Earlier this month, we introduced Ann Lopez as our April Woman of the Month. In Part I of our interview with her, she shared hilarious stories about her childhood growing up in Ft. Worth, having her son at seventeen, and forging her own path to success against all odds.
In Part II, we go deeper into her nineteen-year marriage to Simon (Model Behaviors’ beloved photographer), the dark pull of marital jealousy, and the tender ache and excitement of sending your only child off to college. She’s got a great sense of humor and is full of down-to-earth advice and experiences.
Please enjoy the second part of Courtney’s interview with Ann Lopez.
MB: Your husband Simon is part of the Model Behaviors family, so to start off Part II, I was curious about your relationship—your story. How did y’all meet and fall in love?
AL: We started dating in high school. I was fifteen. He was seventeen. Once we started dating, we just weren’t apart. Even now, when we’re home and we’re together, we still like to hang out! In August, we’ll have been together a total of twenty-two years. In June, we’ll have been married nineteen. We’re best friends.
MB: From Part I of our interview, we know that you and Simon had Cyrus your senior year of high school, but how did it all unfold before that?
AL: We met and we were friends, and we kind of hung around the same crowd. He played football with some guys I knew. I was dating this guy, and we broke up. Well, he broke up with me and threw a party, and was like, “Ann’s not invited.” But all my friends were going. Everybody was going. I didn’t even break up with him! It was close to the end of the year, I guess, because we were signing yearbooks and things. Simon had signed mine and he put his phone number in it. We all put our phone numbers in everybody’s yearbooks back then.
So I was like, “You know what? I’m going to call Simon, and I’m going to ask him to take me to this party.” This is so shallow and teenager-y of me. It’s awful, but I was just like, “Simon’s fun. And he’s really nice. So if I walk in with Simon, this guy’s not going to say anything to me.”
Simon picks me up. He takes me to this party. He’s very gentlemanly. The party gets huge, and I lose Simon for a while. I assumed he was around somewhere, mingling and whatever. He finds me at some point later because my mom had told him, “As long as you have her back by midnight.”
He found me, and he was like, “Hey! I gotta get you home.”
So he takes me back to my house.
It wasn’t until later that I found out he knew why I’d asked him to take me to the party and he left me at the party. He left me at the party to go cruise his low-rider truck in north-side Ft. Worth with his buddies!
MB: So, was that the moment? Did lightning strike? Or did it still take a little while to catch on?
AL: No, we just started hanging out. We’d see each other at parties, and every now and then I’d be like, “Hey! Let’s go eat Bennigan’s.” Because Bennigan’s in 1995 was the place to go eat. A Monte Cristo sandwich and some fried cheese. Yum.
My mom worked all the time, and I didn’t have my driver’s license. I would have to bum rides from people every day. I had been bumming from the same people over and over again, but then I started showing up at Simon’s truck like, “Will you give me a ride home?” Because I knew he wouldn’t tell me no, which I know is awful of me, but I did like him. He was very nice and sweet. He’d take me home, and then he’d go back to school for football practice.
At some point, we were just hanging out and having dinner at Bennigan’s, and he took me home. I was like, “You know what. This guy has been really nice. He pays for my dinner any time we go out.” He was just very gentlemanly for a seventeen-year-old. I was like, “I’m going to give him a kiss on the cheek.”
We fight about it to this day. We argue about who kissed who. Because I say I leaned over to give him a kiss on the cheek, and he turned to face me and stuck his tongue down my throat. But he says that I stuck my tongue down his throat. So it’s a long-standing argument about who initiated the first kiss.
But from that day, whoever started it, we were always together. It was sometime in August when I was fifteen. I don’t know the exact date, but in August it will be twenty-two years. We give each other the hardest time, but that’s really just kind of the story.
MB: What a cute story! Were there any road bumps along the way, though, because of y’all being an interracial couple? Was that even part of the dynamic?
AL: When my mom figured out that we were dating, she was concerned. She tried to bring it up as tactfully as she could. Of course, I became highly offended that she even brought it up.
