Nicole Avant says mom's final text before her death was no coincidence

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Nicole Avant, former U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas and wife of Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, hails from a family deeply embedded in philanthropy and the entertainment industry.

Her parents, philanthropist Jacqueline Avant and entertainment mogul Clarence Avant, played pivotal roles in shaping American culture.

Jacqueline was killed during a burglary in 2021 at the age of 81 and Clarence died earlier this year at 92. Her mother's death and her upbringing inspired Avant's latest memoir, "Think You'll Be Happy: Moving Through Grief with Grit, Grace, and Gratitude."

"This book is about legacy. It's about love. It's about life," Avant said.

The title is an ode to her mother's final text message she sent the night she was murdered. At the time, it was about a sweet potato pie, but since then, it's taken on new meaning.

"Her last words were — I really, I believe cause I don't believe in coincidences — and out of all the things that she could say to me before somebody broke into her house, those words were: 'Okay. Think you'll be happy.' My mom was big on your words and your thoughts creating your life," Avant said.

Avant fondly recalled her dad was like Archie Bunker and her mom was a bit like Cleopatra. She said "they got together and made magic" after meeting in the early 1960s when Jacqueline was strutting the catwalk for the Ebony Fashion Fair.

Clarence Avant was known as "The Black Godfather" for his vast influence on American culture. Meanwhile, Jacqueline focused on philanthropy and supporting the arts.

The couple raised Nicole and her brother, Alexander. They had been married for more than 50 years when in the early hours of Dec. 1, 2021, Aariel Maynor broke into their family home and shot Jacqueline.

Avant said her father was right there by her mother's side, holding her hand in her final moments.

"He said she was breathing very heavy. He goes, 'But she was breathing.' He sat with her. He sat behind her. He said, 'I was rubbing her hair," Avant said.

Avant rushed to the hospital upon hearing the news and found her father in the waiting room. She said he was quiet and had his head down.

"I said, 'Daddy, are you okay?' And he said, 'Jackie's in surgery. Jackie's in surgery.' And then he held my hand and goes, 'She'll be okay. She'll be okay,'" Avant said.

Avant vividly remembered the moment they received news that her mother died and remembered her brother screaming and her father falling onto her. Avant said she took charge, feeling like her mother in that crucial moment. She directed everyone, saying, "You go here. Ted, get in the car with my dad. Alex's girlfriend, take him home." She firmly told her father, "Dad, you're coming home with me."

Her father never left her side after that day and Avant said she treasures the gift of spending the final year of her father's life with him. She said he played a pivotal role in helping her finish the memoir, urging her to share their family's story.

Today, Jacqueline Avant's legacy endures through the Jacqueline Avant Children and Family Center, named in her honor earlier this year. The center focuses on providing physical and mental health care to children and families in South Central Los Angeles, a cause dear to Jacqueline's heart.

Maynor was arrested and pleaded guilty to Jacqueline's murder. He was sentenced to 190 years to life in prison last April. Avant said she, through grief and healing, has found the capacity for forgiveness.

"For me, I forgive, but for me. I cannot carry the anger and the resentment and the fury because it's just a dead weight in my heart. And I have to protect my soul," Avant said.

"So forgiveness is really always for the person that's forgiving. Not condoning the behavior of another person. Not trying to go and reconcile with the other person necessarily. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't," she said.

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