As the saying goes: any app can be a dating app when you're honest about who you are. Ok maybe that's not a saying but its true, and it worked out in the case of Representative Malcolm Kenyatta and Dr. Matthew Jordan Miller who got engaged this month after meeting on Instagram in 2016. Four years ago, the pair did the now-customary "one person likes a few photos, and then the other person likes a few in return to show mutual interest," and last week the Philadelphia State Representative from the 181st District popped the question in a moment that's since gone viral.
"It's tough to believe but we actually met on Instagram," Kenyatta tells Out. Miller found him after a publication called Kenyatta an LGBTQ+ leader to watch. After the like exchange, there were some mixed messages. "After a week or so, he sent me a message in my DMs saying he liked my work and we should stay in touch. I, not seeing his message, went to message him similarly and then I saw his note. We haven't stopped talking since."
For a while, things were all virtual as Miller completed his PhD at the University of Southern California, and Kenyatta continued his work in Philadelphia. It was almost a year later, in February 2017 that they finally met in real life, and Kenyatta found himself in love.
"When he got off the plane at Philadelphia International Airport for his first visit to Philly and our first physical meeting, I kissed him immediately," Kenyatta says. "It felt like I had known him forever and he was just on a trip or something." Miller says that he noticed he was in love prior, and shied away from it, canceling a prior visit in the process.
The recent engagement has been a while in the planning. Kenyatta designed Miller's ring over the span of seven months with the help of a friend, jeweler, and local LGBTQ+ icon Henri David.
"I wanted something that spoke to Matt: timeless, something that sparked and something that was one of a kind, which I think we accomplished," Kenyatta says. The result includes blue moonstone as the main stone. Miller will have a hand in designing Kenyatta's ring.
For the actual proposal, Kenyatta wanted it to be a surprise, so he masked his intentions by incorporating Miller's work. As Miller is working on a book on Black urbanism titled A Palm Growing in Concrete and incorporates photography in his scholarship, Kenyatta suggested they get dressed up and go take photos at the Shofuso Japanese Garden.
"After a few photos, I pulled a Jaida Essence Hall and said 'look over there' pointing out another location and then got on one knee," Kenyatta recalls. "When he turned around he started to say 'That's not a pose. Get up. What are you doing?' I then pulled out the ring, told him how important he was to me and we both began tearing up and crying." Amanda Swiger, the photographer Kenyatta had hired, then came out of hiding and took a few photos to commemorate the occasion.
"After all the time of getting this together I was committed to everything just going to plan and I'm so grateful it [did,]" Kenyatta says. "We're both also still so moved [by] the outpouring of love from folks near and far who talked about the power of seeing Black gay love and of course the incredible kindness of national figures like Representative Ayana Pressley, Mayor Pete and Chasten Buttigieg, and Senator Bob Casey."
The couple plan to wed in January 2022.