I was like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And I literally had no clue. I didn’t understand what she meant.
She was like, “Well, you know, he is Hispanic, and you are White.”
And I was like, “So…?”
And she said, “Well, I just want to let you know that some people may not like that.”
I said, “Well, then I don’t have to like those some people.”
Later, a cousin of mine asked me about it because she started dating a Hispanic guy. Before she brought him over to introduce him to the grandparents, she was concerned about what my grandpa had said to me when Simon and I first started dating. I told her he never said anything. At the end of the day, Paw-Paw just wants us to be happy with people who treat us right. As long as that’s what’s happening, he’s not going to say anything. Those are literally the only two instances of anyone saying something directly to me.
To me, if you find the right person, you find the right person—whatever the color of their skin, whatever their gender, whatever their religion—it doesn’t matter to me. If you’re with the right person and they treat you right and you love each other, go for it.
MB: I grew up in a small town. Coming out of that small town into Austin and UT, where there’s everyone you can imagine, the campus is so diverse. It was a huge change for me. I dated a Latino guy for a bit, and I remember having a very similar conversation with my mother. That conversation and my new environment made me very aware of race in a way I hadn’t been before, so I was curious if that was ever something you and Simon had to deal with or talk about.
AL: Not that I consciously knew about. If anything was being said by somebody around me, I didn’t hear it. It didn’t come into my little bubble. Thinking about it now, things very well may have been said, but I can be pretty oblivious. If I’m not looking for it, a lot of times I don’t know that it’s happening.
MB: I’m like that with dirty jokes. People say dirty jokes and I’m like, “Huh?” My mind doesn’t go there first.
AL: You must be saying “Huh?” a lot around Simon.
MB: I don’t know if he’s comfortable enough with me yet to go full throttle with the dirty jokes. Toni has definitely made a lot of dirty jokes around me, and at my confusion, she’s like, “Come on, Courtney!”
AL: I’m pretty positive that started coming out when they used to work together years and years ago.
MB: Now that I think of it, I don’t really know how they met or when they started working together.
AL: Toni used to model for Dillard’s. That’s how Simon met everybody. At least initially. Most people in the industry—at least in the Dallas world—have done some sort of work for Dillard’s at some point in their career. With the models coming in every day, that’s where he met most everybody, and that’s where he and Toni met. Then it went from there. Toni would get outside work. She’d call Simon. That was even before he started officially freelancing.
MB: So that brings up an interesting thought that I had because Simon was working with all these models. Did you ever deal with jealousy?
AL: Oh yeah! We’re all only human, right? The first tinge of jealousy—well, it wasn’t just a tinge. It was actually a big deal for me. It happened back in college when he was taking photography courses. The photography studio at TCU is in the basement, so there’s no cell phone reception.
He told me, “This girl wants her picture taken for her boyfriend’s birthday. Just sort of this tasteful thing.” He didn’t think it was going to go too crazy because he saw her every day. She was a painter. She always had paint under her fingernails, hair up in a ponytail, clothes covered in paint. Then she cleaned up, and Simon was like, “Wow, this is not the same girl.”
So he was at the photo studio super late, and by the time he got home, I was mad. I was like, “How come that took you so long? What were you doing? You weren’t answering your phone.” That sort of thing. But he didn’t mention anything. Later he was working on the computer, doing Photoshop on some of those photos, and he had his headphones in. I came home at an odd time. I don’t know what happened. Class got cancelled. I wasn’t feeling well. I can’t remember. So I came walking through the door, and he didn’t hear me.
I walk into the bedroom where all the lights are out because he’s working on Photoshop in the dark, and literally…there’s this giant nipple blown up on the computer screen!
As you can imagine, I lost it. I was like, “Oh my god, what is this?!” And I was mad.
So there was that piece of it. And I think it’s natural. I think most wives would be like, “Okay, this is a hobby he’s getting into, but I’m not used to this.” And in the back of your mind, you hear those stories of photographers and models.
