A Sumter woman has been caught in a whirlwind of publicity and admiration since her mid-December post of a late-night, amateur video, singing her fitful baby to sleep.
Now, Kimberly Henderson, a 26-year-old medical assistant and mother of four, hopes her dream of a career in the music industry might become a reality.
Henderson’s lullaby on YouTube and Facebook was first shared by a Seattle radio station and quickly picked up by local and national media. Since then, she has collaborated with two Burbank, Calif., songwriters on her first single, “Tiny Hearts.” It was released Tuesday on iTunes.
During a quick interview at a Columbia Starbucks before her single release party, Henderson called the song “a single-mom anthem.” It addresses her struggle over whether to carry her fourth pregnancy to term — which she did — and said it’s not meant to be an anti-abortion political statement but a validation that having children gives meaning to life.
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“Those things aren’t talked about, because they’re so personal,” she said.
The 26-year-old was rejected by “American Idol” during summer auditions only to garner what amounts to “people’s choice” awards on social media: Videos of her Dec. 13 performance — a disheveled mother singing a Whitney Houston song to soothe her baby Vaida — were viewed nearly 30 million times on various platforms, said James Smith, her Columbia lawyer.
Henderson said her own upbringing in Georgia was chaotic. But she remembers singing along when her mother turned up the stereo to clean house, playing Mariah Carey, Fleetwood Mac and Whitney Houston.
“My mom left when I was really little and my dad worked his butt off to take care of six kids,” she said. “We really kinda took care of ourselves.”
She got pregnant when she was 16, married, then divorced. She works two and three jobs to support her family, but is quick to add that both sets of grandparents and her younger sister Jamie help out a lot.
She works three jobs now — a medical assistant at Colonial Family Practice, waiting tables at Palmetto Oyster House and singing at local venues, accompanied by guitarist Victoria Cook. Henderson said she plays guitar, but not well, so often looks online for acoustic versions of songs as accompaniment.
One thing’s for sure: Fans reacted to the maternal image of her with her baby.
Ashley Shirley is clinical manager for Colonial Family Practice, where Henderson has worked for the past six years. The clinic is allowing Henderson to hold her “kid friendly” release party in the lobby at 325 Broad St. in Sumter, complete with food and non-alcoholic drinks.
Shirley said Henderson’s co-workers are supportive.
“We always call her Little Kim,” Shirley said. “We take care of her like she’s a little sister.”
She’s hoping Henderson’s hard work to make it as a singer is paying off.
“Kim loves the medical field, don’t get me wrong,” Shirley said. “But she’s always pursued her singing. She really, really has a talent. That’s her biggest dream.”