The singer is a parent to 7 children in total, some of whom he has a complicated relationship with
Brian McKnight is the father of seven, including two stepchildren with his wife Leilani McKnight.
McKnight has two sons, Brian Jr. and Niko, with ex-wife Julie McKnight (to whom he was married from 1990 to 2003), as well as daughter Briana McKnight from a previous relationship.
After tying the knot with his wife Leilani in 2017, the couple welcomed son Kekoa Matteo, who died in infancy, and then had their “rainbow baby,” son Brian Kainoa Makoa Jr, in January 2023. The two are also raising Leilani's two children from a prior relationship.
While McKnight has often spoken fondly of his children with Leilani, he has had a complicated relationship with his three eldest children over the years.
In 2019, McKnight addressed his estranged relationship with his children, noting that he has “been there for my children every step of the way until recently,” clarifying, “I’m not abandoning them. We’re estranged.”
Here’s everything to know about McKnight’s children.
Brian McKnight Jr.
Brian is McKnight’s eldest son, whom he shares with ex-wife Julie McKnight. Throughout his childhood, Brian attended many events with his father, including the 2000 American Music Awards and various movie premieres. Additionally, Brian has performed alongside his father on several occasions, including The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet in 2008.
In 2009, McKnight spoke about his sons Brian and Niko as they were set to release their debut album under the name MCKNIGHT. “They do all the music themselves,” McKnight told SoulCulture about his sons. “I’m just here to sort of be the executive producer. I’m the most proudest dad on the planet Earth.”
Brian Jr. is also a father. Recently, he welcomed a baby girl in 2022 with his girlfriend Adina. “I can’t wait to really tell you how much you’ve completely changed our lives, and have brought so much joy, acceptance, forgiveness, and pure love to the family my sweet girl!” he wrote on Instagram as he celebrated his daughter’s first birthday in June 2023. “Your birthday will always kick off the summer time my little Gemini."
In October 2023, the elder McKnight announced that he legally changed his name in order to share a name with his newborn son, despite being a "senior" to Brian McKnight Jr. already.
Shortly after, Brian Jr. reacted to the name change on his Instagram Story as he replied to a commenter who said he should change his name as well. “I’m not ashamed of the name my ancestors had,” he said, per a screenshot captured by The Source.
"All we can do is pray for that man, and my new little brother, who we will all welcome with open arms one day, once he realizes who his real family is," he wrote. "Legacy isn’t in the name. It’s in the character of the people. It will all be quite clear soon, just who’s on the right side of all this, because there’s no escaping what’s coming.”
During his marriage to Julie, McKnight welcomed his second son, Niko (pictured right). Like his brother Brian, Niko made a handful of public appearances alongside his father when he was younger and performed alongside him as he and Brian Jr. promoted their group MCKNIGHT.
In fact, McKnight’s song “42” was co-written with Brian Jr. and the music video was directed by Niko. According to his LinkedIn profile, he’s currently based in Los Angeles and also works as a photographer.
In August 2019, McKnight made a rare public statement about his eldest three children after Brian Jr. claimed his dad “abandoned” him and his siblings.
“Abandonment has nothing to do with any of this,” McKnight said at the time. “I’ve been there every step of the way,” he added, saying that he eventually cut his children off.
Briana is McKnight’s eldest daughter from a previous relationship. Unlike her older brothers, Briana hasn’t made as many appearances with her father, aside from the occasional social media post from the singer, including one from 2012 where he reflected on how fast she was growing up.
In August 2019, McKnight addressed his complicated relationship with his daughter as he talked about his estrangement with his children.
In the video, McKnight claimed that Briana’s mother blocked him and his wife from all of her social media accounts and “completely estranged her from us.” He also went on to claim that Briana’s mother only wanted to have a child with him "for money."
In 2020, Briana filed a lawsuit against her father, claiming that he “maliciously defamed” her on social media, per court documents obtained by RadarOnline.com. The case was later settled before it went to trial, with McKnight leaking the documents showing he agreed to pay Briana more than $200K.
In a video shared to his YouTube channel in May 2023, McKnight claimed that his estrangement with his children was "mutual." He added that after Brian Jr. and Briana made posts about him in 2019, "any roads towards reconciliation and acknowledging them" became a "dead issue" and he changed his will.
Julia McPhee is Leilani’s daughter from a previous relationship and McKnight’s stepdaughter. Per her Instagram, she resides in Atlanta after graduating from UC Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Biological Sciences degree.
In June 2021, McKnight expressed his excitement for Julia’s graduation as he posted a photo of them from her big day. “My daughter on this day I could not have been prouder of you,” he wrote at the time. “We’ve been there your mom and I for every step on this momentous journey to your Bachelor of Biological Sciences degree you just earned and although we had really high expectations for you, you’ve met and completely exceeded them by far !!”
In 2020, McKnight faced backlash when he thanked Julia for “making me a girl dad,” despite already being a father to Briana. “Jules I became a girl dad because of YOU and I couldn’t have asked for a better daughter,” McKnight wrote in the caption.
“Visiting you on campus and seeing how happy you are living in this beach house with all your friends for your senior year reminded us both of how proud we are of the woman you have become and the incredible student you continue to be,” he continued. “Here’s to you Jules the perfect daughter I always wanted.”
Jack McPhee is Leilani’s son from a previous relationship and McKnight’s stepson. McKnight has posted many tributes to Jack over the years, including a sentimental post in May 2021 as he gifted him a special watch in honor of his high school graduation.
“Jack, I bought this @breitling the year your mom and I started dating and I’ve kept it waiting to give it to you when you graduated from high school my son,” he wrote alongside a photo of them at Jack’s graduation. “Congrats and now you’ll always know what time it is.”
In September 2022, McKnight celebrated Jack entering adulthood as he turned 20. “Do not look at this as getting older this is a gift, the pathway that’s leading you to be the perfect man that your mom and I have raised you to be,” he wrote. “I say perfect, because you are perfect and I could not have asked for a better legacy, father to son, than you.”
In May 2022, McKnight revealed that he and Leilani experienced a pregnancy loss as he wrote a letter to their late son, Kekoa Matteo McKnight. “Today would have been your due date, you birth day was to be on Mother’s Day ❤️,” he captioned the post from May 8. “We celebrate,, love and honor you today and every day our beautiful baby boy….until will see you again someday, We love you.”
He also shared a Mother’s Day tribute to Leilani sharing their “last family picture before the birth of our son Kekoa.”
“I know how hard him not being here in the flesh with us is weighing incredibly heavy on us, but I know he is with us just like Julia and Jack are, as shining examples of your exceptional motherhood,” he wrote in the post.
Brian Kainoa Makoa Jr.
In November 2022, McKnight announced that he and Leilani were expecting a child following the death of their son Kekoa. "We are ECSTATIC to finally announce BABY MCKNIGHT is coming soon!!!!!!!🤍🤍🤍," he captioned the post, also including a message to Leilani calling her "my everything my hero my reason for living."
In January 2023, the couple welcomed a baby boy named Brian Kainoa Makoa McKnight. "'For this child we have prayed and the Lord has granted us the desires of our hearts' 1 Samuel 1:27 God's greatest gift, our son is here!!!" the pair wrote alongside a photo of McKnight and Leilani making a heart with their hands around the infant's hand.
In October 2023, McKnight revealed that he had legally changed his name to Brian Kainoa Makoa McKnight Sr. to “exactly match my legacy’s.” The announcement was considered controversial, as he already has a namesake son, Brian McKnight Jr.
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