'Black Love' Producer Codie Elaine Oliver Weighs In On Viral Dating Debates, Marriage, And Black Love Summit
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'Black Love' Producer Codie Elaine Oliver Weighs In On Viral Dating Debates, Marriage, And Black Love Summit

The Black Love docuseries was first introduced as a way to show positive images of love in the Black community, and it has since expanded to different offerings like blacklove.com, the online series Couch Conversations, and the Black Love Summit. Created by Tommy and Codie Elaine Oliver, the Black Love brand has become one of the more popular brands that share authentic stories about love, relationships, and family while also sparking needed conversations in our community.

Over the weekend, they held their 6th annual Black Love Summit in Atlanta, Georgia, and it featured a variety of people like married couple and content creators Devale and Khadeen Ellis, singer Keri Hilson, and many more. xoNecole caught up with Codie to talk about the brand’s impact, social media’s role in how we show up in relationships, and her marriage to Tommy.

xoNecole: This past weekend was the 6th annual Black Love Summit in Atlanta, GA, and you had a variety of couples, from KJ Smith and Skyh Black, whose wedding recently went viral, to Slutty Vegan founder Pinky Cole and her husband Derrick Hayes. How did you go about choosing the couples for this year?

Codie Elaine Oliver: Well, I want to emphasize too that the Black Love Summit, we really try to focus on all of us and wherever we are. So whether you're single, whether you're dating, married, it is important for us to highlight, you know, married people with partners who are thriving individually and together. But also, you know, there's a lot of single folks on our panels, and we want to make sure that it's like a welcoming environment for all of us.

But as far as choosing the couples, I mean, we work hard to select speakers and talent who are transparent and vulnerable. We love people who, like, actually share candid experiences and stories online or with us. A lot of times, we know them, whether from our interviews with Black Love the docuseries or from our experiences. I say our, like me and Tommy, and so we know what they've been through.

We know the stories that they have to tell, and sometimes it's just as simple as like, ‘Man, I want more people to hear about this,’ and let's figure out what Black love experience you can be a part of so that you can share your journey.

(L-R) Shelah Marie, KJ Smith, and Egypt Sherrod.

Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images

xoN: It seems like the Black Love Summit is coming at the perfect time, too. We’ve seen countless celebrity couples call it quits this year, and with the recent revelations about Will and Jada Pinkett Smith's marriage, Black love has been questioned. What do you want to say to those people who may feel that Black love is unattainable?

CO: I will say that Black love starts from self-love. It starts from within, and we're all on that journey, whether we are talking about Will and Jada. Like, I mean, I have a lot of thoughts in terms of these are two people who have shared at length in their books and have been vulnerable, you know, with the press and what is the common thread is a lot of personal history, right? From their relationships to their parents to their romantic relationships from high school and beyond. I think they're a perfect example of, like, looking at the whole person and how we show up in all of our relationships.

And if we don't have or understand self-love and self-awareness, then at some point, okay, it'll catch up to us, and not to spend too much time on them. But I feel like what Jada has articulated is that we looked up and we realized that we had a lot of work to do on ourselves. We weren't sure where we wanted to be and whether we wanted to be together, but they've made decisions that are theirs to make.

But it answers your question, really, I mean, outside of just them, is that Black love starts with self-love, and the sooner we understand what we want, what we need, and how we want to show up in relationships, the stronger and better our relationships will be with the people that we choose to bring into our lives. And so we, as a brand and with the Black Love Summit, you know, this is the sixth one, we work very hard to try to create the content, the experiences, the opportunities to draw out that self-awareness and that conversation in our community that says like, how are you showing up?

You know, how are you showing up, and how are you understanding your wants and your needs in relationships? Alone, and then in your relationships.

"I will say that Black love starts from self-love. It starts from within, and we're all on that journey."

xoN: Do you and Tommy ever feel pressure to be preeminent examples of Black love? If so, how do you deal with it?

CO: Yeah, he would say no (laughs). Tommy does not succumb to pressure of any kind. I would say not really. Sure, I've felt it ‘cause it's kind of a natural thing. You know, you put yourself out there a little bit. You say you know a little something, which we have so many blueprints from doing over 200 interviews with couples. We have so many blueprints that, sure, people might assume that we have it all figured out. And so I try to be very clear and transparent at every turn, that I don't. We don't.

We're on this journey trying to learn from others, trying to take what works for us and leave the rest, and trying to show up as our best selves individually and together. And so there's a little bit of that pressure, but for the most part, we don't have time to really look at it that way. We’ve had three kids, we're just trying to do the best that we can for each other for them. And I think that's all that anybody can ask for.

xoN: With social media nowadays, there’s so many conversations about love and dating. You know, different standards one is supposed to have in regard to dating. I don't know if you saw the viral $200 date and the most recent, The Cheesecake Factory first date debacle. What do you think people are getting wrong about dating, and what do you think the Black Love Summit can address with that?

CO: Yeah, well, I haven't seen that The Cheesecake Factory one. So I'll definitely look into that. But, I think that the Black Love Summit, the Black Love brand, like, we work to encourage our community to create authentic connection, right? That takes a little bit of vulnerability, and that takes a little bit of grace. And I think that some people hear that right? Grace.

Well, I’m not gonna accept this. This, that, or the other thing, and it's like, know your boundaries, but also recognize that people are human. I mean, that's why I go back to, like, it starts with self-love, recognizing you may be meeting someone who has a lot of potential but maybe doesn't even know their full potential. Or maybe it wasn't cultivated by their parents. We're all on a journey.

And so, for me, I think that what people may be getting wrong about dating is that they're often looking for some sort of perfect package right away. And if you're not a.) asking the questions to get the information that you want, right, and you're not showing up vulnerably yourself, then you're not creating an environment to really get to know someone, you're just looking at the superficial. What do they do? What do they wear? What are their answers to basic questions, you know, are you in therapy? Have you ever been in therapy? What do you think of therapy? How is your relationship with your family? Why or why not? Even just that answer doesn't necessarily tell you anything. Why? Why this, why that? Really spending time like getting to know someone, really understanding why somebody wants to go on the $20 date versus the $500 date, right? Maybe whatever, maybe they just got paid, maybe they bout to get paid, but they really wanted to be with you.

And so understanding why someone's making the decisions that they're making is really important. And so I just think that that's where the grace comes in, right? So, you know, and I think that social media creates an environment where we make a lot of snap judgments. People say however they feel in one sentence or less, and then there's a lot of bandwagon likes on that thing. And then we start to think, oh, that's popular opinion, when really people are just scrolling and clicking and scrolling and clicking.

They not thinking about you and your date, whether it was $20 or $500. They just got a little opinion and keep it moving. So I think to that end, we let a lot of other voices in when we don't really need to. You know what's best for you, but you have to be offering the same vulnerability and an expectation setting so that you can get that in return.

"We let a lot of other voices in when we don't really need to. You know what's best for you, but you have to be offering the same vulnerability and an expectation setting so that you can get that in return."

Codie Elaine Oliver (L) and Tommy Oliver (R).

Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images

xoN: You’ve been married for eight years, so what would you say is the biggest thing you learned about doing life with another person?

CO: I mean, going back to that grace thing for sure. Like, you gon’ have to do it when you're together. So you might as well (laughs) start now and understand what that looks and feels like, but I mean, I always say like the one thing that I know for sure. From interviewing 200+ couples and being married eight years, is that the work required in marriage? Everyone says marriage is work, marriage is work, and I think a lot of us are like, what does that mean? What kind of work? Oh, that sounds hard. But it's the work that you're willing to do on yourself.

You know, somebody else might have a different opinion. But for me, that is what I see, and what I feel like unequivocally is the work. And so for me, it's, you know, deciding whether or not to be in therapy individually, maybe together, maybe your partner doesn't want to do it. So you know, it's deciding whether or not that's for you. It's recognizing when you might be wrong but you mad at them about something. It's recognizing when they might be wrong, but they're never gonna admit it, and you've got to decide how much it's worth to you to make it a fight or hold on to it. And so it's that inner work that they may not even see. But that's what's going to help you, help anyone, I think, stay partnered with someone for a long time.

xoN: What’s next for the Black Love brand?

CO: More content, really. I mean, we launched the Black Love docuseries in 2017 and 2018, we launched blacklove.com and the first Black Love Summit, and with blacklove.com came several digital series from Couch Conversations, which at that time was hosted by Devale and Khadeen Ellis. The most recent season was hosted by Ace Hood and Sheilah Marie, and we've done ladies' roundtables, men's roundtables, moms with coffee. We launched a podcast network with eight podcasts on it. And so more of all of that in more places because we just joined TikTok a year ago I mean, the world is expanding in terms of where and how we can consume content. And we want to do our best to be a source of value and positivity and light for our community, but also calling us on our stuff, right?

We want to be that place where when life is hard, because it is, we, Black Love, is a place you can turn for a good laugh, a smile, a heartwarming, you know, family moment because that's Black. All of that is Black love. But we also want to be able to challenge the way people think and say. There was a meme recently that said somebody's not calling you because they owe you an apology. We want to be able to bring up, like, calling people on their stuff, right? This is what love looks like. Showing up, doing self-work, giving people grace. And so what's next is really just creating more content and more opportunities to do that digitally, TV, film.

And that's what you'll see more. In addition to more apparel, because we had some very cute sweatshirts last year. We have more stuff coming this year and beyond.

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Featured image by Paras Griffin/Getty Images




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