How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
For newly-engaged couple Jaleesa and Eric, their mothers were the catalysts of their love story. Jaleesa had no idea that a woman she'd known as an 'aunt' for most of her life would be the common thread between her mom and her soon-to-be mother-in-law. One night in New York would be the beginning of a forever with a love that the Bronx native couldn't have ever imagined. It all started with her mother encouraging her to thank Eric's mother at the function they had gathered at to celebrate the life of a loved one. From there, his mother offered to connect Jaleesa with her son, Eric. "I jokingly noted that I lived in L.A. and that I’m trouble. She responded, 'Well then, y’all can be cousins.' She showed me a picture of Eric and I immediately said, 'That’s not my cousin,'" Jaleesa recalls.
Jaleesa might have joked that she was trouble, but in their very first interaction, Eric could tell there was something special there and there was an attraction at first sight. His interest was piqued from the very first FaceTime call. She would need a little more convincing, but after some strategic liking of her Instagram pics, the connection between the two was established from there. And a year into the relationship, the 29-year-old knew he had found the one in Jaleesa. So much so, that he popped the question on the night of their anniversary. "I was so nervous and anxious all day. Not because I wasn't sure if she would say yes, but because this is such a life-changing decision," he admits to xoNecole.
The Sony Sniper
During a photo shoot at the Brooklyn Bridge under the guise of it being a shoot to commemorate their first year together, Eric popped the question to the HBO Multicultural Marketing Manager. He continues, "We are taking pics naturally posing in our element then the photographer directs Jaleesa to face the bridge, and I'm hyping her up like, 'It's giving boss,' 'It's giving big dawg,' 'It's giving HBO,' 'It's giving executive,' and the last one, 'It's giving fiancée,' and when she turned around I was on one knee. And Ja being Ja, after she wiped her tears before she said yes, she says 'Okay, okay, let me hear your speech,' and I spoke from the heart."
Eric surprised Jaleesa for a second time that night by taking her to a rooftop lounge where her mother, close friends, and immediate family had gathered to celebrate them and the next chapter of their love. "I love him so much and I’m so blessed that I get to spend my life with my life partner," Jaleesa affirms.
In this installment of How We Met, Jaleesa and Eric talk about how they met, courtship, and important lessons they've learned in love.
The Sony Sniper
How They Met
Jaleesa: I love this story. My mother and Eric’s mother have a mutual friend and she’s been an 'aunt' to me most of my life. However, their paths have never really crossed because they are in separate friend groups. For the first time, the friend groups came together to support my aunt during a difficult time in her life. I was there and at the end of the night, my mother said we should say thank you to Eric’s mom. Somehow [Eric's mom and I] ended up talking and laughing together, and she mentioned she had a son she wanted to put me on with. She FaceTimed him from my phone, but the reception was bad.
He texted me that evening to ask who it was and I told him “Hey Eric. It's Jaleesa. Your mother is trying to put you on, but I told her that I’m trouble.” He responded “What kind of trouble?” I loved the flirty response. I ended up going back to L.A. a few days later, and we didn’t get to meet in person. We spent the first month or so getting to know each other via FaceTime and phone calls. One day he said, "I have to come and see my baby." He flew to L.A., the rest was history, and now we’re engaged!
Eric: I believe it was a Thursday night. So I’m home that night watching TV, probably a basketball game. So I get a FaceTime call from my mother and when I pick up she's saying something to me but I can't really hear her because they’re turnt up over there. But I do hear her say, 'Hold on,' and she puts an unfamiliar face in the camera (Jaleesa) but the service is terrible so I can’t really see or hear what's going on. They then call from what I'm guessing was Jaleesa’s phone and it's the same thing, I can’t really see or hear anything but I was able to get a good enough view of Jaleesa to see that she was an attractive woman.
Later that night, I text that same number asking, "Who’s this?” Jaleesa states her name talking bout how my mom was tryna put me on but she's trouble and the slick talker that I am, I reply back and say, “What kind of trouble?” And I must say that was probably the line that reeled her in. After that night, we didn't speak for about two or three days and I’ll be honest I felt a little way so I went into my bag of tricks and searched for her Instagram, and luckily her IG handle is her actual name. I liked a few pics to get her attention and the next day I got a text from Jaleesa and the rest is history.
