Nelly's 4 Kids: All About Shawn, Chanelle, Sydney and Cornell

Nelly shares two kids with ex Channetta Valentine and adopted his sister's two kids after her death in 2005

<p>Lisa O

Lisa O'Connor/ZUMA Press/Alamy

Nelly and his kids, Shawn, Chanelle, Sydney and Cornell at the 19th Annual Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards on April 1, 2006 in Westwood, California.

Nelly knows the importance of family — especially when it comes to his four kids.

The “Dilemma” singer, born Cornell Iral Haynes Jr., had his daughter Chanelle in 1994 and his son Cornell in 1999 during his relationship with Channetta Valentine. After his sister, Jackie Donahue, died of leukemia in March 2005, Nelly adopted and raised her kids, Shawn and Sydney Thomas.

The whole family starred in the BET reality TV show Nellyville in 2014, alongside Nelly’s then-girlfriend Shantel Jackson. The series showed their blended family dynamics, each child's passions and Nelly's struggles with balancing dad duties and his work.

In 2021, Nelly spoke to PEOPLE about being a single father and how he juggles his personal life with his professional life.

“It wasn’t like I was Superman,” he said. “Obviously, Nelly wasn’t there every day, but whatever needed to be done, I was definitely there. I didn’t miss graduations, I showed up for sporting events and whatever I could and a lot of times, I had to be the disciplinarian.”

Nelly also opened up about his sister’s death and taking in Sydney and Shawn. Nelly reflected on the family’s grief, explaining, “As bad as I felt and whatever I was going through, I can’t imagine what they [Sydney and Shawn] were going through. It’s one of those situations that you don’t think about, it has to happen, that’s what family does.”

Nelly said it was a “no-brainer” to help raise his late sister’s children following her death, adding, “That’s what family's there for." The family has stayed connected, too — all four of Nelly's children attended his November 2023 birthday party thrown by his girlfriend, Ashanti.

Related: Nelly and Ashanti's Relationship Timeline: A Look at Their Rekindled Romance

Here is everything to know about Nelly’s four children, Shawn, Chanelle, Sydney and Cornell.

Shawn Thomas

<p>Lil Shxwn Instagram</p> Nelly's son Shawn "Lil Shawn" Thomas Jr. on his Instagram

Lil Shxwn Instagram

Nelly's son Shawn "Lil Shawn" Thomas Jr. on his Instagram

Nelly adopted Shawn, often called Lil' Shawn, in 2005 when his sister Jackie died of leukemia — he was 8 at the time.

Nelly celebrated his extended family for their assistance during this difficult period of grief and family transition during a September 2020 appearance on the Tamron Hall show.

“I wouldn’t be anything without the help of her [Jackie's] mother and family members and my brother,” Nelly said. “Even though I possibly beared the financial part of it and a lot of discipline part when it had to come down to it, but I definitely had to have help.”

Shawn starred in Nellyville with his whole family and has released music in the past, but now he seems more focused on his growing family. Shawn welcomed his daughter Mahalia with his girlfriend Kristia in July 2020.

Chanelle Haynes, 29

<p>Nelly instagram</p> Nelly and his daughter, Chanelle, on his Instagram

Nelly instagram

Nelly and his daughter, Chanelle, on his Instagram

Nelly and Valentine welcomed their daughter Chanelle Haynes on Feb. 27, 1994, in New Orleans. Chanelle’s nickname is Nana, as her father has affectionately referred to her on Instagram — he’s also called her his “mini me.”

Over the years, Chanelle has attended events with her father, including his fourth annual Black & White Ball, a scholarship fundraising event in St. Louis, in December 2009.

When she was a young adult, she was shown studying business at Columbia College in Chicago during season 1 of Nellyville. After college, Chanelle pursued music, following in her father’s footsteps.

<p>Thomas Gannam/WireImage</p> Nelly with his daughter Chanelle at his fourth annual Black & White Ball on Dec. 6, 2009 in St Louis, Missouri

Thomas Gannam/WireImage

Nelly with his daughter Chanelle at his fourth annual Black & White Ball on Dec. 6, 2009 in St Louis, Missouri

In 2020, Chanelle released a new song, and her younger brother, Cornell, shared a clip of her music video on Instagram in July of that year. Outside of her own music, she also writes for Derrty Entertainment, the record label founded by her father.

