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In the streets of Paris these days, one can see a slightly non-typical family on the Morris Columns, the iconic columns of advertisements that punctuate the city’s streets. The images are advertisements for Acne Studio, a multidisciplinary luxury fashion house based in Stockholm, Sweden. They feature two black, gay dads and their four children having fun in a hotel bedroom.
You may recognize the sexy couple couple and their beautiful family as Kordale Lewis and Kaleb Anthony, from Atlanta, Georgia. Kordale and Kaleb became internet-famous back in 2014 when they posted an Instagram picture of them shirtless and doing their daughters’ hair before school.
More than 50.000 people liked the picture and it made headlines all around the world.
The picture of Kordale and Kaleb went viral
Johan Amaranthe, head of the LGBT group Paris Black Pride remembers when that image went viral. “I thought it was astoundingly refreshing,” he says. “It was inspiring, and looking at the comments, you could see two opposite sides: on one hand, rather liberal people who were like, ‘At last!’ and were hoping they’d see more representations of gay black families and, on the other hand, homophobic, racist, sexist people who were sometimes accusing the men of pedophilia. We need those role models for every gay person who wants to have his or her own family.”
That’s what Nikon understood quickly. The company, one the titans of the photography industry, hired them for its I am generation campaign, thus making the couple’s family more visible.
It was the first time a gay black family has represented such an iconic brand.
“It’s still surreal,” say Kordale and Kaleb
We met Kordale and Kaleb during their recent stay in Paris. They had arrived to give interviews for Acne Studio and to have a good time in the French capital. After visiting the Eiffel Tower and Versailles, the guys went — alone this time — to the gay party for men of color called BBB, where they took pictures with their fans and danced all night long.
We met the guys at their hotel for an interview just after the party. They still had glitter on their clothes and stars in their eyes.
“It’s still surreal,” says Kordale (the father with long hair). “We post pictures of our kids because we’re parents. Most parents who have kids post candid pictures of their children from here and there. I’ve never thought nothing of anything we post.”
“We work. This is a plus. This isn’t something we make a living out of,” adds Kaleb, who is an engineer. Kordale used to work for a family business but is currently a stay-at-home dad.
Education is priority number one for Kordale and Kaleb and their kids
It’s important to the men that their kids don’t make a big deal out of the famous life they’re living right now.
“They know that the house priority is education and careers. Everything after that falls into place. Despite what we have right now, you still have to have a goal to be successful with your education,” Kordale says.
As far as they know, the children don’t experience any bullying at school.
“Teachers know, the principal knows. As far as bullying goes, we don’t have that problem,” says Kaleb. “We’re very connected with people at the school. They know we’re an alternate family. We walk through the door and they’re like ‘Oh my god, it’s Kordale and Kaleb,’ and they greet us. So if there was a problem they would call us because they know we do not play with our children.”
The three oldest children — Desmiray, Maliyah and Kordale Jr. — were conceived in Kordale’s previous relationship with a woman. Their fourth child, Kaleb Jr., was conceived with the same mother of their three other kids.
What’s it like to raise children in the Trump era?
“Our kids know there are different types of people in the world: gay, straight, transgender. You have to teach your kid to be a bigot or a racist,” says Kordale. “If you teach your child to love everybody, respect everybody and treat everybody equal, you don’t have to worry about things like Trump. Because they know this is not right.”
The guys say they have never experienced racism in the gay community but are well aware of the issue. “When gays are discriminating of other gays, it’s often because they have money,” Kaleb says. “Many gays, typically white, feel that our fight is not their fight. If you’re raised with rich parents and money, you don’t know what it is to be discriminated against by the police or out of a job, and then you don’t understand our fight.”
“Case in point: Caitlyn Jenner,” says Kaleb.
Nothing has really changed in terms of visibility for gay black families since they came into the light, they say. According to Kaleb, they ‘went viral’ because they both are “very masculine” and “could pass as straight guys.”
“Men tend to approach us more, not knowing our sexuality until they find out we are gay and they get comfortable because they realize that just because you’re gay you don’t necessarily have to be like the people you see on TV,” Kaleb says. “It’s a little bit more respected, without disrespect towards the guys who are more flamboyant.”
Kordale disagrees, though. “I think people approach us because they respect what we do. It has nothing to do with the fact that we’re masculine.”
But Kaleb stands by his point of view, saying, “We went viral because we appear to be heterosexual men.”
Are Kordale and Kaleb the best parents in the world?
Johan Amaranthe, co-founder of Paris Black Pride, spent some time with the couple in Paris and didn’t hide his admiration. “I’m so happy and proud to see them everywhere in Paris! I have met the family, and you can feel how much the parents love their children, who love them right back,” he says. “They’re not far from being the best parents in the world.”
We bet the phrase wouldn’t displease the two dads. Kaleb reckons he would be more of an activist if only he had the time, though his lover sees things differently.
“I don’t consider us to be activists,” Kordale says. “I consider us to be parents.”