The Transformation Of Jelly Roll's Wife, Bunnie Xo

As one-half of Nashville's emerging power couple, Bunnie Xo's star is clearly on the rise. While she's best known as the wife of rapper Jelly Roll, Bunnie has carved out a niche as a podcasting social media star who's created her own self-styled media empire, which has seen its success grow rapidly in a relatively brief period of time. 

While Jelly Roll only recently exploded onto the country music scene, quickly establishing himself as one of the genre's most exciting and original new artists, his better half has experienced a similar burst of fame. Meanwhile, their marriage has been one of mutual support and respect. Interviewed by Billboard, Jelly Roll sang the praises of his spouse, describing her as nothing less than "a beacon of change in [his] life."

The couple's success in their respective endeavors has been hard-earned and particularly impressive when considering their humble beginnings. For Jelly Roll, that past included poverty, prison, and struggles with depression. Bunnie's origin story was also no picnic, from her fraught childhood to the taboo way she chose to support herself as a young woman. Although troubled, Bunnie's life and evolution have led her to the success and love she has achieved today. Through it all, though, she has displayed keen intelligence and an entrepreneurial spirit that's taken her to where she is now.

Her mother abandoned her when she was three months old

Born on January 22, 1980, Bunnie Xo (whose birth name was Alyssa) never knew her mother. In a TikTok post, she revealed that her mother left when she was just three months old. As a result, she was raised by her father, who eventually remarried, but Bunnie and her stepmother did not see eye to eye. As she revealed on her "Dumb Blonde" podcast, she was 14 years old when she decided to leave home due to her contentious relationship with her stepmother. "I was tired of fist-fighting with this woman every day," she said. "So I ran away from home."

She shared more about that time in a Facebook post. "Left home at 14, was told by my family I'd be 'barefoot & pregnant' by 15, also told by numerous people I would never amount to s***," she wrote. However, she never took that kind of talk seriously, somehow knowing innately that she was resourceful enough to take care of herself. "I figure it out," she wrote. "It's what I do."

In the end, her relationship with her birth mother came full circle. As she added in her TikTok, when Bunnie was 22, she managed to track her mother down. They spent the next 15 years communicating online and finally met in person in 2020 — a moment she shared with fans via video of their long-awaited mother-and-daughter reunion.

She worked as a high-end escort

As a teenager, Bunnie Xo found her way in the world because she had to support herself. As she explained in her "Dumb Blonde" podcast, she held various jobs — including working in real estate and as a lifeguard — before landing a gig as an exotic dancer at 18 or 19 years old. "As you dance ... you're gonna be offered money to go home with people," she said. From there, it was a natural progression toward sex work, and before long, she was working with some very wealthy clients. "I had sugar daddies who gave me half a million dollars. I've had cars bought for me ... diamonds, [and] jewelry," she recounted.

Jelly Roll opened up about his wife's past in an interview on comedian Bert Kreischer's "Bertcast." "I don't know if you know this part of the story, but my wife was a super high-end escort when I met her," the rapper explained. At the time, Jelly Roll was flat broke, living in his late-'90s van, and couldn't wrap his head around how lucrative her escort job was. "And she was really making money in the sex work industry," he said of the massive amount of cash she was raking in as an escort. "Like, real money. Like, I didn't know that existed." According to Jelly Roll, if Bunnie were ever to reveal her client list, some high-profile scandals might ensue. "If she ever writes a book ... we're talking about, like, CEOs of oil companies," he added. "People you know."

Meeting Jelly Roll in 2015 was a game changer

Back in 2015, Jelly Roll was far from the success story he became. Then, he was an up-and-coming singer and rapper who was barely supporting himself. "I was like, touring, living in, like, a '97 high-top Southern Comfort van, and was, like, a**-broke when I met [Bunnie]," he told "The Golden Hour" podcast, recalling that her living situation was significantly different, living in a swanky penthouse condo.

He was performing at the Las Vegas Country Saloon when Bunnie Xo walked into his life. "We hit it off," he told Taste of Country. "She said she fell in love with the saddest eyes in the room." According to Jelly Roll, the connection that he and his future bride felt with each other during that first meeting was both immediate and palpable. "I felt her soul," he explained. "When I hugged her, I could just feel the genuineness of her. I could tell it wasn't an act."

