A house, a husband, two kids, and a dog—if the Huxtable-esqu American dream still exists, MrsKevOnStage is living it. Melissa Fredericks (née Marshall) married her high school sweetheart, Kevin Fredericks, the summer of their junior year in college. From there, in short order, they graduated, began their careers, started a family, and bought a home. Not an atypical path for two military-bred, churchy kids from the Pacific Northwest.
“We were early, mid-twenty-ish. We had our own house. It was a small house, but it was ours. We had our kids in private school, and at this point, we were making a little over $100,000 as a household,” Melissa told ESSENCE. “What more could we want?” The answer to that question would evolve time and again, reshaping her life in ways unimagined. Eighteen years, a move to LA, and several business ventures later, today, the Fredericks’ are mega-influencers with millions of followers, co-owners of the digital streaming platform and soundstage KevOnStage Studios, and NY Times bestselling authors. A far stretch from their twenty-something Washington state realities. Today, they are living out their Hollywood dreams.
Known to millions by their social media monikers, KevOnStage and MrsKevOnStage, the couple has what many perceive to be an idyllic love story. Though marriage and family are core to her brand, Melissa is careful not to get too high on internet pedestals. “I’m not comfortable with the label’ couple goals’ on social media,” she said. “I don’t want to get up here and pretend like I have everything together. I do not want to present perfect. What is more of an encouragement to me is seeing someone who is real.” As the creator of The Love Hour podcast, hosted with her husband, Melissa intentionally models the authenticity she wants to see in the world.
I spoke with the creator, producer, boy-mom, and wife, who unpacked the answer to that complex question and shared a few of the powerful lessons she’s learned along the way.
Melissa, I’ve been following you since I don’t even know when. The boys were still tiny. So, in my head, we’re homegirls. But, when you think about it, these parasocial relationships we develop with influencers are odd. It’s got to be awkward on the receiving end. How does it feel when you meet complete strangers who feel like they know you?
Oh my gosh, sometimes, it is like meeting you—just instant connection. It’s not awkward at all because as much as you’re like, “I feel like I know you,” I feel like the people that are attracted to me, I also know them. Because you’re going to be interested in the things that I’m interested in. There’s obviously some bond, so in a lot of ways, I feel I know you as well.
But then, some days, it is overwhelming. When you think about putting out a piece of content that’s going out into the literal world, that’s a huge responsibility. It can be so overwhelming. Actually, hold on, let me grab my phone really quickly. — So, this came up in my memories on Facebook today. At the time, I was talking to one of my friends from high school, and she was being ordained to become a minister at church. And so she asked for my opinion on it, so this post is the prayer I gave her. This is what it says: “God, give me the wisdom to understand the weight of my position and the grace to never be buried by it.”
That is my prayer in this position. To understand that it does come with a responsibility to be careful and intentional about the messaging I’m putting out there in the world. And mindful of the words that come out of my mouth. Recognizing that I’m a representation of black women, I want us to be like, “yes, girl, yes.” That, too, is a responsibility.
But, if I dwell on it too hard on the responsibility part, not only will it become overwhelming, I can be buried by it. It can cause me to move in fear or paralyze me because I don’t want to disappoint. Or you forsake the authenticity of yourself trying to please everyone else. So it’s a strange balancing act of understanding and being responsible with the weight of the position but graceful enough to carry it so I don’t become so consumed by it.
Speaking of platforms, you guys have many. There’s The Love Hour, KevOnStage Studios, Keep Your Distance Comedy—every day, it seems like there’s a new show launching. It’s quite an evolution. And your husband always credits you with architecting the plan that ultimately got you here—Not to take anything away from him, he is talented and incredibly driven. But he is the first to say it was MrsKevOnStage who drafted the actual plan. Can you tell me about that plan? How did all of this begin?
So, if I go back, I’d say it began when Kevin was fired from the bank. He didn’t want to file for unemployment, partly it was pride and partly because he wanted to prove himself. So, this was his master plan: What I’m going to do is, I’m going to do stand-up [comedy] every night. So, I will make up the money I was making at the bank by doing stand-up.
I was just like [blank stare]: So, you’re going to go from the bank, from not really doing stand-up in clubs, to now replacing your whole salary at clubs? And it was like, okay, I believe in you, but let’s just put some feet to this plan. (laughs)
But it really was a pivotal moment because it was the first time he said aloud to me that he didn’t want to go back to work. And I could tell he was unhappy, like visibly unhappy. What he was really saying is, I don’t want to work the traditional nine-to-five. And it wasn’t frivolous. I knew it was real—that drive to pursue his passion was so real for him.
I remember he used to pray this prayer: God, if I’m not going to make it, if I’m not going to be able to sustain my family this way, take the desire away from me. Take the talent away from me, so I can be happy doing things the traditional way.
So, to see my husband, so passionate, so sincere, to the point of saying, take it away. It was like, okay, this is real for him. I need to figure out how we can make this happen.
And how did you make it happen?
It really was very collaborative. Kev made this manifest destiny; it’s still in my phone to this day, about the things we were going to do once we got here [to LA], and all I did was add the plan behind it.
I just said, okay, so this is what we’re going to do. First, we’re going to save some money. So immediately, we made a six-eight month plan. And at this point, Kev had returned to work, we were both working at Boeing. And so we saved our bonuses, and the goal was to take those savings to keep us afloat out here [in LA] until we figured out what was next.
At one point Kevin was like, Okay, bet, what we’re going to do is, we’re going to save the money, and then we’re gonna let the house go into foreclosure. And I was like: Or, what if we rented it out instead? (laughs) Girl, I promise you this is all true.
We ended up renting out the house, we took our savings, and came out here. And for me, it was like, Okay, you can pursue your dream and do what you need to do, and what I’m going to do is find a job. Because we need health insurance and dental insurance, and we need stability. And so I stayed in the aerospace industry and worked. And anything I needed to do to ensure that the dream, the vision, and the passion he had inside of him could come out—I just felt it was my job and my responsibility to do that.
That is such an incredible story, Melissa. And with the benefit of hindsight, we know it all worked out. But at the moment, how did you muster up the resolve to essentially risk it all for the dream?
You know, there is a Bible verse in Exodus, I believe. And it talks about Aaron and Hur. There was a battle, and Moses had his hands up. And as long as Moses had his hands up, they were winning the fight, but whenever he lowered his hands, they started to lose. So when his arms got tired, Aaron and Hur stepped in and held up his arms for him. They physically held him up. When I think about the word “helpmate,” when I think about a wife, when I think about a partner in life, a support system—to me, that’s what it is.
And so, with my husband, it was his vision, his job, his dream, and I really wanted to support him the best way I could. And sometimes, that’s holding up his arms. And what that looks like is making sure when he comes home at night, there’s food in the microwave to eat because he’s been slaying dragons to chase his dream. So, to me, that’s what marriage is. It’s a partnership, its relationship. It’s supporting his dream.
So, what does Melissa want to do?
Girl, Melissa wants to do it all. Melissa wants to talk about showing up authentically without fear. Melissa wants to talk about sexuality to bridge the gap between sexuality and Christianity. There are so many things about motherhood and the complexities of being a wife—the complexities of being a woman. I’m figuring it out.
But here’s what I do know—I want to carve out a space on the internet that looks solely like the silhouette of Melissa. I’m not trying to copy and paste and be someone else. I want to make sure that my corner of the internet looks authentically and uniquely like me. That’s what I’m focusing on now. And, at this moment, that’s what Melissa wants to do.