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February 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Feature, Photos

Michael Jai White and fiancée Gillian Iliana Waters share the secret to their romance.


Michael Jai White and fiancée Gillian Iliana Waters | Photo by Kem West

Known for his roles in Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married?” films and OWN’s “For Better or Worse,” Michael Jai White has earned a reputation as one of Hollywood’s most reliably gifted actors. Also, White can be seen in episodes of the hit CW series, “Arrow,” and on the second season of Cartoon Network’s “Black Dynamite.”  He is currently filming a new action movie, “Skin Trade,” in Thailand.  A Brooklyn native raised in Bridgeport, Conn., White entered the pop culture firmament when the blockbuster “Spawn” made him one of the first African-American superheroes on the silver screen. Where else have you seen him? The experienced martial artist disappeared into the role of Mike Tyson in the HBO biopic “Tyson.”

Off screen, White has found true love with his fianceé, Gillian Iliana Waters. The actress, a California native, is widely recognized for her role on the daytime soap “Days of Our Lives” and in movies like “How To Be A Player.”  Waters will soon be seen on episodes of TV One’s, “Love that Girl,” and on the TV Land sitcom, “The Exes.”  As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, White and Waters sat for a joint interview and shared the secret to their deep and lasting love.

How did you meet?

White: It was about 17 years ago when we first met. We were at a party with friends, and we both felt like misfits and gravitated to one another. It was a club-like atmosphere, and we knew we didn’t belong there. You can dress up a certain way, but we are both actually nerds who dress up like really cool people (laughs).

How long have you all been in a romantic relationship?

White: I will let Gillian tell you.

Waters: We dated 17 years ago for less than a year, went our separate ways, but always remained friends.

White: I had to grow up.

Waters: And I did also. We went our separate ways, and went on with our own individual lives. But we reconnected a couple of years ago.

White: We stayed connected and stayed “nicing” each other when we would see one another. As our new connectivity began, we made no demands on each other and our love grew. We have never had an argument with each other, and we’re very careful not to sway each other from our normal paths. I know I was about town and running around before we got together, and I knew I had some growing up to do. We have now been in a serious relationship for almost two years.

Michael Jai White and fiancée Gillian Iliana Waters | Photo by Kem West

You both have children from previous relationships?

White: Yes, I have two grown sons and a girl. My boys are bigger than me. Gillian has two children.

What is your secret for never having an argument?

Waters: I think we are just very unique. I really do.

White: I don’t want to sound corny, but we just fit together so well. We both know where we came from, and all the dysfunction that we have seen. I think both of us have always been the therapist for our group of friends. We have always been the calming factor in both our universes. We both work on our own problems individually, and we don’t take things too seriously. There aren’t that many things that are dire. We don’t find much to really complain about. There is infinitely so much more that is positive and to be happy about. … We live this way. We are very appreciative of each other. Every taste, color and sound is greater when we are together. We are experiencing life that was always good individually, but it is even better together.

How do you respond to the notion that relationships don’t last in Hollywood?

Waters: I think the difference with us is that we are incredibly supportive of each other. Michael works a lot more than I do, and he has to go out of town a lot. He is very busy, and I make sure that I am here to take care of our home and … [to be] there when he needs me. We have a lot of trust in our relationship, and that is a plus. Also, Michael helps me with my acting craft — preparation for my auditions and the development of characters that I am portraying. We work really well together. It complements our careers.

White: Personally speaking, there is nothing sexier than a black woman. As far as it relates to Hollywood temptations? There is no temptation. I have never been drunk a day in my life, and I have never been high on drugs. People sometimes ask, “How do you avoid that?” I say, “Why in the world would I do something that is detrimental to my health?” Just like there is no temptation to lose the trust, integrity and respect of my best friend. Gillian is the greatest person I have ever been involved with. To me, it’s common sense. And I don’t think I dislike myself so much to jeopardize my relationship.

Waters: First, you have to have love for yourself. You have to have self-confidence and self-esteem that doesn’t pour into negativity — that gives rise to jealousy and insecurity. But, I am going to be honest and admit your security has a lot to do with the kind of man you are with. Michael is an amazing person to me. Everything about him is amazing. Therefore, I literally have no trust issues with him. I might not be able to say this if I was in another relationship with a different man. But the person that Michael is, the discipline he exhibits, it plays a part in all aspects of his life. I know he loves me, and I love him—and that alone keeps me very secure.

How is it working with Tasha Smith on “For Better or Worse”?

White: Tasha and I have known each other for 20 years, and we used to date in real life. We also have never had an argument with each other. We look to renew the series sometime in April, and I love working with life-long friends.

Michael Jai White and fiancée Gillian Iliana Waters | Photo by Kem West

How is it that you are able to capture the essence of a good argument when you are playing a character in film or television?

White: When I am acting, I am … pulling from other relationships. You can believe that. There have been non-peaceful relationships that I have dealt with, and I use those experiences in my acting when called upon.

Is there anything you would have done differently in the role of Mike Tyson for the HBO movie after seeing his one-man show?

White: No. Actually, there are so many parallels between Mike’s life and my life early on. He was a champion in boxing and I was a champion in martial arts. I experienced a lot of things that he experienced growing up in New York. Being revered by adults as a young teenager because of what you can do with your hands was an experience that both Mike and I shared. Luckily, I didn’t go through those things on a grand scale like he did, but enough to understand the character and psychology of Mike Tyson.

How do you feel about being looked upon as a superhero?

White: I like it, and you will most likely see more of it because I have been producing my own stuff. This is the direction I have really focused on. It’s similar to Tyler Perry’s philosophy, creating your own brand. There is a world action market that is grossly underserved.

What is the message that you hope young black boys will get from you?

White: If anybody likes me, or is inspired by me, they should look closer into my past. I have been on my own since I was 14 years of age. I am extremely fortunate to have learned the nucleus of my anger and pain. I want the youth to understand the machine, and how they have been manipulated by the media with the negativity. I want our youth to understand their power, and the influences of a gangster lifestyle that has been put upon them at a most impressionable age. It is difficult for them to see a successful person who looks like them [and] made it because of the great education that they received — because the media keeps them invisible. I want our youth to rise up. And if you want to be a gangster, be a gangster about getting information. Don’t be a pawn or be pimped by the system. Learn the system, get your education and break the cycle — because they have the power. A lot of people think only in a one-block radius. The world is yours; not just one block. You can still represent the block, but travel the world. There is no reason why you can’t touch every place on the globe.

Are you all planning on getting married?

White/Waters: Yes! Yes!

White: I honestly have to police myself around Gillian — she is my pleasure. I have never experienced this type of love before. I have to honestly tear myself away from her in order to get things done in a day. This is an absolute first for me. We can lay up wrapped around each other all day long.

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