Inside Trevor Noah’s Complex Family Relationships with His Parents and Siblings

Trevor Noah grew up in South Africa under the oppressive apartheid government, which sought to make being black a crime in their own country. His family and their relationship dynamics can only be described as complex. He endured extreme poverty as a child, suffered racial profiling, discrimination and survived an abusive stepfather – who threatened his life. At a point, Trevor embraced the world of crime in order to survive but somehow miraculously managed to turn his life around to become the global celebrity that he is today.

Trevor Noah is currently the host of The Daily Show – a satirical news program aired on Comedy Central in the United States of America. Over the years, he has built up his talent and brand to the point that he is listed among the Hundred Most Influential People in the World, according to Time Magazine. His comedic talent has endeared him to millions of fans all over the world and many now consider him to be one of the funniest comedians alive today. Most people are so enthralled by his charm, persona, and unique comedy brand that they do not know or care to know what this gentleman passed through to become the man that he is today. Let’s get to know more about Trevor Noah like you have never known him before.

Trevor Noah Was Conceived And Grew Up Under Unconventional Circumstances

Trevor Noah’s family and birth was an event that was not supposed to happen in the apartheid era in South Africa and under the Immorality Act of 1927, which basically forbade any European male from having carnal intercourse with any local female in South Africa – an offense that was punishable with a 5-year jail time, upon conviction.

The same law also forbade any local female from allowing or permitting any European male to have carnal intercourse with her, an offense which could send her to jail for up to 4 years. So the question is, how did Trevor’s father – a European male, end up having a relationship with his black mom, despite such a law in place.

Well, Trevor Noah’s mother, Patricia, hated the two main jobs that were available to local females under the Apartheid regime – either working as a maid for Europeans or working in factories, so she learned how to type and become a secretary. She then ran away from her home in Soweto, where she was living with her mother and the area designated for black occupation, to live in downtown Johannesburg (where it was illegal for locals to reside).

She quickly made friends with Xhosa prostitutes in Johannesburg, who taught her that the trick to evade arrests by the police was to dress as a maid working for Whites in Jo’burg (upon which she bought several maid uniforms). They also helped her secure an accommodation from a European, who was willing to risk it against the law.

She lived in an apartment complex in a neighborhood called Hillbrow; her flat was 203, while just 3 flats away in 206 lived a tall Swiss-German expatriate named Robert, who his mother somehow got very close to and regularly partied with. These 2 people who were never meant to be together according to the prevailing law in the society came together to birth the now well celebrated Trevor Noah.

Trevor Noah’s family was and is still a very interesting one, and his childhood was filled with many memories – some good and some not that good, most of which he has been able to share with the rest of the world. As a colored child whose conception was not permitted to happen by virtue of the prevailing law in his country, his childhood was destined to be far from normal, and he somehow managed to make it interesting.

Trevor Noah’s Father Is Swiss-German And Categorized As White

Trevor Noah's Family
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Trevor Noah’s father is simply identified as a Swiss-German male named Robert and he is a very important part of Trevor Noah’s family. He was one of the European entrepreneurs that moved to the then apartheid-controlled country, South Africa. He was a chef per excellence in Montreal, Canada, and New York City in the United States of America, before he moved to the southern African country sometime in the late 1970s.

Robert is a unique man and Trevor describes him as a man who is very clean, precise, and particular about certain things. He likes entertaining friends and enjoys traveling. He is said to hate the concept of racism and never understood why it was a thing in South Africa; his belief was that if Europeans (or whoever) hates Africans so much, why then did they come to Africa to lord their wishes over the natives.

He established a few restaurants and bars in South Africa and is credited as the first European to open the first integrated restaurant that catered for all races and tribes without discrimination. His steakhouse provided a very lively atmosphere where whites, blacks, Indians, and others could interact freely, and he went all out to specifically get a permit that allowed this. Unfortunately, certain discriminating persons reported his restaurant to the authorities several times. He was then given the option to serve only whites and several impossible conditions. However, the principled Robert chose to close down the business rather than turn racist.

His Father Was Absent During His Formative Years

The absence of Robert during Trevor’s teens was a very big loss to Trevor Noah’s family. He never got to do all the things sons do with their father in the open, as it was impossible for them to be seen together. Trevor’s father (a white male) risked going to jail for 5 years if he were to be seen with his son (a colored child) openly within South Africa, and Trevor himself would be handed over to the Child Services to be placed in an orphanage or boys home for the crime of being fathered by a white male and a black female. This restriction affected their relationship in several ways.

