By Ashley Edwards Walker
In March 2019, Dani decided to revamp her Bumble profile. She’d recently moved from Jonesboro, Arkansas to Seattle, Washington and felt her profile was too stereotypically southern. “Like, ‘Hey, y’all, I’m a good girl, crazy about Elvis, just looking for new adventures,’” she laughs. “It was so cheesy.” She deleted the tagline and added photos that better represented who she’d become since moving to Seattle. “People accept you for who you are here,” she says. And after a lifetime of pressing her hair, getting perms, and extensions, she wanted potential matches to see her photographed with her natural hair, something she’d never worn in the South, let alone on a date. “To me, if somebody was going to swipe on me to match, they were on board with who I was as a Black woman,” she says. “And that was super important for me from the very get-go.”
A few days later, Spencer was on Bumble when he came across Dani’s new profile. He loved the variety of photos she’d selected, particularly one that showed Dani standing on the football field at the University of Washington. “I’m a football coach and lover of sports,” he explains. He figured that if she was at least interested in that part of his life, they might be able to build a connection, and he swiped right. Little did he know that for Dani, who works in sports marketing and is a former soccer player and dancer, Spencer’s interest in sports also secured him a big check in her pro column. Plus, she was attracted to Spencer’s “cute smile,” so she swiped right.
Two days after matching, Spencer and Dani met for their first date at a restaurant in Seattle’s University Village. Spencer didn’t want to waste time or use up “all of those first date questions” texting back and forth before they met up. And he was just as intentional once they met in person, asking Dani a series of questions to help him determine whether their lifestyles were compatible. Did she eat meat? Was she allergic to pets? If they had kids, would she vaccinate them? “I don’t dilly-dally,” he says. “I know what I’m looking for at this point in my life.”
The seriousness of their first conversation surprised Dani. “A couple questions he asked, I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s super intense. How did we get here?’” But it also opened the door for her to bring up something on her mind: race. Growing up in the South, Dani had her share of racist dating experiences, including a relationship with a man who asked her to stay home on Easter Sunday because “his church wouldn’t be ready” to see them together. But after moving to the Northeast and becoming more involved in social justice movements like Black Lives Matter, finding a partner who would fully accept and support her had become a nonnegotiable. So she turned the tables on Spencer. “I’m a Black woman,” she told him. “Could you take me home to Iowa?” When he answered with an unequivocal yes, she began to think she might have found someone special.
The couple continued dating for two months before Spencer officially asked Dani to be his girlfriend. They took weekend trips to places like Portland, Oregon and Dani’s hometown, Starkville, Mississippi. They got a dog. And, of course, they attended sporting events together, sitting front row at a Seattle Sounders soccer match and watching Dani’s alma mater Mississippi State compete in the Sweet 16 college basketball tournament.
Spencer also credits Dani with challenging him to become a better ally. He grew up in a diverse family with a sister and four relatives adopted from other countries, which he felt made him more culturally aware than some other people in his small Iowa hometown. But Dani says she still had to push him to see that being Black in America “is different.” They watched shows like “Mixed-ish” and “Black-ish” together, and Spencer would listen as Dani shared experiences she’d had similar to ones depicted, like not being invited to parties because of her race. In addition to accompanying her to Black Lives Matter marches and events, Spencer helps Dani style her natural hair. “I’m already anticipating, if we have a child, I’ve got to figure out what to do with their hair,” he says. Knowing she has Spencer’s full acceptance and support after a lifetime of feeling judged “is amazing,” says Dani. “It’s a dream come true.”
In April 2021, as they were approaching their second anniversary, Dani saw an announcement for a Bumble contest asking couples who met on the app to share their story. Bumble wanted to celebrate a Success Story in a major way, and partnered with legendary jewelry brand Tiffany’s to give the winners a trip to New York City to pick out a Tiffany’s engagement ring. Dani convinced Spencer to enter, and they each created social media posts about their relationship. Ultimately, Spencer’s entry won, and in May, they were flown out to New York City.
The trip coincided with Dani’s 35th birthday, so the couple spent the first night of their trip celebrating. But when they showed up at the Tiffany’s store on Sixth Avenue the following morning, Spencer tricked Dani by telling her they were only there to pick out the ring, but wouldn’t take it home that day because it would then need to be sized and shipped to them in Seattle. Although Dani admits she was initially disappointed about having to wait, the excitement of shopping for her engagement ring quickly distracted her. She was interested in a few rings, but when she put on a ring with the traditional six-prong Tiffany’s setting, she grabbed Spencer’s hand and got teary-eyed. “That’s when I think she knew that ring was it,” says Spencer.
When they left the store sans jewelry, Dani had no idea Spencer was conspiring with Bumble to pull off the perfect surprise proposal. The following morning, they went to Central Park for what Dani thought was a photo shoot to document their trip. While the photographer clicked away on his camera, Spencer got down on one knee and asked Dani to marry him. “He twirled me around like we were ballroom dancing”—something Dani says they do a lot in their kitchen at home—“and grabbed my hand,” she says. Then he pulled out that little blue Tiffany’s box. “It was magical,” concludes Dani.
Now, the wedding planning begins. While they haven’t set an official date, Dani and Spencer are hoping to find a venue for June 12, 2022. It’s the 55th anniversary of Loving Day, which celebrates the landmark Supreme Court ruling that struck down laws against interracial marriage in the U.S. Even though their relationship has always been legal in their lifetimes, the discrimination Dani faced growing up in Mississippi made her think marrying a white man “probably would never happen.” So now that they’re engaged, she thinks honoring that history by celebrating their own love with family and friends makes it the “perfect” date for her and Spencer. And they can’t wait.