Essence Bridal Bliss: Syreeta Butler and J. Kevin Swain



When you split your time between three completely different parts of the United States (Los Angeles, New York City and Atlanta), it only makes sense that one would choose to split their wedding celebrations between multiple places, too. That was the case for director J. Kevin Swain (Biography: Bobby Brown) and mental health and wellness practitioner Syreeta Butler, LMFT. The LA-born and bred couple said “I do” in Santa Barbara’s courthouse on June 2, 2023, before following that up with an epic, star-studded celebration in Cote d’Azur, Nice in France on Sept. 23, 2023.

Both events were the epic culmination of a love story that began with the help of Meshell Ndegeocello. The two attended a free performance the artist had at the Standard Hotel in Hollywood in 2016. Their accounts of how they connected are a tad different, but interesting no matter who tells their version.

Syreeta says a mutual friend asked her if she knew Kevin because she was sitting at one of his tables as they waited for the performance. “One, this was a ‘free’ concert, so how can someone claim seats at a free concert? And two, I didn’t know any damn J. Kevin Swain,” she says, laughing.

Kevin’s account? “A newer acquaintance introduced me to his ‘therapist,’ which I thought was a unique Hollywood intro,” he recalls. “I stepped up with an educated conversation and was immediately intrigued.”

After exchanging “pleasantries and business cards,” the two agreed to stay in touch before they parted ways. A few days later, the director with the fly vintage Mustang from 1965 with the pony interior, which Syreeta was drawn to after their first meeting, rang her line and they decided to meet up. “It’s been on and crackin’ 7 years later,” says Kevin.

The two realized they were each other’s person following some major experiences, including through an intense Ayahuasca experience in Costa Rica and early COVID quarantine, when the two actually traveled to more than a dozen countries because flights were so empty and so cheap.

“We had in depth conversation around what we meant to each other and how we wanted to show up in each other’s lives moving forward,” Kevin says. “I also learned during this time that we travel really well together, which is really important for us.”

In addition to that, some significant life changes, which they supported one another through, confirmed their connection.

“To be even more transparent and honest, by the time we traveled to all these countries in 2021 within our relationship, we had been through a lot of things that have separated most people. Loss. Loss of people, money and passion,” he says.

So the natural next step was for Kevin to ask for Syreeta’s hand, doing so at a favorite neighborhood spot in LA in front of a few family and friends, right after he directed the 2022 ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood event, and four months after he acquired her engagement ring. The next summer, they wed at the courthouse with loved ones present. A few months later, they tied the knot again in the fall in grand fashion at the Villa Les Auracaria in France. “The vibe was let’s bring Cali love to Nice!” Kevin says.

That they did — along with their friends, including famous folks like Bobby Brown and wife Alicia Etheredge and singer 6lack. See photos from their “California Love” meets Under the Cherry Moon-inspired fête in the South of France (and a few shots of their courthouse celebration, too) in this week’s Bridal Bliss.

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