Actress and R&B singer Tatyana Ali is raising her son Edward, 1, to take pride in who he is, including his Panama and Trinidad roots.
Tatyana Ali Striped Dress
Credit: Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

Best known for playing Ashley Banks on the ’90s TV hit The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Tatyana Ali is now a proud mama to son Edward Aszard Raspberry. Parents Latina caught up with Ali to ask her a few questions about her parenting style and how she'll teach her son to embrace his heritage.

How would you describe your parenting style?

I’m more laid-back than I thought I’d be. My dad was like this with me and my two sisters. While my mom was stricter, he said, “If you teach them everything they need to know, they’ll be prepared and figure things out.”

You wrote a blog post when you were pregnant about wanting your baby to “never lose sight of the truth of who he is.” What did you mean? 

I was called names based on my race when I was a kid. Edward will deal with that at some point. He has to feel safe and know where home is—that there is a place not touched by those things, that even when people are talking crazy, you know the truth: You’re loved for exactly who you are—your brown skin, your curly hair.

Your mom is a Panamanian Catholic, and your dad is a Trinidadian Muslim. What were you taught about spirituality?

I grew up thinking that there were many ways to have a relationship with God, and you could choose what worked for you. My husband was raised the same way, and we’ll continue on like that. When I want to go to church and take Edward, I will. My sister’s husband is Jewish, and if she wants to take him to temple, that’s fine. Hopefully he will be as open as I was and come to his own decision.

Are you teaching your son Spanish?

My mom was given the assignment, and she takes it very seriously. Because my sisters’ and my Spanish is so-so, I think she sees it as a second chance!

Your parents did a good job guiding you through the ups and downs of child stardom. What aspects of their parenting are you emulating?

My parents are both very down-to-earth people. There are some things they just don’t tolerate, like snootiness. Being considerate and polite are important to them. They taught me respect for others and myself.

You have a degree from Harvard, and your husband, Vaughn Raspberry, is an English professor at Stanford. Why is it imperative for you to provide an education for Edward?

I see his curiosity already, and I want to satisfy that. To me, education is the way that you make a life for yourself. It can give you freedom. I always wanted to go to college. Those years gave me a different kind of purpose. They let me know that there are consequences to what I say as an artist, and that what I do can mean something culturally.