Whitney Keaton and Raphael Smith Whitney Keaton and Raphael Smith

Vixen Industry Couple: Whitney Keaton and Raii + Vixen Giveaway!

Whitney Keaton and Raphael Smith

Finding love at times can be a feat, especially if you're in the entertainment industry. But there are some successful exceptions. Whitney Keaton and Raphael Smith's relationship began before their professional journey and ripened as they both separately followed their dreams as professional singers.

While they weren't always working side-by-side, in 2010 just a week before they said 'I do' an unexpected pregnancy would grant these two a new journey and challenge: "I was working with Estelle since the beginning of that year and that was the same time that Alicia [Keys] was pregnant. An opportunity presented itself where Estelle needed another singer and since Alicia's tour got cut short, Whitney was available to go on tour with me."

Many couples couldn't imagine working with their significant other 24/7 but this couple relishes on how "blessed" and "spoiled" they are to have this opportunity. As we prep for Valentine's Day, let's revel in Whitney and Raphael's love story. The couple talks balancing work and marriage, their new joint project, and out how to win tickets to see them live!

All photos courtesy of RaiiWK

Whitney Keaton and Raphael Smith

How'd you two meet?

RAII: I attended the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and at the end of my freshman year, I was invited to join a local gospel recording group, "Cynthia Turner & Heartspeak". Whitney was already a member of the group and that is how we met.

Was it an initial attraction or did one play hard to get?

RAII: It was not an initial attraction. In fact, the very first time we met was at the CD release party of the first project that the group had recently completed. From my perspective, Whitney seemed very distant and unapproachable. As the group prepared to promote the CD, there were various rehearsals, sessions and performances, and it was during that time that we realized we liked a lot of the same artists. A natural friendship begin and we continued to find mutual respect for each other's musicality.

WK: It wasn't an initial attraction. During one of our first trips to Nashville for a performance, him and I talked the entire way. I remember us laughing, singing, discussing music, and mutually enjoying the fact that we had so much in common musically. Over the course of time, while traveling, rehearsing, studio session etc., a friendship and respect for each other as musicians and vocalists grew fast.

How long were you friends before you started dating and how long did you date before you decide to get married?

WK: We met in 2002, started dating August of 2006, got in engaged August of 2009, and married August 21, 2010.

At your wedding you two chose to enter your reception singing, why did you choose that entrance sans the normal way?

WK: It wasn't officially chosen yet. We talked about the "idea" of singing that song a few months before the wedding but never followed through with it. So, the day of the wedding I wasn't thinking about that song. I just took it as we weren't going to sing it and I was totally cool with that. My soon to be husband on the other hand had other plans. So, the ceremony ended and we're at the reception hall. The bridal party is lining up to be introduced into the ballroom filled with our guests and he comes to me asking if we were going to sing "Spend My Life". I said, 'what?! Are you kidding me.' He says, 'I burned a cd with the instrumental on it already.' I said, 'we didn't practice, we never confirmed so I assumed we weren't doing it.' He said, 'I know but I think it'll be good.' I said, 'Well if you're at peace with it then ok, let's do it, I'll follow your lead.' That's all he needed, he already sent the mp3 to the DJ, the hostess introduced us and we did it. I was nervous as heck because I couldn't remember the words right up until they opened the double door for me to walk out and start my verse! [Laughs]

Whitney Keaton and Raphael Smith

Being that you are both in the industry, when you first began dating what was the hardest adjustment you had to make?

WK: The hardest adjustment for me was him leaving to move to New York 3 months after we started dating! I cried so much. I felt like I had lost my new bestfriend.

RAII: I moved to NY about 3 months after we started dating. So the hardest adjustment at that point was having a long distance relationship. We had been friends for so long and were accustomed to spending a lot of time together when we lived in the same city, so to finally start dating and then have to be separated was definitely not how we preferred to start our relationship, but we understood the bigger picture. There were times that I would be flying back in the country, she would be flying out of the country, and we would literally meet at the airport for a few minutes to spend time with each other before separating again for months at a time.

