Celebrating Black love with Ne-Yo and Crystal Renay

Story by Christal Jordan; Images by Demetrius McNeal

Black love has stepped its popularity game up over the last year to take center stage. From the popular #blacklove hashtag to OWN’s “Black Love” docuseries, to YouTube social influencer Black couples amassing millions of followers, it’s clear our community has decided Black love is a trending topic. This is especially true for Black celebrity couples. We obsess over their Black love connection, as they use social media and even television to chronicle their journey to the altar. We’ve had the opportunity to watch the proposal, the engagement, the wedding and the arrival of the first baby for so many Black celebrity couples.

Such is the case with pop star Ne-Yo and socialite Crystal Renay. Fans and followers quickly connected with this Black love duo online, but, even still, pessimists and realists alike wondered what was behind the slightly cheesy couple selfies and the posts with Ne-Yo’s famous friends and videos of Renay’s new reality show, “The Platinum Life.” After a very public breakup with Ne-Yo’s longtime ex-girlfriend Monyetta Shaw, with whom he has two children, could this new relationship be the real thing or was it a hyped up rebound, carefully crafted for social media?

“I’m so glad I took a chance on him. I’m the happiest that I’ve ever been,” Renay says, glancing over at her husband as he plays with their 1-year-old son, Shaffer Jr. Taking a chance on Ne-Yo may be a risk that most women would be willing to take. He is undoubtedly an international success with a reputation for being the ultimate gentleman, so much so that many of his fans were skeptical when he announced his proposal to model Renay.

“I knew pretty quickly after I met her that I wanted to marry her. It wasn’t immediate but it didn’t take me long,” Ne-Yo admits. Still, he is clear about the fact that it wasn’t just Renay that made him want to get married; it was more about where he was in life. He adds, “A man has to be ready for marriage. Until he’s ready it doesn’t matter who comes into his life.”

It’s apparent that Ne-Yo was ready for a next level relationship when he saw pictures of Renay and decided to try his luck.

“He reached out to my management about wanting to have me play a part in a movie,” Renay recalls, “but he requested that I meet him by myself. So we go to dinner and he’s telling me about this project … but then it turned into more of a date. He asked to see me again and I accepted. To this day, I don’t know if there really was a movie or not.”

Watching the couple, it’s easy to forget that Ne-Yo is a household name responsible for Billboard hits for himself and a slew of other A-list artists. The two interact like teenagers in love, both obsessed over their charming little boy.

“One thing I can say about Crystal Renay is that she is totally down to earth. She is comfortable in her skin. I think that’s what made him fall in love with her like this,” Calanta, a friend close to the couple reveals. “She caters to him and he enjoys making her happy.”

For a man who writes some of the world’s most memorable love songs, Ne-Yo’s first proposal wasn’t one for the ‘Gram.

“I think we were just laying around watching TV and he said he didn’t want to ever lose me. I was being smart and said, ‘Well you need to marry me then,’ ” Renay recalls.

According to Renay, Ne-Yo then got down on one knee and proposed without a ring. Once she realized he was serious, Renay says she was ecstatic, although friends and family were extremely skeptical, because she didn’t have proof.

“I’m walking around saying I’m engaged with no ring on my finger. People thought I was crazy but I never said anything to Shaffer about it. I did go and buy him a ring,” she says with a wink.

Her strategy paid off and Ne-Yo surprised her by flying her family and friends out and proposing in public the second time, this time with a gorgeous engagement ring.

The couple wed in April of 2016 and their son, Shaffer Jr., was born one month after the wedding. After welcoming their son, Renay and Ne-Yo worked with his ex Shaw to create an atmosphere that would include all three children in a loving environment. After the announcement of the second baby, Ne-Yo’s ex congratulated the couple on social media, quieting any remaining drama rumors between both sides.

Although their internal family is excited, fans are still a bit skeptical of the new couple. Renay, however, refuses to stoop to the level of social media bullying, focusing instead on having a great pregnancy and allowing herself to indulge a bit.

“The second time around, this pregnancy is so different. This baby wants meat and sweets and nothing healthy,” Renay laughs.

Ne-Yo refused to entertain anything negative about the mother of his children but has moved on and is clear about his commitment to his new wife and family.

