#RelationshipGoals: Codie and Tommy Oliver Discuss Black Love in an 'Instagram Society'

Codie Oliver (l) and Tommy Oliver (r), creators of Black Love on OWN
Photo: Gianna Dorsey

Whenever I visit my mama in Chicago, we partake in our recent habit of watching marathons of Black Love, a docuseries on OWN. From Tina Knowles Lawson’s sassy quips with Richard Lawson to Sterling K. Brown and Ryan Michelle Bathe’s love origin story, the laughs never stop.

Behind the relationship tea are real-life examples of black love: Codie and Tommy Oliver. As the co-creators of Black Love, the producing power couple is primarily in this “to learn.”

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I spoke with Codie on the phone (with some adorable interjection by Tommy in the background) about the concept of love in a social media age, what they’ve learned about marriage since shooting the show and what we can expect for Black Love’s return.

The couple and parents of three also spearhead the Black Love Summit, which welcomes couples and singles for a one-day experience of “transparent conversations about love, partnership, and community.”

Season 3 premiered in August and after taking a little break, Black Love is back for the winter season and will be exploring just how much the past influences our decisions today, especially as it pertains to love in the black community.

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“One of the things that I’m super excited about, from an upcoming episode, is talking about the impact that our upbringing has on us and, specifically, our marriage,” Codie noted. “We have several couples just talking about the example of their parents or grandparents, or lack thereof, and how that shows in their relationships for better or for worse.”

As black creators, representation is important. And with a show titled Black Love, that includes all types of love and the many intersections within that space.

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“At the end of the day, we just want to show ourselves in loving relationships because we just seldom see that,” Codie explained. “In the upcoming episode, Quincy and Deondray [Gossfield] are back. We’re very excited. I will tease, but not spoil—they have a really, really good wedding story. And we are going to share it in one of the upcoming episodes.”

As the show promotes both the “pretty and ugly” of black love, I wanted the couple’s thoughts on the whole concept of “#relationshipgoals” in the social media age. Since social media influencers have mastered the art of packaging a seemingly perfect (and profitable) lifestyle to engage an audience, the perception of what a relationship can look like can be warped, to say the least.

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“Tommy always says that we are kind of in an ‘Instagram society’ right now where you see the highs and seldom the lows,” Codie said. “You see people’s really, really high moments—the vacations, the gifts, the flowers...all of the exciting things. And we’re [all] going, ‘hashtag relationship goals’ when it’s really everything else that makes up your relationship. It is really, as Viola Davis said in season one, the ‘everyday mundane.’ And then sometimes the really, really hard and dark things that you have to work through to find common ground, peace and happiness with somebody who’s completely different from you, a.k.a. your partner.”

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What surprised them the most about marriage? This is where Tommy had to blurt out—“How hard marriage is.”

“One big reason that we did [this show] was to learn,” Codie added with a chuckle. “We were engaged and so we started doing the interviews and we were going into our marriage with really no examples in our personal life.”

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Lastly, with a show called Black Love, I had to ask about the blackest moment filming on the set.

“Midway through interviewing Kevin and Melissa [Fredericks], Trap Kitchen delivered!” Codie exclaimed. “Trap Kitchen showed up halfway through the interview with straight-up craft services for 10-15 people.”

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Shout-out to Trap Kitchen. And shout-out to black love.

Black Love November 8 promo / Oprah Winfrey Network (YouTube)

Black Love returns tonight (Friday) at 8 p.m. ET on OWN.

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About the author

Tonja Renée Stidhum

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.