From Instagram likes to divorce: Inside Ariana Grande and Ethan Slater’s controversial romance

The couple reportedly met while filming ‘Wicked’ in London

Meredith Clark
New York
Wednesday 02 August 2023 14:21 BST
Related: Ariana Grande addresses fans’ ‘concerns’ about her body in rare statement

Ariana Grande has found her personal life in the spotlight as a result of her new romance with Wicked co-star Ethan Slater.

After news broke that the “Thank U, Next” singer ended her relationship with her husband of two years, Dalton Gomez, reports soon surfaced that she was romantically linked to her Wicked cast member.

While fans took to social media to share their thoughts on the unlikely celebrity pairing, focus also shifted towards Slater’s now-estranged wife, Lilly Jay.

From Instagram likes to Spongebob Squarepants: The Musical, here’s everything we know about Ariana Grande and Ethan Slater’s relationship.

Ariana Grande and Dalton Gomez separate

On 17 July, TMZ reported that the Nickelodeon alum and her real estate broker husband had been separated since January and were “heading toward divorce”. The news came just days after Grande was spotted without her wedding ring at the 2023 Wimbledon tennis championships.

The two reportedly ​​tried to reconcile their marriage “a few months back,” but had been “having problems” since before Grande began filming the movie musical adaptation of Wicked in London.

One source told People that Grande and Gomez “have been quietly and lovingly working on their friendship” since their separation.

“They came to the decision together. They were having problems before January, but they want to remain best friends,” another source told Page Six. “They’ve been really good friends throughout the entire process, and their friends and families have been trying to protect them.”

Grande and Gomez began dating in January 2020 and announced their engagement 11 months later. They were married during an intimate ceremony at Grande’s home in Montecito, California, in May 2021.

Singer linked to Wicked co-star, Ethan Slater

Three days after it was announced that the “7 Rings” singer and Gomez were separated, a report from People confirmed that Grande, 30, was in a relationship with Broadway alum Ethan Slater, 31.

“Ariana and Dalton separated in January,” a source told the outlet on 20 July. “She and Ethan recently began dating, and he is separated from his wife.”

Another source shared with Entertainment Tonight: “Ariana and Ethan recently started dating. They have a lot in common and have a lot of fun. They didn’t start dating until both were broken up with their significant others. Ariana and Dalton remain friends.”

The two reportedly started dating while filming John M Chu’s movie musical adaptation of Wicked in London. Grande stars as Glinda in the upcoming film - initially scheduled for release in November 2024 - while Slater will play Boq, who becomes the love interest of Elphaba’s sister Nessarose after his affections are thwarted by Glinda.

Ethan Slater and wife Lilly Jay separate after 10 years together

According to People, the Broadway actor separated from his wife Lilly Jay before his relationship with Grande began. The former couple, who were reportedly high school sweethearts, married in 2018 and had a son in August 2022.

However, it appeared that Slater’s wife was “completely blindsided” by reports that the co-stars are now dating. “It’s horrible. They were high school sweethearts. They have a baby! She’s a wreck,” a source told Page Six.

Sources also speculated that Slater’s romance with Grande is the reason he and Jay “suddenly break up now when nothing appeared wrong between them”.

(Getty Images)

Meanwhile, TMZ claimed that Jay is “devastated her family’s been torn apart” and she’s also “upset” that their young son “won’t have both his mom and dad around constantly” now that the couple have split.

The sources added that the parents “aren’t on good terms” and noted that the “Break Free” singer used to hang out with both Slater and Jay when they were still together.

Slater shares Instagram tribute to Jay in May

Following reports that Slater and Jay were separated prior to his relationship with Grande, many fans pointed out that Grande had previously “liked” two of Slater’s posts dedicated to his wife.

In one Instagram post, which was shared on Mother’s Day last May, Slater posted a faceless photo of their infant son’s ears. “Happy first Mother’s Day to the most loving caring and wonderful mom/person in the world,” he captioned the post, in honour of Jay.

In November 2022, he celebrated their four-year wedding anniversary and 10 years of being a couple in another Instagram post. “My best friend. Four years married. 10 together. And this is easily the best (and most bizarre) yet,” he captioned a slideshow of himself and Jay over the years.

Slater has since made his Instagram account private, a move that some followers claimed “confirmed” the then-rumoured romance between him and Grande.

