Dennis Dortch and Numa Perrier honor Spike Lees’s “Make Black Film” mantra with a twist. They make Black and sexy film.
The Couple, known all over the ’net as one of the top Black web series, is a provocative sitcom with stories based loosely on the ins and outs of a relationship—most often the relationship between Dennis and Numa. Created by Jeanine Daniels and director Dennis Dortch, it stars Numa Perrier and Desmond Faison.
“Exes and Texts”—an episode of The Couple and a favorite on their YouTube network Black&SexyTV—is written and directed by Dennis, and derived from an actual situation between the couple when they started living together. Dennis laughs. “Numa has this thing. If you’re in a relationship with her, you don’t really need to be talking to other women.” Numa admits, “I can be jealous, but I didn’t go through his phone. I have boundaries!”
Numa graduated from the Las Vegas Academy of Performing Arts and moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream: a career as an actress. Dennis started his affair with film as a music major at Loyola Marymount University. “Like music, film is all about rhythm and pacing and sensibilities. So it’s just another forum as an artist to use,” he says.
Cultivating success online is a kind of kismet for “the couple,” who first met via MySpace in early 2007. Treading in a sea of social media, Dennis describes Numa as a “lighthouse beacon.” Dennis recalls, “She changed her page like every two days,” obviously a sexy cyber-move. “I loved her photography, and when I saw her short film online, I was blown away.”
Complimenting her artwork (a valid wink to any artist) especially intrigued Numa. She is subject of most of her photography. And Dennis was inquisitive. After googling a little side research on him, she found out he was the real deal—a dedicated and accomplished filmmaker. “We met in person about three weeks later and there was an instant respect… a connection,” says Numa.
Dennis and Numa took a genuine interest in each other’s work. Numa recounts, “At the time he was editing his film, A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy. He would ask me how I felt about cuts he had just finished, and we really kept it about the work. We were able to talk about film in an intimate way.” Then, they took an interest in each other.
Numa was a baby when she was adopted. In an unusual and fortunate circumstance, her sister and two brothers were adopted with her. “It was a private adoption. Both of my mothers knew each other and always knew where the other was,” she says.
Numa’s parents are an interracial couple who reared their children in the Bahá'í Faith. “It is a world religion that teaches there is one God and one race, the human race.” In an effort to understand the critical importance of social and economic equality, members are encouraged to travel. “We traveled all over the country. I developed a lot of compassion at a very young age.” When Numa met her biological mother she says, “It’s funny because I grew up watching TV shows where kids are reunited with their biological parents and there is this big reveal! It wasn’t like that for me. My mother was jumping up and down, but I just didn’t react that way.” Still, Numa has learned the lesson of “acceptance and unconditional love;” she now has a close relationship with her bio-mom, and also embraces her Catholic-infused Haitian tradition.
Dennis was raised by his mother and didn’t meet his father until he was an adult. Prior to meeting Numa, he became a husband and father early on. From his former relationship, he has two children—his daughter Brooklyn (15), and his son, Tangier (7). “I believe my oldest daughter thinks Numa is interesting. She’s an artist, so she’s always doing something. My son took to her instantly; he was immediately loving and playful with her.”
Their daughter Rockwelle (2) is a Perrier-Dortch production. Numa is into astrology and explains her family this way: “I’m a Sagittarius and Dennis is a Gemini. We’re both a little crazy but it’s a good combination. He is more even-tempered than me, so he saves me from snapping on people when it’s really not that serious. I think we compliment each other.” Rockwelle is an Aries. “She’s already a little diva.” (See Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga). “Rockwelle knows what she wants,” her mother says.
Leading by example, Dennis and Numa want their children to capitalize on the passion within. They are determined to accomplish this organically and with guidance. Dennis says, “They’re all going to have their own unique, spaded path and professional careers. Brooklyn is a visual artist. She’s amazing and focused. I’m teaching her to be an entrepreneur. I want her to know that she doesn’t have to get a job, she can start her own business.”
Dennis continues with a warm sense of accomplishment. “She’s actually being paid now for her work. It makes me really proud. And she’s so proud herself! When you think ‘artist,’ you always think ‘broke.’ That’s not what I want for her. Tangier, my son, is definitely an actor. I see him doing more projects with me.”
Dennis and Numa are not legally married, but it’s in the stars. For now, they’re busy with love, family and work—funded by Kickstarter, the duo is in pre-production on The Couple: The Movie.
The Coolest Black Family in America is an EBONY.com original series: an ongoing look at the intricacies, layers and compelling beauty of African-American family life. Of course, "The Coolest Black Family” is not one family but many. In fact, we’ve found that there are as many Coolest Black Families as there are versions of cool. Also consider that family does not always mean mother + father + kids. What we know is that what defines family is connected hearts and supported souls. Ride with us weekly as we criss-cross the country in search of kinfolk whose cool is so palpable and real, it comes second only to their love.
Joicelyn Dingle travels to find the Coolest Black Family in America exclusively for EBONY.com. She splits her time between Savannah and Brooklyn. She is currently completing a documentary on the making of Honey magazine and the 90's urban publishing era. Friend her on Facebook. Follow her @editorialgenius.