All About Helen Hunt's Daughter Makena Lei Gordon Carnahan

Helen Hunt has enjoyed every moment of motherhood over the last two decades

Published Time: 13.05.2024 - 17:31:13 Modified Time: 13.05.2024 - 17:31:13

Helen Hunt has enjoyed every moment of motherhood over the last two decades.

The actress became a mother when she was 40 years old, welcoming her first child with her ex-partner, producer Matthew Carnahan. Hunt gave birth to a daughter named Makena Lei Gordon Carnahan in May 2004 in Los Angeles.

"I fell in love, I had a daughter. It was hard to find a part that was as interesting as watching her grow up," Hunt told Scotland on Sunday in September 2008. "Why go off and pretend to be someone's mother, or pretend to be someone's wife, when I finally had the chance to have that experience in my real life?"

Motherhood showed Hunt an entirely new perspective on her life and who she was. She explained to USA Today in May 2008, "It gives me real motivation to try and be the person I want to be."

"You tell them to be patient. But they'll do what you do and not what to say," she said. "If I want her to be relaxed, I have to be relaxed. Or at least try as hard as I can to seem relaxed. If I want her to be patient, I have to be patient. If I want her to be kind, I have to be kind. I have a deep wish for her to be happy and serene, and it makes me want to do everything I can to be happy and serene."

From the origin of her name to her career aspirations, here's everything to know about Helen Hunt's daughter.

Hunt and Carnahan welcomed their daughter Makena Lei Gordon Carnahan three weeks early on May 13, 2004, in L.A. At the time, a source close to Hunt told PEOPLE, "Both Helen and the baby are great, perfectly healthy."

Makena's namesake is a beach located in Maui, Hawaii. Her first name comes from a dream that Hunt's friend had, while her middle name is inspired by her grandfather – Hunt's late father – TV director Gordon Hunt.

In June 2022, Makena hit a big life milestone: high school graduation. Her mom celebrated the occasion with a sweet post on social media. In the photo shared on Instagram, Hunt beamed as she posed next to Makena, who donned a hunter-green graduation gown.

"The Graduate. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️," Hunt wrote in the caption.

During a June 2021 appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan, Hunt joked about some of her daughter's prospective colleges and how far away all of her options were. She told hosts Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest, "My daughter is gone. She has let me know. I looked at the list of colleges, I was like, 'There's nothing 2,500 miles close to my house.' "

Ultimately, Makena ended up around 2,000 miles from home when she traded the West Coast for the Midwest for school. According to her bio on Instagram, Hunt's daughter is attending Northwestern University in Illinois.

Makena has followed in her mother's footsteps as a budding young actress. She has a few acting credits to her name already, including a spot in the 2019 Mad About You revival, according to IMDb. She also had small roles in the 2018 movie The Miracle Season and 2014's Ride, starring alongside her mother in both films.

When reflecting on her own days as a child star and working on movie sets with a large number of adults, Hunt said she wasn't sure if -

she'd have her daughter go through the same experience.

"I think if my daughter was interested in acting, I would find ways for her to act in theater that has to do with her school or a kids' improvisational thing," Hunt explained to Vulture in January 2011. "There are ways to do it where you're not on a movie set with 60 adults, which I loved at the time, but as a parent, I don't know that I'd be dying to put her in that spot."

While she was in high school, Makena and her friend Rhea Garten were part of the musical duo called Thea. Makena and Rhea released their first EP, July, on July 28, 2022.

Carnahan celebrated the release of his daughter's EP on social media, writing on Instagram, "beautiful and elegiac and sweet and sad and surprising… harmonies that sound like a till now-unwritten Appalachian folk song. So proud of you guys."

Makena continued her music pursuits in college, collaborating with her friend on the songwriting process. Her debut album, Call It a Home, came out in January 2024, and the album cover features a photo of her mom — which she attributed to how close she had grown to Hunt, she told The Daily Northwestern.

“A lot of us getting closer had to do with me working through stuff in my relationship with my dad, so I like that she’s on there,” Carnahan said. “She’s also a very creative person and a big inspiration of mine.”

Makena is well-traveled, having gone on several international trips with her dad and her brother Emmett, whom Carnahan welcomed during a previous relationship. Carnahan has shared several trips in the past couple of years, including an August 2017 visit to the Místico Arenal Hanging Bridges in Costa Rica as well as a trip to Mexico that ended in January 2018. Later that year, in August 2018, Carnahan took his daughter to Thor's Well, an attraction in Yachats, Oregon.

Hunt and her daughter have been on plenty of trips together, too. In August 2019, Hunt posted photos from a trip to Bora Bora with Makena. The mother-daughter duo also took a special trip to Paris in August 2021, with Hunt writing in the caption alongside photos of her and Makena, "…these are a few of my favorite things."

In addition to her interest in music, Makena is also a musical theater and Broadway fan. She likely inherited her passion from her mom, who starred in several Broadway productions over the years, including Our Town, Twelfth Night and Life x 3.

Hunt and Makena even met one of Broadway's biggest stars, Ben Platt, in June 2017. The trio posed for a photo, which Hunt shared on Instagram alongside the caption, "Because 9 shows this week isn't enough, he came down to say hello to us." Later that year, Hunt documented another special moment with her daughter in August 2017, with the two taking a selfie for Instagram, posing behind their Hamilton playbills in the theater to see Lin-Manuel Miranda's hit musical.

Makena and her father also enjoy the theater together. In October 2019, Carnahan and his two children posed for a selfie in front of the marquee for Hadestown. In the caption, the producer wrote, "Happiness is Hadestown the musical."

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