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.
Take one look at Skylar Marshai's Instagram feed and you'll see all of her loves meeting in the most exquisite symphony of visual pleasure. Chances are, you're captivated by her aesthetic, her knack for storytelling, and her luxurious travel excursions around the world. What you'll also notice is the man behind the lens, her beau Temi Ibisanmi.
As a creative duo and an embodiment of Black love, Skylar Marshai and Temi have effortlessly racked up miles as they've made their way across the globe, creating memories in Hawaii, Morocco, Barbados, Italy, and Mexico to name a few. For the couple, travel has acted like a love language and a cornerstone of their relationship. In just a year, Skylar and Temi have managed to give so much of the world to each other, undoubtedly an ode to the one-of-a-kind love they've found. But don't get it twisted, Skylar worked hard for her love story.
Courtesy of Skylar Marshai
Just two years ago, Skylar was featured in a conversation with content creator Bobo Matjila. In the video interview, the two chatted about Skylar's impressive trajectory from fashion student to entrepreneur as the designer behind the lingerie brand As You Are Intimates. After broaching the subject of her love life, the then 21-year-old shared, "It would be nice to see what this Skylar looks like in a relationship because I know I shed off the immaturities of my 18-year-old self. There's still certain things about me that I know I need to tweak but I can't do that unless I'm in a relationship, going back and forth, sharing parts of myself and being faced with them."
Little did she know, she'd soon meet the love of her life, a love her time alone had prepared for. When Temi met Skylar, it was through DMs, and at the time, there were several states separating them. What bridged the distance was their instant virtual connection. While Skylar was unsure if a relationship was what she wanted, Temi was steadfast in his pursuit, knowing that there was something special about her. What would solidify their union and quiet any doubt was their official first date a month later. The rest of which is history and they've got the passport stamps to prove it.
In this installment of xoNecole's How We Met, the social media strategist and the technical account manager walk us through their beginning, their courtship, and their boundless commitment to one another.
How They Met
Temi: I was out at dinner with some of my fraternity brothers catching up and talking about what we wanted in our futures. I was scrolling through Instagram and Skylar popped up in a linen two-piece fit and a high pony. I automatically felt an energy just looking at her photos. I knew I had to dive into her DMs and at least talk to her so that's what I did.
Skylar: Every time I get this question, I hear, "It goes down in the DMs it goes...down," playing in the back of my head, which is, essentially, where it all started. Temi slid in my DMs September 2018 and who woulda thought? But I fell. I just didn't know it yet. He slid, I fell, here we are.
Temi: My first impression of her didn't really come with any words. They were all feelings that I was still trying to figure out. Here I was seriously trying to pursue a woman I'd never met before, who lived over 800 miles away. I didn't know much about her at the time either. I only knew that her friends had all gone to California to celebrate one of their birthdays and I thought that was pretty dope that they'd go above and beyond for one another like that. I could tell from the few [Instagram] stories that were on her page that she had the type of aura where it seemed as if the sun rose when she woke up and set when she decided the day was done. A contagious energy that warmed those around her.
Skylar: I said, "Who is this fine Black man in my requests?!" (Laughs) I hardly got DMs from guys, so it was refreshing and exciting. I did the casual IG profile stalk, you know the one where you scroll all the way back and see what's going on. It was a light impression, though, as there's only so much you can get through Instagram and I also peeped he wasn't in NYC so I didn't think too much into it. My previous relationship had been long-distance and I wasn't rushing to be in another. I just knew I wanted to flirt back and so I did.
"I could tell from the few stories that were on her page that she had the type of aura where it seemed as if the sun rose when she woke up and set when she decided the day was done. A contagious energy that warmed those around her."
Temi: I was instantly attracted to Skylar and everything that came with her. It was weird because I felt like I found love for the first time with her. You know that high school first love that'll have you laying on the couch upside down, feet towards the ceiling talking about your favorite music genres at 5:30 am love. Everything just flowed so naturally, there was no forcing it and as time went on I think that only made me fall even deeper.
Skylar: I was attracted to him instantly, hence me allowing the DM slide to take place to begin with. (Laughs) But I will say that it took some time for me to get out of my own way and allow him in. I wasn't looking for a relationship, nor was I ready for one, but you don't plan these things. They kind of seek you out and you've gotta love yourself enough to let them.
Temi: Our first date was also our first time meeting each other. We had been talking for about a month and a half at this point, so I flew up to New York to spend some time with her. Around this time we understood that just because you can gel with someone virtually doesn't mean that things will be the same in person, so we were fully prepared to just stay friends if the vibes weren't the same in person. Our first date was really one calm weekend. We spent our first weekend together walking around the SoHo District of New York. I remember we stopped to eat at Digg In and just sat on some stairs outside of a building and talked about anything and everything until day turned to dusk. The date was natural. It was different. I was used to going out for nice dinners or excursions for first dates, but this was a nice outing with a good friend, and I think that's what I valued most about it. Everything we did felt like I was just hanging out with someone I'd known my entire life.
