In 1974, Rhonda McCullough first crossed paths with the man who would become her husband, the late comedian Bernie Mac. The two were still in high school, and though Rhonda had seen Bernie in the hallways before, she tells “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” that she wasn’t drawn to him until their first face-to-face meeting.
“I remember all the young girls, they were just crazy about him. I often looked, like, ‘Why do they like him so much? What is it about him?’” Rhonda says.
Once the two met and Bernie began talking, however, Rhonda’s feelings shifted.
“I started seeing him differently,” she says. “I remember the first thing he said to me. He was like, ‘You ain’t never seen nobody black and pretty as me.’ And he was rubbing his face! I started laughing. I was like, ‘You right, I’ve never seen anybody like you.’”
Three years later, Rhonda and Bernie got married. Six months later, they had their first child.
As young parents, life was difficult.
“We were on public aid, food stamps to try to make ends meet,” Rhonda says. “[Bernie] used to always tell me, ‘Don’t worry. I’m going to be rich.’”
While Bernie worked the Chicago comedy circuit, Rhonda worked as a nurse to support the family. Then, in 1992, Bernie got his big break with HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam.” Suddenly, he was in the national spotlight, and his comedy career really took off.
Through it all, Rhonda remained by his side, up until his tragic death in 2008. As she said later in her “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” interview, losing the love of her life left her reeling and openly questioning her own purpose. Today, Rhonda channels her energy into The Bernie Mac Foundation, an organization her late husband started in 2007 to promote awareness of sarcoidosis, a disease from which he suffered.
“The foundation is to me everything that Bernard was and that he wanted,” she says. “What better way to have his legacy live on?”
Another Bernie Mac memory: