In fall 2020, they flew onto our radar, bearing much-needed comic relief at the height of pandemic boredom. In a series of sketches, the broadcast journalists invoked their news anchor voice in everyday scenarios, delivering pure hilarity to our Tik Tok feeds.
Jeannette recalls the inspiration for the initial sketch. “I had an idea about using the news anchor voice for a couple of weeks because my brother would always make fun of how news anchors talk differently on air,” she ESSENCE. “And so I said, what if we make a video on that and play up the level of code-switching?” Within minutes of uploading their initial 45-second skit, the couple went instantly viral.
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“On Tik Tok, you know fairly quickly whether it’s a hit or a flop, and within a few hours, it was gaining a lot of traction. It got to the point where we couldn’t keep up with the comments,” Reyes said. “That’s a good thing. It’s a little anxiety-inducing, but that’s when we were like, okay, this is happening.” They continued the trend with sketches depicting the two bickering, gossiping, and even trolling scam callers. The “news anchor voice” landed big with social media audiences.
Life today looks a lot different for the DC-based couple. They are bonafide social media stars with more than a million followers on Tik Tok. They’ve been guests on national television shows, including Today, The Jennifer Hudson Show, and the popular docu-series Black Love, on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). And their day jobs at rival news networks have made them household names in the nation’s capital and beyond. As their brand has expanded, so has their family. In June, the couple welcomed their first child, a daughter named Bella.
Through the lens of social media, Robert and Jeannette make 3 AM commutes, new parenthood, and work-life balance look easy. But real life is complicated. The two have intentionally created the life and family of their dreams, but that doesn’t make it any less challenging to juggle. “It’s been tough finding time for one another. We haven’t found balance in that respect,” Jeannette said. “It just seems like everything else ends up taking precedence.” “I agree,” Robert said. “It’s been tough to set aside time. But we just have to be more intentional about it,” he said with a nod to his wife. “Maybe on Valentine’s Day,” she replied with a smile.
Their connection is palpable. Anyone following the couple can easily discern they’re equal parts partners and best friends. In conversation, they’re constantly checking in with each other and picking up thoughts where the other leaves off. I spoke with the influencer power couple about new parenting, the blessing of in-laws, and how they’re handling social media fame.
Congratulations on baby Bella. She is a doll. What has new parenthood taught you so far?
Jeannette: You know, it’s funny when you’re used to waking up at two and three-thirty in the morning; sleep deprivation is the norm. So, we were both accustomed to operating at a very high level running on fumes. It’s like, exhaustion, hi old friend. (laughs) So, in some ways, we had some training. But, there was a bit of overwhelm in the beginning because you’re in charge of this person. It’s like, oh, she’s going home with us now. Are you sure?” (laughs)
Robert: Right. (laughs) It’s like, are you sure you want to do that?
For me, it’s been eye-opening. There is no playbook or rulebook on how to take care of a newborn. And we weren’t pros at first, but I think we’ve done a very good job handling it. She has been a warrior. And thank God, we also had help from our parents.
I saw on Tik Tok that both of your moms are rotating visits to help the baby. What a blessing that must be.
Robert: Oh man, they’re saving us thousands on childcare (laughs). My mom retired the day after her granddaughter came. From forty years of dentistry, she retired immediately. And Jeannette’s mom is incredible. She came two months later and is actually here with us now. So yeah, they’re alternating.
Jeannette: We’re really blessed with such a strong support system. Having a village and talking to other moms has been so helpful. My older sister has six kids and homeschools, so we had a lot of talks beforehand. Validating what a lot of women feel in the first few weeks, I was prepared for “baby blues” or postpartum depression. We didn’t go through that, but I think our support system had a lot to do with it. Whether you go through that or not—women and men—parents, in general, are warriors because new parenthood is no joke.
Let’s go back to pre-parenthood when you first started dating. How did the two of you connect?
Jeannette: We met in 2012; it would’ve been around June of 2012. So, he was a weekend sports anchor in Little Rock, Arkansas, and I was going in for a job interview. I had just graduated from college, and I was in the breakroom with another reporter who was giving me the lowdown on the station. And, in walks this man with a wrestling mask—specifically, a luchador mask. He stumbles on a bike, trips on a trash can, and gets up as if nothing happened. He’s like, “hey, what’s up? My name’s Robert.” (laughs)
Robert: Yeah, it was bad. (laughs).
Jeannette: But oddly enough, the station then was not very diverse. And so, the first thing I said was, ‘Oh, you’re Black.” (laughs) And, he was like, “How did you know?” [he was wearing a mask]. And I said, “I can see your hands.”
Robert: (shakes head) It took a minute to recover from that, but by that Fall, we’d started dating.
Robert, what was the deal with that never-ending fall? Did her beauty just blind you?
Robert: (laughs) I think it was just like, “a Robert thing.” Or, I couldn’t see through the mask. But I actually knew she was coming in that day for an interview because one of the reporters had sent me her [audition] video that same day. He said, “This is who our bosses are bringing in for an interview.” So, I was like, “Wow, yeah. She’s a winner.” (laughs)
So I knew she looked really good, and her tape was good. So I was like, I’ve got to meet her. So, okay, yeah, it could have been beauty, and it could have been nerves.
How did your coworkers respond when they found out you were dating?
Jeannette: The news director was really happy.
Robert: Yeah, because you stepped up my wardrobe.
Jeannette: I was like, “first of all, we gotta get you a lineup and a new suit.”
Robert: (laughs) I was looking rough and raggedy. But the thing is, you don’t make that much money when you’re first starting in small markets. So, I wasn’t worried about getting a haircut every week. And I wasn’t about to go out and buy a $900 suit. She saved me, though.
Jeannette: Yeah, we had to round up our money and pull it together. (laughs)
So you eventually make it to DC—a huge news market. Then in 2020, the viral Tik Tok happened, and you become social media famous overnight. Not to mention the city seeing you every morning on local TV. You have to be getting recognized all over the place now. How has it been for you?
Jeannette: He’s super extroverted. I’m more of an introvert, so we take it differently.
Robert: Yeah, she gets a little anxious, but I don’t mind it. In fact, the other day, I was moving stuff out of storage, and this random guy on the corner yelled out something from a video. And, I’m laughing, he’s laughing—you know, it’s just normal conversation. And she does that too. But I think she has to take it in small doses.
Jeannette: Yeah, I get easily overwhelmed with stuff like that. It’s a different response from what you get when you’re recognized from the news. And none of it is bad. We haven’t had any negative experiences at all. It’s just that for my little introverted self, it can be overwhelming.
I get that. And also, as women, I think it’s instinctive to exercise a different level of caution.
Jeannette, I’d like to switch gears to a more personal topic. You’ve been candid on social media about the difficulties you had conceiving. For readers who are experiencing similar struggles, are you comfortable sharing how you were able to get through it?
Jeannette: Absolutely. So, I have PCOS [Polycystic ovary syndrome]. I was diagnosed with PCOS. I want to say, maybe four years ago at this point. It essentially makes it very difficult to get pregnant. You’re not menstruating regularly. So, for me, it was nearly impossible to get pregnant naturally. So we did IVF [In vitro fertilization] and were fortunate enough to just have to do one cycle.
But the whole process was challenging and emotionally, and physically draining. I would anchor the news in the morning and then during my 10-minute break I would go to the makeup room and give myself the shots. Then when I got home I had to give myself another shot. And there’s all this other medicine you’re supposed to take, and so you’re drawing blood three times a week. And on top of that, obviously, you want to keep it all under wraps. It was really tough.
Babe, do you remember that time I started crying, and had no idea why?
Robert: On the side of the bed that one time? Yeah.
Jeannette: I was all over the place. And it took about three or four months, and then I was pregnant, which was great. For the first three months of pregnancy, the morning sickness was no joke. So I would anchor for five hours and then go and throw up during breaks. And at this point my co-anchors don’t know I’m pregnant. So I’m trying to keep my game face and hold it all together. After work, I just would go home and knock out.
The process was tough, but totally worth it.
It sounds like it’s all been totally worth it for you guys. Thank you both for sharing your story with me. I hope you both have a beautiful Valentine’s date.