The former Real World star found out he was a father when he received a request for $230,000 in back child support
Karamo Brown‘s path to parenthood was certainly an unexpected one.
The Queer Eye star details his experience in his new memoir, Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hope, recalling the night he learned he had a 10-year-old son.
In 2006, just a few years after Brown’s stint on The Real World: Philadelphia, the reality star says he arrived at his home in Los Angeles “in a sort of stupor” as he came down from drugs he had just done and discovered an envelope at his doorstep.
“On the front page was ‘Texas Attorney General’s Office.’ The second page read, ‘Subpoena for Back Child Support,'” he writes. “I thought, Ashton Kutcher is inside my house. I’m getting punked!”
The court papers sought $230,000 in child support for a 10-year-old boy, but the Kutcher-less moment shocked him even further when he saw the name of his high school friend, Stephanie Brooks, with whom he’d had sex one time when he was 15, mentioned in the paperwork.
“I literally spit out the juice I was drinking,” he says. “Now I was fully freaking out.”
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Five weeks later, a paternity test in Houston confirmed that Brown was indeed the father of Brooks’ 10-year-old son Jason, and they were about to meet for the very first time.
“A little voice in my head was saying, Karamo, you don’t have to do this. You’re a child, and you’re supposed to go in there and raise a child? Run for your life. At the same time, I thought, What if he needs me?“
“I was scared,” Brown, now 38, tells PEOPLE of that moment. “I realized that I created this child who I had no idea about that’s living there, that I now messed him up.”
But when he entered Brooks’ home, her whole family, including several children from another past relationship, was there.
“She called, ‘Jason! Come out here! Your dad’s here,'” Brown recalls. “Jason slowly walked around the corner. There’s something about the first moment of seeing your child. All the pieces of me that I felt were missing got sewn up the minute I saw his face. I looked at this little fourth-grade boy, and I thought, I can do this.”
They went bowling nearby, and soon, Brown upended his life in Los Angeles and moved to Texas, where he went into what he calls “full daddy mode.”
At the end of Jason’s fifth-grade year, Brooks gave Brown custody — on the condition that they remain a family. (Brown quickly learned that Brooks had not sued him for the back child support — that was triggered by the state when she applied for welfare benefits — and the case was dropped when Brown took custody of Jason.)
Brown also grew very close to Brooks’ other son Christian, and after he got into trouble, the boy moved in with the reality star.
“One morning I had been in bed and 7-year-old Christian walked in and said, ‘Hey, Dad, can I go outside and skate?’ It
felt natural,” Brown recalls in his book. “I said simply, ‘Yes, Son.’ I called Stephanie and said, ‘How about I become Christian’s legal guardian, just to get him back on the right path?’ Christian came back and I said, ‘Your mother and I talked. Would you like to live here permanently?’ He said yes and jumped into my arms.”
“When I called my mother and told her the news, she said, ‘I always knew that would happen, We all saw that you had two sons. You just didn’t know,’ ” he continues.
Now 22 and 18, Jason and Christian remain close by Brown’s side, even accompanying him to Japan while Queer Eye filmed there recently.
Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hope hits bookshelves on March 5. Season 3 of Queer Eye arrives on Netflix on March 15.