Jesse Williams’ BET Awards speech has been trending since Sunday leading us to wonder about his better half, Aryn Drake-Lee. When we began to dig, we discovered a Renaissance woman who is every bit as dynamic as her famous husband. Check it out.
1. She is black.
In his Sunday BET speech, Jesse Williams said:
“This award is also for the black women in particular who have spent their lives nurturing everyone before themselves — we can and will do better for you.”
His wife, Aryn, is one of these black women.
2. She has been with him since before he hit it big.
Aryn started dating Jesse before his movie debut in 2008’s The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. The two actually met when he was a history schoolteacher. In 2010, he told USA Today:
“She’s been with me through all different facets of my career. She’s stuck with me through thick and thick and thick and thin. We know each other in and out.”
3. She is half of the force behind ‘Ebroji’ — an app that speaks to inclusion.
Earlier this year, the couple launched “the first curated GIF keyboard, designed specifically to enhance the way we already communicate (Huffington Post).” Yes, Aryn was part creator.
Williams shared on Twitter that the app includes ALL people.
“Users are thankful that the categories sound like them, authentically…and the images look like them — ALL of them. Brown, trans, ALL, people can see and use images that they connect to as an extension of themselves.”
4. She is a successful NY real estate broker, “her own person and self-made.”
These words are straight from Jesse himself, which he shared with People Magazine in 2009. ”[That’s] a big deal for me”, he told the magazine. Additionally, according to Brown Harris Stevens, Aryn is “one of the most successful [real estate] brokers” at their Park Slope office.
In a 2015 interview with Essence Magazine, he applauded her independence again;
“I don’t gain strength from the weakness of others. I need to be able to learn from my partner. That’s what keeps us alive. We have mutual respect for each other and we can help each other where we need it.”
5. She began her career at a historically black real estate management company.
Also according to her Brown Harris Stevens profile, Aryn started her career “under the tutelage of Webb and Brooker in Harlem”. Webb and Brooker became the “largest black management company in the country” in 1981 when “they were hired by Prudential Insurance Company to manage two luxury office buildings” in New York (New York Times).
Before Prudential hired Webb and Brooker, said 62-year-old Eugene Webb, an animated speaker who retains the accent of his native Alabama, there were ”no black firms doing commercial management or leasing” outside minority communities.
6. She is a confident natural.
If you search for Aryn online, most photographs show her rocking her gorgeous curls and coils freely. It does not matter whether she is attending a red carpet event or a lunch date with her hubby.
7. She is an Ivy League graduate.
Aryn attended Barnard College, which was built in 1889 so that women could receive a comparable education to the men of Columbia University. Though Columbia later became coeducational, Barnard remained an independent women’s liberal arts college. The two universities do, however, have an affiliated relationship. The women graduates of Barnard “receive the diploma of [Columbia] University.”
8. She became trilingual at a young age.
According to her profile on Brown Harris Stevens, Aryn is fluent in both Spanish and French. She learned these languages while attending the French American International School (San Francisco), which is an independent bilingual school for PK-12th grade.
9. She is a private woman.
Though Jesse is more active in the spotlight, Aryn stays behind the scenes. Even their wedding was a private one for close family and friends. There was no big production for the magazines or media.
10. She is an amazing wife who changed Jesse’s life.
These words are also directly from Jesse Williams. In his BET speech, he thanked his “amazing wife who changed his life”. The couple have a daughter (2 1/2 years old) named Sadie and a son (11 months) named Maceo.