Jillian Michaels on why she chose international adoption: 'I knew I had this card, this gift I could give, which is citizenship'

·2 min read

Jillian Michaels is opening up about her unique road to motherhood.

The Biggest Loser alum shares two children — daughter Lukensia, 11, and son Phoenix, 9 — with her ex-fiancée, Heidi Rhoades. Now, in an interview with People’s podcast Me Becoming Mom, Michaels explains how she became interested in international adoption — which is how the former couple became parents to Lukensia — after taking a trip to Africa.

UNIVERSAL CITY, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 22: TV Personality / Fitness Expert Jillian Michaels visits Hallmark Channel's
Jillian Michaels opens up about choosing adoption. (Photo: Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

“It came last in the game. I worked on a television show. I remember thinking, ‘I wonder if I am missing the point? Am I going to get to the end of my life wishing I had spent more days in the office?’ That definitely opened the door,” the personal trainer explained. “In 2010 I went to Africa on vacation, and ended up at an orphanage … and this was before I had the knowledge that you weren’t supposed to visit orphanages, but I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll bring school supplies.’ I can’t say that I’m sorry because it began me pursuing international adoption.”

At the time, she and Rhoades were also exploring Rhoades carrying a biological child for the two to raise together. Michaels, however, wanted to also adopt in order to give their child “ the gift of citizenship” to the United States. Adopting from Africa became difficult, so the couple turned their sights to Haiti.

Michaels explained, “I always was cognizant of the fact that if I had been born in another country — my dad's Syrian, I knew what was going on in the world in Syria — if I had been born in Syria as a gay female, I'd be dead.”

Michaels and Rhoades met Lukensia at 18 months, and both felt strongly that she was meant to be their daughter. However, at the time, she was already in the process of being adopted by a German family. 

At the time, Rhoades was pregnant with Phoenix. However, during the pregnancy, Michaels said that Lukensia's initial adoption plan fell through — and the two ended up welcoming Lu home, the week Phoenix was born.

"While Heidi was in labor, we got the notification that Lu got her visa," said Michaels. "I have a photo of Heidi, with the oxygen mask in the hospital bed holding up a picture of Lu's visa."

Michaels, who split from Rhoades in 2017, tends to keep her family life private, preferring to dedicate her social media to workout routines and nutrition tips. However, she does occasionally share snapshots of her kids to Instagram, including a sweet one of herself with Lukensia and Phoenix on Mother’s Day.

“Happy Mother’s Day beauties,” she captioned the photo. “Whatcha up to today.”

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