When telling the story of their relationship, April Hunt and June Berry sometimes leave out a detail the listener is bound to find significant. “We forgot to tell you that a portrait of us was hanging in the National Gallery in Washington,” Ms. Hunt said the day before her Feb. 12 wedding to Ms. Berry.
Ms. Hunt, 39, and Ms. Berry, 41, are not normally muses; they are a D.J. and a child welfare worker. But “they’re the most beautiful people,” the collagist Wardell Milan said at their elopement, on Randalls Island in Manhattan. Their art world cachet is Ms. Hunt’s doing: When she launched SparkplugPR, a boutique public relations company focused on contemporary artists in 2010, it drew some attention.
By the time she shuttered the firm in 2020, she had been called “the quintessence of cool” by the New York ABC News affiliate. An article in The Times said: “If you’re out in New York City and spot April Hunt, then congratulations, you’re probably someplace fabulous.”
That was not quite true the first time Ms. Berry met Ms. Hunt on April 1, 2017, at the 40th birthday party of a mutual friend, Kelvin Ward. “It was at the Armory, a dive bar in Brooklyn,” Ms. Berry said. Ms. Hunt, side hustling as a D.J. in art circles, had been recruited by Mr. Ward to spin records.
“I was loving her set,” Ms. Berry said. By the end of the party, she had approached Ms. Hunt’s table a couple times to ask what she was playing. Both were single, but it wasn’t a flirty interaction. Ms. Berry wished it had been. Ms. Hunt was too focused on the music to notice. “When you’re D.J.ing, you’re in the moment,” she said. “You’ve got to have a sense of the room.”
A chance meeting days later in West Harlem at a different bar, La Diagonal, coaxed Ms. Berry past her shyness. “I thought, this is too coincidental,” said Ms. Berry, then the executive sous chef at the Harlem Children’s Zone, a nonprofit aimed at eliminating poverty. “I was like, I’ve never seen this woman before even though we live only a couple blocks from each other and now here she is, twice.”
The friend who was with her at both the Armory and La Diagonal, Phil Edgecombe, pressed her into action. “I was like, ‘You better go over there and get her number now,’” Mr. Edgecombe said. A tap on the shoulder later, Ms. Berry had the number and a big idea: Ms. Hunt should meet her later that night at 67 Orange Street, a neighborhood bar.
When she and Mr. Edgecombe left La Diagonal, she texted the invitation. Ms. Hunt, though, begged off out of tiredness. But she wasn’t uninterested. By the end of April, they arranged a meeting at Lion Lion, a former bar in East Harlem.
Ms. Berry was working up a head of steam in a conversation about local gentrification with the bartender when Ms. Hunt walked in wearing a massive gold Pegasus necklace. “I was in this serious conversation, and then there she was, in all her regalia,” Ms. Berry said. Ms. Hunt has a striking, unconventional style; Ms. Berry’s style, Ms. Hunt said, is more Todd Snyder.
They did not find their way to a conversation about fashion that night, though. Instead, until 1 a.m., “we carried on the conversation I was having with the bartender about gentrification,” Ms. Berry said. When they parted company, neither could figure out whether they had been on a date. “The things we were talking about were just too serious.”
A sense of lightness was less elusive the following week, when they met at an art exhibition in Chelsea. Ms. Hunt’s outfit broke the ice. “April’s pants arrived before she did,” Ms. Berry said. The question that punctuated their first outing was still hovering, though, when they said good night. “Part of it was that when you’re in a same-sex relationship there’s a lot of ambiguity,” Ms. Hunt said. “June wasn’t sure I was even open to having a relationship with a woman.”
A lot of Ms. Hunt’s acquaintances weren’t. “One of April’s friends had this term for her: heteroflexible,” Ms. Berry said. For Ms. Hunt, the description fit. “My last relationship before June had been with a woman, but I didn’t necessarily put a label on myself,” she said. “I was just kind of open to where the wind takes me.”
Ms. Berry got her first indication she hadn’t been courting a straight woman toward the end of that spring. “We finally found ourselves together at 67 Orange, and I had mentioned an ex in passing and used the pronoun ‘she,’” Ms. Hunt said. “June was like, Ah! OK.”
Both had been so consumed with talking about their twin passions, music and food, that past romances barely factored.
Ms. Berry grew up cooking with her mother, June Nichols, in Washington, D.C. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Marymount Manhattan College in 2001 and a master’s in public affairs from Metropolitan College of New York in 2006, she went to culinary school at the Natural Gourmet Institute and graduated in 2008.
Her work as a chef at the nonprofit was an extension of her love for children; in 2019, she left the kitchen to become a child welfare consultant for the City of New York.
[Sign up for Love Letter and always get the latest in Modern Love, weddings, and relationships in the news by email.]
Ms. Hunt’s transition from publicist to D.J. was a slow metamorphosis. She grew up in Chesapeake, Va., and graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in English literature and African-American studies in 2003. Just after, she moved to Mexico City to teach. She hoped to become a D.J. there, too. “But I bought this D.J. equipment online, and I ended up getting scammed out of all my money,” she said. “I moved to New York because I was broke.”
Her sister, Kenya Hunt, was living in West Harlem. She moved in. “I got a temp job and started interning and found myself in the PR world.” The pull to play records never left her, though. Once she started playing music at the Fair Trade art parties organized by her artist friends Derrick Adams and Mickalene Thomas, she was in demand; she went on to play at benefits for the Public Art Fund and an Armory party at the Museum of Modern Art.
