They say that behind every great man, there’s a great woman—and in Frank Ocean’s case, that could not be truer. At 51 years old, Katonya Breaux is not only mom to one of today’s most influential and charismatic R&B artists, but she’s also a role model, a highly successful entrepreneur, and the founder of inclusive mineral-based sunscreen brand Unsun. Basically, she’s armed herself with the mission to save people’s lives. And on top of that, she’s patient, modest, kind, and brimming with wisdom. Um can she be all of our moms?
We chatted with her about how she juggles motherhood with her career, her top advice to mothers, why she launched Unsun, and of course, what it’s like to be Frank Ocean’s mom.
So let’s start with what it’s like to be Frank Ocean’s mom.
It’s awesome, of course. It’s as cool to be his mom as it is being Ryan’s mom. But it’s so amazing being his mom in light of what he does, because he shares every good thing he experiences with his brother and me. That makes being his mom even more amazing than the simple fact that he’s an amazing person. Mothers and fathers if they’re around, have extremely important roles in how their kids turn out. I like to think that by my treating him the way he wanted to be treated helped him become a polite, kind, honest person. I like to think I had something to do with that.
What’s your number one advice for mothers?
It’s interesting because I’m a different mom to Ryan than I was with Chris [Frank Ocean]. I was young—I was 21 when I had Chris. I would just say to treat them as humans and to understand. When we get caught up in the moment, we want them to hurry and sit up, or hurry up and talk, but the time goes by so fast so you really want to savor every moment. I know it sounds so trite, but it takes having a child and then having them become an adult to really realize how quickly it goes by. Enjoy the time with them, realize they’re people too, with thoughts, feelings, and ideas, and choose our battles—choose the battles that really impact the type of person they become and how they can contribute to the society we live in.
You and Chris (Frank Ocean) have a very close relationship.
We’re really close. We’re really fortunate. We have a really great relationship. I respect him as an individual and as a person and as a man. And he loves his mom.
How did you support his career?
I’ve learned to listen and respect his ideas because he’s a risk taker and he does what he wants to do, based on his heart, his feelings, his ideas, and his art. I respect that and I encourage that and it’s taught me to encourage that in Ryan as well.
How did you know his interest was music was more than an interest?
It was during his teenage years. The passion was incredibly evident and the myopic focus was very evident around that time.
Did you expose him to a lot of music?
I listened to a lot of different music—a lot of Celine Dion and Whitney Houston. I call them the musical greats of the time. I didn’t listen to rap then, but just really beautiful music that said something.
Do you think that influenced his musical interest?
I like to think so. It’s hard not to when you grow up listening to such a varied selection of musicians and songs.
Do you listen to rap now?
I do. I have to—I have two boys. I love Kendrick, Drake, and Migos. And of course, Frank Ocean.
Would you say you’re his number one fan?
I would definitely so—well, maybe Ryan. Ryan will put those songs on repeat 50 times a day. I would definitely say Ryan, and I’m number two.
How do you juggle motherhood and being an entrepreneur?
Well, I always have. I juggled an education, working, with having a young child. It’s a lot. And now, I have a new business, and it’s a transitional period in my life. I had a construction company for 20 years in New Orleans and when I moved to Los Angeles four years ago, I knew I wanted to do something different. And sunscreen is an important part of my life, so Unsun was born. Things are falling into place, but it’s a lot of juggling.
Let’s talk about Unsun—when did you launch and why?
We launched April last year, and it’s been so amazing. I wanted a natural sunscreen—there are a lot of products out there that do blend into skin tones and don’t leave a white cast, but they’re laden with chemicals. I didn’t want that, so I set off to create a mineral-based sunscreen. It took about a year to perfect the formula, and next month, we’re launching lip balms with SPF and a hand cream with SPF. I’m trying to build a sun protection brand, because with the depletion of the ozone layer and with the environment the way it is, we really need to be more diligent about applying sunscreen.
And women of color need to know that sun does not discriminate. I have an aunt who was my complexion but she developed skin cancer, and we were like, Wait what? So it does happen. If we continue with the mentality that we won’t get skin cancer because our skin is brown, that we have melanin and it’s fine, then we’re putting ourselves in dangerous way. I’m hoping to address that. This isn’t just a cosmetics company. I’m doing something that’s good and I’m excited about that.
What’s your advice for entrepreneurs?
You have to have a go-getter attitude, otherwise you’ll just give up. I like to tell the kids: If you don’t have the figure-it-out mentality, you just have to get a job. It’s one of the things my kids tease me about, because I say it to them a zillion times. I like to think that I practice what I preach.
How did you know the sunscreen was perfect? Did you test it out?
When I put it on, and on Ryan, my little guy who’s a couple shades darker than I am. I had my family of all different complexions applying it, and it did so well. I loved it. I wear it every single day. I’m not going to sell something that I can’t use myself.
What’s next for Unsun?
Lip balm and hand cream. We’re working on a facial moisturizer and eye cream. I’m really trying to finish up the skin care line, and then start working on some beauty, which will hopefully launch first quarter of next year. It’s so exciting—I’m having such a great time with it when I’m not stressed out. And people are responding so well to it. I’m just really happy. Those boys take priority over everything else, but Unsun is definitely my third baby.