While faith and entertainment are hardly topics that run in Hollywood’s queue of proverbial sensationalism, The Merge Summit 2016 didn’t fail to take it to the forefront with an “off-the-chain” experience for its’ attendees.
The Merge’s Saturday line up included an explosive Masters Class panel that explored Faith, Love and Success in the entertainment industry. The star-studded panel featured power couples DeVon Franklin and Meagan Good, Richard and Tina Lawson and Trai and Grace Byers. Moderated by Franklin and Good, the Lawsons and Byers were engaged in a candid conversation about faith being the driving force for their uncanny, yet God-ordained unions.
So just how did American actor Richard Lawson and “Beyonce’s Mama” Tina unite? Well, Richard says that although the newlyweds have only been married since April of 2015, the duo first crossed paths nearly 35 years ago before losing touch due to Beyoncé’s fast-paced solo career.
Tina says that it was after the dust settled following her controversial divorce to Mathew Knowles that she stumbled upon a refreshing friendship with Richard. “After I went through my divorce, I said that this time, I’m going to pray for the type of man that I should have, and I did,” Tina stated. It was about 3½ years ago that Richard and Tina were reconnected by way of a mutual friend. Tina says her friend Monica brought her to attend Richard’s dance class, where she says about 40 “thirsty” women signed up.
After the class, the trio went out and the mutual friend asked Richard if he knew of any men he could introduce Tina to. Quite embarrassed by her good friends’ antics, Tina said Richard proceeded to ask her what she was looking for in a man. “I said well somebody with integrity, somebody who believes in God, who likes to dance. I mean, I gave him this long laundry list of things,” she stated.
“And so he said, ‘what about me,’ and I know this is a Christian group but we both said hell naw at the same time,” Tina confessed to the crowd who erupted in laughter. “I mean we said it at the same time, in unison, it sounded like Destiny’s Child singing,” Richard added.
As their friendship progressed, Richard says that he was amazed at all of the commonalities he and Tina shared. “Little by little, all of the things that were naturally connective, the connective tissue with us, happened in a beautiful, sort of evolutionary way,” Richard stated.
For Empire stars Trai and Grace Byers, the couple described both being involved in serious relationships prior to their eventual courtship. After the initial pilot for Empire, it was during Terrence Howard’s birthday dinner that Trai says he found his destiny in Grace. “I was sitting right across from Grace, and she just caught me off guard,” Trai stated. “I like to say that it was love at soul-sight. I couldn’t really comprehend at the moment what was happening, I just felt like time stopped,” he added.
Later on, Trai described coming to a breaking point in singlehood, having ended his long-term relationship a year before the show began. Byers said that once he decided to let go and let God, he received quite the prophetic revelation just two weeks later. “I woke up in the middle of the night and I heard God say to me, Grace is your wife,” he recalled. In shock, Trai said he challenged God to confirm that his midnight notions weren’t just his flesh talking. “Tell her the same thing You told me, and then to make it hard, have her tell me what You told her. You God, no pressure,” Trai humorously added.
For Grace, it was “love at first-spirit”. The actress says that it was during their first table read, that film producer Lee Daniels asked Trai to lead the group in prayer. Still in a relationship at the time, Grace said that even with her “blinders on” that it wasn’t about the prayer but “something about his spirit” that connected with hers when he prayed. “It’s hard to describe, but when you know, you really do know,” Graced declared.
As time progressed, Grace says that the two seldom crossed paths while on set having had different shooting schedules, but kept God’s promise in their hearts. In October of 2015, Grace said that God woke her up in the middle of the night and told her to “end things” in her relationship. “It wasn’t like you’ve got to end it because there’s something wrong with him, it was like you’ve got to end it because this is not the path for you,” Grace told of her supernatural experience.
The audience remained glued to their seats as the couples continued to drop powerful anecdotes on relationships left and right. Trai Byers encouraged singles in the Christian group to remain steadfast in their quest for true love. “We get frustrated about what we don’t have right now, that’s human and it’s practical, but let’s get spiritual,” Byers stated. “Let’s step into our destiny, let’s take that step into spiritual maturity for ourselves in that manner and trust our God. I promise you, based on personal experience, that God has your blessing, and then some,” Byers added.
Richard Lawson also added notes on compatibility that scientifically make sense in any relationship. “Einstein said that if you vibrate on the same level as the energy you want, there’s nothing else that can happen except that you will get it. It’s not a matter of psychology; it’s a matter of physics,” he stated.
In terms of safeguarding their high-profile relationships, the couples agreed that open communication, forgiveness, and having a balance of trustworthy friends to talk to has been critical to their relationships’ sustenance. To see more of the interview with the star-studded panel, visit the Sentinel’s YouTube Channel.