Skylar: Our first date was actually when we met! I got the side eyes from my girls (who were otherwise quite supportive), and I was hella nervous but I felt more secure in that Temi and I had such a great bond already. I'm also not one to encourage lavish dates to start, there's too much pressure and he had come to visit me so I kind of planned the weekend out. We spent our first real date in SoHo, aimlessly wandering the streets doing the whole 20 questions thing. I think we'd talked so much about ourselves prior to the date that it ended up being more about how we felt in the presence of one another. I always ask myself when dating, "How does this person make me feel? How do I feel when I'm with this person?" If it's healthy, positive, natural, it's something I pursue. And in this case, it absolutely was.
Making It Official
Temi: The courtship was interesting. With me still living in DC at the time we would mostly text all day and fall asleep with each other on FaceTime at night. We'd alternate going back and forth between taking buses/flights to see each other. Around this time, I'd sold all of my DJ equipment and was beginning to express my creative side in photography. I'd purchased my first camera and came home one day to a package at my door. She'd bought me a really good off-camera light and I really appreciated it. Not that she'd gotten me a gift but that we weren't even official, and she was investing in my creative advancement. When it came to finally making things official, she was the one who actually asked me out.
Skylar: He courted me, to START. But I'd like to think I was the catalyst in allowing things to really progress, primarily because of how stubborn I was to let him push things along. Once we moved out of my DMs and broke the ice with our first FaceTime conversation, we were basically inseparable–or as inseparable as two people in a long-distance flirtationship could be. Eventually he came to visit me and we had to have a very mature conversation about what would happen if we met and it didn't hit the same in person. But it did, and we decided there was no rush. He had decided long before I did that he wanted to be with me, that I was his. The thing is, because he was so confident in it, he didn't pressure me to be ready. He waited until I was ready and we went from there.
"We decided there was no rush. He had decided long before I did that he wanted to be with me, that I was his. The thing is, because he was so confident in it, he didn't pressure me to be ready. He waited until I was ready and we went from there."
Temi: I knew I wanted to commit to a relationship with Skylar when I realized that we weren't in one sometime in mid-November. Everything between us was so natural and fluid that it felt like we were already together and had been for quite some time. During our first date in New York, she had told me that she wasn't ready for anything super serious and I wasn't going to try to pressure her into something she wasn't ready for so we just enjoyed each other whenever we could. She had traveled down to DC to be my date for a company holiday party and before we left, she asked me if I wanted to be her boyfriend, real girlboss (laughs). The rest is history.
Skylar: I honestly think he committed to me very early in our relationship. He made it very clear he had no intention of being with anyone else and that when I was ready we could make it exclusive. I, on the other hand, decided to commit once I realized that I had subconsciously cut ties to my dating life, when I realized I was already moving as if he was mine and I was his. I was saying one thing and doing another. I swore I was going to take it slow, not rush, continue to date until I felt confident in us. I think that stemmed from rushing in too quickly in past relationships, not knowing who it really was that I was falling for. I've found this slow, creeping love to be much more satisfying. And even still, I was already his long before I made that decision.
"I've found this slow, creeping love to be much more satisfying. And even still, I was already his long before I made that decision."
The “L” Word
Temi: I knew it was love when days where we would talk less felt a bit more dull or less sunny if that makes sense. She brought a new type of light into my life that quite frankly I couldn't get enough of. At some point while we were dating we started to have conversations about pain, baggage, and regrets. It's one thing to love all the good that a person might have, it's another to love them through all of their faults and blemishes. I remember how I felt after we'd have these conversations—the same. I still wanted to hold her, kiss her, and protect her from the world. That's when I knew it was love.
Skylar: Temi actually told me he loved me first, and I was SHOOK. The second he told me, he immediately followed up by saying that he wasn't saying it to hear it back. He was saying it so I knew he did. By that point, he had learned me well enough to know that I couldn't be rushed into anything. I respected him for being so gentle with such a stubborn individual. Days later, I took a bus to spend some time with him in DC and as we were leaving our hotel room and walking down the hall, I remember looking at him and just loving him. I was overwhelmed by my adoration for his kindness, his empathy to my feelings, his intelligence, and tons of other qualities about him. I swear it was God, I've only had that feeling twice before. I stopped him right there in the hallway and said, "Hey, I love you," and he said, "I know that girl!"
