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Despite her presence and longevity in the industry, we don’t know too much about actress Elise Neal’s personal life. Personally, I didn’t know that for several years she was dating and even engaged to director F. Gary Gray, known for Friday, Set It Off, The Italian Job and Straight Outta Compton. While there are several images of the couple out on the red carpet together, in 2009, Neal told ESSENCE that they were very intentional about not letting other people influence their relationship.

“Because we are both really down to earth and our relationship is built on how we feel about each other, nobody really intrudes on our space. We don’t care if the media appreciates us as a couple — we’re really not tripping off of the Hollywood ‘hot couple’ thing! I love the times I hang out with Gary and just go to the movies. Just doing normal stuff. Also, getting away for a weekend every now and then-and I’m definitely the facial and spa chick!”

Ultimately, the relationship didn’t work out. And because both parties kept their private lives private, we never knew the reason(s) why.

But during a recent interview with her former “The Hughley’s” co-star, D.L. Hughley, Neal opened up about the pressures she was under, attempting to fulfill gender roles and work with a network (ABC) that didn’t always appreciate what they were offering.

D.L. Hughley: You were in a relationship, on the verge of getting married. You didn’t know what was going on.

Elise Neal: Whew! Shout out to that relationship.

D.L. Hughley: Was that relationship pivotal in changing the way that you went forward…

Elise: Let me just say it but I got nothing but love for F. Gary Gray. Nothing but love. He’s taught me a lot about the business too.

D.L. Hughley: You were getting proposed to and planning a wedding.

Elise: Yeah. Crazy.

D.L.: I thought it, at one point, consumed your vision, like it clouded your vision.

Elise: Well, this could be a whole series of talk about women, especially, who get in a space where it’s a new show and it’s a huge hit. And then you have a man and having to have the balance between…

D.L.: Because he had a big hit.

Elise: He was at the rise of his career. Everybody was talking about new, Black Hollywood, the pressures of that conversation. Having my own show on tv. Still, the Southern girl that I am trying to run home and make dinner. It was a lot on my plate at the time.

Jasmine Sanders: Trying to have it all.

Elise: I did have it all but I wasn’t doing it good. I had this guy that people thought was amazing. And he is an amazing director. I’m forever grateful for what I learned about being able to be a great producer from him. Literally, sometimes we’d come in a 6 o clock in the morning. So it would be wake up at 3 o clock in the morning, get the dog ready, get myself ready, get in the car. Because I don’t want to hear nobody talking about, ‘You know she with Gary Gray so you know she gon’ be late.’ I was never late. I was always on time.

D.L.: I wouldn’t know that because I always was.

Elise: I didn’t want those pressure of people thinking that I was with somebody who was in the business that I wasn’t going to do my job, making sure I did a good job at home, making sure I did a good job at work. It was a lot going on at the time.

D.L.: I am glad that after all that that I still recognize the young woman who’s this woman now and you still have that light in your eyes. And I would love to do another project. I’d love to show ‘em what we could do. I just thought I should have been more protective.

Elise: You probably should have…We’ve always been friends. And we always talked about things…

D.L.: But in all fairness, it was weird because you had a dude…

Elise: And he didn’t like you. And you didn’t like him. It was a lot of pressure, y’all.

D.L.: And I didn’t want to have—what I was trying to avoid—more than anything else I didn’t want to have a thing that made things worse. What I should have did was been more understanding when you were going through your process.

You can watch Elise’s full interview in the video below.

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