Appearing on the Tamron Hall show in September 2020, Nelly drew comparisons between himself and his daughter, especially regarding their work ethic.

“She’s like her daddy, she’s all over the place,” he said. “She’s a big girl now. She works on her music and she has a radio show up and coming real soon as well that she’s getting ready to do.”

On Chanelle's birthday in February 2021, Nelly posted a cute throwback photo of the pair and captioned the post, "Happy Bday to my first born Daddy’s girl.. love you to the moon 🌚 and back..!!"

Chanelle has one child named Ace. She often posts updates about her son on Instagram — Chanelle's bio reads, "A mother first."

Sydney Thomas

<p>Sydney Thomas Instagram</p> Nelly's daughter, Sydney Thomas, on her Instagram

Sydney Thomas Instagram

Nelly's daughter, Sydney Thomas, on her Instagram

Nelly adopted Sydney, sometimes affectionately called "Stink," after her mother died in 2005. On the Tamron Hall show in 2020, the rapper talked about how he and his newly adopted kids encouraged each other to heal.

“We pick up the pieces, we mold each other and we help shape each other,” he explained. “But those kids helped raise me as much as I helped raise them. Because I don’t know where I would be without them, without their genuine spirit of having that love around."

Nelly has also reflected on how much parenting has changed since he was a kid and how that affected his choices with his four kids. The rapper told HuffPost Live in 2014 that parenting today is “definitely different” than when he grew up.

“As much blame as we give a lot of our kids for what they're not doing ... I also try to give them as much credit for dealing with things that we didn't have to deal with,” he said. “Bullying was one-on-one and face-to-face. Now it's all over the internet.”

Nelly also reflected on the unique challenges that the children of celebrities face. "Everybody voices their opinion and then when it stops at them, all of a sudden their opinion is coming because of who their father is,” he told the outlet. “But I tell them that all the time, too. You can't just be Nelly when it works for you."

Sydney appeared on Nellyville in 2014 and now has one son, Cross.

Cornell Iral “Tre” Haynes III, 24

<p>Kevin Mazur/WireImage</p> Nelly and his son Cornell at the Pauley Pavilion in Westwood, California

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Nelly and his son Cornell at the Pauley Pavilion in Westwood, California

Nelly and Valentine welcomed their second child, son Cornell Iral Haynes III, on March 2, 1999. Nelly's youngest shares his name with his father and grandfather, Cornell Haynes Sr., with whom the rapper publicly severed ties in 2018. Nelly’s son also goes by the nickname Tre and uses the name Trizzle on Instagram.

Growing up, Cornell attended several events with his father, including the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards in April 2006.

When BET introduced the Haynes family on its website ahead of the Nellyville premiere in 2014, Cornell was described as a “sports fanatic." According to St. Louis Magazine, he began playing organized football at 6 years old. He then played varsity football at Christian Brothers College High School and shared several snaps of himself on the field on Instagram.

In January 2015, Nelly opened up about being a single father and how he felt about being a modern parent during an appearance on The Real. “We’re the only generation of parents that we share the most with our kids,” he shared. “We share the same clothes, we play video games, we like the same things.”

Nelly said he and his son “can literally be buddies,” adding: “We wear the same shoes, sometimes his clothes go a little far with him and my nephew [Shawn]. They’re always in my closet and I dip down in their room and snatch a hat.”

Describing their shared tastes, Nelly continued: “We talk about the same things, we like the same music — a majority of it, sometimes they go a little far. I still understand that you have to let the youth be the youth and you got to let them make their own mistakes. But it’s also important to understand that you’ve got to guide them.”

Like his father, Cornell is also family-oriented and has been praised by Nelly for being “such a respectful young man,” including with his great-grandmother.

Cornell has a close-knit relationship with his sister, Chanelle, too. For his 24th birthday in March 2023, she shared a video featuring photos with her younger brother. “Y’all go wish the greatest gift my parents could give me in life a happy birthday,” Chanelle captioned the post. “You’re strength is unmatched, your heart is made of gold.”

She also shared her pride in her younger brother and his “creative choices” and referred to him as an “inspiration.” Cornell describes himself as a producer on his Instagram.

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