The Sweetest Thing
Temi: My favorite thing about Skylar is that she doesn't finish all of her food. Literally (laughs). When we go out to eat, I know that I'll have a nice little second portion of food waiting for me when I'm done eating every time. My five love pillars are God, Family, Skylar, Food, and Food so there you go. The fact that she leaves me a little something on the side, a little Razzle Dazzle if you will, really melts my heart.
Skylar: Easily his selflessness when it comes to me. I've found myself moving over so often in my past relationships with no return being made on my account, where in this one room is made for me. From day one, he's created space in our relationship for me in the same way that I do him. He grants me grace, forgiveness, where others have not. And he does it so easily! Honestly, he doesn't think twice about hearing me out, talking things through, admitting his wrongs. When your partner moves in such a way, it makes it hard to not want to do the same for them. It's funny because I'm being deep here and he'll probably say his favorite thing about me is that I don't finish my food or that I'm always cold (he's always warm) When I say we balance each other I mean it).
"I've found myself moving over so often in my past relationships with no return being made on my account, where in this one room is made for me. From day one, he's created space in our relationship for me in the same way that I do him. He grants me grace, forgiveness, where others have not."
Temi: It probably sounds cliche but 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast…." really is a staple for what we've learned through loving each other. We've decided to pour our all into one another and put our blinders on in our love life the same way we do our professional life. We've learned not to compare but uplift. Not to brag, but to teach, not to hold grudges or blow up on one another but instead take a step back and process our feelings before coming back to communicate. Through our love, we've learned how to love life itself and the people we hold dear.
Skylar: I think love allows room for understanding. We've put so much work into communication and grace. One time when Temi and I were arguing, I mentioned how something he did was of such an inconvenience to me. He asked me, "But if it doesn't hurt you, and if it helps me, why can't I be your exception?" And damn, I felt that. I was complaining about something so small in the grand scheme of our love, something that was only an inconvenience to me because it was against my preference, not my morals or values. He's helped me love him better and thus love better. If I'm going to make exceptions for anyone (healthy exceptions), it'll be for those I love.
"He's helped me love him better and thus love better. If I'm going to make exceptions for anyone (healthy exceptions), it'll be for those I love."
Temi: I had to learn how to understand her as a feminist. Personally I'm the type of person that doesn't care what someone studies, practices, or believes as long as it does not harm another person. With Skylar I had to unlearn that way of thinking because it put an energy of complacency in the air. Instead of sitting on the sidelines cheering, I needed to actively use my privilege to support my girlfriend in her goals, dreams, and visions: of promoting a world where women have control over their own bodies, are caretakers on their own, make the same wages as their male counterparts (as they should have been), etc etc.
Skylar:Whew! I've had some work done on ME. My entire idea of a healthy relationship was so skewed that a lot of this process has been about my unlearning of toxic traits that we're sometimes unaware of in relationships because they seem so subtle. For instance, rather than being problem-focused, I'm now solution-based within Temi and I's relationship, as we've encouraged each other to get to the root of a thing rather than solely call it out (although that's step one). I've learned to define Temi by who he is rather than by what he does. This helps me easily brush off small mishaps or misunderstandings. He is not the sum of his mistakes. I've also had to really get it together as Temi is a man of action where I am one of big pictures and planning ahead, and while it's beautiful, it can easily be lost. I've learned to respect the present.
"To be Black, in a relationship, and traveling the world is a blessing. To share that travel and love with the world is an honor. One of my biggest boxes to tick is being able to love my partner in different spaces, travel has only further affirmed our love and the flexibility that exists in it."
Temi: It feels absolutely amazing to see the world with Skylar. Each time we travel, I feel like we learn something new about one another that we hadn't known before. Travel allows us to grow closer in unique ways. My favorite place so far has been Tulum, Mexico. It was our first 'real' trip with each other. We had gone to Puerto Rico prior just as a tester because it's one thing to travel with someone you love. It's another thing to travel with someone you love and actually enjoy the trip. Everyone differs so we just wanted to make sure that we didn't differ too much.
Once we figured that we loved being out of the States with one another, we decided to start off with Tulum because it was a place that Skylar had always wanted to visit. It's my favorite trip because it really kicked off the life that we live now. Appreciating each other in different spaces, with the love growing rather than burning out. It warms your heart in a way that can only be described as love.
Skylar: To be Black, in a relationship, and traveling the world is a blessing. To share that travel and love with the world is an honor. One of my biggest boxes to tick is being able to love my partner in different spaces, travel has only further affirmed our love and the flexibility that exists in it.
My favorite place to travel so far has been Marrakech. It was one of our last-minute trips and also one of the most beautiful we've been on. It was my first time stepping onto African soil, and we felt so seen. Many of the places we've traveled have gotten us all kinds of stares, as we're usually the only Black people around. Morocco was rich with culture and warmth, we kept talking about how easily everything fell into place. It was surreal to experience and capture, and even more special to do it with him. I always think, "Wow, there's no one else in the world I'd rather be here with."
