How These High School Sweethearts Knew They Were Destined To Be Together

Our First Year

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.

Imagine knowing your soulmate at the young age of 15 and 16 and then actually marrying them almost a decade later. Sounds like a fairytale, right? Well that is the reality for married couple Amir and Vava Celestin.

The co-creators of Nou Nou Home met, fell in love, and were living the perfect high school romance. He was an athlete, she was a dancer, and after an initial meeting in the halls of their high school, the two were inseparable. Valentine day teddy bears, dancing at his basketball games, and even ending their high school journey together at prom, Vava and Amir lived out the epitome of young love. But after a year and a half of dating, their high school romance sadly fizzled out and as senior year came to an end, so did their relationship.

As the two separately entered new phases of their lives, in completely different states, it was clear that the love they shared was real and they never did completely let each other go. "Although we were in different states, we always found a way to keep in touch, walk down memory lane or even attempt to rekindle our old flame from time to time," Vava revealed. "But things never stuck. The flame would always fizzle out. But, we always felt like our relationship was unfinished business. We repeated that cycle for seven years."

Seven years filled with never ending on and off dating cycles, Amir and Vava did eventually get it right, and chose to live the life they knew they were destined for. While those years apart were difficult, Amir now believes that they were necessary for the love and marriage they share today.

"The years we spent apart were good for us, individually," he said. "We got a chance to live life a little, make mistakes, have a few heartbreaks, and reckless nights ---but not at the expense of one another. Our time apart kept our love from being tainted with bad memories and heartache. By the time we reconnected we both were content and just wanted a genuine bond with a beautiful soul."

Nearly a decade after their initial meeting in that hallway, Amir and Vava wed in July of 2016, proving that there is truth to the old saying, "What is meant to be, will be." This is their story.

The One

Vava: At ages 15 and 16, we always talked about getting married, having kids, and living in a big house. Typical. It was just puppy-love. We were just wishfully thinking. We didn't give much thought to it. It's surreal to see how our love has unfolded. We are so insync. It's like we never separated. For years, no matter where we were or what our relationship status might have been, there was always this unspoken mutual understanding that we were unfinished business. To us, that's what makes our love story so humbling --- Like how? How did we get to pick our soulmate at such a young age? I guess we were really meant to be.

Amir: Her compassionate heart drove me to marry her. She has always seen so much in me and tries her best to bring it out of me. My wife is the only woman, besides my family, to care about my well-being.

She is my life partner.

The Best Part

Vava: I love his calming spirit and integrity. I admire that in him so much and look to him to bring me back to earth. I needed someone with his discipline and patience to complement my weaknesses.

Amir: I love her fiery spirit! It's what attracted me to her. She's a go-getter and a great one at that. That same fiery spirit annoys me sometimes (laughs). But, that's what makes her unique in my eyes.

Meet Me At The Altar

Vava: For me, it was a little before we started dating again. As God would have it, Amir randomly reached out to me for prayer. His mother was going to have heart surgery and he just needed a friend to lean on. I was still very close with them after all those years, so I prayed for his mother and family. Post-op, while his mother was in recovery, Amir and I went to visit her at the hospital. The family was happy to see us visiting together. Sitting in her hospital room, we all reminisced about the years Amir and I dated back in high school. After I left, his Aunt Deana told Amir, "Nephew, you don't want to miss your blessing twice." A few weeks later, we decided to end the seven-year cat-and-mouse-game. Well, more specifically, I did. I recall texting him late one night these exact words:

"You need to finish whatever you have going on because we all know how this is going to end. And it's time we start building our lives together."

His was response was, "Okay."

A few months later, we were engaged. That was pretty bold of me at the time. But I knew, the series of events that happened weren't by mistake. It was divine positioning.

Amir: The summer we got back together, I had that strong feeling. We were creating so many wonderful memories and just enjoying each other. I guess it was bubbling inside of me. But, what really took the cake was when I got a deal to play basketball overseas. She was the one who gave me the motivation and confidence I didn't see in myself. She propelled to manifest a childhood dream of mine. Something we had always talked about as kids.

You need someone who won't only pray for you, but get in the paint for us. That just confirmed she was the one.

Baggage Claim

Vava: I can be a firecracker (laughs). I grew up in a house full of boys, so sometimes my approach is too strong. For me, my strength is my identity. I had to learn to let my husband see my weakness and not always be on the defense. There's beauty in vulnerability.

Amir: [A challenge has been] expressing myself. Not sure if it's a guy thing or a me thing, but I really don't like opening up. To be honest, I'm still having a little trouble with that. Despite that, I intentionally work at getting better in that area because communication is important. It helps you overcome a lot.

It's necessary for a healthy and stable marriage.

Deepest Fears

Vava: I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to live up to the expectations of a wife. I was fearful of running out of "good wife" stars for not being perfect. I eventually realized that no one has it all figured out.

No one is perfect or fully-prepared before saying "I do." I just decided to trust the things I knew, and have faith in God for the unknown.

Amir: [I would wonder to myself], am I going be a great husband to her? She could've had anyone else in the world and she chose me. I had to realize that I'm not perfect and she still chose me to be her husband. For that simple reason, I shouldn't have anything to fear.

Putting Each Other First

Vava: I always felt like I made a lot of sacrifices for our marriage, especially while my husband played basketball overseas. When he returned home, I felt like it was his turn to have my back while I chased my dreams in New York. But, Amir was not comfortable with moving to NYC and preferred to stay in Miami. I thrive off of experiences and living life with impulse. Not jetting to New York City to live my best version of Carrie Bradshaw was daunting.

I constantly felt like I had lost the piece of me that I valued so much. My freedom.

I felt caged and unsuccessful in Miami, and at this point, I faulted my husband for that. It took months of arguing, not understanding each other's point of view, and frustration to finally come to a resolve. Last September, I had gotten an offer to help out with press for a few shows at New York Fashion Week. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to show him my world. So I booked him a flight, too.

Amir coming to New York was so therapeutic for our marriage.

He was able to see me in my element and really understand why I was so adamant about moving to New York. Now moving to New York City is something we both want. He now understands how serious I am about my career, and how much I appreciate his support.

Mentors In Marriage

Vava: My mother is my confidant. She holds all my secrets. My mother-in-law is our go-to for unbiased and honest advice. She'll tell the both of us to get it together.

Amir: My mother. She keeps it very real. She doesn't take it easy on me because I'm her son (laughs).

First Year Love Lessons

Vava: Be humble, and listen to your partner. Never argue to be right. Focus on finding a resolution so you both can move past the disagreement. You don't always have to agree with them, but you must try to understand their point of view.

Amir: Communication and understanding will diffuse a lot of disagreements. You're going to have lots of disagreements but the key is to never go to bed angry.

*Featured image via Wilna M.

For more on Vava and Amir's love story follow them on Instagram @vavacharly and @amir_ashaude or on their joint account @nounou.home.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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