LaShawnda Woodard is the real deal. From growing up on the South Side of Chicago to raising chart-topping hip hop artist Lil Durk, Woodard is one to watch. In an exclusive interview with REVOLT, the mother, who is also navigating life as a philanthropist and motivational speaker, discussed her new book, “7220.” In it, she shares how life’s lessons molded her into the woman she is today. If the book title sounds familiar, you can thank her son, Lil Durk. As Woodard jokingly said during an interview with “WGN Daytime Chicago,” he took the name from her for his seventh studio album. The title is a tribute to the home where their family was raised.
Your book “7220” is about your life growing up on the South Side of Chicago. When did you decide you wanted to become an author and tell your story?
To be honest, I really didn’t know. I started writing a lot when I was in high school, not knowing that I was going to write a book. Jotting down my feelings and what happened that day or how I was feeling, and it went from there. I always kept journals and tablets. It didn’t take me that long to write it. It actually took like three weeks.
Nice. So you were just ready?
Yes because it was already in my head. All this time it was already in my head, and then I got the courage to write it. I went through a lot writing it, and it came out OK, I guess.
Speaking of the courage to write it, you talked about some pretty serious issues in the book — sexual assault, for example. Was it hard to open up about those topics?
Yes. Yes, it took me back to where it started, and I had to stop writing for a minute because I got emotional. Then I had to hop back on like, “OK, Shawnda, you have to go ahead and do this.” At first I was embarrassed about it. About writing it. About what happened. Then I said, “No, I have to get through it and tell it” because it was literally holding me back and holding me down for a long time until I got the courage to talk about it.
And it’s important to talk about it.
None of the kids knew about what happened or what went on until I wrote the book.
Others may be in the same position, feeling embarrassed or ashamed, so hopefully your words help them to keep going.
I hope so because it’s a lot to go through and not telling anyone about it for so long — even though my mom was the type of person you could go to and talk to, my sisters, everybody. I just felt like it was my fault that it happened. I was so embarrassed to say anything about it. I kept it to myself for so long. One day I decided to get it over with and get it out there.
Hopefully, your strength will inspire others to come forward. On a positive note, the book’s title pays homage to a very special address. What are some favorite memories you have from your childhood home?
Just growing up. My mom raised her kids — all eight of us — there. And she raised our children there, so it’s a lot of good memories. A lot of ups and downs. But it was pretty cool growing up there. All of the partying and having fun and going through life.
You mentioned the kids being raised there, so we have to talk about your children. How has fame impacted your lives? Is there anything you’re still getting used to?
Yes, it’s the fame as far as Durk’s concerned. How people would react to me, like, “Oh, you’re Durk’s mom. Can I take a picture with you?” And I’m like, “What? I’m not famous. Durk is famous.” I get a lot of that. But I’m just a normal person, nothing’s changed. There’s the cars, though. Let me tell you this story. I had a 2010 Mazda6 and Durk and my son DThang, they were like, “You gotta get rid of it.” And I told them, “No, I love my car.” That was my favorite car but they were like, “That’s a 2010.” I literally had that car up until maybe last year. They made me get rid of it. The Lamborghini that Durk has now, it was mine but I was like, “Where’s the key?” There’s no key. So I said, “I can’t.” Durk took it and I just got a Tahoe.
You took care of them, so they wanted to take care of you.
That’s how I look at it. All the jewelry … I’m just a plain Jane. I don’t partake in all of that.
Just take your pictures in it and take it off, right?
And be done with it, you know? But as far as wearing it? Then you have to have security following you around. I have to get used to that. I’m living a normal life and security is following me everywhere I go. If I go get my hair done — “Uh, ma. Take your security.” I’m like, “To get my hair done?” It’s just a lot to get used to, from going from a plain Jane to I don’t know what I am now.
You’re a fabulous mother, I’m sure.
Well, yeah, OK. I’ll take it.
How do you feel about Durk being on Cardi B’s song with Kanye West? Especially since Durk and Kanye are both from Chicago.
I am so proud. Durk has come a long way from being a bad lil’ kid telling me he wants to be a rapper and I’m like, “What else you wanna be besides a rapper?” And then he was like, “A rapper.” I was like, “OK.” And I tell it in my book, he used to always want to go to the studio, and I never had enough money for it. It was always like $50. I would have $45, $47, $40 — never ever had $50. But I always gave it to him. I gave him what I had. And how he came up with the rest, there’s no telling, but he made it happen. He worked so hard to get to where he is now and I am so proud of him.
Now that the book is doing well and your hard work has paid off, what’s next? Do you want to write more?
Oh yeah. I’ve definitely started my second book. It’s about DThang (her late son).
Talking about it helps. It’s part of the process. Others may be going through the same thing and your words are helping.
I hope so. My next book goes more in depth about being a parent. When I talk about it, I talk about myself. I’m talking about how I was a parent, and I think I could’ve done more as a parent [bringing up] my children. I used to always ask them for forgiveness. I know I could’ve done better, but [I was] battling depression. I never knew it was depression until recently, honestly. I didn’t know it and it held me down for a long time. Trying to raise my kids and give them the productive life they should have and what they deserve.
Sometimes things that my grown children do, I take full responsibility for it because I’m the mother — and a mother is supposed to raise her kids and do their best. I knew growing up in the Englewood area that it was declining, so I should have done something right then and there. I should have finished school. I should have had my career in order, so I could get my children out of that, so that they could graduate high school, finish college and live a productive life. So I take full responsibility for that.
At the same time, everything happens for a reason. And certain things did work out.
Yes. I know I’m a better woman. I can say that. I never really listened to my mom growing up, and I can hear her words all the time telling me to listen. I would’ve been in a better place if I listened. I was like Durk. I was a bad kid growing up. I knew everything.
Before we go, your book “7220” has been getting amazing reviews. Where can we find it and how can we keep up with you?