HAPPY COUPLE: Christin Brown and Ashley Kelly-Brown
from Santa Barbara, California
How long have you been together? We have been together since April 8, 2002 and we were married on August 3, 2008.
How did you meet?
Christin: I attended a gay prom in Hayward, California, and I saw Ashley dancing with her girlfriend at the time. When I looked at her I said to myself, “If I could have any girl, it would be her”. Ashley: I was working at Starbucks and in walks this beautiful woman. She was really gorgeous. I said “If I can be with any girl, it will be her”. Two weeks earlier I had broken up with my girlfriend. I was at work and Christin walks in. I did not know what to say so I said “I like your tongue ring”. Christin: I thought, oh yeah!
What was the initial attraction?
Ashley: She had long hair and wore dresses. She was really girly. She also had this sexy voice. She was a plus-size girl and she was so comfortable in her skin. She had confidence and swag. She also had this masculine side of her. She was beautiful! Christin: When I saw her on the dance floor, it was a total movie scene. When I saw her, everything went quiet. It felt like destiny and that we were destined to be together. When I saw her at Starbucks, she had an amazing smile. She has these big beautiful eyes and she has a way that she looks at you. I fell in love with her at first sight.
Ashley you were 17 and Christin you were 18. How did you know that you were gay, and how did you know you were in love?
Ashley: I knew I was gay when I was 5 years old and I had my first girlfriend when I was in kindergarten. I always had those feelings for girls. I am happy that I found my soul mate. For me, Christin was it. After our 1st date, I knew that we were going to be so amazing together. I knew that we could do great things together. I wanted her to be my girlfriend after our 2nd date but she said that she was not ready. I broke up with her even though we were not really together. Later that night, she came back and brought me flowers. She said “I am ready”. Christin: I was scared and nervous because I had never experienced something so intense so fast. Ashley: She took a chance on love, and we moved in together during my senior year in high school.
You were not scared?
Ashley: No, I had cancer when I was 4 years old. I had already dealt with life and death situations. I was ready. I don’t feel that I have time to wait. I was a little nervous, but when I am nervous, I know that I am growing .Christin: I was in college, and I didn’t expect to leave the house so soon. This gorgeous woman swept me up. I was scared because she was such a beautiful girl. I thought that I was supposed to hang out and party in college, to have the college life. But when I met the girl of my dreams, I knew I made the right choice. We were excited to be together. It was nice to be with her. I put my trust in her, and her ideas always pan out.
What are the keys to a successful relationship?
Christin: Laughter. I so enjoy making and hearing her laugh. Making her laugh is one of my favorite things to do. Communication – Ashley taught me that. Communication is important to keeping our relationship working. Ashley: Know how to have fun and know when to take a break. Know when to shut everything off. Sometimes when you need clarity, it is good to get out. And, know when you need time apart. There are times when you just feel bad, and just need to be by yourself. You have to get to know when those times are and your partner should not take it personally. It is selfish and invasive to not let your partner have that time.
How do you handle conflict? Ashley: I am a zodiac girl. I am a Cancer and she’s an Aries. Cancers are emotional and we like to talk about our feelings. Aries are different; they like to bottle them up. When we are facing conflict, we continue to work on it. Sometimes we can’t talk face-to-face because it is hard to control our expressions. When you have been with someone for a long time, you know what the facial expressions mean and that might make communication difficult. So we sometimes use technology. We can text message and that’s less emotional. We can sometimes send an email or write a letter when we don’t see eye-to-eye. Christin: I like to write because it gives me a minute to choose my words wisely. If I hurt, I don’t want to make her hurt, and then we hurt each other. We don’t do that. We make modern technology work for us. Ashley: We haven’t had a lot of conflict in a while. We don’t bring that into our relationship. When there is conflict we know it’s not us; it is what we bring into our relationship. So, we will get rid of it immediately.
What have you learned about yourself in your relationship? Ashley: I have learned that I can be high-strung and stressed for no reason. I let things around me create stress in me. I like instant results, and I like to fix things. Sometimes, I need to step back. I can’t control everything. I have learned that from Christin; I have her to thank for that. We don’t have stress because we are such a great partnership. We live with the “glass full” philosophy. I am overwhelmed with joy and we are solid. I am happy. Christin: I am chilled and down to earth. I am easy-going. I have learned that I can be too chilled and that puts an excess amount of responsibility on Ash. I have learned that I need to step it up some times and not put more on her. It is not fair that I am chilling and she is stressed. I have that as one of my goals this year. I have learned that I can trust. We can have a ball together and still are free to enjoy yourselves. Ashley: We don’t lie or cheat. We don’t keep secret passwords, etc. We don’t play the jealous game. We both know that nothing can compare to what we have. Everything else is just a waste of time and energy. I tell Christin, I may not trust the people around you, but I trust you. Christin: We don’t have jealous stuff, we have a loving relationship, a true partnership. Our love is not built on possession, fear or a lack of confidence.