Ms. Berry knew nothing of the art world when they started dating. “I’m her mirage in the art desert,” she said. But Ms. Hunt liked it that way. Before they met, both were briefly on Tinder. “I can’t stress enough how unlike me it was to go on Tinder,” Ms. Hunt said. “But I said to myself, I need to expand my network. Everything was becoming artworld-centric. I needed to open up a new arena.”
She also needed to find a relationship that allowed her to fully inhabit the quality that she said best defines her: introversion. “Even though I can wear the hat of extrovert when I need to, I’m totally an introvert,” she said. Longtime friends like Raven Carter, who met Ms. Hunt in college, say her shyness is genuine. “She’s always had this way of making you feel cool by just being around her,” Ms. Carter said. “But she’s one who creates silently. Then, when she’s ready to reveal herself, it’s like, wow.”
Once Ms. Berry and Ms. Hunt finally passed the friend zone in the summer of 2017, they formalized their relationship in July at a Central Park version of Sundae Sermon, a D.J. party normally held in Harlem. Ms. Hunt overheard Ms. Berry talking with someone who mentioned she preferred the term “girlfriend” to “partner.” “I said, ‘I like girlfriend, too,” Ms. Hunt said. “And that was it.”
That Christmas, Ms. Berry met Ms. Hunt’s parents, Kelvin and Precious Hunt, in Virginia. Ms. Hunt had already met three of Ms. Berry’s five siblings during a June trip to Washington; her parents had both died years earlier, her mother in 1996 and her father, Pete Berry Jr., in 2015.
The new year that was 2018 came with an experiment in living together. Ms. Hunt had resolved to finish renovating her apartment. “I had been dragging my feet on it,” she said. “But I worked from home, and I knew I needed to do that for myself to feel good in the space.”
She and her cat, Beaker, moved into Ms. Berry’s studio a few blocks away. The renovations took a year. “The test of any relationship is to live in a studio together for a year and not rip each other’s eyeballs out,” Ms. Berry said. They passed handily, even though they were spending time together outside the studio, too, in at least one memorable setting.
The artist David Antonio Cruz invited Ms. Hunt to sit for a portrait at his studio in New Jersey in 2018. Out of reluctance to be in the spotlight, she accepted only after Ms. Berry agreed to sit with her. The resulting portrait, “TheBoysDon’tPlayNiceWithAnyone, Portrait of April and June” was a 2019 finalist an Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition prize and hung in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery until August 2020.
Months after Ms. Hunt and Ms. Berry traveled to Washington for the exhibition’s opening, the pandemic arrived. By then, they had moved into Ms. Hunt’s renovated apartment together. Ms. Hunt had started re-envisioning her future, too. “It was the 10-year anniversary of having my P.R. firm in 2020, and I thought, OK, April, what do you want to do next?” she said. In January, she closed Sparkplug and launched Mixtape, a new platform for sharing music and conversations with artists.
“For now, it’s a virtual place for celebrating P.O.C creatives and sharing joy.” Guests so far have included George Clinton and Swizz Beatz.
Mixtape’s development happened under a tree on Randalls Island. The tree, discovered during a quarantine bike ride with Ms. Berry, became Ms. Hunt’s favorite spot to work and think in 2020. That included thinking about a wedding: On March 5, 2020, Ms. Berry presented Ms. Hunt with a yellow gold diamond ring.
“We were at home watching TV,” Ms. Berry said. “I said, April, are you really, truly sure you want to spend the rest of your life with me?” She was.
That night, at an Armory Show party, Mr. Adams told them he wanted to throw them an April engagement party. “And then the world shut down,” Ms. Hunt said. But not their plans to make their union legal. In January, Ms. Hunt said, “Let’s get married.” “I said, ‘OK, when?’” Ms. Berry said.
That answer was the morning of Feb. 12, on Randalls Island, by the same tree they discovered earlier this year on the banks of the East River. A dozen guests, including Mr. Adams, the curator Tim Goossens and the arts advocate Alaina Simone turned out in the subfreezing temperatures to watch Ms. Hunt, who wore a white faux fur coat, white jeans and pink glasses, marry Ms. Berry, whose wedding suit was head-to-toe sherpa fleece.
The honorable W. Franc Perry, the first elected openly gay Black judge in New York State, officiated. After calling the day “gorgeous and blessed,” he asked Ms. Hunt and Ms. Berry to take each other in conflict and tranquillity, loving what they know of each other and trusting what they do not yet know.
Just before he pronounced them married, Ms. Hunt paused to savor the moment. “June Berry, we made it!” she said.
ON THIS DAY
When Feb. 12, 2021
Where Randalls Island, N.Y.
Hidden Horns As a surprise to guests, the couple hired the band Hudson Horns to play for their recessional. After the ceremony, Ms. Berry signaled the five players, who were hiding behind trees in the distance, to hit it. As they marched toward the wedding party in New Orleans second-line style, they launched into Stevie Wonder’s “Do I Do.” Despite the cold, few could resist dancing.
Daughter May? “We hear it all the time,” Ms. Berry said of the oft-repeated suggestion that, should they one day have a daughter, they should name her May because they are April and June. Their sharing of month names, they said, is pure coincidence.
There in Spirit Days before the wedding, Ms. Hunt’s cat, Beaker, suddenly died; he had been with her 12 years. “We lost a member of our family,” she said. “But I feel like before he died, he gave me away to June.”
Continue following our fashion and lifestyle coverage on Facebook (Styles and Modern Love), Twitter (Styles, Fashion and Weddings) and Instagram.
Source: Read Full Article