The Creators of OWN's 'Black Love' Series Have A Magical Love Story Of Their Own

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.

The real life love story of Tommy and Codie Oliver is just as precious as the ones seen on their OWN series Black Love.

When it comes to love, we've all heard the saying "When you know, you just know" and while some may have their doubts about the validity of that saying, the Olivers' journey to love and marriage proves it to be 100 percent accurate.

The two producers met on September 9, 2013 at The Toronto Film Festival. By March 15, 2014, they were engaged and on February 9, 2015, they were married. All under a span of a year and half, these two strangers met, fell in love, and made their commitment to forever. "It was pretty clear early on that there was no doing better than her, so there was no reason to keep looking," Tommy recalled the beginning stages of life with his now-wife.

As their love grew, their family did too, and a year later, they welcomed their first child in 2016.

The Olivers Plus OnePhoto: Robert Christopher Riley

What some may not know about the co-creators and the husband and wife team is that Black Love was actually conceptualized amid the beginning stages of their own black love story four years ago. Within the first six months of dating, Codie shared an idea she had about creating a project focused on black love and showing that it wasn't only possible, but thriving genuine black love out there. "Back in 2007, there was this media portrayal of the black marriage crisis, and me being a single woman at the time, it was particularly damaging to me to hear that black people weren't staying married as long as other ethnicities, and weren't getting married as often," she said. "So, it just made me feel like I wanted to show something else, regardless of the what the data and statistics were. I decided at that time I wanted to create a place where black love stories lived, so we never again had to question whether it were possible."

The two began working on the idea in 2014 and fully completed the project by 2016. Once complete, they teamed up with Oprah and the OWN Network and the rest is history, with the Black Love docuseries making its debut in 2017 on OWN.

When asked what they wanted people to learn from watching the show, the answer was simple: "It's really just about pulling back the curtain on marriage and what it takes to make a marriage last. We wanted to be able to share transparent, honest, highs and lows and how to get through them, specifically how to get through them," Codie shared. "You see the fights on reality TV, you see the highs on social media, trips around the world, you know all the amazing moments, but you don't really see what it takes to get through the lows and to get to those highs. We wanted to capture as much as that as possible so that people can learn from it, apply it to their own lives and normalize some of the hard times that happen in a marriage."

"It's about pulling back the curtain on marriage and what it takes to make a marriage last."

Tommy and Codie represent black love in all its many facets. The highs, the lows but most importantly, the authenticity of black love.

Here's their story:

The One

Photo: Katie Stinnett

Codie: When we met in Toronto, we stayed up until 3 am talking and then 5 am the next night and the following week, we went out Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tommy called five friends and said, "Unless something goes terribly wrong, I'm marrying this woman." I always approached dating very seriously and when I met Tommy, between the talking all night plus knowing his background (filmmaker with a business degree), I knew this was the type of person I could marry. We also discussed very quickly that having a family was a priority. We were engaged six months after we met, so I'd definitely say we approached our courtship as if marriage was next up.

"Tommy called five friends and said, 'Unless something goes terribly wrong, I'm marrying this woman.'"

Deepest Fears

Photo: Elton Anderson

Tommy: No big fears but the one thing that comes to mind is the old adage of: women go into a marriage expecting men to change and men go into a marriage hoping women don't change. I was afraid there was truth in that. I had to accept that both people changing is inevitable and part of marriage.

Codie: My fear was just the unknown. But three years in (and plenty of arguments) and 100 couples interviewed, I feel so secure in us being able to tackle anything, however difficult or challenging.

Building Together

Photo: Elton Anderson

Tommy: [An early challenge would be] the seeming lack of discretion in picking battles.

Codie: THIS is an ongoing thing. What is an issue to me may not be an issue to him and vice versa and each of us needs to respect that something we may not understand is bothering our partner. We never had issues living together (until like two years in when he says I leave stuff out in the kitchen) and finances aren't stressful though we have different views on savings. It's really just those times when we don't see eye to eye on personal stressors.

Mentors In Love

Tommy: We are pretty fortunate to have created a series featuring married couples who all have one thing in common - they are committed to making it work. So what that has created for us is a village of marriage mentors and people who will not allow us to neglect our marriage. It's pretty great!

Common Goals

Photo: Chika Chukudebelu

Codie: Our common goal is the success of our family. When we met, we both knew we wanted to be married and have children and be active in their lives. So, we're able to prioritize whatever will keep our relationship strong because we know it's what is best for our family.

"When we met, we both knew we wanted to be married and have children and be active in their lives."

Lessons In Love

Tommy and Codie: If you don't have the ability to send and receive honest, well thought out information, you're in trouble. You need to be willing to actually listen and refrain from being defensive. We didn't necessarily grasp this right away, but it stuck with us, and we are getting better at it!

For more on Tommy and Codie follow them at: @Codieco and @Producertommy, or on their joint account @Blacklovedoc. And catch season 2 of Black Love airing on Saturdays at 10pm, only on OWN.

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A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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