Who was Kanye West's mom, Donda West, and what happened to her?

Who was Kanye West's mom, Donda West, and what happened to her?

Anyone who wants to know about Kanye West's mom may be curious in that regard for as many reasons as possible. The most prominent could be to understand the mother-son bond between Donda West and her son, who is reportedly the richest black man in the history of the United States of America.

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Kanye West's mom
Kanye and Donda pose with awards. Photo: @iHeartRadio
Source: Twitter

Kanye West's mom was many things in one, but she was first and foremost a mother to her baby boy until she passed away. Although she was pretty at the peak of her career as an educationist, Donda West decided to retire from her teaching job to become a full time "Momager."

Profile summary

  • Birth name: Donda C. Williams
  • Date of birth: 12 July 1949
  • Date of Death: 10 November 2007
  • Age at the time of death: 58 years old
  • Profession: Educationist, Manager, Author
  • Birthplace/hometown: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States of America
  • Nationality: American
  • Sexuality: Straight
  • Residence at the time of death: Marina del Rey, California, United States of America
  • Religion: Christianity
  • Ethnicity: Black American
  • Zodiac sign: Cancer
  • Height: 5 feet and 6 inches
  • Weight: 60 kilograms
  • Eye colour: Black
  • Hair colour: Black
  • Parents: Portwood and Lucille E. Williams
  • Siblings: Portwood Williams Jr., Klaye, and Shirlie Scoggins Sullivan
  • Marital status: Divorced at the time of death
  • Previous dating: Willie Scott (1990 till around 1996)
  • Ex-spouse: Ray West (1977 - 1980)
  • Children: Kanye West
  • Grandchildren: Saint, North, Psalm, and Chicago West
  • Education: Culbertson Elementary School, Dunbar Elementary School, F.D Moon Junior High School, Douglass High School, Virginia Union University, and Atlanta University

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Background information

The black American professor was born on the 12th of July, 1949, to Mr and Mrs Williams in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States of America. She had three siblings: Portwood, Klaye, and Shirlie.

Kanye West's mom
Kanye and his mother. Photo: @lifeissoyeezy
Source: Getty Images

Donda Wiliams took her education seriously and went through several high schools and tertiary institutions such as Atlanta and Virginia Union Universities. As a result, she obtained a bachelor's degree in English.

But then, did Kanye's mom have a PhD? Yes, she continued her educational pursuits to acquire a doctoral degree in the same discipline.


She got to the peak of her teaching career. First, she taught at the Morris Brown College and later switched to Chicago State University around 1980.

She took a teaching job in China for about a year and soon attained the position of a professor and chaired her department for some time.

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Donda West had an early retirement in 2004 to focus on managing her son Kanye West's music career. Kanye was becoming famous, and since they were close, it was not a shocking decision.

Donda was in charge of directing most of Kanye's schedule, and since she had mostly brought him up single-handedly, it was an almost easy job. She wrote a memoir titled Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Star, published in 2009.

Personal life

The English professor got married to Ray West in 1977. However, Kanye West's parents separated around 1980, and while Donda moved to Chicago to accept a new job, Ray stayed put in Atlanta.

What happened to Kanye West's mom?

After retiring from her teaching job to manage her son’s career, Donda began to appear more on red carpets and at award ceremonies in the company of her son.

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Since the entertainment industry is all about beauty, glam, cadence and being sleek, Kanye West’s mom decided to improve her physical appearance and chose to undergo surgery to achieve this goal. This was the beginning of her woes.

Kanye West's mom's surgery was carried out by Dr Jan Adams in 2007. The surgeon who dealt with plastic surgery performed liposuction, a breast reduction, and a tummy tuck on the former professor.

Kanye West's mom
Kanye and his mother maintained great intimacy. Photo: @ComplexMusic
Source: Twitter

However, something went wrong afterwards and Donda West's death came a day after undergoing surgery. So, when did Donda die? She was found unresponsive in her California home on 10 November 2007.

Donda West's cause of death

Several controversial opinions and questions have been raised about what could have led to the demise of the English professor, even though the surgery was successful.

The surgeon that performed her procedures revealed in a lengthy interview with INSIDE Edition that, "the lengthy liposuction, tummy-tuck and breast-reduction surgery went ahead without any issues."

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Nevertheless, based on Kanye West's mom autopsy, it was shocking when news broke that she passed away after returning home from her surgery. Hence, the cause of death continues to stir debate in the news to this date. According to an autopsy report:

West was able to walk out of the clinic after 5 1/2 hours of surgery, heavily bandaged, and prescribed Vicodin for pain. She opted to return to her home for care even though she was advised that she receive post-operative care at another facility.

From all indications, Donda was resting at home after the surgery against the doctor's professional admonition. Some sources have pegged the cause of Donda’s death to a heart attack that developed as a post complication. Dr Jan Adams, however, believes it could be that the professor used too much of the Vicodin he prescribed for her after the surgery.

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Kanye was heartbroken and mostly blamed himself for his mother's death; he believes that she died because he relocated to Los Angeles and couldn't take care of her by himself.

The demise of Kanye West’s mom might have happened about 15 years ago but her legacies continue to be a constant reminder of her enthusiasm and motherly love. Kanye named his most recent album after her and already established several brands in her name.

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