Black Women and the White Men They Love

The book Is Marriage for White People? says that black women have the power to alter the "relationship market" by marrying interracially. If so, these celebs are agents of change.

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  • Iman

    The Somali supermodel and businesswoman was set up with British rock royalty David Bowie by their shared hairdresser. “It was nerve-racking at the beginning, the first five minutes, but we got along very famously, and we have been together since then,” she said in an interview. The power couple walked down the aisle in 1992 and have a daughter, Alexandria Zahra Jones.

    Captions by Jenée Desmond-Harris

  • Roxie Roker

    Lenny Kravitz’s mom was best known for playing half of the first interracial couple on prime-time television — she was Helen Willis on The Jeffersons (she’s pictured here with her TV husband). Art imitated life. In 1962 Roker married, and later divorced, Russian Jewish television producer Sy Kravitz.

  • Paula Patton

    The actress met R&B singer Robin Thicke in high school, and the two tied the knot in 2010. Patton, who is biracial, recently joked to talk-show host Chelsea Handler about the pair’s melanin-challenged son, saying, “He’s gotta get blacker. I put baby oil on him in the sun … everything!”

  • Grace Hightower

    Hightower met Robert De Niro in London in 1987 and married him after a decade of dating. Things got rough about two years later, and De Niro even filed for divorce. But it was never finalized, and the couple renewed their wedding vows in 2004 in front of a crowd of A-list celebrities.

  • Mariah Carey

    Carey married music executive Tommy Mottola, who is widely viewed as the architect of her early musical success, in a lavish ceremony in 1993. But her voice proved to have more staying power than their relationship. They divorced in early 1998.

  • Diana Ross

    Ross’ first marriage was to her business manager, Robert Ellis Silberstein (the father of Tracee Ellis Ross of Girlfriends) in 1971; they divorced in 1977. She later met Norwegian shipping magnate Arne Næss Jr. on a trip to the Bahamas and married him in 1985. The couple officially split in 2000 after years of legal separation.

  • Alfre Woodard

    The award-winning actress has been married to writer Roderick Spencer for nearly three decades. They have two children: Mavis and Duncan. About the strength of a marriage that, apart from being interracial, has defied Hollywood odds for longevity, she’s said, “Our families have always been very supportive. We were both taught, ‘You pick your friends on how they treat you — not by what they have or what they look like.’ “

  • Marian Wright Edelman

    The founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund and lifelong advocate for the disadvantaged met her future husband during a 1967 tour of the poverty-ridden Mississippi Delta. Peter Edelman, an assistant to Robert F. Kennedy, eventually became a civil rights attorney and law professor. The couple married in 1968 and have three sons.

  • Lena Horne

    Horne — a singer, actress, dancer and civil rights activist — married white bandleader Lennie Hayton in 1947, but the marriage was kept secret for three years because of racial pressures. Until his 1971 death, he was also her pianist, arranger, conductor and manager.

  • Josephine Baker

    World-famous Harlem Renaissance icon Josephine Baker, the first African-American female to star in a major motion picture and to integrate an American concert hall, married and divorced four times. Her last two marriages were to white Frenchmen. She married Jean Lion in 1937 (from whom she attained French citizenship) and orchestra leader Jo Bouillon in 1947 (he helped raise her 12 adopted children, whom she called the rainbow tribe).

  • Aisha Tyler

    The actress and comedian met Jeff Tietjens, whom she married in 1992, at Dartmouth. Tyler is quite comfortable joking about their relationship with quips like, “I married a white guy. Honestly, I had to. My credit was f—ed up.” She has also described the less laughable experiences, saying in one interview that their early days of dating were “like the gauntlet every day. It was exhausting because we could not walk down the street without brothers yelling and catcalling lame, tired old lines.”

  • Alice Walker

    It was 1965 when Walker met Jewish civil rights lawyer Melvyn Roseman Leventhal. They were married two years later in New York City. The couple relocated to Jackson, Miss., where they faced harassment and threats by whites, including the Ku Klux Klan. They eventually divorced, but Walker has described their daughter, Rebecca, as “a living, breathing, mixed-race embodiment of the new America that they were trying to forge.”

  • Whoopi Goldberg

    The comedian, actress and View host has been married three times, her last two husbands were white — cinematographer David Claessen and actor Lyle Trachtenberg. She and Trachtenberg were together for a year before they split in 1995. That marriage will likely be her last, interracial or otherwise. “If you ever hear of me walking down anybody’s aisle again, I want you to stick your leg out and trip me,” she has said.

    Correction: An earlier version stated that all three of her ex-husbands were white.

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