You’ve met the four couples of this year’s “Will You Marry Me?” competition. You’ve watched him propose, you’ve seen her accept. You’ve voted time and again (did you know you can cast a vote every 24 hours? did you know by simply voting you are eligible to win a four-night stay in Maui?) for your favorite, each click bringing that couple closer to winning a dream wedding. You’ve seen their photo galleries, you’ve read their weekly blogs, you’ve heard why you think they should win. Now, let’s get real: This is all about the ladies! Check out our interview with Dewain La Sha Lee, fiancee of Irvin Williams. ESSENCE.com: What was your first impression of your fianc? DEWAIN LEE: Because we met on business, I was caught off guard by him and my instant attraction to him. When he walked into the room, he immediately caught my eye, but because it was a business meeting I remained calm and did not show my attraction to him. My first impression of course was that I thought he was handsome, but also very charming and knowledgeable. I was impressed by the way he commanded the room and showed a great level of confidence and charisma during our business negotiations. My first impression based on the way he carried himself and the passion he showed about the business meeting led me to believe the same level of passion he had for his work life was carried out in his personal life as well. ESSENCE.com: How and when did you know he was the one? LEE: I knew Irvin was the one right away. It was very early on that I began to feel that this was my soul mate. I think it was partly because of the way we started dating. Irvin went through a great deal to get me to go on a date with him. He basically made a business deal with my colleague on my behalf. I know it sounds strange, but remember we met over business and I needed additional services that I did not have in my budget. Irvin agreed to provide the services for free in exchange for a date with me. I was surprised but glad because it let me know that he was attracted to me as much as I was attracted to him. We did not have that initial date until about two weeks later. Believe it or not, that first date let me know he was the one. Although we had not actually had the date until two weeks later, we were talking on the phone almost every day so the date actually brought all the conversations to life. The date seemed so natural as if we had known each other forever. The ease at which were both able to talk and open up on a first date was amazing. It was unlike any other date I had and that’s why I knew after the first date that he was the one. ESSENCE.com: Was this the right moment in your life to make this commitment of getting engaged? LEE: Yes, I think this was the right moment to commit myself to Irvin and accept his offer of becoming his wife. I think the main reason is because of the person he is and the way he treats me. He made me feel like a queen and because of the type of man he is I knew it was not just special treatment to win me over in the beginning of our relationship but that this was the way he would treat me 30 years from now. I also knew it was the right time because of my actions towards him and the way I felt. I was totally open. I would normally be guarded in relationships and not let anyone in, but with Irvin it just felt right. He allowed me to see that it was safe to open my heart and to show my true feelings. This engagement was just a natural progression and the obvious next step in our relationship. ESSENCE.com: Were you actually surprised by the proposal? Or did you see it coming? LEE: I was totally surprised. I had no idea what was happening. I was picked up from my job under the pretenses of a scavenger hunt for ESSENCE. So to travel all over the city picking up clues did not give me the indication that this was a marriage proposal. I actually thought it was for the Essence Music Festival which happens in New Orleans every year, so the story did not seem odd at all. And also Irvin lives over 2,000 miles away from me, so I definitely did not expect this. And to have the scavenger hunt end with him at the hotel where we first laid eyes on each other was amazing. It is a marriage proposal I would never have expected and will never forget. ESSENCE.com: Were you impressed by the effort he went through to get you two in this year’s “Will You Marry Me” contest? Does that earn him bonus points? LEE: I am impressed but I have to honestly say I am not surprised. What I mean by that is that since the beginning of our relationship, Irvin has always gone out of his way to show his love for me and this is very typical of the lengths he will go to constantly remind me of our bond and his commitment to me and our relationship. By far this is the biggest surprise he has ever given me. Irvin is a very public person and has no problem publicly expressing his feelings for me so this seems like something he would do: expressing his love for me to the world. I just would never have expected it. Yes, this earns him major bonus points. After this wonderful experience, he can probably do no wrong. This will keep him out of the dog house. ESSENCE.com: What does marriage mean to you? LEE: Marriage to me means sharing my life with someone. And that’s all aspects of my life: family, work and leisure time. It is my entire life no longer revolving around me and my needs. It means becoming one and putting the thoughts, feelings and needs of someone else before my own, and getting the same in return. It means I have someone to support me in times when I am feeling weak mentally, physically and spiritually. It also means providing that same level of support to someone else. ESSENCE.com: What do you think are the most important elements to a successful marriage? LEE: I think the most important elements of a successful marriage are open communication and honesty. I think being honest and communicating your feelings with your mate are key. Both people need to be free to talk/communicate any issues they may be having. Keeping feelings bottled up stifles the relationship. Each person needs to know from their partner that it is okay to speak their mind without judgment. Another element is safety and security. Each person in the relationship needs to know and feel that their partner will always have their best interest in mind; this brings feelings of safety that they will always protect them, which also brings on feelings of security. Each of these elements, communication, honesty, security and safety needs to be mutual. Each person needs to give as well as receive at the same level. One person cannot give or take more of the elements than the other. And of course there’s love. I think it is very important to continue to date each other. In talking with couples I find that they don’t date each other. They don’t take time to go out and be each other’s girlfriend or boyfriend. Irvin and I have made a vow to always date, and not fall into a routine and take each other for granted. I plan to always be Irvin’s girlfriend and date him long after we have been married. This will keep the relationship as exciting as when I first became his girlfriend and we were dating. ESSENCE.com: Describe the thoughts that ran through your head as he actually said the words, “Will You Marry Me?” LEE: As he was getting down on one knee, I was totally confused. I was trying to process the day. I had been on a scavenger hunt all day that ended with him, so it took me a minute to process what really occurred that day and to realize I was not on a scavenger hunt to promote the Essence Music Festival. Once he actually said Will You Marry Me, I was thinking is this really happening and believe it or not, I actually said, “What are you doing here?” I know that is not the typical response but remember Irvin is 2,000 miles away and to have him sneak into New Orleans for two days without me knowing he was here was just as surprising as the actually proposal. So I had a lot of different thoughts going through my head. I was also mesmerized by the ring once he put it on my finger and he actually had to ask me to respond. All the emotions that came rushing in because of the excitement of the day and him asking me to marry him overwhelmed me. Once my mind stopped spinning, of course I said yes! NOW VOTE!
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