OWN’s series, Love Is__ is our new summer TV obsession and it was all inspired by the true love story of Girlfriends and Being Mary Jane creator Mara Brock Akil and her husband and 19 years, director Salim Akil.
Not familiar with the Akils? Here are seven things to know about the two Hollywood heavy hitters whose real-life romance will sweep you off of your feet!
In the late 1990s Salim and Mara first crossed paths at a café and although sparks didn’t fly then, a year later, Salim walked up to Mara–who at the time was a writer on the show, Moesha–as they were walking down the street and took a chance. He invited her on a date to see Wynton Marsalis perform and before the two even made it to the concert, Mara was smitten. “I fell in love with him that night,” the 48-year-old told ESSENCE in 2014 of their first date.
Leon Bennett/Getty Images
Mara and Salim tied the knot in April 1999. To make their 19th wedding anniversary this year, the star took to Instagram and shared a throwback photo from their big day with the caption, “Let’s keep defining and redefining this thing called Love and Partnership! #InTheLandOf #HopingToAlwaysWhisperInHisEar.”
Fun fact about their love–she asked him to marry her!
“I told him how much I loved him and did not want to spend my life without him and so I asked him to marry me.”
The couple has two children, Yasin and Nasir, born in 2004 and 2009, respectively. Salim also has a daughter and a son from previous relationships.
“Mara has helped me with the stress and guilt I felt in not being able to do more for them when they were children,” said Salim of how his wife helped him restore his relationship with his older children.
Before dating Salim, Mara vowed to never date a man with children but the 53-year-old changed everything for her.
She said, “The lesson in that is, tell God your plans, and He will laugh and send you everything you need in a package you said you didn’t want. I’m glad that my mother taught me to see the individual because I would have missed out on this man who saved my life.”
Mara is one of the executive producer minds being Girlfriends while both she and Salim were executive producers on The Game and Being Mary Jane starring Gabrielle Union. Because the two often collaborate, the two are very clear about their work boundaries.
“On her project, she is the boss; on my project, I’m the boss,” Salim said. “Whatever we need to do to maintain our friendship and relationship, we do.”
Leon Bennett/Getty Images
In 2015, the dynamic duo signed a three-year overall deal with Warner Bros TV.
“We are each other’s secret weapon,” Mara has said of she and Salim.
Johnny Nunez/Getty Images
In 2018, the two debuted the scripted superhero series Black Lightning—which they created and executive produced.
Randy Shropshire/Getty Images
After all these years, the couple also enjoys spending quality time together and going on dates. “The number one and two reasons for divorces are sex and money, so people need to start talking about it if their marriages are going to last,” Salim told ESSENCE in 2014. “We have date night. Also, when Mara is feeling overwhelmed with being a mom, wife and working, I’ll just buy her a ticket and her a room at the Mercer and say “hey, go away for two weeks, because you really do need to go find yourself and be with you.” And she’ll do the same for me. When you come back feeling like you’re an individual and you haven’t been taken over by life, family or work, you are rejuvenated and that allows you to feel connected.”