MB: You’re obviously not that way now. I remember seeing some of Simon’s risqué photos, not even nude ones, and then I found out he was married to you. I was like, “That’s a really cool lady.” How did you overcome those jealous feelings?
AL: At first, it was hard for him to take photos because I made it hard. I told him to not take photos of girls, but guys don’t want to model. Girls want to model. There was always this pang of jealously, for a while at least, while we were in school. I don’t know what happened to change it, but I recall having this realization that he was good at what he does. As pissed off as I was for him taking those photos, when he showed them to me, they were so good. They were good and natural and just effortless.
So I was like, “He’s good at what he does. And if he’s good at what he does and he has a passion for what he’s doing, if he gets a job to actually do this, I can’t be this way. Because he’s going to have to make a choice between me and his job.” At that time, I wasn’t sure if I continued to be that way, which one he would pick. I told myself I needed to work on being okay with it. “Do you trust him? Yes, you trust him.” It was a conscious effort, and it was hard to not say anything, or be so overly annoying with questions that he didn’t even want to shoot.
I get those comments a lot. How are you not jealous every day? But I’d be a really hateful person if I was.
MB: The relationship would not work.
AL: Yes, and if I was jealous every day, that would mean I didn’t trust him. But we made a deal a long time ago. I told him fine, he could shoot all the pretty ladies with the beautiful bodies and I wouldn’t be jealous. And then I said, “But if you ever come home one day and start telling me I need a little nip here or a little tuck there or I should wear some more makeup, we’re done.” He said, “Deal. But you also don’t get paid two thousand dollars a day to model.” And I laughed and said, “No I don’t, but if you ever try to make me into that world, we’re done.”
MB: You don’t need that voice in your head, especially not from a partner when you’re supposed to support each other.
AL: Exactly. But yeah, jealousy can be there sometimes. He’s been doing that long enough and we’ve been together long enough that generally it’s not an issue. And I’ve helped him on some of those shoots, so that may have helped. But I am uncomfortable on those shoots. I’m the only person who’s uncomfortable, but I’ve watched him and he gets very professional. And from my perspective, he’s not creepy. So that helped. And I do remind him from time to time, “I’m the coolest wife you’ll ever have.”
MB: And don’t you forget it.
AL: Like, he’ll ask me to bring a fan, and I get there and he’s like, “Oh, so-and-so is a bit naked in there.” And I tell him I’ll come back later, so I’m either the coolest wife or I’m a chump.
MB: The first option!
So, we’ve talked about motherhood a little bit, but I’d like to go back to it because I’ve had a lot of interesting conversations lately. My friends and I are all turning thirty this year, and we’ve been talking about having or not having kids. The conversations are more tangible than when we were in our early twenties, so kids are on my mind right now. I’m wondering…you had Cyrus when you were so young, but did you ever want kids after that?
AL: After Simon and I started dating, he used to tell me, “You’re going to be my wife, and we’re going to have five kids.” I would laugh and say something like, “We can get married and I’ll have two of your kids, but you’ll have to find another wife for the rest of them.” Then we had Cyrus.
When he was younger, he kind of acted like a little man sometimes because he was just around older people. It took a while, but we talked about it and Cyrus was not planned, so the intent was to have more but to sort of plan it.
Then it was funny because Simon would be like, “Hey, I’m ready.” And I’d be like, “I’m not.” And then I’d be like, “Hey, I’m ready.” And he’d be like, “Yeah, I’m not right now.” It was sort of this back and forth, and then right before I took the LSAT, we both had decided we were ready. We wanted to have another one.
Then three weeks later, I was like, “Actually, I’m going to take the LSAT and try to get into law school.” So he was like, “Then I think we don’t need to try and have a baby.” So I was like, “Oh yeah, I didn’t even think of that. Are you okay with it?” He says, “I’m okay with it.”
