Jenna Dewan Tatum on How Being Raised by a Working Single Mother Gave Her Strength

The Supergirl star and her mother discuss their close relationship, surviving the teenage years and motherhood

Photo: Christian Witkin

Growing up with a single parent gave Jenna Dewan Tatum a unique appreciation for her mother Nancy Smith’s sacrifices and successes – as well as a kindhearted nature.

“She’s so affectionate and she was super affectionate with me,” Dewan Tatum tells PEOPLE, before turning to Smith.

“You’re affectionate with everybody,” Tatum says to her mom. “I think I definitely learned, becoming a mother and a wife,” [she is mom to daughter Everly, nearly 3, and wife to Channing Tatum].

“I’m very nurturing as a person and I know absolutely it came from you. I was smothered in kisses, that much love and nurturing and also I would say, there’s a really strong sense of independence you had when I was growing up that I think I sort of took on. I was around that energy and so I am super independent and I enjoy that. I got it from you.”

Smith, a retired marketing executive based near Dallas, adds that she and her daughter formed a close relationship very early on because it was just the two of them.

“I think the nature of me being a single mom, we were buddies and we did everything together,” says Smith. “Every moment with her was special. She’s a riot. I could tell stories but I better not. She really is funny, she says some pretty funny things.”

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For exclusive photos of Jenna Dewan Tatum and Nancy Smith, plus more stars and their moms, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now

Dewan Tatum also credits Smith with helping her develop a healthy sense of self and body image.

“You gave me a good sense of confidence about myself,” says Dewan Tatum. “I think about that a lot now, just in general raising kids and girls, because there is so much [to deal with and support] about self confidence and their body image and you were so amazing with that. Any time, as a teenager, I’d complain, ‘I wish I had this or that,’ you would say, ‘You are beautiful just the way you are. Those are your gifts and that’s the way you came out and you should be happy with that because it’s perfect and awesome and amazing,’ always just super encouraging with me. Thank you.”

Speaking of Dewan Tatum’s teenage years, Smith says she felt like her daughter disappeared from ages 13-18.

“No an alien came, left someone that looked like you, spoke like you and they took the real one away,” jokes Smith. “But at 18, they finally brought you back.”

And Smith admires the adult her daughter has become.

“[I admire] everything she’s accomplished,” says Smith. “She’s done it totally on her own. I was in an opposite type of business and she had a vision of what she wanted to do and she followed her vision and basically said, ‘Mom, you’ve got to trust me.’ And Jenna is probably one of the most kindhearted, generous people I’ve ever met. Whether it’s animals, children, anybody, she’s just does everything and anything she can. Total bleeding heart and just a very giving person and that as a mom makes me proud.”

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