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Chris J. Evans Robin Roberts and Amber Laign Speak About Their Love

Author: Editors Desk Source: N.Y Times
September 11, 2023 at 22:50

On a recent Thursday morning, after ABC’s “Good Morning America” had finished its broadcast, Robin Rene Roberts and Amber Laign sat in the corner table of a restaurant a couple hundred feet away from the studio.

They were giddy because their wedding day was two weeks away, and they were excited to share their love story.

“I could not have imagined as a young girl growing up in Mississippi that I’d be sitting here with you in New York City, with my fiancée who is a woman, and freely, openly and passionately talking about it,” said Ms. Roberts, a host of “G.M.A.”

“For it to be received as is,” she said, “is a gift.”

Ms. Roberts wasn’t always so open about her relationship, having come out in a Facebook post in 2013, eight years after the couple started dating. And Ms. Laign wasn’t always comfortable stepping into the public eye. But now, the couple are embracing the spotlight. On Friday, Sept. 8, they married in their home in Farmington, Conn., and they sat down with The New York Times for an exclusive interview about their journey together.

They first met in 2005 because their mutual friends — Bert Schwartz and Alex Schlempp — set the two up on a blind date. But they had canceled on each other a few times.

“Bert had set me up before,” Ms. Roberts, 62, said. “And let’s just say it didn’t go so well, so his track record with me wasn’t the best.”

Ms. Laign, 49, on the other hand, “just wasn’t in the mood.” So when she saw that Ms. Roberts did not go on air on the morning of July 26, 2005, she was relieved. She assumed that meant that Ms. Roberts was sick and would have to cancel their first date once again.

What had really happened was that Ms. Roberts had flown back to New York the night before, after covering the Tour de France with Lance Armstrong, and was exhausted. Technically, she wasn’t sick.

Before Ms. Roberts could cancel again, their friends nudged the two to go on the date. They knew the two women were just avoiding each other, and they had had enough.

“These were two friends who really knew us,” Ms. Roberts said, “and they were much more into us getting together than we were. I can’t wait to see them at the wedding.”

 
Both women are dressed in white bridal gowns and are strolling down a brick path in front of a house.
In 2005, the couple met on a blind date arranged by their mutual friends Bert Schwartz and Alex Schlempp. Credit...Chris J. Evans

That night, they finally met for drinks at the Library Bar at the Hudson Hotel in Midtown Manhattan — Mr. Schwartz and Mr. Schlempp included. Ms. Roberts had such a good time that she invited the group out to dinner. Although Mr. Schlempp couldn’t stay, and Ms. Laign had just met the other two in the group, she agreed to dinner anyway — “totally, completely stepping outside my comfort zone,” she said. “I’m a very shy person.” (They joked that she probably stayed for dinner because she was hungry. “I do have a great appetite,” Ms. Laign said.)

Ms. Roberts is known for her compassion and warmth during television interviews. It’s the reason the two were drawn to each other after they first met. “She was just kind and warmhearted,” Ms. Roberts said of Ms. Laign.

That Saturday, Ms. Roberts would be traveling to Tahiti with friends. She wanted to see Ms. Laign before she left for vacation. She felt that calling her the next day was too soon, so she waited until Thursday to make plans for Friday.

“I let it go to voice mail,” Ms. Laign said. “I was so nervous, you know when you get that call and you see it and your heart starts racing?” She collected herself, and then called Ms. Roberts back. They went to the Eatery in Hell’s Kitchen for their second date.

The conversation was fluid, and when Ms. Laign told her friends how easy it was to talk with Ms. Roberts, they told her, “Well, that’s what she does for a living.”

“And I was hurt,” Ms. Roberts said. “I wasn’t interviewing you for dinner!” But ultimately, Ms. Roberts’s questions allowed the two to learn a lot about each other, like their shared love for disco. “See, I learned something by asking my questions,” Ms. Roberts said with a laugh.

After Ms. Roberts returned from Tahiti, they went on several dates, but still hadn’t shared a kiss. About a month after their first date, in the elevator of Ms. Robin’s apartment, she turned to Ms. Laign and said, “You know I like you, right?” (To which Ms. Laign responded with a soft “yes.”)

“I felt like I was in high school,” Ms. Roberts said. “I’m like, ‘Man, you’re making me work!’”

On Ms. Laign’s side, she said that she did not want to make a misstep, so she avoided flirting.

“I’m a really terrible flirter,” Ms. Laign said. “Still to this day,” Ms. Roberts added. (Asked if she herself is a flirt, Ms. Roberts said, “Oh, I’m good.”)
 

Ms. Roberts is accompanied by a man dressed in a light-colored suit jacket, black slacks, and a boutonniere that matches her bouquet. In the distance, there are two wedding guests and a photographer.
Ms. Roberts was escorted by her brother, Lawrence E. Roberts Jr.Credit...Chris J. Evans


The couple had fun bonding over their differences. For instance, Ms. Laign said she didn’t know the first thing about sports. Ms. Roberts, who was an athlete in school and a longtime sportscaster, was accustomed to being around people who were passionate about them.

“It was refreshing,” said Ms. Roberts, who gave Ms. Laign quick rundowns on different sports’ rules. “I didn’t know who she was,” Ms. Laign added. She used to watch NBC’s “Today” show, not “G.M.A," so she wasn’t familiar with Ms. Roberts, who had made the move earlier in 2005 from a host on ESPN to an anchor of “G.M.A.” with Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson.

