Stepchildren Come First? Here’s Why Brian McKnight Has Been Trending On Social Media All Week

The last time Brian McKnight added to his Instagram feed was Valentine’s Day. But social media users have been dragging the artist based on resurfaced content for the last week or so.

Screenshots of his praise for his stepdaughter and love for his wife have sparked renewed critiques about his estranged relationship with his biological children. McKnight hasn’t publicly reacted to the drag sessions, but his biological son Brian McKnight Jr. seemed to shade his famous father in a post made on Wednesday.

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One of the first tweets that sparked the backlash came from user @TheMegaChloe. It said, “I just learned that Brian McKnight named his newborn Brian McKnight. He has an adult son named Brian Mcknight Jr. This man is diabolical.” The tweet featured a screenshot of an Instagram post the “Back at One” singer dedicated to his newborn with his wife, Leilani.

McKnight’s post said:

“Dear Baby Brian, Everytime I look at you and kiss on you I’m feeling feelings that I did not know I could possess, an over abundance of love between a father and his legacy that cannot be measured. You see, I never was a sentimental man, not until I met your mommy and fell head over heels in love with her. And because of our love for one another, I realized my true reason for being here on this earth and it’s to be her loving faithful husband and to create the legacy of that love, my NAMESAKE, my JOY my baby boy, YOU!!”

For context, McKnight is the father of four biological children and two stepchildren. He has two sons–Brian Jr. and Niko–with songwriter Julie McKnight and one daughter, Briana, from a former romance with Patricia Driver.

Brian married Leilani in a New Year’s Eve ceremony in 2017. At the time, she was already a mother to two children, Julia and Jack, from a previous relationship.

The couple welcomed their son Brian after the death of their first son Kekoa Matteo. Knight reflected on the loss in May of last year, saying it was “very first time in [his] life” that he got to “experience what it’s like to want to and plan to have a child made from love.” 


Here’s Why Social Media Users Are Going Off

As mentioned, the McKnight critiques aren’t new. Most of the recent backlash surrounds resurfaced content, including praise for his wife during an interview and Instagram posts dedicated to stepdaughter Julia, whom he calls Jules.

In a 2020 interview, Brian explained that none of the music he created before meeting his current wife has any meaning, including “Back at One.”

“The only ones that speak to me are the ones I’ve written since Leilani came into my life cause those are the only ones that have a meaning. Sure they were big hits before then, but they weren’t based on anything cause I never liked anyone before I met her. The first time I felt my heartbeat was the day she came into my life. So everything that I wrote before then wasn’t based on anything romantic,” he said. Adding, “these three albums that I’ve done since we met, every single song, it has a meaning, it has a story.”


Then, there’s his Instagram bio, which lists the name of his wives and their blended family–Julia, Jack, Keboa Matteo, and Brian Kainoa Makoa. Absent from his profile bio are the names of his biological children.

Brian McKnight Instagram Bio Screenshot. Taken on May 5, 2023.


Brian McKnight And Biological Daughter Recently Agreed To Drop Lawsuit She Filed

Meanwhile, Radar Online reports that McKnight and his daughter Briana recently agreed to drop an ongoing lawsuit before trial. Much of the online discourse also highlights Brian’s apparent comparison between Briana and Jules.

His caption on a series of photos, including one of him and Julia beside a car with a red bow, addressed her as the “best daughter ever.”

In another post, he called Jules “the perfect daughter [he] always wanted” while crediting her for making him “a girl dad.”

In 2019, Briana wrote a post about growing up without a father. She penned a post honoring her brothers and explained that being “daddy’s little girl was never really a thing” for her.

“I grew up thinking that the things that happened to me and my dad’s relationship was my fault. I grew up thinking that he doesn’t want to come to visit me because he doesn’t love me. Constantly put behind other kids that he would call his own while I’m cast into a land far far away in the back of his mind. It sucks knowing that someone else, who’s not even blood related to you comes before you in every single way. It sucks knowing that my phone calls have to go through a stranger I barely know, that my text messages are read without a response, and that my stepmother tells me that they “wish the best for me”. It kills me to know that it’s so hard for me and my siblings to get a word in. Not one word. At a very young age, I was always second place in my father’s heart. Maybe even third, fourth, or fifth, depending on the situation.”

Though she didn’t name-drop Brian, the singer-songwriter responded with his own set of accusations against Briana. His allegations of uncovering an alleged sexual relationship between Briana and an older cousin led to her filing a lawsuit against him in 2020.

Lawsuit documents obtained by Radar Online say McKnight “maliciously defamed” his biological daughter via social media. They also explain the “little contact” the McKnights maintained in 2015, none in 2016, and occasionally in 2017.

By 2018, Briana claims Brian was showing little interest in wanting to maintain communication. Then, in 2019 she shared the post above, but the suit says Briana did not name Brian by name, profession, status, or anything direct. Her lawsuit also repeatedly denied the incestuous claims by Brian.

The father reportedly responded by asking for the lawsuit to be thrown out, denying any wrongdoing in his posts. However, Radar Online also claims documents show Brian allegedly demanded Briana list all her sexual partners and the nature of the encounters before August 2019. Briana reportedly reacted by asking the court not to force her to turn over the sensitive information.

However, in February, both parties agreed to dismiss the lawsuit. It’s unclear where their relationship currently stands or his wife’s and stepchildren’s opinions.


Brian McKnight Jr. Seemingly Shades His Father Amid Trending Status

As previously reported, Brian McKnight Jr. also spoke out in 2019 about his biological father’s parenting–adding #SonOfALegend to his lengthy caption.

“I can’t imagine abandoning my children, man. It’s hard not to imagine the psyche of a man who can truly just turn his back on his actual sons, on his actual blood and creations. It’s mind-boggling to me. I don’t think there is any situation that merits the way my father has chosen to treat my brother, my sisters and his grandchildren, one of which being his firtsborn’s, first born son who also bears our name. It’s insane to me. To have absolutely no empathy for the type of life he introduced us to, only to become to resent us for that life catching up to us.”


Brian Jr. posted a video amid the backlash against his father. Though it was of him playing music, he introduced the track by throwing a lil’ shade at the older McKnight.

“I remember making that in my bed at my dad’s house. That was like 2009, right before we got kicked out, but all’s well that ends well,” Brian Jr. said.

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