One eventful childhood encounter Trevor had with his father was that he nearly sent him to jail as a child for openly calling him daddy in the streets. There was a popular park in Hillbrow, where Trevor was taken to as a child, and on this eventful day, his father, who could not go to the park with Trevor and his mother, openly decided to tag along with them, following just a few steps behind. Something got Trevor really excited, and he turned and called Robert daddy and began walking to him. Robert, realizing the implication of being associated with his son, took to his heels to run away from the situation, while his son – who thought his father running away was part of the activities planned for the day, took off after him running and calling him daddy as he ran. Young Trevor didn’t understand that their public association was a crime.

His Relationship With His Father Is Still A Work In Progress

The truth is that Trevor Noah’s family was one that was never meant to be, as interracial sexual relationships between whites and blacks were forbidden by the Apartheid system in South Africa, so his relationship with his father (and mother) was doomed to have challenges right from the beginning. If only the law had permitted Robert’s full involvement in his son’s life, wouldn’t that have made Trevor Noah’s family a very settled and peaceful one? One could only wonder.

As a child, Trevor never lived with his father and his mother got away from punishment under the law by simply wrapping him up and carrying him to see his father whenever they wanted to. Unfortunately, as he grew older and bigger, it became impossible to carry him around like a baby to see his father, as both his mother and father could be arrested for being his parents and sent to jail for years.

His mother, however, was a very resourceful woman who would devise very ingenious means to get what she wants. Trevor remembers clearly that he saw his father just once a week. He got to spend most of his Sundays as a child with him – where they watched television – particularly Formula 1 races, and his father would make his favorite dish called Rosti – a German-style pancake made with potatoes, meat, and gravy. His mother also took him to his father to spend time with him on special occasions like his birthday and the Christmas holidays.

Trevor and his mother continued sneaking off to his father without being spotted by the police or nosy neighbors until he turned 13 and Robert had to move from Hillbrow to Cape Town, where they eventually lost touch. He would spend the next 11 years of his life replacing the minimal quality time he got to spend with his father with other things that mattered to teenagers like playing video games, watching movies, sports, and such other activities.

When he turned 24, his mother nudged him to seek out his father and reconnect with him. After trying unsuccessfully to locate him through his known acquaintances and friends, he was on the verge of giving up when his mother nudged him again to try and locate Robert through the Swiss embassy in South Africa.

After initially running into stumbling blocks while tracking him down, he decided to write him a letter reintroducing himself to Robert, which would be delivered by the embassy. After a few weeks, his father received and responded to his letter, giving him his house address for a visit. During his visit after so many years of not seeing his father, his million and one questions irritated Robert who calmly told him to slow down his racing horses and get to know him more by spending quality time with him.

It’s been many years since son and father reconnected and they are still getting to know more about each other and definitely enjoying each other’s company the more as the days go by, despite the fact that they both live very busy lives and are separated by a few continents.

Trevor Noah’s Mother Dared To Be Different

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Trevor Noah’s mother Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah can only be described as a one-of-a-kind woman. She has been portrayed as a kind, fearless, determined, and self-motivated woman who was the glue that held together Trevor Noah’s family when its walls were on the verge of caving in.

She is from the Xhosa tribe in South Africa and lived with her parents in Soweto – where her family moved to live with other blacks under the apartheid regime. In her younger days, the job opportunities available to black South Africans were either to work as a menial hire in a factory or as a housemaid to some white family – jobs others wouldn’t mind taking up, but not Nombuyiselo. She enrolled for a typing course to become a secretary in some corporate establishment – a profession she was sure never to find employment in, but fortunately for her, the apartheid government softened its stance on liberalizing certain jobs that were meant solely for whites in the country.

She got her first job with a multinational pharmaceutical company in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, with a company called ICI. This allowed her to take care of not only her children but her aged parents as well.

Patricia suffered for her children; she endured racial discrimination, physical abuses and made several other sacrifices – almost to the point of laying down her own life, just to see her children flourish. She was super religious and tried to make her children the same way. She always found a way to see the bright side of all dark clouds.

When one considers how successful Trevor and his siblings have turned out, one can boldly say that all her hard work has paid off.

Growing Up With His Mother Was Quite Eventful 

The isolation that comes with being a colored child is very profound. Growing up as a child, Trevor Noah could not be openly associated with either of his parents as both of them risk going to jail for a maximum of 5 years. Even though he grew up with his mother, that isolation and loneliness plagued him for a long time.

His mother is a very resourceful woman who devised a clever plan to go out with her son in public. She got help from a colored woman named Grace, who was allowed under the law to walk openly in public with Trevor, while his real mother walked behind them, pretending to be his nanny. Trevor stated in his autobiography that he has a few photos of Grace pretending to be his mother in the open while Patricia was seen walking just a few steps behind him.