When you work together do you inform the crew and star(s) that you’re married?

WK: Us being married has been the artists' preference or whomever is the head of the opportunity. It's usually, 'Are you and RAII available to...,' we've never had to keep it on the hush. Alicia Keys wanted to add my husband to the team. Her management team asked me if I felt like it would be a good idea if he worked with me and I said yeah. As far as the crew goes, there's always someone pulling us to the side separately saying something like, "have you ever thought about dating because your chemistry is crazy!" When we tell them we're married, they're so excited, shocked, and happy.

RAII: More recently, people find out about it before we tell them. It's usually a good icebreaker in new settings.

How do you deal with distance if you’re both on tour or doing shows with different artist?

WK: FaceTime, email, and surprising each other by flying in to spend time.

RAII: Before we started touring together, there were a few instances where our separate tours ended up in the same city or country for a day or so and we definitely would take advantage of those moments.

Favorite star you’ve worked with and whom would you love to work with?

RAII: I've learned so much from everyone I've worked with. I really appreciate Queen Esther Marrow and Alicia Keys for seeing potential in me and encouraging my artistry and talents.

WK: I don't have one favorite. I enjoyed working with Alicia Keys, Carole King, Bonnie Raitt, Angelique Kidjo, Sade, Janelle Monae and Justin Timberlake. I would have loved to work with Whitney Houston. I would like to work with pretty much all of these artists with writing, creating, arranging, producing etc.

Favorite duet you two perform and why?

WK: "You're All I Need To Get By" because it represents love after the wedding celebration.

RAII:  "No Worries" is the first single from our upcoming project and we wrote this song during a very difficult time in our lives when we were unemployed for 7 months. It is a song of hope, perseverance, inner-strength, and faith. It resonates so strongly with us every time we perform it.

RAIIWK 3 (1)

What’s the best and worst thing about being a couple in the industry?

WK: The best thing about being a married couple in the industry is the fact that we are experiencing all that comes with this journey, side by side. The fact that this journey teaches you about yourself and you are right there witnessing the growth in each other. You are right there to understand, be in the moment, explore, and enjoy life doing what you love to do, together. In the amount of time we've done this together, it's been nothing but a beneficial experience.

RAII: The best thing about being married in the industry is knowing that through the challenges and the triumphs, I have my best friend to go through it all with me. We can encourage each other, we can challenge each other for the better, we can protect and support one another and there is a mutual understanding of just how much pressure comes with the territory. It is a challenge to make sure that our career does not become more of a priority than our marriage. Acknowledging and embracing the priority of marriage has been instrumental to the balance that keeps us united and connected while we pursue our career.

Are you working on a collab album together?

RAII: We've been working on a joint project for about 2 years. Now that tour is over, we should have more time to dedicate to completing it. Some songs feature Whitney, some feature me, and some feature the both of us. God willing, the project will be available this year.

WK:  We're excited about a joint project, A Time For Everything. It's a conceptual project where each song represents a moment or stage within a relationship or a person's life.

What’s your future plans in the industry?

RAII - I hope to contribute timeless and meaningful music that soothes the soul and uplifts the spirit. We intend to release music and put on concerts that will truly inspire people and that will cause them to reflect on their life and their choices. I realize how powerful the gift of music is and my desire is to use that influence in a way that adds value to this world.

WK- Right now we are maximizing this time off from tour life to focus on RAIIWK and all that entails. We're currently in the studio finishing up the vocals and music on the project and working on ways to effectively share and build with our supporters.

Flip the page to find out how to win tickets to their show!

VIBE_Vixen-RaiiWK

This Saturday (Feb. 15), The Smiths (RAIIWK) will be performing in New York at The Cutting Room. On the eve of Valentine's Day we're giving you the opportunity to surprise your significant other with the perfect date night at no cost to you. We're giving away tickets for you and a guest to enjoy the sounds of RAIIWK as they serenade you for the night.

Entering is extremely simple, just tag us in a picture of you and your significant other with the #RAIIWK.

