Photography: Aris Jerome

We love every form and expression of love, but something special tugs at our heartstrings when the couple expressing that love is drenched in melanin. There is so much power in black love. At its core, it stands as a badge of togetherness and unity in the face of systemic, social, generational and economic threats that are designed to harm and reinforce century old tropes about the community. 

Way too often we have been force fed images of dysfunction when it comes to black, romantic relationships. Sure, love can be challenging at times, but it’s not always the struggle or small-minded idea we’ve become so accustomed to seeing. 


It’s a new age. Millennial’s and Gen Z have created language and space for gender identities, sexual orientations and relationship-style preferences of every shape and hue. This combined with the power of social media has truly revolutionized the way we conceptualize black love in this era, especially young black love. Helping change the narrative, and doing so in-style, are none other than Ryan Destiny and Keith Powers. 


Though she first made a name for herself as a singer in the girl-group Dollhouse, you may recognize 24-year-old Ryan from her breakout role on Fox’s hit musical drama Star. The show recently announced its end, but you can look forward to catching her alongside Yara Shahidi, Trevor Jackson, and a crew of young, black excellence on the upcoming season of Freeform’s Grown-ish. Booked? Check. Busy? Check. 


You might recognize 26-year-old Keith for his roles as Ronnie Devoe in BET's mini series The New Edition Story or Tyree in the film Straight Outta Compton, but he’s been grinding and telling touching black stories in film for quite some time now.

The two met at a Teen Vogue party back in 2015. Keith saw Ryan from across the room and quickly ran over to introduce himself, nervously retreating quickly after. From then on, the two kept it platonic and would sporadically kick it when they bumped into each other at events and gatherings. In true millennial fashion, the relationship began to flourish starting with Instagram; responding to each others stories, and well, the rest is history. At this point, we should erase the stigma and face the fact that this is just the new standard in building connections and meeting potential lovers. 


Boasting millions of followers combined, there is no shortage of attention on the couple, but they’ve somehow managed to keep a low profile when it comes to their personal life together, until now. In this exclusive story, we sat down with the pair and asked them both the same set of questions designed to help paint a portrait of what black love means to them and what it takes to keep love alive day after day in a generation where they both are at the top of their game, have the world at their fingertips and the rules of love are all brand new.

We hope the images and insight that accompany this story inspire hope, with those who dream of being partnered with folks of the same community and for those who feel discouraged by the lack of representation of these narratives. 



What was the exact moment you realized you were in love? 

When I first met him. Joking! I had shamefully liked Keith since we met though. We were just friends for a minute. So when we let things naturally happen, if you let it, love falls in naturally too. There have been many moments in our relationship that made my heart feel heavy. In a good way and sometimes not so good way. In those moments, whatever they may be... the way I would think and feel wouldn’t feel surface anymore. You see things differently. Want to be different. The best you for yourself. The best you for your other. Knowing things will get-if anything more difficult but knowing you both are IN it. Once I realized that, and then some, it was a rush. 

How do you define black love and how does your relationship exemplify that?

For me, it’s my parents. It’s a lot of the people in my family. In our history. Its black families. It’s black children. It’s the support we have for one another. I think one of the most important illustrations we can see is us loving us. There are people that don’t want to see that. And sadly, we know that sometimes a few of our own can’t even see that because of how they grew up being taught something different. As if we are less and that there are others that are superior. I hope we exemplify how worthy each of us are of being loved. I hope we exemplify how hard we can love one another. In a healthy way. 


How do you navigate the complications or difficulties of having such a public relationship, especially as a millennial in today's climate?

It’s not easy, not going to lie. For a minute we tried to hide it for numerous reasons.. but as human beings sometimes you want to just shout to the world “I love this person and I’m happy!” We try to find a balance. I’m already a private person and very career driven so reminding people that I am my own person is important. Luckily, for the most part people recognize that.

What’s the best thing about being in love at your age?

I think there’s a sense of freedom you feel at this age. I’m endless. I can do anything. Go anywhere. Create myself. Make mistakes. Learn. Make some more of them. Just grow in general. I think growing with someone at this age is interesting. It’s beautiful to look back and see who a person was when you met them vs. now. We evolve every year. And… I don’t think that ever stops no matter what age you are. I love that.

What has your relationship taught you about yourself?

How much I love myself. I got out of a relationship years ago because I needed time to work on that. Now around this time of my life, I’ve learned to see how much I do. There’s a quote from a writer I love “Do not attach your happiness to anyone without checking in with yourself first.” I’ve always known the importance of that. Getting to that place is the challenge. Once you’re there, you feel the difference. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually different and it is wildly beneficial for both people. At the same time you learn that it’s okay not to be okay every second. If I’m not having a great day or we’re not,  It’s not the end of the world. It’s not the end of the love you have for yourself or each other. My love works through those times. Not against them. I’ve learned that too.



What was the exact moment you realized you were in love?

I realized I was in love when I knew my life would be extremely affected in a negative way if Ryan wasn’t in it. Loving someone is a very natural feeling that just happens. You can’t just wake up and SAY I love this person, you FEEL it. You realize like wow, this person is a piece of me and regardless you don’t ever want that person out of your life. I also felt myself growing as a person when Ryan came into my life, especially mentally. And I realized that I’m ready to deal with anything I have to deal with alongside Ryan. Once I felt that, I knew.

How do you define black love and how does your relationship exemplify that?

Black love is strength. When I see black love that’s the first thing that pops into my mind. It is so important for our people to see healthy black love. Whether it’s a relationship, marriage or even friendships. I think it is very important we SEE that. Black love gives us hope. When you see black love flourish, it’s POWERFUL. It’s important we show our youth how powerful it is as well. I think our relationship shows people that it's possible even in this type of industry. I think we exemplify good young black love. 


How do you navigate the complications or difficulties of having such a public relationship, especially as a millennial in today’s climate?

The more you keep private the happier you’ll be. It’s not easy being in a public relationship, so you try to keep as much as you can private. Control your own narrative, don’t give people too much because they make up stuff from the outside looking in. It’s also very important to communicate and let each other know how you feel. 

Whats the best thing about being in love at your age?

It’s always great to grow with someone. You got more time for your love to get stronger. You get to make mistakes and learn, you also grow as a human. I believe love teaches. You get to be active in love young and you also get through obstacles you don’t have to worry about when you get older. 

What has your relationship taught you about yourself?

It taught me how much I love myself, it taught me about my insecurities, it taught me how to be more of a man. I’m still learning about myself. I think relationships really help you as a human. You have to be a student in a relationship as well, you have to be willing to learn. It also shows me that it's going to be work regardless. It’ll never be perfect and you have to be willing to put in the work. It’s not easy but anything worth having isn’t.