With Lots of Eye Contact, Something Clicked

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From the second that Derek Fordjour locked eyes with Alexis Johara Fikira Hoag at a December 2019 vacation celebration in Brooklyn, “I just took an immediate interest in her,” he mentioned.

Mr. Fordjour had attended the celebration, hosted by the visible artist Hank Willis Thomas, with a buddy. Ms. Hoag was there on a date, however had misplaced curiosity in her companion by the point Mr. Fordjour walked over to the place she was standing with a bunch of individuals. Although they didn’t speak a lot one-on-one, each bear in mind sharing a lot of eye contact.

When Mr. Fordjour, 47, was leaving the celebration, Ms. Hoag, 40, requested how they might be in contact. Instagram handles have been exchanged, and later cellphone numbers. Every week after the celebration, he requested her to dinner, however she declined. She was leaving the subsequent day on a visit to South Africa.

Being turned down didn’t cease him from messaging her as she shared her sojourn by means of Capetown, Johannesburg and Durban on Instagram. Mr. Fordjour, an artist whose work has explored themes of racial inequity, had been to South Africa six months earlier than and he appreciated Ms. Hoag’s Instagram commentary on the nation’s historical past of colonialism.

Mr. Fordjour met Ms. Hoag on the finish of a breakout 12 months in his profession. Within the spring of 2019, the Memphis native bought his portrait collection “Top-Ten ALLSTARS” to Jay-Z and Beyoncé. That fall, his piece “Agency and Regulation (study)” bought at public sale for greater than double its estimated value. Extra lately, he has proven works in an out of doors collection on the Museum of Modern Artwork in Los Angeles and in a solo exhibition on the David Kordansky Gallery in New York.

Although his messages with Ms. Hoag about her journey weren’t “very sexy,” she mentioned, his curiosity in points that she cared about was engaging to her.

From Southern California, Ms. Hoag, who has a regulation diploma from N.Y.U., spent greater than a decade working as a legal protection legal professional earlier than becoming a member of the college at Brooklyn Regulation College, the place she is now an assistant professor and the co-director of the varsity’s Heart of Felony Justice.

Following her journey, the 2 had a primary date at Brooklyn Chop Home, in January 2020. They talked till the restaurant closed about household dynamics and being first-generation Individuals of African heritage — her household is from the Chagga tribe in Tanzania, his is from the Ashanti tribe in Ghana.

On their second date two days later, on the restaurant ROKC in Higher Manhattan, they have been so wrapped up in dialog, Ms. Hoag mentioned, “I think we forgot to eat.”

As their romance developed, each say it benefited from classes that they had discovered in previous relationships. Every had been married earlier than and Mr. Fordjour can be the daddy to a son, Langston Fordjour, now 24, from a earlier relationship.

After his first marriage of 9 years resulted in divorce in 2013, Mr. Fordjour got here to understand the significance of what he known as “intense self work.” Ms. Hoag, who’s queer, mentioned that after divorcing her spouse of two and a half years in 2017, she discovered that relationships want continued nurturing and intention.

Although she had primarily dated girls earlier than assembly Mr. Fordjour, the 2 cast a “deep soul connection,” she mentioned, by means of a shared willingness to be weak.

By the summer time of 2020, whereas New York was in pandemic lockdown, the 2 had moved in collectively, into an residence in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood. “This didn’t feel like something to run from,” Ms. Hoag mentioned of their relationship, “this felt like something to run toward.”

They turned engaged the next 12 months, in December 2021, in a fastidiously deliberate proposal orchestrated by Mr. Fordjour.

He had his studio director ship Ms. Hoag an invite to a faux arts gala on the Prince George Ballroom in Midtown Manhattan. When she arrived within the advised cocktail apparel, “There was even someone waiting outside with a guest list and a clipboard,” she mentioned. However when she entered the ballroom, she noticed a lone desk set for dinner for 2 and Mr. Fordjour, who requested her to marry him.

On July 9, they have been wed earlier than 180 company on the Arthur Ross Terrace and Backyard at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in Manhattan. Ms. Hoag’s buddy Anita Aboagye-Agyeman, whose household is from the identical tribe as Mr. Fordjour’s, officiated after being ordained by American Marriage Ministries for the event.

On the ceremony, the groom’s son walked the bride down the aisle. “I really wanted to include Langston substantively,” she mentioned. After being launched as newlyweds to the opening beat of Gucci Mane’s “Freaky Girl,” the couple kicked off the reception that adopted with a primary dance to Prince’s “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.”

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