Inconveniently, Bunnie was in a relationship at the time they met, albeit an abusive and unhappy one. As time passed, the two remained in touch. It wasn't until Bunnie ended her relationship that her friendship with Jelly Roll transformed from platonic to romantic. She invited him to stay with her at the condo so he wouldn't have to sleep in his van. "It's a white trash love story," he lovingly remarked on the podcast.

Bunnie and Jelly Roll tied the knot in 2016

Once they became a couple, Bunnie Xo and Jelly Roll were committed to each other. In 2016, the year after they first got together, the two decided to get married. This was not something that the couple had exactly planned out. "We got married kind of randomly," Jelly Roll said during his appearance on "The Golden Hour," recalling it was about 11 p.m. in Vegas when he spontaneously proposed onstage while attending a concert. "They're closing the joint down ... I'm like, 'F*** it. Let's just go now.'" Bunnie didn't object to the idea. "She's like, 'The courthouse is open for .. 44 more minutes.' I was like, 'Let's f***ing roll.'" With that spontaneous gesture, the couple became husband and wife.

Over the years, they have admittedly experienced their ups and downs. That was evident in a somewhat fraught YouTube video that Bunnie shared in 2018, revealing that they had made the difficult decision to separate. "I haven't slept more than two or three hours in a week," she told viewers about the toll the split was taking on her. Thankfully, the breakup didn't last for long; They subsequently reconciled and have remained together ever since. 

Jelly Roll has never been shy about expressing his admiration for Bunnie. "I married my best friend," he wrote in a heartfelt Facebook post. "She is the backbone of my entire existence. I love you mama bear."

She helped her husband win custody of his daughter

Jelly Roll was behind bars serving a prison sentence when he learned that he had become a father with the birth of daughter Bailee in 2008. While he and Bailee's mother weren't a couple, Jelly Roll was insistent that he needed to establish himself as a part of his daughter's life, even crediting her arrival for inspiring him to change the dark path he had been on. 

It wasn't easy. "Bailee's mother made it hard on me at first," he said in the documentary "Jelly Roll: Save Me" (via Hollywood Life). "She made me go to court to even see her." In addition, he was traveling so much during his daughter's formative years, working to build his music career, that he hardly got to spend time with her. The situation took a perilous turn when Bailee's mother became hooked on pain pills prescribed for a painful medical condition and then spiraled into heroin addiction. 

When Bunnie Xo and Jelly Roll officially got together, they made it a priority to remove Bailee from the situation she was in. Unfortunately, at the time, Jelly Roll was a penniless ex-convict. Appearing on "The Joe Rogan Experience," he tearfully recalled how she stepped up. "This woman is like, 'Look, I'm not 100% sure I'll be with you, but I'm gonna do everything I can to help you with this little girl' — because dude, I'm broke." Thanks to Bunnie paying the legal fees, they ultimately gained full custody of Bailee in 2017.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

She loves being stepmother to Jelly Roll's kids

At the beginning of Bunnie Xo's romance with Jelly Roll, he came clean about some awkward information he felt she needed to know about him. Not only did he have a daughter, whom he was attempting to gain custody of, but he also confessed that shortly before they got together, he had impregnated another woman. Surprisingly, she was cool with it.

As their marriage progressed, Bunnie embraced her role as stepmother to his daughter, Bailee, and his other child, a son. "It takes a special kind of woman to raise a kid that isn't her child and still treat the child as if she was," he wrote on Facebook in praise of his wife. "Over the years, watching her relationship with Bailee blossom into this beautiful mother-daughter bond that it has become has been nothing short of magical."

For Bunnie, there was no question as to whether she would embrace Bailee and treat her with love, kindness, and respect. This, she explained in an edition of her "Dumb Blonde" podcast, was due to the abysmal treatment she had experienced from her own stepmother when she was a child. "I had a pretty abusive relationship with my stepmother," she said. "Which is why I am the stepmother I am to Bailee, because I learned from her that I did not want to be that woman. I never want to make a child feel the way my stepmother made me feel."