Marriage is challenging for everyone, but one that is constantly under scrutiny from over three million followers between the two of them isn’t easy. Renay says the couple keeps their romance alive by insisting on a weekly date night.

“Having him to myself can be difficult because people see him and want to take pictures but surprisingly if he doesn’t wear his hat people don’t always recognize him,” she reveals. “If we go out in sneakers and sweatsuits, then most of the time we can enjoy the evening without being recognized. We also make it a point not to let the sun go down on a disagreement.” Her lessons in love are pretty standard, but the couple’s love for each other feels more substantial than just the monthly date night and trying to keep each other connected.

Contrary to the naysayers, Renay’s theories on taking care of her man don’t fit the gold digger bill. The Fort Myers, Florida, native says she was raised to cook for her family as a way to take care of the family and demonstrate love.

“I enjoy taking care of him, cooking for him, cleaning etc. If he’s hungry and it’s three o’clock in the morning, you better believe I’m going to get up and go make him some food. He doesn’t eat Waffle House. I cook for him. I may eat Waffle House, but best believe he won’t,” she explains.

If the idea of a superwoman is a myth, Renay appears to be the closest thing to it. On the day of our rolling out cover shoot, Renay is expertly delegating instructions to her glam squad and tending to her energetic toddler, all while doting on her husband as he watches from the sidelines. Just days before the shoot, she shared news of her pregnancy with the world via social media; weeks before that, her new television show, “The Platinum Life,” debuted on E!

The reality series follows an elite group of entertainment’s most beautiful women and their A-list significant others as they live first-class lifestyles that include red carpets and awards shows, sold-out concerts and after-parties. Starring Asiah Collins, wife of Kid Ink; Shaunelle Jackson, girlfriend to pop artist Nelly; Nzanin Mandi, fiancée of R&B soul artist Miguel; Lola Monroe, model; Alycia Bella, actress and DJ; and Renay’s real-life BFF La’Mayia Good, sister of Meagan Good, and wife of artist Eric Bellinger, “The Platinum Life” celebrates the lifestyle that so many young women aspire to achieve. On the show, we see Renay balancing home while working to establish herself in the culinary space.

“I specialize in making home-cooked meals and preparing things from scratch,” she explains proudly.

Renay was cast as the newbie with a lot to learn that enjoys bucking the system, from time to time. “The Platinum Life” is documenting her transition from model and socialite to culinary expert and business owner.

Renay’s old-fashioned views on catering to her husband may seem outdated with the new millennial attitude of bank over babies, but she’s adamant about being the new-age woman who is able to defy the odds and actually have it all.

“I believe in getting to the bag, too; don’t get that twisted. I do all of it. I love making a living but my first priority is to my family and to taking care of him,” she says.

While they both have high-profile careers, Ne-Yo and Crystal Renay are the perfect example of the Black love “power couple.” Ne-Yo turns down the opportunity to discuss the album he is currently working on, insisting on making the photo shoot a celebration of Renay’s accomplishments. He seems comfortable, maybe even grateful, to share the spotlight. His eyes brighten while playing with his son and looking at his wife dance playfully in her ball gown while taking pictures. Days after the photo shoot, he shared a behind-the-scenes video on social media and left a personal message for Renay on his Instagram feed: “I’m so very proud of you. You’ve grown so much. You are a work [in] progress indeed as we all are, but the willingness to be better than you were the day before is something you have or you don’t. I love you for never being ‘comfortable.’ Keep growing and improving letting nothing stand in your way. And don’t worry, they are gonna learn how to handle you, mama. A stick of dynamite is harmless until you light the fuse.”

Whether or not Ne-Yo and Renay’s marriage makes it to happily ever after remains to be seen. The fact that the couple has managed to overcome the negativity heaped on them by the court of public opinion is a sign in their favor. Another vote in their favor is the idea that both seem to appreciate their platinum life but remain loyal to the down-home characteristics instilled in each of them growing up. “There is no nanny, no housekeeper,” Renay says. “I take care of my family.” In a world of #relationshipgoals with social media filters and likes with millions of followers, it’s refreshing to see a couple loving from inside out instead of from the outside in.

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