Anyone who keeps an eye on the reality-TV world knows the name Blac Chyna. Not only is she the mother of rapper Tyga’s child – Tyga now being the current partner of Kylie Jenner. She’s also the mother of a baby with reality-TV royalty Rob Kardashian. Right now, she seems to be everywhere. Her friendships and feuds are regularly making the front pages of celebrity gossip sites. But unlike some of the Kardashians, she wasn’t born to be a reality-TV star. So where did she come from? And what was her life like before the cameras were constantly trained on her?
Blac Chyna isn’t, as you may have guessed, Chyna’s birth name. She was actually named Angela Renée White on her birth in Washington, D.C. on May 11, 1988. And little Angela White was very different from the Chyna we know now. While she would grow up to be a glamorous model who favored cute dresses, as a child she was – in Chyna’s own words – something of a tomboy.
Chyna’s parents are Eric Holland and former stripper Shalana Jones-Hunter, who goes by the name Tokyo Toni. Jones-Hunter gave birth to her daughter when she was only 17, but reportedly didn’t stay together with Holland for very long. In 2016, the Daily Mail published an exclusive story claiming that Holland had spent most of his adulthood as a petty and sometimes violent criminal, racking up more than 17 arrests.
But regardless of her home life or her parents’ relationship, Chyna had a good education while growing up. First, she attended Indian Head’s Henry E. Lackey High School in Maryland. After that, she went to Johnson and Wales University in North Miami, where she studied business management. This would stand her in good stead in later years.
But studying wasn’t the only thing Chyna was doing while she lived in Miami. By the time she was 18 years old, she had started stripping to fund her education. She worked at a few clubs using the names “Cream” and “Dora Renee,” before moving onto the more upmarket King of Diamonds club, where she took the name “Blac Chyna.” When her mother found out about her job, she went right to the strip club to watch Chyna perform and support her.
It didn’t take long for Chyna to go from stripping to modeling. By the end of 2010, she had appeared on the cover of Dimepiece magazine and been featured in the pages of Black Men and Straight Stuntin’. She was also making a name for herself as a “video vixen.” In November 2010, she appeared with Nicki Minaj in Kanye West’s music video for “Monster.”
In August 2011 Chyna picked up the award for Model of the Year at the Urban Model Awards, which increased her fame further. Her reputation had grown to the point that rapper Tyga met up with her and tried to convince her to be in one of his music videos, an offer she initially turned down. But she eventually agreed and appeared in the video for “Rack City” alongside him.
But a gig wasn’t all that Tyga had to offer her. He was so taken with Chyna that they began dating, and before long she was living in his million-dollar mansion and pregnant with his child. “It was like Pretty Woman,” Breakfast Club radio personality and Chyna fan Angela Yee told Elle magazine in 2016. “The girl made it out of the strip club, and now she’s a mom, dating a rapper who wants to marry her. That never happens.”
Tyga and Chyna’s child, King Cairo Stevenson, was born in October 2012. A couple of months after that, the couple announced that they were engaged. Things were going great: Chyna had a family and a new career in the makeup industry, having graduated in 2013 from JLS Professional Make Up Artist School. She was even friends with megastar Kim Kardashian. However, it wasn’t to last.
In August 2014, Chyna and Tyga announced that they were breaking up. It seemed to be an amicable split, not least because of the fact that they had a child together and many friends in common, but an obstacle was soon to be placed into their path. That obstacle came in the form of Kylie Jenner, famous half-sister to Chyna’s even more famous friend Kim.
When Tyga hooked up with the then-underage Kylie, all hell broke loose. Amber Rose, ex-wife of Kim Kardashian’s husband Kanye West and friend of Chyna’s, spoke her mind on The Breakfast Club in the beginning of 2015. “Tyga should be ashamed of himself for sure,” she said. He has a beautiful woman and a baby and left that for a 16-year-old who just turned 17.” The Kardashian sisters, livid, turned to Twitter to slam her.
While all the drawn-out drama and controversy was raging in the Kardashian-West-Jenner camp, Chyna was distancing herself from it all. But that didn’t work out too well for her either. In fact, she ended up creating some fresh drama for herself. In October 2015, she debuted a new tattoo on Instagram – it was the word “Future” written across the side of her hand. It referred, apparently, to the rapper Future.
Chyna had been spotted a few times hanging around Future on the set of his “Stick Talk” music video. Naturally, rumors had sprung up that they were dating. Curiously, she had also posted her tattoo on the birthday of Future’s ex-wife, the singer Ciara. But whatever statement she was trying to make, it was a failure. Future took to Twitter to deny the two had ever been together.
The whole affair was something of an embarrassment for Chyna, but she bounced back. After getting the tattoo removed, shading Kylie Jenner and her “lip challenge” on Instagram and being romantically linked to basketball player P.J. Tucker (a relationship neither of them ever confirmed) she made one of her biggest moves. She unexpectedly hooked up with Kim Kardashian’s younger brother, Rob.
The relationship became public in January 2016 and suddenly Blac Chyna was the name on everybody’s lips. The ensuing massive drama (Rob was more than willing to fight his disapproving family in order to be with Chyna) and massive displays (Rob purchased a $35,000 diamond-dusted portrait of Chyna for her birthday) didn’t hurt either. Even a very public arrest didn’t dampen things.
Chyna was arrested at an airport on January 29, 2016, mere days after she and Rob had confirmed that they were dating. It wasn’t a pretty picture: police reports revealed that she had been publicly intoxicated, verbally abusive and in possession of drugs. Rob drove 3,000 miles across country to pick her up and give her a ride home – an impressive gesture of devotion.
By April 2016, the pair had announced their engagement on – where else? – Instagram. They had actually only been dating for ten weeks at this point, but that didn’t put a dampener on their enthusiasm. And by this time, the wider Kardashian family had come around. Seeing that Rob was happy with Chyna, they extended the hand of friendship.
Chyna had now completed a total image transformation: from stripper to reality-TV princess. She was expecting another child with Rob – and all her further adventures in motherhood would be documented on a new show, Rob & Chyna. “Very few love stories have created as much pop-culture buzz as Rob and Chyna’s,” a spokesperson for the E! network said. “We are excited to share the next chapter in their relationship.”
In November 2016, Chyna gave birth to her new baby, Dream Kardashian. The moment came in the midst of more family drama – Rob had fallen out with his family again. But she was happy – the baby was healthy. And the pair couldn’t resist taking part in the latest Instagram trend, a Mannequin Challenge, from the delivery room. That symbolized, in a way, what the rest of Chyna’s life might well be like: playing to the cameras during every milestone moment.
These days, Chyna continues to court the same celebrity spotlight her daughter’s aunts do. Indeed, she’s adept at maneuvering it onto her. Her relationship ups and downs with Rob play out before an audience of millions. And even when their engagement was called off, it became clear that she could function fine on her own without a Kardashian. What we’ll see of her in the future is unclear, but there’s little chance the entertainment world will forget her name anytime soon.