Rules:

Must be following: @VIBEVixen, @WhitneyKeaton, and @RAIIMusic

Page must be public (we can't see private pages)

Must use hashtag #RAIIWK

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Vivica A. Fox Explains Past Hesitance Behind 'Two Can Play That Game' Script

In a new interview with Essence, actress Vivica A. Fox discussed how she initially turned down her role in Two Can Play That Game based on the script. The established entertainer said it's her mission to ensure that black people are positively portrayed onscreen, and noticed the aforementioned film's prose didn't live up to those standards.

"I think the reason why—no I know the reason why—I've been doing this for such a long time is that I fight," Fox said. "When we did Two Can Play That Game, I fought for the way we talked, walked, the way we loved each other." The Set It Off actress continued to state that she consistently declined Two Can Play That Game before signing on to play the lead role. "Because the script, when I first got it, I turned it down three times because it just wasn't a good representation of African-Americans, so I fought them on everything," she noted. "I want to make sure that the images of African-Americans are as positive and as true as they can possibly be."

In 2001, the romantic comedy debuted to fanfare, boasting an all-star cast of Morris Chestnut, Mo'Nique, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Brown, Gabrielle Union, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and more. Directed by Mark Brown (Barbershop, Iverson, How To Be A Player), Fox plays a career driven person named Shante Smith who navigates a curveball when her boyfriend Keith Fenton (Chestnut) cheats on her with a co-worker.

After its release, Two Can Play That Game raked in over $22 million at the box office.

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Actress Gabrielle Union attends the Being Mary Jane premiere, screening, and party on January 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)
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BET To Unveil Edible Billboard For 'Being Mary Jane' Wedding Finale

As Being Mary Jane comes to an end, BET is willing to offer fans a taste of what's to come in the series finale.

The network has enlisted the help of Ayesha Curry, celebrity cook and cookbook author, to create an edible billboard that also doubles as a wedding cake. The sweet treat will commemorate Mary Jane's (played by Gabrielle Union) nuptials in the two-hour series finale.

On April 20 from 1:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal in New York, fans will be presented with the edible billboard. At the intersection of Ashland Place and Hanson Place, the closer Being Mary Jane enthusiasts get to the billboard the quicker they'll notice that the four-tiered wedding cake is created from individual boxes, each containing a slice of Curry's prized wedding cake.

All fans have to do is pull a box from the billboard, snap a picture for the 'Gram, take a bite and enjoy. Although lovers of the show won't be able to celebrate with Mary Jane herself, biting into a slice of her wedding cake, for free, is the next best thing.

Don't forget to tune into the series finale of Being Mary Jane on Tues. (April 23) at 8/7 c.

Also, check out what's to come on the series of Being Mary Jane below.

Save the date! 👰🏾It'll be worth the wait. Join us for the series finale of #BeingMaryJane TUES APR 23 8/7c only on @BET! pic.twitter.com/jEwkbC71OW

— #BeingMaryJane (@beingmaryjane) March 29, 2019

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The North Face

Ella Mai On The North Face's 'Explore Mode' Campaign, New Music And Living In The Moment

Ella Mai is in her own age of exploration. Her eponymous debut album scored her a platinum plaque with her breakout hit, "Boo'd Up" earning her a Grammy for Best R&B Song. But the accolades aren't driving her creative path. The arc in her compass is all about the places she's traveled, the people she's met and the lessons learned along the way.

"To be honest, personally, exploration is like growth. I feel like if you don't explore new things, whether it's going outside, meeting people or trying new food, you won't ever grow because you're just stuck in your little comfort zone which can be super scary to come out of," she tells VIBE at The North Face's Explore Mode event in New York on Monday (April 15). The singer is one of three women (including model-activist Gabrielle Richardson and chef Angela Dimayuga) who teamed up with the brand to share a message of enjoying the outside world without digital confinement and the global initiative to make Earth Day a national holiday.

The London native's urge to explore came in handy over the weekend when she performed in the brisk desert of Coachella. Inspired by artists like Rihanna and Ms. Lauryn Hill, Mai helped fans enjoy the hazy sunset as she performed hits like "Trip" and her latest No. 1 song, "Shot Clock."

