Comedian and actor Deon Cole is headed to the 2022 BET Soul Train Awards to serve as this year’s host. Ahead of his important role during culture’s biggest night in soul and R&B, Cole spoke with VIBE to reflect on having to celebrate these monumental moments without his No. 1 cheerleader: his late mother Charleen.
The 50-year-old entertainer recently honored the matriarch of his family with his latest Netflix comedy special, Charleen’s Boy. The stand-up is named after his mother, who passed away in September 2021, just 30 days before her birthday. In a 2021 statement following her death, Cole expressed that as an only child with no father, his mother’s absence has brought about a pain that will live with him forever. He decided to channel that grief into his work.
“That’s why I did the special. And when I did it, I honored her in it, because I wanted her name to live on,” Cole said. “That’s why I called it Charleen’s Boy because I feel as though when people see it, they would be talking about who I am. It’s the name of the special, but it’s also who I am.”
Touching on having to continue his life without her, he expressed, “Man. See, that’s the hard part, I dedicated the entire thing to her.” However, despite his greatest loss, there are still many admirable things happening in the Chicagoan’s career — even if he has to celebrate differently now.
“Anything good that’s happened to me since she passed is brutal because I would always share everything with her. Everything that came my way. I’m happy and thankful but then I just collapse, because I’ll be like, ‘Ah, she would have loved this,’” he said.
His mother transitioned after witnessing her son live out his wildest dreams, including starring in major projects such as the hit ABC series Black-ish and Freeform’s Grown-ish. Even his upcoming role as “Alfonso” in Amblin/Warner Bros.’ The Color Purple is a feat he knows would have brought her joy.
“She would love to have seen me do this,” Cole said. “She loves it. She loves Soul Train. She loves The Color Purple. She loves stand-up. She loves all these different things, and it’s just like, it crushes me, you know?”
Hearing people repeat his mother’s name chokes Cole up often, but that is exactly what he anticipated. “The response I’ve been getting lately has me super emotional, where people are saying the name of the special and doing exactly what I thought would happen. Everyone is just like, ‘Man, I seen Charleen’s Boy,’ and it’s what I wanted to hear from the world. People say her name… it’s surreal. Hopefully, she’s proud, and I think she is.”
Assured that his mother would be watching from above on Saturday as he moderates the award ceremony, Cole did admit his excitement to witness Xscape receive the Lady of Soul award and listen to some R&B — which he proclaims is not dead.
“R&B ain’t dead. It ain’t. it’s just there’s no mystique to it,” he stated. “That’s always been my argument. There’s no mystique. If somebody’s singing, ‘juicy,’ like in the song ’Juicy Fruit,’ they just saying ‘juicy.’ They ain’t saying what’s juicy. They just saying ‘juicy,’ and then you put in your mind what you want it to be, you know? It’s a mystique to that. Nowadays, they telling you exactly what’s juicy, and you’re like, ‘Oh, wow. Okay. All right. Guess I ain’t got to think about it.’”
As for who could be the next “Lady of Soul,” he added: “Who else can get that award? Sade. I don’t know why we ain’t get Sade an award yet. That would be great. I would love for that to happen next year. Get Sade there! Man, let’s start working on that right now. Yeah, that’d be smooth.”
On Saturday (Nov. 26), Cole plans to add more “fun” to the BET Soul Train Awards with his incomparable comedy relief. Viewers can tune in for the annual awards ceremony at 8 p.m. ET/PT on BET, BET HER, Logo, MTV2, and VH1.