Nicole Avant, former U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas and wife of Netflix co-Chief Executive Ted Sarandos, is opening up about her mother’s murder in her new memoir, “Think You’ll Be Happy: Moving Through Grief With Grit, Grace, and Gratitude.”
Avant’s parents were Los Angeles philanthropist Jacqueline Avant and music producer Clarence Avant. Jacqueline was shot and killed at age 81 during a burglary at her Beverly Hills home in 2021. Clarence died earlier this year at age 92. Nicole Avant’s mother’s death and her upbringing in the entertainment industry inspired her forthcoming memoir, which the author says, per CBS, “is about legacy. It’s about love. It’s about life.”
The title honors Jacqueline’s final text message to her daughter — at the time a casual text about sweet potato pie — that was sent just before she was murdered.
“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: ‘OK. Think you’ll be happy.’ My mom was big on your words and your thoughts creating your life,” Nicole Avant said Tuesday on “CBS Mornings.”
Jacqueline was a prominent Los Angeles philanthropist over the decades, notably in support of the UCLA International Student Center. She served at one time as the president of the Neighbors of Watts, a support group for the South Central Community Child Care Center and as entertainment chairman of the NOW benefit auction. Clarence was a legendary figure in the music industry, working with or advising such stars as Jimmy Smith, Lalo Schifrin, Babyface, Bill Withers, Sixto Rodriguez, the SOS Band and Cherrelle.
Known as the “Black Godfather,” he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2016 and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2021.
A Times story in 2019 described Clarence Avant as a “poor kid from Depression-era North Carolina who rose to become a behind-the-scenes titan of managing, deal making and problem solving across the spectrum of Black entertainment — from a previous era’s jazz and soul royalty to today’s R&B/rap empires, with sports and politics thrown in for good measure.”
The couple met in the mid-1960s, when Jacqueline was modeling as part of the traveling Ebony Fashion Fair aimed at introducing new styles to Black communities. They were married in 1967 and had two children, Nicole and Alex.
They had been married for more than 50 years when Aariel Maynor broke into their Beverly Hills home and fatally shot Jacqueline in the back on Dec. 1, 2021. (Maynor was sentenced in April 2022 to 150 years to life in prison for his crimes, which also included planning to burglarize the Avants’ home and shooting multiple times at an unarmed security guard.)
Nicole told “CBS Mornings” that her father was at her mother’s side, holding her hand in the final moments before her death. “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.'”
After Jacqueline’s death, Nicole said she took charge, stepping up to fill her mother’s shoes where she could. Her father, she said, never left her side as the family grieved, and he was crucial in helping her finish her forthcoming memoir, encouraging her to share their family’s saga and transform tragedy into legacy.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.