Radio host Shirley Strawberry shares how she added love and marriage to her busy to-do list. Plus, get an exclusive look at her romantic wedding celebration.
The Bride: Shirley Strawberry, author and cohost of The Steve Harvey Morning Show
The Groom: Ernesto Williams, Concierge Entrepreneur
The Big Day: January 9, 2015
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Every week The Steve Harvey Morning Show cohost and our go-to girlfriend Shirley Strawberry offers no-nonsense relationship tips to the show’s millions of listeners, who share their drama for the “Strawberry Letter” segment. A few years ago, the divorcée realized it was time to take her own advice.
Strawberry was thriving with more than 25 years in broadcast, a hit show and an NAACP Image Award–winning book when she realized she had not seriously dated anyone in more than five years. “I wanted a relationship, but I wasn’t putting any effort into it and made no room in my life for a man,” she recalls. “I had faith that God was going to send me a man, but what was I doing? You can’t go home every weekend and just sit there. You have to put yourself in the game. Faith without works is dead.” Strawberry decided to put more energy into her personal happiness and peace of mind. She started eating better and working out, which helped her lose some weight. She strengthened her relationship with God through prayer, bought more figure-flattering dresses and scaled back on the big earrings to better show- case her natural beauty: “I learned to not only love but also like who I saw in the mirror, and I became more vocal about my desires and feelings.”
With a commitment to keeping a smile on her face, she found herself open to trying new things—including being introduced to a man whom a friend had wanted her to meet. One day in 2013, the girlfriend took Strawberry by the concierge business of Atlanta entrepreneur Ernesto Williams. As he and Strawberry began to chat, the friend made a hasty excuse and left them on their own. The usually guarded Strawberry started to open up as they both shared their pasts and hopes for the future. Williams arranged for one of his company’s drivers to take Strawberry home and asked her on an official date. Days after, the couple quickly bonded and spent hourstalking and people-watching in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park.
“He was a complete gentleman from the beginning,” she says. “He’s handsome but most important he was honest and kind.” Strawberry let him know up front she wasn’t in the market just to be a girlfriend. “There was a time I would never have said that and would have been afraid to say how I feel,” she says. “Men say what they want all the time, so as women, we have to step up and say what we want. You just might get it.”
Eventually Strawberry introduced Williams to her daughter, Sheridyn, a senior in high school. “She loved him instantly,” the mother recalls. Last summer Sheridyn joined forces with her mom’s beau for a special birthday surprise for Strawberry—a marriage proposal live on the radio show. “It was such a shock, and so romantic,” Strawberry says. “You never know what God has in store for you.”
Williams shared that he wanted to celebrate his upcoming fiftieth birthday in a big way, and that included gaining a wife. The couple set their wedding date for his milestone, January 9, 2015.
“What attracted me to Shirley was her positive energy,” Williams says. “It was so strong I had to humble myself as a man to allow God to speak to me through this incredible woman.” The couple’s black-and-white Friday-night wedding was plan- ned by Tony Conway and over- flowed with love. Strawberry was escorted down the aisle by her mentor, Steve Harvey. She wore never-used white satin shoes that she had bought more than ten years ago when her first marriage was ending. “I thought, I’m just going to buy these shoes for my next wedding,” she recalls. “My friend added some bling to them for my special day.” After the “I dos,” Kem sang his hit song “Share My Life” for the couple’s first dance, and the pair toasted their love with family and friends. The following Monday morning, Strawberry was back on the radio helping listeners with their relation- ships. “When you make room for love, you discover you have more than enough space,” Strawberry says.
This article was originally published in the April 2015 issue of ESSENCE Magazine.