Slater files for divorce

On 26 July, Slater filed for divorce from Jay after four years of marriage. According to TMZ, the actor filed the court documents in New York City on Wednesday.

A source told the outlet: “It’s understandable that emotions are high and it’s hard seeing your ex move on, especially in such a public way, and [Jay’s] friends are trying to protect her. But Ari and Ethan are just trying to lay low and be respectful of their exes as they pursue this new relationship.”

Grande and Slater are “full-on” dating

Following reports that Slater filed for divorce from Jay on 26 July, a source confirmed to People that the new couple are “full-on” dating and Grande “really likes” Slater.

The “34+35” singer reportedly sparked up a friendship with Slater on set of their upcoming film, Wicked. “It was obvious on the set from early on... they were very sweet to each other and often seen laughing together,” the source said.

However, it appeared that cast and crew assumed the two were just friends, considering Slater was still married at the time. “Everyone just thought they were both happily married though and didn’t expect them to end up dating,” they said.

Lilly Jay breaks her silence

In an interview with Page Six published on 27 July, Lilly Jay broke her silence on reports that Slater and Grande are “full-on” dating and referred to the pop star as “not a girl’s girl”.

“[Ariana’s] the story really. Not a girl’s girl,” Jay told the outlet. “My family is just collateral damage.”

Now, Jay said she’s focused on raising her and Slater’s son and being “a good mom”.

“The story is her and Dalton,” the musician added, referencing Grande’s split from her husband, Dalton Gomez, after two years of marriage.

However, sources told Page Six that Jay has been “calling every news outlet to get this story out” but acting differently toward Slater behind the scenes, while another reported that Slater is “trying to take the high road” and hopes that he can “resolve this situation for the sake of their child.”

Grande is giving Slater “space” as he “works things out” with estranged wife

Grande is reportedly giving Slater “space” to sort the details of his ongoing divorce. According to TMZ, the Wicked co-stars haven’t seen each other for several weeks, as Slater travelled to New York where he filed for divorce.

The Spongebob Squarepants of it all

Amid the relationship drama, many fans couldn’t help but point out Slater’s claim to fame before he was cast in the Wicked movie musical adaptation: starring in the Spongebob Squarepants musical on Broadway.

In 2016, Slater was cast in the lead role of Spongebob Squarepants during the show’s original Chicago production. The musical later was relocated to Broadway at the Palace Theatre in New York from 2017 to 2018. For his performance, Slater earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical.

As news broke about Grande’s romance with Slater, the wife of Tom Kenny - the voice actor of SpongeBob SquarePants - chimed in to clarify that the “Into You” singer wasn’t dating the Nickelodeon star.

(Getty Images for Nickelodeon)

Jill Talley, who’s been married to Kenny since 1996, clarified that her husband is not the one dating Grande in the comments section of The Cut’s Instagram post - which asked, “Is Ariana Grande dating SpongeBob now?” Talley wrote: “Hi everyone, I’m married to Tom Kenny (who voices SpongeBob on the TV show).”

“He is not dating Ariana Grande,” she said. While Talley added that she “doesn’t know” if Slater is dating Grande, she thought that “they’re totally adorable” and “totally ships” the actors together.

She concluded her comment, which appeared to have been deleted, by celebrating a relationship milestone with Kenny, who’s been the voice of cartoon character SpongeBob Squarepants for more than two decades.

(Getty Images for Nickelodeon)

“Just wanted to set the record straight,” Talley wrote. “PS, as for me and Tom Kenny - we are celebrating our 27th wedding anniversary today.”

Meanwhile, Slater’s former Spongebob Squarepants cast member described his new relationship with Grande as “unexpected”.

“I was surprised,” Lilli Cooper, who played Sandy Cheeks in the musical, told Page Six. “I haven’t spoken to him in a while. It’s an interesting coupling, for sure, unexpected.”

Neither Ariana Grande nor Ethan Slater have commented on the reports surrounding their relationship.

The “God is a Woman” singer was previously engaged to Saturday Night Live alum Pete Davidson prior to her relationship with Gomez. However, Grande and Davidson called off their engagement in October 2018 after just five months together.

She also dated Mac Miller from 2016 to 2018. The late rapper died in September that year from an accidental overdose at age 26.

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