The age-old debate over love at first sight will never end. There are two types of people: those who unwaveringly believe in the phenomenon of instantaneous love, and the cynics who consider such a notion to be nothing more than an unrealistic cliché concocted by lovesick poets, fairytales and hopeless romantics. Animator Christopher Fequiere isn’t shy about admitting he was struck hard by cupid’s arrow while working at the Sprint store in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village back in 2010.
The minute Dara King-Fequiere—dressed in denim shorts (“He called [them] ‘short-shorts,’ but they were regular length,” she clears up) and a black shirt, with hair styled in a bun—walked through the store’s glass doors, Christopher says, “I knew she was the one.” Although he knew absolutely nothing about Dara when she came in to replace a lost phone, he couldn’t escape the feeling that he did.
“Here is this beautiful woman in my store and I thought, ‘I want to help this lady, I want talk to her.’ There was just something about her,” he recounts. While he couldn’t keep his eyes off of her, a visibly irritated Dara only had eyes for a new phone. “He was looking at me from across the room and I was trying to avoid any eye contact. I was in bad mood and I just wanted to get my phone. I was not interested in meeting anyone,” says Dara, who was still recovering from a “terrible” relationship a couple of years prior. And at 70 pounds overweight, Christopher “wasn’t exactly my type either,” explains Dara.
He replaced her phone and Dara walked out of the store. “I hated myself for not talking to her. I felt like I missed my chance,” he says. Three months later “the girl of his dreams” made another appearance at the store. This time, Dara’s BlackBerry wasn’t syncing her contacts. “I knew I had to say something when I saw her. I was telling myself I couldn’t let her go this time,” says Christopher. Dara, still remembering Christopher’s piercing gaze the last time she was in the store, tried to dodge him.
“When no one in the whole store could fix my phone, I was forced to go to him, and he somehow got it to work,” she recalls. Christopher slipped her his card. The bold move was entirely new for him.
“He said, ‘If your phone ever breaks, I’ll fix it, but you have to take me out to lunch.’ I thought that was funny, but I wasn’t interested at all,” says Dara. Bored at work later on in the day, Dara, then a marketing director, decided to send Christopher a text. “I thought we could be friends. I had moved from Philly and didn’t know many people in N.Y.,” she says. “Talking on the phone with Chris was so comfortable. I didn’t expect us to have so many things in common.”
They bonded over their love of art, and Dara loved that he was an artist. Christopher, who was working at the phone store to pay off school loans, studied illustration at the School of Visual Arts and had graduated a year prior to their meeting. “When she texted me, that was the start of me trying to build a relationship with her,” he reveals.
Soon after their first phone conversation, Christopher and Dara went on their first date, dinner.
“I was trying my hardest to let her know how interested I was,” says Christopher. His efforts did not go unnoticed. “I could tell he was trying hard for me to like him,” says Dara. Even though she still wasn’t sold on the idea of dating Christopher, it was obvious on their first night out that at the very least they could be good friends. “The conversation was great,” says Dana. They shared their life goals and experiences. “A lot of times first dates can be awkward, but that wasn’t the case with her at all. It was just so easy to talk, and that was a good sign for me,” he adds. It was clear to Christopher that the romanticized image he’d painted in his mind of Dara when he first laid eyes on her was, in fact, spot-on. “She was smart and very hardworking. Her work ethic was similar to my mom,” says Christopher.
Raised in a single-parent household in Brooklyn, Christopher describes his mother as very strict growing up. He credits her firm parenting for keeping him on the straight and narrow path, and teaching him the value of being smart. “What I looked for in a partner was someone smart and strong-willed. That was Dara,” explains Christopher, who patiently waited for Dara to take their friendship to the next level.
During the summer of 2010, the art enthusiasts spent a lot of time together visiting galleries, museums and waxing poetic on art. Dara was thrilled to have someone with whom she could share her passion. But even more than art, Dara was touched by Christopher’s thoughtfulness.
“If I had a bad day, he always bought me a cake from different bakeries,” says Dara. This sweet cheer-me-up routine is still Christopher’s modus operandi when it comes to putting a big smile on Dara’s face. His attentive, kind nature reminded Dara of her dad and how he doted on her mom growing up. “My parents, who met at 19 and have been married for 34 years, have always been lovey dovey. My dad is very appreciative of my mom and always took care of her. I always wanted someone who was nice and caring to me,” says Dara.
“Dara really made me want to do things for her, and to go to the end of the earth to make sure she was happy,” says Christopher. Having sold her popular business in Philly (Thread Beauty Bar) in 2009, one year after graduating from Temple and a year after opening the shop, Dara felt lost and anxious about what the next stage in her life would hold. “I was going through a tough time, and Christopher was there for me when I was stumbling trying to figure out my next step,” says Dara, “All those things made me start looking at Christopher differently, and we started dating.” This was a sharp contrast to her ex-boyfriend, who she says didn’t show any support.
