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Thomas Rhett on teaching his Black daughter to be herself: 'Shine your light'

"We just try to preach to our kids to shine your light everywhere you go and realize that the world is cruel, but that doesn't mean that you have to be," the country star said.
The 53rd Annual CMA Awards - Arrivals
Willa Gray Akins, Thomas Rhett, Ada James Akins and Lauren Akins attend the 53rd CMA Awards at the Music City Center on Nov. 13, 2019, in Nashville.TODAY Illustration / WireImage
/ Source: TODAY

Thomas Rhett's daughter Willa is only 4, but she already knows her family isn't the same as other kids'.

The country star shared how he and wife Lauren Akins are raising Willa to embrace her background in a recent interview with "Entertainment Tonight." The couple adopted Willa from Uganda in 2017, several months before welcoming their first biological daughter Ada, now 3.

To start, the "Die a Happy Man" singer, 30, explained that Willa has already noticed that her family "looks a lot different" from others.

It's "something that we talk about really openly," he said. "I think me and Lauren’s main thing we want to get across is how proud we are and that we want her to grow up proud of herself and of her family ... and to embrace who you are and to embrace your uniqueness and embrace your culture, as well. That's something we want to educate her on as long as she's still in our household and even beyond that."

Addressing recent protests over racial injustice and police brutality, he said that he finds it "hard to watch the news."

"We just try to preach to our kids to shine your light everywhere you go and realize that the world is cruel, but that doesn't mean that you have to be," he continued. "We're still dealing with it just like everybody else, and we're still trying to ask the right questions and educate ourselves, as well."

He added that he and Akins, 30, are teaching Willa to "embrace" who she is.

"Willa Gray is one of the smartest that I've ever met," he said. "When she comes from school, her teachers ... the main thing they’re saying is how intuitive she is and how much she recognizes at a young age."

The couple's oldest child is even trying to take on a mothering role for her youngest sister, Lennon, 7 months.

"Willa Gray acts like such a mom now," Rhett said. "Ada James is a little young to kind of take on that role, but Willa, I mean, she'll feed her. She'll comfort her. She'll hold her in her lap. She can hold her standing up now. So, it's been really cool to just watch them become amazing big sisters to Lennon."

Asked about his wife's previous comments that she wants to both adopt again and have another biological child, Rhett said: "I feel like at this point I perfected the girl dad role, so if we had another girl, I would be thrilled. I would like a boy at some point, for sure."

He then joked that he and Akins "might need a year just to come up for air ... Maybe in a couple years we'll start trying again because my wife does want five kids. So we'll see what happens."

"Adoption is very important to us and our family," he continued, "and there's a few people in our family who were also adopted, so it weighs pretty heavy on our hearts, so we would love to do that again."