Cover of Believing in Magic

Cookie Johnson makes no apologies for the road she has traveled in the book, Believing in Magic. The wife of Earvin Magic Johnson, shared about her reaction to her husband’s HIV diagnosis, martial separation, and how they struggled with their son's sexuality.

Cookie takes readers on an emotional journey of faith, relationships, and heartbreak of her family and marriage. Laying it all out for the world to read, she is unapologetic and is dedicated to helping others find their way. Although it took years for her to be story published, Cookie took the nerve-wracking plunge and wrote in detail about the power of hope. The book is about navigating the obstacles. “When you are faced with something in your relationship or something outside your relationship, for me, the best way to handle that is to go directly to God and go to the Word,” she said. “We make our biggest mistakes when we try to handle it ourselves, and not trust God to handle the situation.” Cookie recalled the drama and situation surrounding Earvin’s HIV-positive diagnosis in 1991. After he found out, Earvin called each former partner and told them about the virus. Cookie’s emotions were mixed as she watched her husband lock himself in a room to make the calls, and rightfully so. In her own relationship, she was terrified. She was worried about her husband’s mortality, or if she and her baby would be infected. The situation was overwhelming and certainly almost too much for any newlywed couple to take. "Having faith and trust in God teaches you to have faith and trust in your mate,” she shared. Cookie decided that she really needed to study the Word, and learn more about God’s purpose for her life—she needed to find hope, and quickly. That night she and Magic got on their knees and cried out to God. Instead of being angry and fighting, she explained that having an unshakable faith takes the pressure off so people can work out their differences. When you do this, it opens you up to be able to forgive.

Cookie and Earvin were college sweethearts and got married in 1991, but separated in 2001. Earvin was spending a lot of time building his business, and Cookie felt she was not part of his world. He also complained that Cookie was too focused on the kids, and told his wife that “There is no room for me in there.” He was frustrated that she did not spend much time on herself, and wanted her to look the way she did before she had children. “I wasn’t paying much attention to him, either, and we started going in different directions. We had to pull it back. It was never anything like finding him another person and I caught him or anything like that.” After seeking out counseling from their pastor, the two were reunited. To mark the occasion, Earvin rented Magic Mountain Amusement Park to celebrate the couple’s 10th anniversary. Then after cake, he stood up in front of friends and family, and professed an unwavering commitment to their marriage.

Cookie said during that time of struggling she read, The Power of the Praying Wife, written by Stormie Omartian, which taught her how to pray for her husband and the household. “If people can see God in me and how I handle my situations, then maybe it can help them in their situations. God doesn’t give you a testimony to keep it to yourself.” For the couple there would be more challenges forthcoming. Their son EJ, a toddler at the time, wasn’t a typical boy. He loved colors, patterns, and was drawn to Disney princess costumes at preschool. He would wear the dresses and twirl in them, she wrote. He preferred dolls over trucks, and typical girl’s toys. She asked him to play with more male associated games, like football, or T-ball, but that went nowhere. One time during a T-ball game EJ was picking yellow flowers up in the outfield. By the time he went up to bat he would have an entire bouquet in his fist. When he was seven, she realized his happiness made her heart sing, and she did not push him anymore to act like a boy. Cookie enrolled him in drama classes and he flourished. However, she still hid the Barbie dolls she bought for her son from the former Laker star. Cookie wrote she was taught that God would not approve of her son being gay. “Still, I am his mother, and I know for sure that his sexuality is not a choice for him—it is part of his DNA. This is who he has always been.” Later, TMZ posted a video of EJ with his boyfriend, and the NBA legend got ahead of the press. He told his wife, “Listen, I am just going to go out there and tell them I support EJ, and that’s that. Whatever happens after that, we don’t care.” This bonded their family together like never before.

Through it all, Cookie offered advice to those familiar with their family, and in their marriages. “The best thing is to have open communication,” Cookie offered. “If you think there is something that can’t be fixed, then move on. But if you think there is a little bit of hope, fight for it. You got to take everybody else out of the situation and the two of you need to be honest with one another.” Cookie encourages us all to face challenges head on in our relationships, and to tap into our faith in God to use what was negative and use it for His glory. Another takeaway is to have the courage to stand up to things that are threatening the family unit. If Cookie exhibits this strength, and grace, so can you.

Today both she and Magic are active within the HIV advocacy community. Cookie serves as the Secretary of the Board of Directors for the Magic Johnson Foundation. She focuses on underserved communities and educates them on how to make informed choices on their health and sexuality. If all of us remain focused “we’re going to make it,” she ended the last chapter.

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