Launching her own YouTube channel changed everything

While Bunnie Xo was earning big bucks in the sex work industry, she decided it was time to make a paradigm shift. To make it happen, she decided to capitalize on her personality in 2018 by launching her own YouTube channel, where she bills herself as "the trailer park Barbara Walters." Her unfiltered opinions and obvious authenticity connected with viewers. Meanwhile, her YouTube videos ran the gamut, from a makeup tutorial detailing how to look like an exotic dancer to one sharing the purchase of her dream automobile, her fully customized 2021 Mercedes G Wagon AMG 63, which she nicknamed Rosie.

As her videos continued to gain followers — as of early 2024, she has more than 700,000 – she eventually branched out to other social media platforms. She also frequently posts on Facebook, where she has amassed nearly 3 million followers. She's an even bigger hit on TikTok, where she has an absolutely gargantuan following of 5.1 million followers and has racked up a staggering 142 million likes. Bunnie eventually left sex work in the rearview mirror to pursue an even more lucrative career as a successful YouTube personality and social media influencer.

She created her own Dumb Blonde podcast and production company

During the first few years of her marriage to Jelly Roll, Bunnie Xo had been building her brand on YouTube. In 2019, she launched her "Dumb Blonde" podcast, along with her own media company, Dumb Blonde Productions. A year later, she shared an Instagram post looking back at how quickly the enterprise had taken off. Admitting she had no idea what she was doing at first, she wrote, "Watching the podcast grow tremendously this year makes my heart so full. We're doing this organically without a machine backing us and I'm proud to say 'Dumb Blonde' averages 30,000+ downloads a month."

That success continued and grew substantially, so much so that she was signed by the William Morris Endeavor (WME) Agency, one of Hollywood's top talent management firms. In February 2023, Bunnie took to Instagram to celebrate a big podcasting milestone. "THANK YOU FOR 1.7 million downloads for the podcast in January!" she wrote, accompanied by a tearful emoji. "I can't express to you how excited I am to be signed [with] WME now & watching the Bunnie Xo brand grow even bigger."

A few months later, Jelly Roll took to Instagram to pay tribute to his wife's success. "She wanted to build her own empire to empower women and share her story in hopes that it could motivate others to believe that they could change their lives and be happy," he wrote.

She produced a YouTube reality show about her family's life

Not only has Bunnie Xo experienced massive success with her podcast and social media endeavors, she has also dabbled in reality television. That came to fruition in 2020 with an online series — produced by Dumb Blonde Productions, of course — called "Meet the DeFords," riffing on her husband's real name, Jason DeFord. Over the years, the web series has brought fans into the lives of Bunnie and her family.

Episodes have been all over the map, from the DeFords moving into a new house to celebrating her stepdaughter's birthday to bringing viewers behind the scenes as she and Jelly Roll prepared to attend the 2023 ACM Awards. Bunnie generates additional revenue from her "Dumb Blonde" podcast via Patreon, with those who pay for a subscription receiving bonus content and special gifts. She employed a similar strategy for "Meet the DeFords," which also offers a Patreon subscription.

Ahead of her husband's 2023 tour, Bunnie took to her Instagram story (via Billboard) to reveal that she was offering meet-and-greet experiences with fans on Jelly Roll's Backroad Baptism Tour, with people who had contributed via Patreon moving to the front of the line. "I love you guys," she said in the video she posted. "I can't wait to touch all your butts and give you big kisses on tour."

She has been Jelly Roll's biggest supporter during his rise

While Jelly Roll is basking in his chart accolades and music industry awards, when he and Bunnie Xo first got together, she was the one with the money and the home, while he still had a long way to climb up the entertainment ladder. It's only been since Jelly Roll found success with his 2021 track, "Son of a Sinner," and other hits that he has come into some money. "People always look at her, like, 'She's a gold digger.' I was like, 'Y'all have no f***ing clue, dude.' I was dead broke," he told "The Golden Hour" podcast of just how inaccurate that portrayal is.

He has also continually paid tribute to his wife on social media, including a sweet Instagram post praising her for all the support she has given him over the years. "She saved me in one of the darkest times of my life. She has been nothing but supportive," he wrote. 

That support is definitely a two-way street as well. When Jelly Roll won his first-ever CMT Award in April of 2023, Bunnie issued a celebratory post. "Saying I'm proud of you has to be so redundant after all these years, so tonite, per usual — I stand in awe of you."