Asked if she likes sports now, Ms. Laign said, “I can hang.” Now, they go to matches at the U.S. Open and watch the Liberty basketball team at the Barclays Center.

Binge more Vows columns here and read all our wedding, relationship and divorce coverage here.

From early on in their relationship, Ms. Laign has been a strong support system for Ms. Roberts through immense personal loss. This started in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in August 2005. Much of Ms. Roberts’s hometown, Pass Christian, Miss., had been badly struck by the hurricane.

“I feel like I’m a natural caregiver,” said Ms. Laign, who grew up in Clayton, Calif. So when Ms. Roberts was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, Ms. Laign stepped into the caretaker role without hesitation. And then again in 2012, when Ms. Roberts was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder called myelodysplastic syndrome, which required her to spend nearly six months off the air at “G.M.A.”

“I was like, ‘Of course I’m going to be by your side.’ I would never, ever leave her,” Ms. Laign said.

So when Ms. Laign was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021, Ms. Roberts was able to return the caregiving.

“She taught me how,” Ms. Roberts said.

Ms. Roberts graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University with a bachelor’s degree in communication. Ms. Laign received an associate of occupational studies degree from Swedish Institute, College of Health Sciences. She is a founder of Plant Juice Oils, a women’s wellness store.

Although they first talked about marriage in 2014, on their way home from a trip to Hawaii, they seriously started considering it during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It was just kind of one of those things that we talked about off and on over the years,” Ms. Roberts said. A lot of times, they would think, “We don’t need a piece of paper, we know our love is real,” Ms. Roberts said, facetiously mimicking themselves in a nasally, high pitched voice.

But during the pandemic, they lived together in their home in Farmington, Conn., from March to September 2020. Ms. Roberts was appearing on “G.M.A.” from the basement. They spent more time together in that time frame than they had in their entire relationship. They had tried living together early on in their relationship, but it was disrupting Ms. Roberts’s rigid morning routine, which involves waking up at 3:45 a.m. To this day, they’re still apart three nights a week — they each have an apartment on the Upper West Side, about 10 minutes apart.

Spending every day together during the pandemic was “awesome,” they said at the same time.

“When I had to go back in September and Amber stayed at home in Connecticut, it was hard,” Ms. Roberts said of 2020. That’s when they decided to commemorate their love with marriage.

 
Ms. Laign, left, and Ms. Roberts look at each other while holding hands and smiling.
Ms. Roberts and Ms. Laign weren’t always comfortable stepping into the public eye. But now, they are more at ease being in the spotlight. ”The fact that people are so happy for us is a gift,” Ms. Roberts said. Credit...Chris J. Evans
 

They proposed to each other in December 2022 while they were sitting side by side in a booth at El Coyote in New Milford, Conn., one of their favorite restaurants. Ms. Roberts spontaneously stuck a “ring” — a piece of calamari — on Ms. Laign’s finger. And then Ms. Laign did the same in return.

They never even thought to get actual engagement rings afterward.

The couple married Sept. 8 in the backyard of their Connecticut home in front of 31 guests. Ms. Roberts’s childhood pastor, the Rev. Robert Jemerson, officiated.

Caroline Campbell, a violinist, played “Stand by Me,” Ms. Laign’s favorite song, for the couple’s entrance. In honor of Ms. Roberts’s mother Lucimarian Tolliver, who died in 2012, her father Col. Lawrence Roberts, who died in 2004, and Ms. Laign’s father Paul Laign, who died in 2020, the violinist performed a medley of their favorite songs: “Blessed Assurance” by Alan Jackson, “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong and “Chiquitita” by Abba.

Afterward, they partied with 250 guests at Farmington Gardens. The musical theme was disco, soul and R&B. Ms. Roberts posted a video on Instagram of her nephew, Jeremiah Craft, in a dance battle with fellow “G.M.A.” anchor Whit Johnson. The guest list included Billie Jean King, Spike Lee and George Stephanopoulos. Sam Champion, a former “G.M.A.” weather anchor, was the M.C. throughout the evening.

The brides wore custom Badgley Mischka gowns, and changed into white pantsuits during the reception. They hadn’t seen each other in their dresses until they walked down the aisle.

They had both planned surprises for each other. Ms. Roberts performed a special dance for Ms. Laign, which turned into a flash mob consisting of a dozen people. And in reference to their first date, when Ms. Roberts had asked Ms. Laign if she wanted to stay after drinks and have dinner, Ms. Laign got a phrase sewn into her gown: “Yes to dinner, always.”


When Sept. 8, 2023

Where Farmington, Conn.

Backyard Ceremony The couple married in front of a bench to commemorate Ms. Roberts’s mother. Her mother had read devotionals to the couple there. The bench, which is engraved with her mother’s name, was decorated with flowers. The yard was also adorned with moss as a nod to Ms. Roberts’s roots in Mississippi.

Bouquet Toss The couple threw their bouquets at the same time, inviting all single people onto the dance floor to catch them, rather than just single women. Ms. Roberts’s bouquet included a locket with a picture of her father on one side and her mother on the other. Before the toss, she remembered to remove the locket.

Love Wins At the reception, drinks were decorated with custom, edible sugar disks that read, “Love wins.” “The fact that people are so happy for us is a gift,” Ms. Roberts said. “And it’s not just a gift for us. It’s a gift for those who are in areas of this country who may have a parent or grandparent who doesn’t quite see it like this, but they see us, and they see that we just love each other. We’re very boring, but we just love each other.”

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