Friendship. Secrets shared. Trust built. Compassion reciprocated. It’s all, conceivably, the most genuine way to meet your match. Sean and Lanyae were just that. Meeting in Sean Bolden’s native Wichita, Kansas, at their church, “Lanyae was my image of the perfect woman. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s the kind of woman I want to marry one day.’ I never thought that I was worthy to have someone like her. I just never thought…”
Sean thereafter put his passion into his friendship with Lanyae, one built on intently listening to one another. During their platonic relationship, Lanyae had a child. “My first daughter’s [biological] father is absent,” Lanye says. “When I got pregnant, Sean was a supportive friend through it all.”
“Lanyae went through a lot with that relationship,” Sean remembers. “But I didn’t feel any differently. She was my best friend—so beautiful inside and out.”
Sean and Lanyae started dating a year after her daughter was born. When he decided to go into the military, the Illinois-born young mother said, “We’ll be here when you get back.” However, before he left for basic training, they had a conversation about the future. On both their lists was marriage, music to Sean’s ears. “I asked her if she would consider marrying me.” A firm yes followed.
Their wedding was scheduled to take place after Sean returned from basic training. The day came. Sean wasn’t there. Due to military orders, he was held over in training. “We actually had to put a sign on the church door canceling the wedding,” he says. When Sean arrived, Lanyae decided they would have a very small ceremony at her parents’ house—just their parents and the pastor. Word got around that the wedding was happening. People just showed up and were welcomed. “My mother’s house was crowded!” Lanyae remembers fondly.
Moving to Fort Stewart, Georgia (where Sean was stationed), Lanyae worked at Verizon Wireless as a general manager. After the military, Sean worked in law enforcement, all the while playing in various bands around Savannah exercising his love for music. Lanyae notes, “Sean is a musician. He’s always wanted to be a professional drummer.”
Sean expressed a desire to leave Georgia for California to pursue an entertainment career. Lanyae knew her husband’s dream would only go so far in Savannah. She also knew she could transfer her job, but she’d have to take a lesser title and less money. However, her thoughtful response still moves him. “After Sean supported our family for 10 years, I felt like I could take a step down in order for my husband to pursue the passion he’s had since he was a little boy.”
Sean humbly states, “It was profound for my wife to say that. I never thought of it that way. My mother taught me to take care of my wife and my family.”
The couple also decided to head to Hollywood for the children. When Sean and Lanyae expressed the idea, Patrice (13), Seanice (9) and Jada (5) saw their own names in lights.
Jada is the budding gymnast. The Gabby Douglas Story is her everything. “Jada was doing forward flips and backward flips well, but she was doing it on my furniture! She said, ‘Mommy, this is what I want to do.’ So we put her in gymnastics.”
Patrice is a singer and plays the upright bass. “She’s got a journal of songs she’s written she’s holding on to. Her goal is to play music and sing in tandem. It’s not as easy as people think. She takes music lessons.”
The middle daughter (who wants to act) said, “I’m finally going to be famous!” Before leaving Georgia, Seanice started perfecting her autograph. Her mom says, “She went as far as passing out her picture at her school with her autograph saying, ‘You’re going to see me on TV.’ ”
Lanyae cheerleads: “I wanted to support that, seeing that passion in my children. I want them to continue to dream and know that dreams takes action.”
The family of five drove cross-country. “To cut down on costs, we stayed with family at various stops,” and they got the chance to spend time with their kin. The east to west coast journey was a smooth three-day trip. When they reached their new home in North Hollywood, “It took a day to put the house together. It was overwhelming but we did it!”
The Boldens’ bold move was an auspicious one, as if Hollywood was just waiting on them to get there. Within the first week, both Sean and his namesake Seanice had a talent agent—an assiduous one. Sean has booked films, commercials, music videos. “He has done more acting than playing music since we’ve been here,” Lanyae says. However, her husband displayed his talent for drumming in a commercial for the Grammy Association, and he recently performed at the House of Blues with Australian artist DaniElle DeLaite.
Two and a half months into California, the whole family was filmed for the ABC Disney Frozen Christmas Celebration in December 2014. “My agent submitted us. She said we’d be perfect for it.” The Boldens were interviewed and selected. And the icing on the cake: they would fly his mother, Frenzella Bolden, to meet them in Disneyworld as a surprise to her.
“My mother adopted six kids and raised us a single mother,” Sean says. “She survived breast cancer. She’s my hero. We’re very close. I don’t know where I’d be without her.” Due to life constraints, he hadn’t seen his mom in four years. Ms. Bolden always wanted to take all six of her children to Disneyland but couldn’t afford it as a single parent. “The reunion was very emotional for us. My mom is a big Disney fan.” The segment is a magical testament to what happens when you pursue your dreams. And it’s a tearjerker. (View it here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3Spsk6WoOE&feature=youtu.be)
Sean continues: “This is not just for me, it’s for my entire family.” Like Lanyae, when Sean saw the passion in his daughters, he hit the ground running. “My daughters sparked something in me. I want my kids to see that your dreams can happen if you have the courage and believe in yourself.”
The Boldens are only six months new to Hollywood, fearlessly realizing visions in an industry saturated with potential. “Having a wife who supports what you do and gives you the go, that’s priceless. If I’m at a low point, she’s always encouraging. When I don’t see something, she can see it. I have no problem admitting that I have to have her.”
Sean believes that the coolest trait of the Bolden family is their impenetrable bond. “We’re tight—through good times and bad times. We are unbreakable.”
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 email@example.com (with Coolest Black Family in the subject line)!
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 1990s urban publishing era. Friend her on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter @editorialgenius.