"It's such a good feeling, especially when it comes to radio," she shared about her track reaching No. 1 on the airplay chart. "I wasn't even sure if people listened to the radio because people have so much access to streaming platforms, but obviously having all three of my singles from my debut album, go number one on urban radio is incredible."

That energy was brought to the Coachella stage with the festival being her biggest artistic exploration so far.

"My favorite part of the performance would have to be when I performed "Naked" and because it was dark, and I performed when the sun went down, I couldn't see how far the crowd actually went back. But during "Naked," it was such an intimate moment I asked everyone to put their lights up (phones) and when I saw how far it went back I was like, "Woah." That moment sealed it for me."

"Even there were two people in the audience, I still would've done my best," she added. "But just to see the crowd be so engaged, even if they didn't know the music, was a really good feeling. I had so much fun."

As the festival energy in Indio, Calif. continued to thrive, another rested on the streets of Los Angeles following the loss of Nipsey Hussle. With the singer having ties to those close to the rapper like DJ Mustard, she says the shift in the city was hard to ignore.

"As weird as it sounds, you felt it," she said. "Even in the weather, it was super hot and then everyone got the news and it started raining. Just a weird energy shift." As a new L.A. resident, the singer says Nipsey's influence cannot be denied.

"I feel like the energy shift went both ways; everyone was really sad, grieving and mourning but everyone feels more inspired by what he was doing that they want to go out and do something and change in their community. It's still a very touchy subject in L.A., especially the people that I'm around since they were very close to him. I think everyone is super inspired to do better and try to be more like him, which is great to see. YG's whole set at Coachella was dedicated to him, I know Khalid had a dedication to Mac Miller. Everyone is super aware of what Nipsey was trying to do and how he wanted to change the world."

Engaging in The North Face's mission to explore seemed to be in the cards for Mai. Like many of us, Mai was familiar with the brand's effective coolness factor. "I remember running home and telling my mom that I needed a Jester Backpack because my cousin had one as well, and it's similar to the other stories, I wanted to be like my older cousin (laughs) so my mom ended up getting me one." But there's also the incentive to showcase the importance of stepping away from the phone screens and into leafy green forests.

"I'm such a live-in-the-moment person," she says of her lack of identity on social media. While she might share a thought or two on social media, Mai is interested in appreciating the world around her. "I feel like everyone is so consumed about documenting the day, you don't really get to live the day. You just watch it back but I like to have the memories in my head. Of course, sometimes, I'll take out my phone but I try to live in the moment as much as possible."

Part of that mission is ensuring Earth Day is celebrated the right way. With the support of Mai, Richardson, and Dimayuga, The North Face officially launched a petition to make Earth Day a national holiday.

“The North Face is no stranger to exploration and this Earth Day we are proud to join our partners and fellow explorers in a global effort to make Earth Day a national holiday,” said Global General Manager of Lifestyle at The North Face, Tim Bantle. “We believe that when people take time to appreciate the Earth, they feel more connected to it and are more likely to protect it. Explore Mode urges us to unplug from our digital lives to connect in real life to the world, each other, and ourselves in the effort to move the world forward.”

Mai hasn't hit her all of her exploration goals just yet. "I really want to go to Indonesia or Bali," she said. "That's one of my Bucket List places I really, really, really wanna go." For her essentials, the singer knows she has to bring along a windbreaker set and of course, a jester backpack. "I think the backpack is the most important thing."

In addition to a few trips around the globe, one destination includes the studio for new music. While she hasn't had time to lock down a moment to record, the inspiration is sizzling.

"When I work in the studio, I like to be like there for a good amount of time," she explains. "I like to block off two to three weeks at a time, I don't like to go to different studios and different places, it's just a comfort thing but I'm very excited to get back cause I have a lot of talk about. I've seen so many different places and met so many new people and a lot that I didn't get to experience last year."

Learn more about The North Face's petition for Earth Day here.

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