What role does spirituality play in your relationship? Ashley: I don’t conform to any religion. I have a relationship with God; I talk and pray to God. I am feel guided, protected and loved by God. I am not in search for a church or a religion. We are a spiritual family. Christin: From kindergarten to high school, I went to a private Catholic school. I grew in church. I understand the beliefs. We don’t attend a church now, but we wouldn’t rule it out. Churches have not let me be 100% myself. There are now churches that are welcoming so maybe in the future. We have a spiritual connection with God and nature. Ash welcomes the universe and I have learned that from her.
You are partners in love, and partners in business. How did you start LunaBella Make-up and Hair? Ashley: I was 18 and Christin was 19 and we were living in San Francisco. We are both make-up artists and we were both working at MAC. We were doing weddings, and we were doing pretty well. I said, “let’s start a business doing this”. Make-up is a form of art. It came natural for me. I had tapped out at MAC unless I wanted to move. In November 2008, I told Christin that I want you to quit your job and start building our business. Start building our website, etc. In 6 months, I will quit my job and we will do this full time. She left and started preparing our business. I worked at MAC and did weddings during my lunch hour to pay the bills. I was tired, and I was making more money at the weddings than at my job. Instead of working 6 months, I quit in 4 months. Now, 5 years later, we are opening up our own full-service salon. (My note: They also do make-up for top celebrities. These ladies are amazing). Christin: We really work very well together. In between, I went to cosmetology school to learn how to do hair.. Our salon specializes in textured hair. We plan to service all markets, but especially provide services for the curly hair and natural hair market. We want women to embrace their curls. Ashley: Christin has also attended culinary school and wants to open a restaurant. We live in Santa Barbara, California which is the 2nd top wedding destination in the US. We do weddings and special events, maybe 150 weddings every year. We don’t advertise and our business continues to grow. Eventually, Christin will have her restaurant and the salon will provide a great foundation for that.
How do you prevent the job stress from affecting your relationship? Christin: We are a great team so it doesn’t affect us. Years ago when we both worked at Starbucks, it put a huge damper on our relationship. There was inequality because Ashley was the lead manager. At our company, we are equals and we laugh a lot. We give each other critiques. We love what we do, and we love that we do it together. Ashley: We are both artists and we create magic. We make people feel and look great. We make people feel good about themselves and we create good experiences. We want our clients to have an amazing time so we never let anything that is going on with us affect them. When you love what you do, and love each other, it is not hard to work together. Christin: There are no power struggles. If anyone of us needs help, we help. We always check in with each other to make sure that we are ok.
How do you keep romance in your relationship? How important is sensuality? Christin: I am always all over her trying to kiss her. Familiarity is comforting. I always make sure that she knows how much I love her. I always want her to know how I feel about her so keeping romance in our relationship has never been a problem with us. With the years and our schedules, we sometimes have to make appointments to be with each other. We have no problems dropping hints. We are not so coy anymore. Ashley: I love this woman so much. I always want to kiss her. We have wonderful, spontaneous fun time, memorable moments together. When we don’t see each other, we miss each other. We have such a passion for each other. We are so committed that it solidifies that she in the ONE. I feel blessed to be with her. We appreciate each other, our blessings and our life.
How does she make you feel special? Ashley: She makes me dinner and she lays out my clothes. She finds things for me. She’s always thoughtful and that’s romantic. She is so sweet. When I need her or need something, she never blinks an eye. It is never a bother to her to do something for me. She cleans out my car. She pampers me. She does my nails and my hair. She totally takes good care of me. Christin: She makes sure that we have a roof over our head. She is the ultimate planner. She always makes sure that everything gets down and goes well. She likes to please me and she makes sure that everything balances out. She likes to hike. I learned how to hike so I could enjoy it with her. I want to see her happy. That gives me joy.
What were you willing or what did you have to give up to be together? Christin: I had to learn how to compromise and what that meant. I was stubborn. I had to learn to say “I feel this way, how do you feel”. Learning to compromise is about giving and sacrifice. I had to give up being stubborn. Ashley: I had to give up the respect of my family. My family became born-again Christians, and my relationship with Christin became an issue for them. I decided that I would no longer sacrifice my feelings for my wife for them. I will not compromise Christin because she is my wife; she is my family. I told them I did not change, you changed. Before they changed, there were accepting. They were at our wedding. In 2008 when the economy went bad they lost everything and found solace in religion. I don’t believe that God would continue to bless us if God was so disgusted by us.
What 1 word describes your love: Christin: Rich. We are rich in love, rich in truth, rich in compassion and rich in values. We have built something that you can’t put a price on. Ashley: Strong. The longer we are together, the stronger we get and the stronger our foundation gets. We are stronger personally, in business, and in life. I get so much strength from this relationship.
Learn more about Christin and Ashley at www.lunabellamakeupart.com. Good luck with your salon. We are proud of you.
(Interview conducted by SharRon Jamison)
We are grateful to Christin and Ashley for sharing your amazing love with us at Create Love for Women Who Love Women! We will see you at the Create Love Conference on February 16th! www.createloveforwomen.com
Imani Evans, MA
(CEO of Women Healing Women, Inc.)
SharRon Jamison, MBA
(Author of I Can Depend On Me)