Valentine’s Day: Decades of Enduring Love

Nicole L. Cvetnic
Cookie and Earvin “Magic” Johnson in 2014
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

It seems like celebrities are always making up and breaking up. It may be hard to find long-lasting love in the limelight, but these adorable couples prove that partnerships can endure. Here are 14 celebrity duos who have been making our hearts melt for decades.

1. LL Cool J and Simone Smith


LL Cool J and Simone Smith were high school sweethearts. After a decade of on-and-off dating, he finally popped the question while riding in a Jeep with the radio on. He turned down the music and asked, “Do you wanna do this?” They tied the knot Aug. 7, 1995.

2. B. Smith and Dan Gasby

B. Smith and Dan Gasby were married Dec. 23, 1992. Their paths first crossed on Valentine’s Day in 1987 when he brought his then-wife to Smith’s restaurant for dinner. After both their marriages ended in 1989, their paths soon crossed again and they began dating. More recently, he has cared for B. Smith since her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

3. Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham


Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham were briefly engaged in 1992 but opted to have a “spiritual union.” They first met in 1986 at a charity event in Chicago. She describes him as “the love, the lover, the man, the partner, the mate. … I do not know of another man on this planet who could have lived this life with such dignity, with such grace and such respect and humility in it. And still hold his own and be his own.”

4. Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith


Will and Jada Pinkett Smith first met on the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when she auditioned for the role of his girlfriend Lisa Wilkes. She was considered too short for the part, but a real-life romance developed. The duo were married at the Cloisters Mansion in Baltimore Dec. 31, 1997.

5. Barack and Michelle Obama


President Barack Obama met his future wife, Michelle Robinson, in 1988 when he started working at a Chicago law firm, where she was his adviser. He described their first kiss as tasting like chocolate. They have been married since Oct. 3, 1992.

6. Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance


Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance met while students at the Yale School of Drama. They tied the knot Oct. 12, 1997. Bassett says she knew he was “the one” very early on. “I just looked at him and knew that he was a kind person whose core burned pure,” she said.

7. Samuel L. Jackson and LaTanya Richardson


College sweethearts Samuel L. Jackson and LaTanya Richardson were married in 1980. The couple first met while he was attending Morehouse College and she was studying at Spelman College.

8. Muhammad and Yolanda “Lonnie” Ali


Muhammad and Yolanda “Lonnie” Ali have been married since Nov. 19, 1986. She was a little girl when she first spotted “the Champ” in her Louisville, Ky., neighborhood. When his third marriage failed, he reached out to his “little sister” Lonnie for comfort. Eventually the relationship evolved, and 20 years after she first eyed him, they were married.

9. Mary J. Blige and Kendu Isaacs


Mary J. Blige and Kendu Isaacs met in 2000 and tied the knot Dec. 7, 2003, in New Jersey. “The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul” credits her husband with helping her overcome alcohol and drug addiction many years ago. “After I met him, everything changed in my life,” she said. “He was the first person to ever challenge what I did: ‘Why are you drinking? Why do you hate yourself? You don’t need to be around people who tear you down. You’re beautiful, Mary.’ He was the first man to ever tell me that.”

10. Eric Holder and Sharon Malone


Eric Holder and Sharon Malone met in 1989 at a fundraiser for Concerned Black Men and the Coalition of 100 Black Women in Washington, D.C., after Malone moved there to start her medical residency. They have been married since 1990.

11. Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee


Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis were wed Oct. 2, 1993. Lee met his future wife at a Congressional Black Caucus dinner in 1992. She recounts the pair’s first meeting: “We walked past each other. Spike circled back around and proceeded to give me the third degree. ‘Are you an actress? A model? A singer? Who are you here with? What do you do? Do you have a boyfriend?’”

12. Al Roker and Deborah Roberts


Al Roker and Deborah Roberts met when she first began as a reporter for NBC in 1990. They were married Sept. 16, 1995.

13. Earvin “Magic” and Earlitha “Cookie” Johnson


Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Earlitha “Cookie” Johnson have been married since 1991. They first met at a college party in 1977 while attending Michigan State University. After finding out that he was HIV-positive, he told his wife, “I can understand if you want to leave me because I’m now turning your life upside down. And she smacked me upside the head and said, ‘We’re going to beat this together. Let’s get on our knees and pray.’ And that’s what we did.”

14. Laurence Fishburne and Gina Torres


Laurence Fishburne and Gina Torres met while filming The Matrix Reloaded. They were engaged in February 2001 and tied the knot Sept. 22, 2002, at the Cloisters museum in New York City. She describes her relationship with Fishburne this way: “We understand each other and have a great deal of respect for each other and for each other’s work.”

Nicole L. Cvetnic is The Root’s multimedia editor and producer. 

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