Bunnie and Jelly Roll became red carpet fixtures

In November 2022, Bunnie Xo accompanied Jelly Roll to the CMA Awards, making their red carpet debut together. Then, they attended the 2023 CMT Awards, where not only did this mark the first time he had ever received a nomination, but it was also the first time he'd ever won an award. In fact, he wound up winning in all three categories in which he was nominated.

The duo were again in their red-carpet finery when they attended the CMAs later that year. This time out, Jelly Roll received five nominations but only won one for New Artist of the Year. Bunnie's second appearance on a red carpet took a little more doing. As Jelly Roll explained during a sans-Bunnie interview on the carpet, she had injured her leg earlier in the week and had it wrapped up beneath her gown. "I'm overridden with guilt right now," he admitted when asked where his wife was, explaining that he encouraged her to sit down while he did interviews. "But now I came in here, and of course, everybody's like, 'Where's Bunnie?' I'm like, 'I blew it!'"

In a red carpet interview with Entertainment Tonight, Jelly Roll revealed that his outfit for the evening was essentially in service of Bunnie's. "I say, 'Get the wife whatever she wants and then figure out how I can accent it,'" he explained. "I'm like an accessory piece ... I'm like an extra earring."

They made a terminally ill fan's dream come true

Whether it's Bunnie Xo's podcasting or Jelly Roll's music, both spouses recognize that they wouldn't be where they are without the fans who support them. When they have an opportunity to make a small gesture that will mean a great deal to a fan, they'll usually take it. That was the case when they paid a visit to Suzanne Durham, a Nashville-based fan who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Durham posted a moving video on TikTok via the James Bess Foundation, revealing that she was expected to live for just five more months. Her one wish was to meet Jelly Roll, asking to attend one of his concerts and maybe even have dinner with him. 

When the couple learned of Durham's request, they made it happen. As captured by the foundation's TikTok, the couple organized a private concert in an intimate venue — a Nashville church — where Jelly Roll delivered an intimate performance for Durham, who was joined by her friends and family. Then, Jelly Roll and Bunnie joined her and her group for dinner, making her wish come true.

Bunnie spoke about the experience on Facebook, recounting how the whole thing had touched her in a way she hadn't anticipated. "If Suzanne was given five months to live, and she chose to live her last five months inspiring people, that alone is enough motivation for me to want to do the same," she said.

She introduced fans to Jelly Roll's son and his mother

When Jelly Roll first began his relationship with Bunnie Xo, he confessed to her that he was going to be the father of a baby by another woman. That son was born soon after they got together, and he has chosen to keep the child out of the spotlight since then. 

That changed in July 2023 when Bunnie shared a post on her Instagram story (via Taste of Country) introducing Jelly Roll's son, Noah. Along with a photo of herself, Noah, and his mother, Melisa, Bunnie included an accompanying message. "I wanted y'all to get to see who Babymama #2 is because we have been so public about Bailee's mama, it's only fair y'all get to see her & love her as well," she wrote.

Bunnie and Melisa are clearly on good terms. "She's one standup chick & we couldn't imagine our lives without her," she added, noting that Melisa has been instrumental in holding down the fort by taking care of Noah while Jelly Roll is away on tour. "It takes a village to raise these babies & luckily we have her as apart of the family."

Bunnie and Jelly Roll renewed their wedding vows

In July 2023, Bunnie Xo revealed that she and Jelly Roll were renewing their wedding vows seven years after their original nuptials in Las Vegas. As she explained in a Facebook post, this time, they were planning to go all out. "I'm going to wear a real wedding dress since I didn't the first time we got married in that little chapel in Vegas," she wrote.

According to Jelly Roll, one reason they decided to renew their vows was because they weren't quite certain of the actual date of their wedding anniversary. "Because we got married at like 1 o'clock in the morning, they let us pick our anniversary, so we don't really know what day we actually got married on," he revealed during an appearance on "The Bobby Bones Show." That was why he scheduled a Las Vegas concert on August 30 so that they would renew their vows on either that day or September 1. "And this way, we're going to have a real date," he explained.

Despite her anxiety over finding the right wedding dress, Bunnie found the ideal gown. "No matter what life has thrown our way we walked thru the fire together, hand in hand [with] a smile," she wrote in an Instagram post commemorating the ceremony.