Jaleesa: When his mom showed me his photo, I was like Whew, this man is fine. My fiancé is fine. He has that bad boy look though. He’s 6’2'' and tatted up everywhere, so at first, I just thought he’d be someone I could entertain whenever I came to New York. I didn’t expect him to be such a genuinely good and loving man.
Eric: Like I said when I first saw her on Facetime, I thought she was attractive and I must say from that little 30-45 minute text exchange I felt like we had a little vibe going but I didn’t expect us to be where we are now.
Jaleesa: Eric flew to Los Angeles for the weekend. It was our first time meeting. My stomach was in knots. I thought I would throw up. I was so nervous but when I saw his face, all my nerves went away and I knew. This is my baby and the first thing I did was kiss him…very passionately. He planned an entire weekend for us. He never asked me once, “What are you into? What kind of food do you like?” He flew in from New York not knowing much about L.A. and planned a weekend of activities that consisted of a hike in Malibu, a fun activity at the Break Room, we did the Museum of Illusions, and a fancy rooftop dinner. It was beautiful. A man with purpose!
Eric: Our first date was a whole weekend and it was actually our first time seeing each other in person. I flew to L.A. and had a whole weekend planned for my baby and she ain’t even know it. She probably thought I was a corny dude that was just coming to shack up for the weekend but I had to set the tone and let her know that I didn’t come to play. The vibe from start to finish was unmatched and I have never felt anything like it before in my life. When the weekend ended, I dreaded having to go back to New York.
"I flew to L.A. and had a whole weekend planned for my baby and she ain’t even know it. I had to set the tone and let her know that I didn’t come to play. The vibe from start to finish was unmatched and I have never felt anything like it before in my life. When the weekend ended, I dreaded having to go back to New York."
Getting to Know Each Other
Jaleesa: As crazy as it sounds, I truly believe we fell in love during that month of courtship, before we even physically met. We spent our first weekend together and everything felt so natural. Eric was a gentleman from the beginning and extremely intentional. He’d surprise me with flowers and made every effort to show me he wasn’t playing about me. At the end of our first weekend, he told me it wouldn’t take him six months to figure out what he wanted to do with this and basically told me he was in love with me. I told him I felt the same and we’ve been committed ever since.
Eric: I'm going to give it to y’all raw right now. I don’t remember exactly what she said but the nature of the conversation led to an 'Okay, what is this' type of thing, or like, 'Are we dating or exclusive or what?' Ja wanted to know straight up. I told her, “I thought the weekend we spent made that pretty clear.” And that's all that needed to be said.
Jaleesa: Eric left no room for anyone else. There’s just something about a man with purpose who is confident and romantic and who treats you the way you deserve to be treated. With Eric, I didn’t have to compromise. He gave me the world. He spoiled me and was extremely romantic. He is still very romantic. I don’t think I’ve ever been told where we’re going. He’s the “get dressed and be ready by 8” type of man and I love it. Choosing to be committed to him was a very easy choice. I was confident that there was no other man for me. That I truly had found my life partner.
I’ve spent a lot of time working on myself. On my relationship with God and on loving myself. I know what love feels like. I knew it was love when it felt exactly how I love myself. Nothing less.
Eric: Even from 3,000 miles away Ja was quote-unquote "applying pressure" in a way that I haven’t seen or felt before and when I say 'applying pressure,' I don’t mean she was pressuring me into a relationship, she was just simply setting the bar high. I was realizing that Jaleesa was the first person I wanted to speak to when I woke up and the last person I wanted to talk to before I went to sleep. And anytime in-between where we didn’t speak, which was very rare, I was wondering what she's doing, where she is, and why she isn’t texting me.
"As crazy as it sounds, I truly believe we fell in love during that month of courtship, before we even physically met. We spent our first weekend together and everything felt so natural. At the end of our first weekend, he told me it wouldn’t take him six months to figure out what he wanted to do with this and basically told me he was in love with me. I told him I felt the same and we’ve been committed ever since."