“It went both ways. Being able to rely on Dara was huge for me. She inspired me to put my focus back on my art,” says Christopher. He quit his job at Sprint, lost 60 pounds, and both of them worked towards turning his dream of becoming a comic-book artist into a reality. Although he started landing gigs, Christopher realized he wasn’t as passionate about comics as he initially thought.
It wasn’t until one of Dara’s clients was searching for an animator that Christopher discovered his true calling.
“I feel there is a lot of emotion that comes from painting, but we live in a world that moves. Painting for me just didn’t capture that essence, but animation did. I grew up loving watching cartoons,” says Christopher.
“The first time he worked in animation and was really excited, I saw that this is something we can do together,” says Dara. (Also a writer, Dara wrote the script, and Christopher animated it.) Their first project helped launch their joint animation project, A Sullivan Studio.
Christopher and Dara say being in a relationship and working together can be challenging, but a common goal in both love and business makes the hard times more manageable. “You have to make sure you understand each other and have the same goals. If you can’t compromise, than it’s probably not going to work. You have to give it a 100 percent to succeed,” Christopher says.
“We are together all day, every day. It can be a lot. We try to set aside time to go out and not talk about work. Now with our son, Oliver (he is 22 months), it’s harder, ’cause we have to work even more,” says Dara. Her hard-working, realistic nature (“I freak out if anything goes wrong”) and Christopher’s diligent but laid-back, dreamy approach to working balance each other. They’re always chasing their dreams and bringing them to fruition. At the moment, they are working on a new start-up. “I love that Chris is willing to work to achieve our goals,” says Dara.
After dating for three years, Dara was ready to get married. While Christopher fell in love with Dara the first day they met, he didn’t understand why marriage had to be the next chapter in their love story. “I thought, ‘We are already together, we live together, so what is the difference?’ Marriage to me was just a legal document. I never saw the benefit of marriage in my family life or growing up in New York. Everyone was focused on working hard,” explains Christopher.
Everything changed when Dara came home from shopping one day and told him she was pregnant with Oliver. “I thought, ‘I’m about to bring this life into the world and I love this woman.’ It made me completely reconsider marriage. I wanted to show Dara how much I loved her and our baby.”
Dara was 26 and Christopher was 25 when they got married in 2012.
They eschewed the traditional big church wedding and headed down to City Hall. “I was never a girl who thought about her wedding. I didn’t even want him to buy me a ring,” reveals Dara. But Christopher was too thrilled to purchase a ring for Dara, so she gave in to his wishes. They celebrated their union with an intimate dinner party—30 of their closest friends and family, which took three months to plan. “It was just perfect and very New York,” says Christopher. “Chris is who I’m supposed to be with. We have a true connection. We’ve progressed to so many different stages from friends, couple, business partners and then husband and wife,” Dara says.
Christopher says they’re learning to adapt to the new parenting phase in their relationship. “I never saw the relationship between my mom and my father. This gives me the chance to be the father I never had. It’s a blessing.”
As for Dara, she never considered herself to be maternal. But that changed when Oliver came into the world. “I was more focused on my career. I was so surprised at just how maternal I really am. Chris is just like his mom; he is strict and has a certain idea of how things should be. I appreciate that. He has to lead by example raising a Black son. My focus is education. I’m very driven. I expect Oliver will be same and he will love learning,” shares Dara.
Juggling running your own business and family is possible, but it does come with some sacrifices. No matter what Dara and Christopher are doing, they’d always prefer to be with Oliver. “We have to keep focused on the bigger picture, and that is providing a stable and good life for our son. I love my family,” says Christopher. Today, the Fequieres live in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood.
Listening to how close and loving they are, it’s hard to believe there was ever a time when Dara was just not that into Christopher. Today she states with confidence that she can’t imagine her life without him in it. While Dara may not have experienced love at first sight, she says that after a year of dating, they both revealed to each other something that would make even the most ardent skeptics consider the idea of soulmates.
Dara says, “Literally two or three weeks before I met Chris, I said, ‘Please God, just send me an artist from Brooklyn who is interesting.’ Chris says he prayed for a woman who would help him get his act together.” Voilà.
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: family doesn’t always mean mother + father + kids. What defines family is connected hearts and supported souls. Ride with us weekly as we crisscross the country in search of kinfolk whose cool is so palpable and real, it comes second only to their love. Think your cool fam qualifies? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org (with Coolest Black Family in the subject line)!
Alexandra Phanor-Faury is a Haitian-American writer living in Brooklyn, New York with a slight (OK, major) addiction to fashion and pop culture. When she’s not up in the middle of the night filling her online shopping carts and catching up on style blogs, she’s writing about fashion and entertainment for a number of websites and magazines. Check out her work and blog at AlexandraPhanor.com.