For the last few years, the Onyx family have dazzled their more than 6 million YouTube subscribers with their fun, loving and creative content, breaking ground in a space that is not always representative of families of color, particularly Black families. In the midst of the pandemic, the family of six, which consists of parents Mirthell and Rita Onyx, along with their four kids Shalom, Sinead, Sade (Shasha) and Shiloh, still continue to share their unique talents with the world. Though Rita and Mirthell work full time on the Onyx brand, they are parents first, who like countless others have done their best to prepare for an uncertain future.
Rita, who is a former nurse practitioner, admits that in the early days of the pandemic, she decided it would be best to get her family ready and began to purchase PPE as well as stock up on food in January. But what was most important was getting her kids prepared emotionally.
"We made sure that we had them understand that this is only going to be for a time. But during this time you have to sacrifice, it's called self-sacrifice. It's for the good of yourself and others. So we can't have any friends over, we can't go to our friends's homes and we really need to make sure that we're all on the same page because it would not work if one person was against what we were talking about and what we needed to prepare for," Rita tells Yahoo Life.
"When the time comes, we may not be able to go out. It could be up to a year or more," Mirthell recalls explaining to their kids.
But as the pandemic worsened, the conversations got more difficult.
"I don't want to sugarcoat it for them, but neither did I want to scare them because I said, 'Listen, if we do the best we can, we can really come out of this,'" Rita remembers. "We're people of faith, so we're going to pray. We're going to do our best. We're going to take care of ourselves.' Cause it wasn't just about staying away from everybody. It was also an opportunity for us to get our health together."
With the Onyx family already working from home on their YouTube channel, as well as homeschooling, quarantine wasn't a huge transition. But they decided that they would use their massive platform to help others feel more comfortable during these difficult times as well as educate them on protecting their health.
"We would take our creative energy to help bring that same kind of relaxing atmosphere to other homes and transfer that, you know, it's going to be okay, this is only going to be for a time. And then we'd make funny videos about washing your hands and making interesting and creative videos about making sure that we are staying at home and things like that," Mirthell says.
"Our model is tell the story, feed the soul, make them laugh, heal the heart. So that's what we were trying to do for so many millions, actually billions of people who watch our content," Rita continues.
In addition to the difficulties brought on by the pandemic, the country was forced to reconcile with racial tensions.
"I know that with George Floyd and during that time period [during] the Black Lives Matter movement we were able to lend our voice and to be able to be a positive influence to the whole overall conversation of us coming together as a country," Mirthell explains. "Your challenge is not the only challenge, and when we can come together, and this is what we showed the kids, when you can come together and appreciate everybody's challenges and everyone's story, and willing to lend your voice to everybody's challenges, that's when we are able to move forward together."
Their content reached billions during the pandemic giving them the opportunity to speak with Dr. Fauci and participate in a presidential inauguration event in January. And all of this time indoors not only allowed them to create entertaining and inspiring content, it also brought them even closer.
"We have been able to not only spend quality time together, but we've learned now how to survive and thrive at the same time. I think it's challenged us in so many ways creatively," Rita adds.
The family also conducts "Sibling Sundays" where the family takes turns doing something they each enjoy as a group for an hour. And though they had to make some adjustments, the Onyx kids admit that they are thankful to their parents for preparing them as best they could for what lay ahead.
"I don't think I would have felt mentally prepared if they didn't start preparing us months ahead of time. I know a lot of my friends were shaken and they got anxious about this whole thing because it was kind of sprung on them," Sinead explains.
Though her kids are grateful to her and Mirthell, Rita actually puts all the praise on them for staying strong in the midst of uncertainty.
"What's made me the most proud as a mother during this pandemic has been the resilience that I've seen in my children," Rita says. "They have gone through something that nobody in our generation has gone through. They have faced so much uncertainty and it's very hard to navigate through all of that and then still keep it together, still stay focused, still be wanting to serve your community, wanting to be there and do their best. And so I am just so proud of them because I think of myself, what would I have been feeling at their age?"
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