But after that, after law school, Cyrus was fourteen, and any siblings of his would have lived completely different lives potentially. He would’ve been a much older sibling and not being here and around and involved in his sibling’s life. Simon went to school with three of his siblings and all of his cousins. His family was always around. Even now, our best friends are his family. It’s his cousins. Those are our go-to friends when we need anything or want to hang out. That was one thing we were always factoring in. I didn’t like the idea of having two children who are basically only-children because they’re so far apart in age. To have children that are that far apart, it’s hard for them to have that super close relationship.
MB: Now that Cyrus is off to college, how has that been? Is it a weird feeling?
AL: Not really for me. It was hard letting him go to college, but I was more excited than anything. While I went to college, I was married and had a kid. I stayed home. As scared as you are as a parent to push them out of the nest, it’s exciting too. And maybe it’s even more exciting for me because it really wasn’t that long ago. It’s neat to see him grow up. You know, I call him and we talk and we text. I try to always have that contact—not irritating contact. I try to give him his space.
But when he was home one weekend, I told him, “You are now nineteen. That’s how old your dad was when we had you.”
MB: Did that freak him out a little bit?
AL: There’s always that aspect. How do you teach your child, who you had at a young age, that you would never change anything, but you don’t want it to be his story? A lot of people can’t do it, for whatever reason. I’m not saying that it makes me and Simon special or anything like that, but it’s not easy to be a parent so young and still push on and do what you want to do. A lot of people just aren’t successful at doing both. I fulfilled my dreams after he was here, and I want to see him fulfill his dreams before that happens for him. Plus, I don’t want to be a grandma before forty!
MB: Well, I’m excited for Cyrus. And for you! To finish up, I’d like to ask my final question. What’s one of the biggest or most important life lessons that you’ve learned?
AL: If you’re determined to do something, do it. Own it and do it. Stick to your gut. If your gut is saying, “Yes, this is the right path for me,” let that be your path. Being a young mom, I’m sure you can imagine how many people were telling me, “You don’t need to do that. You shouldn’t do that.” But sometimes I think it helped me. There were really no ifs, ands, or buts about deciding to have Cyrus—making a decision and getting things done. Sometimes I wonder, “If Cyrus wasn’t in the picture, would I have done what I’ve done and been happy about what I had accomplished by the time I reached thirty-seven. Would I be in the same place? Where would I be?” And that actually scares me because I don’t know that I would’ve had the same drive and the determination. I had to say, “I’m going to be a mom and that’s my decision and that’s my path.”
If your gut is telling you to do something, and you feel it’s right for you, everybody’s story is different, so make your story. It doesn’t have to follow anybody else’s.
I wanted to say this earlier, but I feel like it sounds fake coming out. But anyway, I’d had Cyrus and I was eighteen or nineteen. I was watching Oprah after class one day, and it was teenage moms. When I was a teenage mom, that was a big thing all over the media. Stop teenage pregnancies! All this stuff. There were always teen moms on talk shows who have one or two or three children. They’d say, “I can’t go get a job,” or “I can’t go to college because I had a kid,” or “I can’t do this.” I would get so angry at the TV because I’d say, if you really wanted to do it, you could do it. And then I got mad at Oprah. I thought about writing Oprah a letter. I really did. Oprah would be like, “Yeah, I understand that you can’t do these things.” I’d be like, “You are Oprah! You should not be saying this.” You don’t have to hand them dollar bills, Oprah. Just tell them if they really want to do it, we can figure out ways for you to get help to do it and get it done, for yourself and for your kids. I was just very frustrated.
What? Because I’m a mom, all of these doors are shutting? That’s dumb.
I remember watching that show, and I remember the faces of the three girls who were on it. I was like, “Don’t commiserate with them! Tell them they can do it! Empower women, Oprah!”
So I guess the last thing I would add is to find your group. It doesn’t even have to be a big group. Find your person. Find your other female counterpart who is supportive and will lift you up. Sometimes that little piece from one person can be enough to fill you up and push you through.
Thank you so much to Ann Lopez for making us laugh and giving us a little slice of her life to soak up all the wisdom and hard-earned lessons. Read Part I of her interview, and check back soon to take a peek at a day in her life as a lawyer, a wife, and a mom (and many other things).