“I’ll teach you how to Dougie.”
“I don’t need to Dougie right now.”
That’s an exchange that happens during a discussion of the wedding seating chart, and it’s also an accurate summary of life for Miriam Sternoff and O’Neal McKnight. This couple star in the new Lifetime reality series Kosher Soul, which explores love between cultures. Miriam’s family is white and Jewish. O’Neal’s is African-American and from the South.
The show takes the couple to their wedding day and beyond, but the true exploration of intercultural marriage happens in the little details – Miriam attempting to cook soul food for O’Neal, for example, or O’Neal taking on the world of kosher cuisine at Canter’s Deli in Hollywood. As such, we spoke with the couple to get a few more details about their story.
Miriam explains their initial meeting as “a whole lot of like at first sight” – they met on an elevator nearly ten years ago, when O’Neal was working as P. Diddy’s stylist and Miriam was visiting the Sean John offices to preview a new women’s line.
Yet despite dating for that long, their engagement came as a shock to Miriam’s family. “In 2009, for about a year, we were not together and we did not really communicate. After a while, we slowly started talking again and decided to give the relationship another try,” explained Miriam, who did not tell her family that she and O’Neal had reconnected. “Now everyone is supportive and has great relationships.”
In addition to a love story, Miriam and O’Neal also have a great story about what it means for two people from different cultures to meet, compromise, combine and create something new. O’Neal, for instance, converted to Judaism in order to marry into Miriam’s Orthodox Jewish family, and he says his new faith has a steep learning curve. “The hardest thing is learning all the prayers and blessings,” he said. (And it must be hard, considering that Kosher Soul also features a bris.)
For Miriam, his conversion has been a spiritual journey for her as well. “I was raised in an Orthodox community, but as I got older I strayed a bit to figure out what was right for me. This process has made me connect with Judaism again and helped me figure out how I want to now live my life as a Jewish woman,” she said. “I am so proud of O’Neal for going on this journey, as it is not an easy one.”
The couple are still talking through how their household will incorporate Jewish and Christian holidays so their children experience both cultures, but O’Neal says they’ve reached a consensus on one topic – latkes, his favorite Jewish food.