday, and Booty Call. He was also renowned for his stand-up work, creating a name for himself as one of the Kings of Comedy. He would ride this name to the bank with Stevie Harvey, DL Hughley, and Cedric The Entertainer. Their film Kings of Comedy, became one of the highest-grossing stand-up specials of all time and helped them all score television shows. The Bernie Mac show would eventually be developed around a popular joke in Bernie’s set about adopting his sister’s kids.
Bernie’s wife, Rhonda McCullough, reflected on Bernie’s success and appeal back in 2018 around the 10th anniversary of his passing. According to Rhonda, she and Bernie spent so many years fighting for his success that when it came, they were so rooted in normal life. As a result, even at his most successful, all of Bernie’s comedy was based on real experiences and stories, which made him incredibly relatable to audiences. Rhonda says that Bernie had a huge voice and presence and spoke the truth that some people were afraid of. People connected with that honesty.
Bernie Mac, The Father and Husband
Bernie Mac at home was not much different from Bernie Mac on stage. The comic was reportedly just as silly in his family life as he was on the silver screen. Bernie met Rhonda at the Chicago Vocational High School when they were teens. They married after two years of dating and welcomed their only biological daughter, Je’Niece, a year later.
Because so much of his work was based on his real-life, everyone was familiar with the story of him raising his sister’s kids. The skit was a high point of his comedy special, as he joked about taking on these kids that he did not really know and the struggle to raise them.
According to his wife Rhonda, Bernie valued normalcy, and as a result, he never got too Hollywood and kept his family in Chicago. “We had already been through so much together in our life as a couple. By the time the success came, we had been in our marriage for over 15 years, and by that time, you know who’s in your corner and who’s not.”
Bernie Mac’s Relationship with His Daughter Je’Niece
Bernie’s daughter Je’Niece had a strained relationship with her father. She says that growing up, she was very sensitive and shy and that her father saw this as weak qualities in her. As a result, he frequently would tell her she was “soft” and needed to “toughen up.” Je’Niece spent a long time looking for her father’s approval.
After graduating college, Je’Niece began working at his company, MacMan Enterprises Inc as a personal assistant. She then moved up the ranks, becoming a high-level admin and operational support.
Je’Niece explains that her father’s iron fist put a divide between them, and she did not notice the ramifications of his parenting until she became a parent and wife. She started to realize that she was walking on eggshells in her marriage and having a hard time speaking up for herself. Je’Niece was able to approach her dad before his passing and reconcile with him, and now she does public speaking as his daughter to help others dealing with childhood trauma.
Je’Niece explains that her goal was never to tarnish her father’s image but to show that he was a fully fleshed out human being with flaws like everyone else. “He was a mere mortal, and his celebrity didn’t exempt him from making and growing from mere mortal mistakes.”
Remembering Bernie Mac
Bernie Mac is remembered through his film and television roles and honored through The Bernie Mac Foundation. Je’Niece is currently the vice-president of the foundation, which provides research and support for those dealing with Sarcoidosis, a disease that Bernie has struggled with since 1983. Impressionist Reggie Reg will serve as the voice-over on Bernie Mac’s upcoming daily wisdom book, “I Don’t Care If You Like Me, I Like Me,” which was written by Bernie’s widow, Rhonda McCullough.
Mac will also be the subject of a biopic, with fans hoping that One Night In Miami star Aldis Hodge or YouTube comedian Mark Phillips steps into the lead role.