Jaleesa: His spirit. Eric is one of the most loving, selfless, and gentle people I’ve ever come across. He is a genuinely good person with pure intentions. I love that about him. I also LOVE his voice. Lord. Those voice notes in the beginning really did something to me.
Eric: Jaleesa is very intentional with everything that she does but especially in regards to our relationship and her sense of humor matches mine. I tell people we are the real-life Martin and Gina from top to bottom.
Lessons in Self-Love
Jaleesa: Whew, I am still learning about the patience and grace that you have to give yourself through this relationship. I’ve spent so much time working on myself as a woman that I got into this relationship and thought I had all the answers. I don’t. I make mistakes. I still have things I have to unpack and unlearn. It’s very important to be patient with yourself and give yourself grace. Just because you know the type of relationship you want to have, and you may even have the tools to build a healthy, loving, relationship - that doesn’t mean that you know how to. That doesn’t mean you know how to apply those tools and so the relationship requires a great deal of self-awareness and patience.
Eric: I'm the type of person that will give you the shirt off my back and do anything in my power to help someone, especially if I love them but Jaleesa is continuously preaching self-love and how I need to put myself first more. Take more days off. Don’t pick up anyone's workload when they fall short. She is always telling me how she wishes I could just stay home and lay around and relax because I work so hard and often go out of my way to help the people closest to me, her included. Through our relationship, I’m learning how important it is to put myself first and what self-care looks like.
Jaleesa: Family and friendship are extremely important to both of us. We value family time and are very mindful about maintaining the relationships that are close to us. Loyalty. Infidelity is a deal-breaker for both of us and it's not something we’ll ever compromise on. For both of us, your word is important. That also comes from how we grew up. I grew up in the South Bronx and Eric is from Hollis. Your word is everything.
Eric: I like to make sure that no matter what we have going on we always, always, always make time for family even if we aren’t in the best of moods to do so. Family is everything. Another one is to say what you mean and mean what you say, then stand on it, and never compromise your character and who you are for anything. Stay sucka-free.
Jaleesa: We go to therapy every week and that’s truly been a game-changer for us in helping us navigate difficult conversations and unpack things from our past that I’m not sure we’d be capable of doing on our own. I’d say for me I really had to, and I am still learning how to, be more vulnerable and trusting. I always felt I deserved this type of love, but that doesn’t mean when it came into my arms I was the most receptive to it. I’ve had to get rid of that toughness and work on being more open and expressive and allowing my partner to see all of me and trust that he would love and support me through it. A healthy, stable, fulfilling relationship is built off trust, communication, and patience. You have to lead with love and can’t assume the worst of a person.
Eric: Therapy is extremely helpful. Shoutout to our therapist, that's my dog. Some bad behavior I had to unlearn was being more aware of how I move and set boundaries with women. I realized, in the beginning, that I was doing things that wouldn’t be okay based on the boundaries of our relationship and based on what we were trying to build, and still in building mode wasn’t fair to Jaleesa.
"I always felt I deserved this type of love, but that doesn’t mean when it came into my arms I was the most receptive to it. I’ve had to get rid of that toughness and work on being more open and expressive and allowing my partner to see all of me and trust that he would love and support me through it. A healthy, stable, fulfilling relationship is built off trust, communication, and patience. You have to lead with love and can’t assume the worst of a person."
Lessons in Love
Jaleesa: I would say the most important thing that I’ve learned is that people that love you will still disappoint you and that doesn’t change the fact that they love you. My fiancé is an AMAZING man. Even the amazing men just do stupid things sometimes. That’s life. But what matters is that he doesn’t do anything that compromises my love for myself, the boundaries of our relationship, or my values. So when he makes mistakes I always check and say, “Is this a mistake or is this a reflection of his character?” I think it's very important to accept that people you love are not perfect and that you have to be able to work together and really be a team. I make mistakes every day too. I’m no different. Therapy too. Therapy really helps.
Eric: I never liked to look at love as a job but during this time with Ja, I’ve realized that loving someone unconditionally is a job because in our cases we fell in love before we even knew everything about each other or knew each other's flaws so we’re pretty much learning how to love unconditionally on the fly. And I feel like that's the most beautiful and at times that can also be the most stressful part of our relationship but we are a team and we always find a way to get to some common ground.