In his autobiography “Born a Crime,” where he narrated what it felt like growing up in Apartheid South Africa, he shared several eventful moments he had with his phenomenal mother, from throwing him out of a moving vehicle to forcing him to go to church and then bailing him from police detention – it must have been a rollercoaster.

Trevor Noah’s Parents Were Never Married

Trevor Noah’s parents – Robert and Patricia, lived at a time and under a law that they were both not comfortable with, and they sort of rebelled against the system and the law in order to make his birth a possibility. The pair had started out as friends who lived in the same apartment complex, enjoyed each other’s company, and partied together in underground and illegal parties and nightclubs. They must have had some sort of romantic relationship going on, which they couldn’t, unfortunately, express openly because of the Immorality Act, 1927 law, and the segregation that was in place in the country at the time.

It was actually Patricia who made a proposition to Robert to have a child with him. Robert being a devout Catholic, declined the very tempting offer initially, but she persisted and explained to him why she wanted his sperm in particular. She even went as far as to inform him that he would be free from all forms of responsibilities towards the child and didn’t even have to be present in the child’s life when he was born.

Robert eventually gave in to Patricia’s request and obliged her and 9 months later, little Trevor Noah was born. Trevor’s parents never got married at any point in time, his mother really wanted a child from her lover at the time and she got her heart desire. As Trevor always says, he was born a crime – because it was illegal for Europeans and locals to procreate and give birth to a colored child – as children of mixed races were called in the country.

Trevor Noah Sufferred Abuse From His Stepfather

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When Patricia got married to his stepfather Abel – who had a drinking problem, he practically drank all their fortunes away and made the family lose their rented apartment, with the only accommodation option available being confined to sleeping in a very small part of his workshop. Patricia, Abel, and their son, Andrew shared a makeshift bed in a tiny room while Trevor had to look for any car to pass the night in. Having spent so much of his childhood sleeping in cars, he learned that the most comfortable cars to sleep in were those manufactured in Germany. With his stepfather being a mechanic, he was also forced to learn the profession, taking on jobs meant for adults even before getting to become a teenager.

Abel’s marriage to Patricia became the most traumatic part of Trevor Noah’s family as his step-father physically assaulted him, beating him on several occasions when he stepped out of line, no matter what the circumstances were; his mother was not spared from physical abuse as well.

How Many Siblings Does Trevor Noah Have?

Andrew Shingange and Trevor – image source

One of the few benefits you get from possibly having separated parents is that you get to have a few more siblings from both parents to make one big happy extended family. Trevor Noah’s family situation gave him this unique opportunity.

He Has Two Siblings From His Mother’s Side

Sometime in the early 2000s, the very beautiful and independent Patricia Noah fell in love (or so she thought) with an amiable mechanic named Abel Ngisaveni Shingange, who was not only fixing her jalopy Bettle car but also filling a large void in her heart as well. The relationship between Patricia and Abel quickly blossomed from a mere customer-client relationship into a full-blown romantic one, and before long, they had signed the dotted lines in a court of law which promptly proclaimed them husband and wife.

A year after his mother’s marriage, Trevor Noah’s family increased by one when his first half-brother was born and named Andrew Shingange. He came to the world at a time when Trevoh was just 9 years old. His mother’s marriage and relationship with Abel went through several challenges over the next couple of years, and just when his mother was about calling it quits with her decade-old marriage, she conceived another son whom they named Isaac. Isaac’s birth increased the size of Trevor Noah’s family further, giving him one more sibling from Patricia’s marriage.

Andrew is now an adult and though he is not as popular as Trevor, rumors have it that he is still based in South Africa and is possibly married with his own kids; his profession and other personal details about him are currently not known. Isaac, on the other hand, is still in his teens/adolescent stage and is possibly still in school. He is known to keep a very low profile and has either chosen to stay away from social media altogether or has decided to keep his details hidden away from the public.

It Is Unknown If Trevor Has Siblings From His Father’s Side

Robert, as Trevor Noah calls his father, is known to be a very discreet individual who doesn’t divulge much information about himself to the general public. In fact, Robert is so super secretive that he chooses not to be questioned or interrogated by his son into revealing much more about his life and personality, rather preferring that he spends time to know him.

It is not clear if Robert had other children apart from fathering Trevor with Patricia, and therefore it’s unclear if Trevor has siblings from his father’s side. Trevor stated in his autobiography that Robert never got married after his relationship ended with Patricia, making it partly unlikely that he had other children.

Fans are always curious about how their favorite celebrity grew up, and as someone who has made a name for himself in the entertainment industry, Trevor Noah isn’t an exception. Despite being a storyteller who derives pleasure in making a joke about several aspects of his life, Trevor Noah’s childhood experiences are definitely not conventional, and only a strong individual can go through that and maintain a sense of humor as vivacious as Trevor’s.


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