You might know Rotimi as the actor who played the hard and ruthless character Dre from the hit Starz show Power. But if you’re a fan of his music (like we are here at ESSENCE), you’ll know this New Jersey native has a romantic side. So it’s not surprising that when he met his girlfriend, Tanzanian VJ and musician Vanessa Mdee, their spark was magnetic.

Rotimi is so inspired by his real-life chemistry with Mdee, he recently cast her to play his leading lady in the video “Love Somebody.” The Adam & Eve inspirations in the video may catch your eye, but Rotimi says it’s indicative of the sanctuary they’ve built for themselves inside this chaotic state of our world.

“It feels like we have an angelic type of love that can’t be explained,” he tells ESSENCE. Mdee, smiling as she cozies up beside him, agrees. “We are happy that we get to share it with the world and show the world what it’s like to find love in this time where sometimes it feels almost impossible,” she says. “To find someone that you can literally call your rib.”

Rotimi and Mdee first went public with their relationship last year, and they’ve only gotten closer since. The couple told us they first met at ESSENCE Festival and, funny enough, Rotimi actually had another date lined up before he and Mdee crossed paths.

“I actually was there with somebody else, just a weekend friend,” he admits. “She ended up getting sick. We were supposed to go to this party, and [she said] I don’t want to come. I said, ‘okay, it’s fine. I’m just going to go for 15 minutes.’ I end up going and some of my castmates were also there. That’s where I end up meeting [Vanessa.] Fifteen minutes turned into an hour and a half conversation. Nothing else mattered in the room.”

After a month of long-distance communication (Mdee returned back to Africa for work), the lovebirds went on their first official date. It didn’t take long for her to make the decision to relocate for the relationship. “I feel like we’ve been together for lifetimes,” Rotimi said. “So, this is just this body and I just met her again on this earth. It felt like that from day one, and I’ve never had a connection that instantly. [I told her] I don’t want you to go back to Africa. I want you to stay with me.”

Currently, the couple is residing in Atlanta and feel more assured than ever that their relationship was meant to be. Mdee says Rotimi in a sense saved her life.

“I was functioning and living, but not living,” she says. “I was existing, honestly. And he came in at a point where I needed to hear certain things that I couldn’t have heard from anyone else. His heart is so big and his love is so boundless. It’s the type that transforms you. And you honestly want to be the best version of yourself every single day.”

When asked what advice he would give other millennials who are looking for love but jaded by the dating scene, Rotimi’s advice is simple and succint. “I think first you’ve got to love yourself,” he says. “I think that a lot of us skip that part. Once you love yourself it’s easy to find someone to love and love you as well.”

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