For more of Jaleesa, follow her on Instagram.
Featured image by Kai Byrd, courtesy of Jaleesa Diaz
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Many have wondered if one time is ever enough to see Queen Bey. Some argue yes. However, many of us on the opposite end of the spectrum, including myself, would disagree. Beyoncé's "Renaissance World Tour" is a universal yet varying experience for everyone who attends. In the words of Oprah Winfrey, the concert is "transcendent." For millennials, we have over two decades of her catalog that has served as the soundtrack for many of our lives and painted a personal portrait of our most coveted thoughts. Her music provides mental clarity and self-expression by serving as a universal language that has united fans from all walks of life through community, fashion, self-acceptance, and healing.
With a multi-layered approach to her artistry, just as she did on that winter day in December 2013 with the infamous digital drop of her self-titled album, she changed the game again on February 1, 2023, when she announced her world tour in support of Renaissance, her seventh studio album. Her cultural impact set the internet ablaze, with everyone trying to gather their coins, barter for presale codes, and figure out which cities to attend. The group chats were lit, and the Beyhive was stressed trying to get their hands on tickets.
Photo courtesy of Dontaira Terrell
Unfortunately, I was in that number. As the concert dates passed by and the one in my city drawing near all roads led to disappointment. With time ticking on the day of the Miami show and less than two hours to spare, my wallet bit the bullet, and I purchased three last-minute tickets, costing roughly $700.00 a piece (including fees) for me, my 9-year-old and 16-year-old nieces in Section 121 at the Hard Rock Stadium. With 10 minutes before showtime, we eagerly awaited the Queen to take the stage. A sea of metallic fringes, cowboy hats, disco fans, and western boots were in full effect and filled the entire stadium.
As the lights dimmed, a flood of emotions instantly overtook my body. It continued with each note she belted, along with nearly 50,000 roaring fans. The reverberating sound of the music through the stadium transported me from one era of my life to the next. As a teen girl in her bedroom daydreaming about her first love to blossoming into an unapologetic Black woman who is still on a road of self-discovery while learning to lean into the power anthem of "You won't break my soul." For over two hours, and with each set, I felt joy, love, peace, and a commanderie with fellow concertgoers. It was therapeutic as I danced like no one was watching and sang as if I were alone in my bathroom mirror.
There were no bars held, and I realized at that moment, "Nobody can judge me but me." The "Renaissance World Tour" proved to be so vast, and my Black girl joy was re-invigorated. It was magnetic and liberating, and I had to attend again, but this time, I needed to be up close and personal; I needed to be on the floor. In the days that passed, I watched more social media clips in different cities and asked myself if I would really splurge again to attend another Renaissance show.
Photo courtesy of Dontaira Terrell
After all, this would be my thirteenth time (maybe more because I lost count) seeing Beyoncé live, whether she was on tour with Destiny's Child, as a solo artist, or doing a live appearance. I contemplated for a while, but it worked itself out on its own. I was gifted two tickets and the next thing I knew, I was off to LA to attend another Renaissance show with floor seats at SoFi Stadium during Beyonce's 42nd birthday weekend! This time, things were different: no kids were allowed. It was adults only this go round.
Although the energy at the Miami and Los Angeles shows was empowering, infectious, and a celebration of life, happiness, and identity, they each provided their own unique experience. However, both concerts were what I needed for my well-being, leaving me with sore feet from dancing the night away, on vocal rest for the next few days from screaming at the top of my lungs, and on an indefinite high on life.
My introduction and love for Beyoncé began in 1996, while my older sister lived in Houston, TX, right before Bey hit the scene in 1998 with "No, No, No" as a budding R&B member. Her evolution twenty-seven years later as an international superstar and into womanhood has been an incredible journey to witness. As Mrs. Carter reminds each of us in the audience every night before the curtain closes, "I want you to remember this moment, where you're standing, who you came with, and take it with you. I hope you feel inspired."
I truly felt inspired, so thank you, Queen Bey. You awakened my inner child, and I will definitely remember these moments and take them with me.
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Feature image by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood