For years, Kelly Louise Carter entertained fantasies about how she was going to meet the love of her life. “We’d be at Whole Foods, and he was wearing an MSU alumni sweatshirt,” she said. “We would grab our almond milk at the same time, then look up and close our eyes and that would be it. We would exchange numbers and fall in love.”
Becoming the surrogate milk shopper of her dreams wasn’t something Moreno Quintel McAlpine could have easily accomplished when they met in 2021, given that he lived in Atlanta and she in Los Angeles. But becoming the man who helped her rethink what love at first sight looked like was easy for him.
Ms. Carter, 46, is a senior reporter covering black entertainment at Andscape from ESPN practical. Mr. McAlpine, 42, an independent chemist and lab manager, has his computer and TV screens permanently off on sports channels. When they connected on Twitter in February 2021, her face was as recognizable to him as the athletes and celebrities she regularly interviews. To her, he was a friendly stranger — one of thousands who followed her on social media, but someone whose kindness was a blessing at a time when she really needed it.
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The Covid blues came to Mrs. Carter that winter. “We were in the thick of it,” she said. “They haven’t even developed a vaccine yet.” She had recently bought a house in Los Angeles, and it removed her from residential life and daily interaction with the neighbors who came with her. “I was literally trapped in the house by myself. I didn’t even have a pet.”
Posted on February 15, 2021, the third anniversary of the release of “Black Panther” Pictured with movie star Chadwick Boseman, on Twitter. “He passed away a few months ago and everyone was posting their memories on Twitter,” she said. “I knew him well, so I posted a picture of Chad and me and Ryan Coogler days before the movie was released.” Mr McAlpine captioned the photo. “I would have spotted that sweet smile anywhere in the crowd,” he wrote.
The compliment felt like a balm. “It was nice to have someone flirt with you in a way that they might flirt with outside,” she said. Within a few minutes, I sent him a direct message. “Thank you so much for this tweet, that was really cool,” she wrote.
Mr. McAlpine, who said he always thought Ms. Carter was nice, had commented on previous posts she had shared on social media, but this was the first time she had ever responded.
His response launched a romance that initially made him wonder if he was being breastfed. “I thought, what would someone like her want with someone like me?” He said.
Mr. McAlpine grew up in Memphis. He and his younger sister, Ashley Prewett, were raised by their great-grandmother, Mary Barnes. His mother, Renee McAlpine, was in addiction rehabilitation throughout his childhood until she died in 1991 of a drug overdose. He never knew his father. Sport, he said, “was kind of my outlet.”
Track and football earned him a scholarship to Arkansas State University, but friends have suggested he consider historically black colleges and universities. He graduated from Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and plans to attend pharmacy school soon after. But before he could sign up, Mrs. Barnes was diagnosed with leukemia. Until she passed away a year later, he was her full-time caretaker.
His first job as a lab technician in Memphis in 2006 set him on a path to consistent lab work. “I’ve been on that train ever since,” he said. He had been working in Atlanta working night shifts at the medical supply company Medline for two years when Mrs. Carter surprised him with her direct letter.
Ms. Carter became an ESPN correspondent in 2016 after what she describes as a “beautiful childhood” primarily in Southfield, Michigan. Her father, William Carter, was a recruiting coach who worked at colleges and high schools. Her mother, Caroline Carter, taught English at several universities, including Eastern Michigan University.
Although she was an only child, her family was abuzz with visits from her parents’ students and recruits. Among them was Kevin Willis, a former professional basketball player who attended Michigan State. She said, “I call him my older brother.” “He played for Michigan State, and because he went there I became obsessed with Michigan State basketball. They also had a great journalism program.” Mrs. Carter graduated from this program with a bachelor’s degree in 2007. Her dedication to her university is shown through a sweatshirt in her fictional movie Love-at-Whole Foods.
Before Mrs. Carter and Mr. McAlpine went from non-stop live messaging to all-night phone calls eight days after they first met on Twitter, she had a word to describe her love life. “It was tragic,” she said, laughing.
She said, “I think a lot is said about women having great jobs, and I think the thing that was said in the first place is that we don’t make time for love in our lives.” “That wasn’t the case for me at all. As much as I wanted to grow in my career, I wanted to grow in love. But I just couldn’t find it.”
The connection I felt with Mr. McAlpine on social media provided my first glimpse of it. “What captivated me is that his childhood story is not the most beautiful, but he endured that trauma and was still kind, friendly, thoughtful and full of life. I love that he takes care of people.”
For Mr. McAlpine, relationships in his 20s and 30s were “interesting,” he said. He had one long term girlfriend. “But I was a very on the right track person. I was running away from a lot of good women, I guess.” His feet were firmly planted when Mrs. Carter flew to Atlanta to meet him for a first date on May 15, 2021. She had friends and family in town. “I thought, ‘If it’s weird, I’ll hang out with my friends,'” she said. But there was no need.
On her first day there, they walked through the Atlanta Botanical Garden and got a foot massage at Treat Your Feet Buckhead, which Mr. McAlpine had arranged in advance. When he took her back to her hotel that night, after dinner at Atlanta’s Capital Grill, “I guess we were both, well, how are we going to do this?” She said. “What does long distance dating look like to you?”
By the summer, they were flying across the country to see each other at least once a month. In June, they announced themselves as a couple. Carter’s best friend of 30 years, writer and producer Gemmell Hill, felt a sense of relief when she met Mr. McAlpine on a trip to New York to attend the ESPY Awards.
“Kelly is the type of person who is passionate about love,” said Mrs. Hale. “There were so many times I told her to slow down, take it easy, be more careful. But this was an instance where I felt caution wasn’t necessary. Moreno Kelly understood. He was thoughtful.”
Less than a year later, Mr. McAlpine was seeking Mrs. Hale’s advice about an engagement ring. The ring he presented on Sept. 25, 2022, during a trip to Dreams Tulum, a resort in Mexico, was her dream ring: a cushion-cut diamond with baguettes on the band. Mrs. Carter said a tearful yes before Mr. McAlpine led her towards a surprise. Mrs. Hale, her husband, and a group of other friends and family traveled to Mexico to celebrate with them.
At an engagement party at BAK’ Tulum steakhouse, congratulations rained from the rafters. “It was a beautiful moment,” said Mrs. Carter. Months later, Mr. McAlpine moved from Atlanta to Mrs. Carter’s home in the View Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, better known as Black Beverly Hills.
On July 14, Mrs. Carter and Mr. McAlpin married at the Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa in Huntington Beach, California, with the theme of the wedding being an old Hollywood ball. And to set the scene, their 200 guests were asked to dress in a Hollywood black tie formal attire. For Mrs. Carter, period chic felt like a way to pay homage to classic black actors and performers who never found mainstream success.
Guests cheered and wiped away tears as her father escorted Mrs. Carter, in a custom one-shoulder, champagne-coloured Katrina Pucci gown, down a winding aisle. Mr. McAlpine, dressed in a black tuxedo and white jacket, met them at an altar covered in white flowers where Rodney Patterson, pastor at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, was waiting for them. Standing on either side of the ceremony was a wedding party that included actors Gabrielle Union and Deborah Joy Winans; Mrs. Hale was the honorary chairwoman.
After a short traditional party, during which singer-songwriter Shante Moore surprised guests with her hit, “love violates” Mrs. Carter and Mr. McAlpine rested in a room full of athletes and entertainers. But the spotlight was all theirs. “At that moment, Kelly and Moreno were the only stars,” Ms. Hale said.
On this day
when July 14, 2023
where Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa, Huntington Beach, California.
White wedding to black reception At a reception at the Hyatt, a duet of grilled salmon and chicken infused with lavender and apple cider was served before a nearly four-foot-tall black wedding cake adorned with pearl-like candies and lace was served. Mrs. Carter changes from her wedding gown into an off-white crystal-encrusted dress.
Old school glam After a late-night snack of specialty pizza, the couple gave each guest a coffee table book, “Black Hollywood: Reimagining Iconic Movie Moments.” Inside the books, the couple has a cover photo of themselves on the front page. Mrs. Carter wrote a personal note of thanks on each copy.