Featured image via Skylar Marshai/Instagram
Originally published on February 26, 2019
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Whitney Alford’s presence can be seen and heard all throughout her longtime partner, Kendrick Lamar’s impressive rap career, inspiring such deep cuts like the 2009 song “She Needs Me” and providing background vocals on To Pimp a Butterfly’s “Wesley’s Theory” and “King Kunta.” Perhaps the most visible she has been was in his latest release, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, where she appeared on the album’s cover art with the couple’s two children, as well as in the visual for his single, “Count Me Out.”
The Grammy award-winning rapper is largely heralded as one of the greatest to ever do it, and the bond he shares with his high school sweetheart that has inspired some of his most introspective projects and self-reflective tracks has cemented Whitney as a forever muse.
The 37-year-old makeup artist has been with Kendrick since they were teenagers, with the couple meeting while attending Centennial High School. Both Whitney and Kendrick were born and raised in Compton, California, and began as friends before eventually starting a romantic relationship. In a 2015 conversation with Billboard, Kendrick expressed that he frowned on the way certain terms minimized who Whitney is to him. "I wouldn't even call her my girl," he told the outlet. "That’s my best friend."
“I don’t even like the term that society has put in the world as far as being a companion — she’s somebody I can tell my fears to.”
Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS
Months later, he confirmed to The Breakfast Club his engagement to his “Day 1.” I’m loyal to the soil. At the end of the day, you want to always have real people around you, period. Everybody that’s been around me has been down since day one, and I can’t change that. I don’t change for nobody. I always show respect when respect is being given and people that’s been by your side, you supposed to honor that. That’s how you stand up.”
Whitney can even be seen in the “King Kunta” visual rocking an engagement ring on her finger. Since then, Whitney and Kendrick have welcomed two children to their growing family, a daughter and a son whose names haven’t been revealed to the media, maintaining their famously private life.
Without a doubt, the most transparent and self-reflective he has ever been about his family life was with his most recent body of work, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers. In the 2022 release, he gave insight into his past with cheating and addictions as a means of escapism. The song “Mother I Sober” features lyrics about how his “lust addiction” impacted his relationship with Whitney, rapping:
“Intoxicated, there’s a lustful nature that I failed to mention / Insecurities that I project, sleepin’ with other women / Whitney’s hurt, the pure soul I know, I found her in the kitchen / Askin’ God, ‘Where did I lose myself? And can it be forgiven?’”
Much like an image of their family life is the focus of the album’s cover, Whitney’s voice is also featured as a narrator on the album (as well as Eckhart Tolle), and in that song in particular, she can be heard saying, “You did it, I’m proud of you/You broke a generational curse.”
2022 also marked a new era of transparency online for Whitney on social media. The mother of two shared a portrait of herself holding her youngest child captured by Renell Madrano on her Instagram account and opened up about her mental health struggles to her followers in May 2022.
In the photo, she is standing in the light but also shrouded by some darkness and shadows around her. “We all know what others see may not be a true reflection of how we feel. This pic is a great representation of how I’ve felt for many years,” she began her caption.
“I was stuck in a time and place that was no longer my reality and was no longer serving me. My babies forced me to take a long look at myself and journey back through the very things that made me.”
“I’ve always carried the light with me. As a child no one was able to help me process. Many times silence was enforced because my emotions were a lot to handle. Hiding my pain has been a technique I’ve mastered my entire life. Mask it with a smile and everything is good. Silence has been my superpower, protecting me in the most vulnerable spaces,” she continued in her caption.
Whitney wrote that a great therapist changed everything for her and jumpstarted her personal transformation. “After a few years of hard work, I can finally say I hear my own voice again. And it’s very powerful. I use my smile when it feels genuine. And it’s beautiful,” she shared.
She concluded, “Allowing the world in and sharing my experience is one of my greatest fears. But truth is always very important for me. I’ve lived a sober life, feeling every single part of it, with the exception of mastering how to float when it’s all too much. But I yearn to be centered. To flow. To heal. To enjoy life.”
Recently, the vocalist gave another rare glimpse into her private life by posting photos of her with her daughter (who is Kendrick's twin) and her son on Instagram. In the carousel post, Whitney shared five slides showing herself in different elements of mothering her babies. “Me and them… Always, in all ways. The greatest and toughest job I’ve ever been tasked with. Love my babies,” she captioned the photo.
We hope Whitney is continuing her journey of flowing, healing, and enjoying life more.
Much love to the Duckworths.
Featured image by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS