In xoNecole's Our First Year series, we take an in-depth look at love and relationships between couples with an emphasis on what their first year of marriage was like.
Longtime loves Mychael and Rhonda met as college students at the University of Michigan, started dating in April 2007, and have been truly, madly, deeply in love ever since. Her first impression had everything to do with his height, as he towered over her at 6'7''. According to her, he had "the confidence and the swag to match." According to him, she was "the most beautiful person he had ever seen."
In addition to a shared alma mater and an affinity for the Michigan Fight Song (it was a song sang by guests during their 2013 nuptials!), Rhonda and Mychael, whom she affectionately calls Myke, also dedicated significant time to color the world with their mark in the form of travel. In the years following their wedding, they went to Napa Valley, New York, Cape Town, Amsterdam, and more.
This year marks six years in the game for Rhonda and Mychael as husband and wife, and 12 years altogether. And as of January, they've welcomed a new addition to their family, a beautiful baby girl. "We're learning to navigate what it means to be a couple for over 10+ years and what that looks like," Rhonda explained. "What do we want our legacy to be? What do we want our relationship to look like with a child?"
In this installment of xoNecole's Our First Year, Rhonda and Mychael breakdown how they knew they were the one, love languages, and their mentors in marriage. Here's their story:
How did you know she/he was the one? Did you approach your courtship as if marriage was going to be the natural next step?
Mychael: I knew Rhonda was the one immediately and I was very direct in expressing this to her. Her being tall, gorgeous, intelligent, driven, family-oriented, charismatic, and genuinely fun (the list can go on) were qualities that I hoped for in a significant other. Because of this, I was comfortable with voicing that I love her after a few weeks of dating and then approached our courtship as if marriage was inevitable.
Rhonda: I knew Mychael was the one because he was very upfront and direct about our relationship, he didn't play games and was very confident when approaching me. I've never had to question his affection or love for me. Initially, I didn't approach our courtship as if marriage was the natural next step because we were so young (I was 19, he was 18) but as the years progressed, I couldn't imagine being with anyone else.
Courtesy of Mychael & Rhonda
"I was comfortable with voicing that I love her after a few weeks of dating and then approached our courtship as if marriage was inevitable."
What was your biggest fear walking into marriage? How did you let go of those fears to enter into a union and that commitment you saw for one another?
Rhonda: My biggest fear was that we would fall into a rut and not keep the excitement and fun we had while dating. I let go of those fears through communicating with Myke and both of us agreeing that we never wanted to stop having fun together, whether we were traveling the world or sitting on the couch eating take out for the fifth day in a row.
Mychael: My biggest fear entering into marriage was the fear of the unknown. I had never been married before and dedicated myself to something as long term and permanent as marriage. Would I be the perfect husband? Would I be the perfect father? Would I be the perfect spiritual leader for my family? However, after dating for 6 years, the one thing I did know is that I loved this woman and that we would continue to grow together. Whether or not our marriage is actually perfect to the world, it's comforting to have faith that in hindsight, our marriage will be perfect for us.
What were some of the early challenges that came with merging your lives together under one roof? What was the thing you learned you liked most about your partner, and the thing you noticed you liked the least?
Mychael: My biggest challenge that came with merging our lives together was me being an extrovert and my wife being an introvert. Spending full weekends in the house watching movies and eating takeout while enjoying our personal time without our phones, was an adjustment for me. But I understood that marriage would involve compromises, and I found that I've enjoyed creating our own traditions and habits together.
I like most that Rhonda is willing to support and fight for me no matter what. Life comes with ups and downs, and Rhonda has been there in my corner through any and every adversity. The thing I like the least is her propensity to overthink things and overstress.
"I like to believe that I'm easy like Sunday morning...my cool breeze will always be good for her."
Rhonda: Some of the early challenges that came were often as a result of unspoken expectations. For example, the first few years of marriage, Myke worked at a different company and put in 60+ hour work weeks. It was difficult for me to come home and not have the opportunity to hang out with him because he was working so hard in the evening and up so early in the morning. I think this is where we started implementing our Sunday Funday of Nothingness where after church, we do nothing but hang out with each other at home, watch TV, and snack on any and everything! It was also helpful that we discovered for both of us, quality time was one of our love languages so to have that in common and know that we needed that from each other was important.
As a result of marriage, I learned that I loved Myke's enthusiasm and passion for life and people. When Myke is excited about something, you will know! This has also been difficult for me because when he's excited at 9am for the weekend, I'm not able to always share in his enthusiasm. Additionally, I'm not as vocal about my feelings so it can be difficult for me to share in his enthusiasm or passion even though I feel the same way.
How did you navigate through one another’s baggage individually and as a couple? What were some bad behaviors you had to unlearn in order to learn how to have a healthier, more stable and fulfilling marriage?
Mychael: Empathy helped me navigate through any of our baggage. I was fully aware of any baggage she brought but it was not a deterrent to us growing together. One bad behavior I had to unlearn was self-gratification (i.e. doing things I like to do when I want to do them) and by compromising with my wife, it made me and my spouse happier and as a result, made situations better. Empathy is a virtue and having faith and knowing that God is on our side alleviates any stresses that we have. The stressors will always be minor, so keep moving forward.
Rhonda: We've been together for so long that any baggage that we brought into the relationship was probably a result of each other (laughs). Some bad behaviors that I had to unlearn was that Myke is a natural provider and nurturer and me leaning on him for support in any way does not negate my independence as a woman. It's me and him versus any issue that arises not me vs. him vs. the issue. We're a team and we have to tackle any challenges as a team.
Courtesy of Mychael & Rhonda
"Empathy is a virtue and having faith and knowing that God is on our side alleviates any stresses that we have. The stressors will always be minor, so keep moving forward."
What was it like learning to speak each other’s love language? Was it easy to become fluent and well-versed right away or did it take time to learn how the other gives and receives love?
Rhonda: It was not easy for me to speak his main love languages of touch and words of affirmation. I'm an introvert and the last person to show any physical form of affection to anyone but can always notice a difference in him when he receives his love language. It's still something I have to remind myself to do on occasion because it doesn't come naturally to me but I love seeing him feel loved so it's worth it.
Mychael: It was easy because we actively sought ways to satisfy one another and because of that, I was able to find that the things that made her feel loved may be slightly different than mine. Because I was able to find that knowledge, it made it easier for me to speak her love language, acts of service, properly.
Who is that person you call when you need to confide in someone about happenings in your marriage or if you need some sage advice? Is there anyone that was your go-to person during your first year of marriage? Why or why not?
Mychael: If there was anyone, it would be my brother-in-law, Leon. I often didn't confide in people because my marriage is between me, Rhonda, and God. Additionally, every marriage is different so I struggled with confiding in others because their marriage is different than ours.
Rhonda: I have a few go-to friends that are in amazing relationships of their own that I feel comfortable venting about small issues (i.e. Myke didn't wash the dishes or pick up his socks) but for bigger issues, it's important for us to talk to each other first and then when needed, our therapist. We started seeing therapists together this year and it has been helpful to have someone who doesn't know anything about us talk us through any major issues that may arise as well as remain confidential.
Courtesy of Mychael & Rhonda
You’ve been married for almost six years, but what’s the best advice that you’ve received about marriage during your first year?
Mychael: As a man, you're not here to satisfy yourself...you're put on this earth to satisfy your family. And because you are the head of that family, you will ultimately be satisfied as well.
Rhonda: Marriage is a humbling experience. Sometimes you have to apologize when you don't feel like it, be vulnerable when you're scared, or grow when it's uncomfortable. However when you're with the right person, as I'm so blessed to be, it's worth every moment!
Featured image courtesy of Mychael & Rhonda.
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On set inside of a mid-city Los Angeles studio, it’s all eyes on Chlöe. She slightly shifts her body against a dark backdrop amidst camera clicks and whirs, giving a seductive pout here, and piercing eye contact there. Her chocolate locs are adorned with a few jewels that she requested to spice up the look, and on her shoulders rests a jeweled piece that she asked to be turned around to better showcase her neck (“I feel a bit old,” she said of the original direction). Her shapely figure is tucked into a strapless bodysuit with a deep v-neck that complements her décolletage.
Though subtle, her quiet wardrobe directives give the air of a woman who’s been here before, and certainly knows what she’s doing. At 24 years young, she’s a “Bossy” chick in training— one who’s politely unapologetic and learning the power of her own voice.
“I'm hesitant sometimes to truly speak my mind and speak up for myself and what I believe,” she later confessed to me a couple of weeks after the photoshoot. “It's always scary for me, but now I'm realizing that I have to, in order to gain respect as a Black woman— a young Black woman— who's still navigating who she is. And you know, I'm realizing that closed mouths don't get fed. And if I keep my mouth shut just because I'm afraid of what people's opinions of me will be or turn into, then that's not any way to live.”
For Chlöe, the journey into womanhood is about embracing who she is, without succumbing to the perceptions of what others think of her. From the waist up she’s everything you’d imagine. A gorgeous goddess with the kind of sex appeal that some work hard to embrace but fail to exude. But unbeknownst to anyone not on set, her bottom half is covered by a white robe, surprising coming from the girl who boasts “'Cause my booty so big, Lord, have mercy” on her first hit single “Have Mercy.”
But that’s the beauty of Chlöe. There’s more to her than meets the eye. More than what a few sensual photos sprinkled throughout an Instagram feed could ever tell you. Just like the photo-framing illusion of her portrayed from the waist up, what we know about the songstress is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more beneath the surface.
Some hours later Chlöe leans back in a high chair as her locs are transformed from a formal updo to a seemingly Basquiat-inspired one. It’s pure art, and at her request, no wigs are a part of the day’s ensemble. She’s fully embracing her natural hair, a decision that wasn’t always a socially accepted one.
In the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, (Mableton, to be exact) Chlöe began to explore the foundation of her self-image. At an early age she and her younger sister, Halle, demonstrated a vocal prowess and knack for being in front of the camera that caught their parents’ attention. Soon after, they were sent on a parade of local talent shows and auditions, and eventually broke into the digital space with song covers on YouTube.
It was during these early years that Chlöe first learned that the entertainment industry could be unforgiving to those who didn’t fit a particular beauty standard. Despite the then three-year-old snagging a role as the younger version of Beyoncé’s character, Lilly, in Fighting Temptations, casting agents requested that her natural locs be exchanged for more Eurocentric tresses. Ironic, considering that growing up Chlöe saw her hair as no different than that of her peers. “I remember specifically in pre-K we had to do self-portraits and I drew myself with a regular straight ponytail, like how I would put my locs in a ponytail,” she says. “I just never saw myself any different.”
Chlöe would also learn the true meaning of a phrase that would later become an affirmation posted on her bedroom mirror: “Don’t Let the World Dim Your Light.” After attempting to wear wigs to fit in, the Bailey sisters instead chose to rock their locs with pride, which undoubtedly cost them casting roles. Yet they would have the last laugh when making headlines as the “Teen Dreadlocked Duo” who landed a million-dollar contract with Parkwood Entertainment, and the coveted opportunity to be groomed under the tutelage of a world-renowned superstar.
Credit: Derek Blanks
While that could be the end of a beautiful fairytale of self-empowerment, the reality is that it’s just the beginning of the story of her evolution. For most girls, the transition into womanhood takes place in the comfort of their own worlds, often limited to the number of people they allow to have access to them. But for Chlöe, it’s happening in front of millions of critiquing eyes just waiting for an opportunity to either uplift or dissect her through unwarranted commentary.
Many in her position wouldn’t be able to take that kind of pressure. But Chlöe is handling it with grace. “I feel like all of us as humans, we have the right to interpret things how we want,” she says. “I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
Chlöe isn’t the first artist to receive criticism for her carnal content, and she certainly won’t be the last. In 2010, Ciara writhed and rode her way to banishment on BET when the then 24-year-old released her video for “Ride.” In 2006, 25-year-old Beyoncé received backlash for “Déjà Vu."
"I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
So much so that over 5,000 fans signed an online petition demanding that her label re-shoot the video because it was “too sexual.” Even 27-year-old Janet didn’t escape critical headlines when she shed her image of innocence for a more risqué appearance with the 1993 release of janet.
It’s almost as if public reproach is a rite of passage for young Black women R&B singers on the road to stardom. Good girls seemingly “go bad” whenever they embrace the depths of their femininity, and fans only like you on top figuratively. But Chlöe has learned not to bow down to other people’s opinions, but to boss up and control the narrative. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. If sex appeal is her weapon, she wields it well.
On set, Chlöe exudes the energy of Aphrodite in an apple red, off-shoulder dress with a sexy high split. In between shots, she mouths the lyrics to Yebba’s “Boomerang” as it echoes throughout the space in steady repetition at my recommendation. The hour grows late, yet Chlöe is heating things up as eyes stare in deep mesmerization of the girl on fire.
Credit: Derek Blanks
Through music, she explores the depths of her being, a journey that seems to be, at its foundation, rooted in self-discovery. Whereas their debut album The Kids Are Alright (2018) boasts a young Chloe x Halle empowering their generation to embrace who they are while finding their place in the world, their second album Ungodly Hour (2020) shows the Bailey sisters shedding the veil of innocence for a more unapologetic bravado.
What fans looked forward to seeing is who Chlöe shows herself to be on her debut solo album In Pieces. In an interview with PEOPLE, she confesses that releasing her first project without her sister was “scary.” "It was a moment of self-doubt where I was like, 'Can I do this without my sister?’”
Chlöe has never been shy about sharing her insecurities or her vulnerabilities, all of which are laced throughout the 14-track album. “I want people to have fun when they listen to it and to just realize that they're not alone and it's okay to be vulnerable and raw and open because none of us are perfect; we're all far from it. And I think it's healing when we all admit to that instead of putting up a facade.”
The gift of time has given the self-professed “big lover girl” more encounters with romance and heartbreak. Love songs once sung for their beautiful riffs and melodies become more than just abstract lyrics and are replaced by real-life experiences, which she tells me is definitely in the music.
In her single “Pray It Away,” for example, she contemplates going to God for healing instead of going at her ex-lover for revenge for his infidelities. “With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable,” she says. “I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
Has Chlöe been in love? That still remains to be said. Of course, she’s been linked to a few potential baes, but dating in the digital age isn’t as easy as a double tap or drop of a heart-eyes emoji. It requires a level of trust and vulnerability that’s hard to earn, and easy to mishandle. To let her guard down means to potentially set herself up for disappointment. “It’s difficult dating right now, honestly, because you really have to kind of keep your guard up and pay attention to who's really there for you. And you know, I'm such an affectionate person and I love hard.
"So when I meet the one person that I really, really am into, it's hard for me to see any others and I get attached pretty easily. And you know, I don't know, it's…it's a scary thing.”
Credit: Derek Blanks
“With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable. I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
While broken hearts yield good music (queue Adele), what’s in Chlöe’s prayer is the desire to be happy. What does that look like? Well, she’s still figuring that out herself. “Honestly, I'm the type of person who I don't truly learn unless I experience it. So it's like I can view and watch my parents and watch the loving relationships that I see in my life and be like, ‘Oh, I want that. I would love to have that.’ But then I also have to experience [love] on my own and see what my flaws or my faults might be or see what my good things about myself are. I feel like it's really all about self-reflection. And even though our base is our family and that's our foundation, we are still our own individuals and we have to find out specifically the things about ourselves that may be different from what we saw from our parents when we were growing up.”
Her ideal beau, she tells me, is someone she can feel safe to be her fun, goofy self with, but who also gives her the space to be the boss chick chasing her dreams. A man who understands that just because the world compliments her doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear those words from his lips or feel it in his touch. A bonus if he shows up on set after a long hard day of work with vegan cinnamon rolls. You know, the basic necessities. “I like whoever I'm with to constantly tell me they love me and that I look beautiful because I do the same. I am a very mushy person, and if I see something or you look good, I will never shy away from saying it out loud. And I want whoever I'm with to do the same, be very vocal. Tell me that you love me. Tell me what you love about me because I'm doing the same for you because that's just the person I am.”
Until she meets her match she’s married to the game, and for now, that seems to be perfect matrimony.
Credit: Derek Blanks
On stage at the 2021 American Music Awards, Chlöe solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with. It was a full-circle moment. In 2012, bright-eyed and baby-faced Chloe and Halle would walk onto the set of The Ellen Degeneres Show and blow the audience away as they bellowed out their future mentor’s song. Ellen would present the sisters with tickets to attend the AMAs, assuring them that they would be back and had a promising future. Nine years later, Chlöe descends from the sky cloaked in a snow-white cape and matching midriff-baring bodysuit for her debut performance. It’s the first time she’s graced the stage of the very award show that she was once an audience member of.
As she shakes and shimmies and boom kack kacks out her eight counts, it’s clear that she’s in her element. Just like her VMA performance a couple of months prior, and the many more stages she’ll continue to grace, she brings an energy that has earned her comparisons to the beloved Queen Bey herself. An honorable statement, considering few R&B songstresses are getting accolades for their entertainment capabilities. It’s on these very stages, in front of hundreds of astonished eyes and millions more glued to their televisions at home, that she tells me she feels most sexy. Powerful, even.
But off stage, it’s a different story.
It’s more than just the commentary about her image and media-flamed rumors that get to her. Mentally, she’s in competition with herself. The desire to be the best burns at the back of her mind with every performance, every production, and every time she steps into the booth. Before, she could share the weight of this burden with her sister. Being a part of a duo meant she could turn to Halle for quiet confirmation and encouragement without a word being exchanged. But lately stepping on the stage means stepping out on her own. And despite being a breathtaking, five-time Grammy-nominated star, Chlöe doesn’t escape the reality that sometimes we can be our own worst critics.
Over the last year, she’s been coming to terms with who she is on her own while overcoming the fear of failing to become who she’s destined to be. While the world waits to see how Chlöe wins, the real triumph is in every day that she chooses herself and continues to walk in her purpose. “I don't really have anything all figured out, honestly. But what I try to do, a lot of prayer. I talk to God more and I just try to do things that calm my mind down and just breathe.”
To whom much is given, much will be required. She’s been chosen to walk this path for a reason. Once she fully embraces that everything she’s meant to be is already inside of her, she’ll be an unstoppable force. “My grandma, Elizabeth, she just passed away and my middle name is her [first] name. So I feel like I truly have a responsibility to live up to her legacy that she's left on this earth. I hope I can do that.”
There’s no doubt that she will. With a role in The Fighting Temptations at three years old, a million-dollar record deal, a main role on five seasons of Grown-ish, five Grammy nominations, a number one solo record in Urban and Rhythmic Radio, a debut solo album, and starring roles in recently released movies Praise Thisand Swarm (just to name a few), Chlöe’s certainly already made her mark, and she’s just getting started.
Photographer & Creative Director: Derek Blanks
Executive Producer: Necole Kane
Co-Executive Producer: EJ Jamele
Producer: Erica Turnbull
Digitech: Chris Keller
DP: Alex Nikishin
Gaffer: Simeon Mihaylov
Photo Assistant: Chris Paschal
2nd Photo Assistant: Tyler Umprey
Features Editor: Kiah McBride
Special Projects: Tyeal Howell
Hair: Malcolm Marquez
Makeup: Yolonda Frederick
Fashion Styling: Ashley Sean Thomas
For More: Cover Story: Issa Rae Comes Full Circle
Singer and actress Halle Bailey caused quite a commotion online last January for being romantically linked to rapper Darryl Granberry Jr., also known as DDG, after the pair were spotted hanging out.
The shockwaves only grew stronger when they confirmed their relationship following Granberry's birthday post to Bailey in March 2022. Although the couple fully displayed their love by sharing glimpses of their relationship on social media and attending red-carpet events together, their romance would hit a snag in February of this year when fans noticed that Granberry unfollowed Bailey on Instagram and removed any traces of her on his page.
In addition to those actions, Granberry would write the cryptic tweet, "All these girls the same ain't no wayy." After receiving backlash from Bailey's fans and her sister--who ultimately recanted her statements, Granberry would confirm that the pair were still together and had never broken up. Since then, Bailey and Granberry have been avoiding controversy and living a normal life.
On April 24, during an interview with Vogue magazine, Bailey is revealing details about her relationship with Granberry and how challenging it is to balance fame and love while promoting her upcoming projects, The Little Mermaidand The Color Purple.
Halle On Her Romance With DDG
In the discussion, the 23-year-old expressed that her relationship with Granberry was the first time she had experienced a "deep love" for anybody outside of her family.
Bailey added that although love may be scary for most people due to the uncertainty that comes with it, she enjoys it because it's something she's "supposed to be going through in womanhood."
"Experiencing deep love for the first time in my life is something I feel has opened a whole new world for me creatively. What it feels like to love someone other than your family, like somebody you may not have known two years ago but now they're the center of your world," she says while describing her relationship with DDG. "I like all of the scary feelings that come with that. I like the suspense, the not knowing what's going to happen, and I feel like that's what I'm supposed to be going through in womanhood."
Halle On The Struggles With Fame And Being In Love
Later, the Grown-ish star mentioned the one downside of her relationship with Granberry. It includes the couple's celebrity status and the lack of privacy they have within their relationship, especially now with the highly anticipated films that Bailey is starring in.
"It's also deeply sacred. There's a lot of eyes on me now, especially with what's to come. And sometimes I wish I didn't have so many eyes on me, especially experiencing something like this for the first time," she explains.
To date, Bailey and Granberry have kept their relationship private by rarely sharing posts of each other online, leaving many to believe whatever they want.
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Feature image by Amy Sussman/Getty Images