Below, we summarize exactly how we got here.
Original story follows.
Last week, news broke that an A-list celebrity had waded into the waters of more obscure, and — brace yourself — more interesting celebrities. Ariana Grande was dating Pete Davidson. Grande, 24, is a global pop mega-star known best for her lack of enunciation and her swinging ponytail. Davidson, also 24, is a stand up comedian best known for being attached to Saturday Night Live. (Technically, he is a featured player on the show, but the title is loose.)
The pairing is weird. At least that’s what I hear from everybody. My partner’s mother brought up the couple over dinner last weekend, raising her eyebrows slightly as if to say, “Isn’t it odd?” During a recent evening fiction workshop, one workshopper brought them up as an example of a “strange couple,” and discussion devolved from there. Social media is similarly enthralled, even morbidly fascinated. Given their differing statuses — she’s a multi-platinum singer-brand, he’s, well, a comedian — there’s a lot of “she could do better” going around. (Jenny Slate and Chris Evans' brief relationship inspired a similar reaction.) There’s also a lot of somehow bashful interest in the twosome. Like, can we be a part of this couple? Can we watch as these differently textured tectonic plates crash into one another? Things might implode. But they also might not, and that’s why Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande have that uncanny quality. That’s why they’re exciting.
A quick search for either name on Twitter will get you a lot of tweets defending Pete, defending Ariana, or defending Ariana with Pete or Pete with Ariana. (Some are still worried about Grande’s ex-boyfriend Mac Miller.) Some think the duo is cute. Others are confused, but willing to vote down the party line. Everyone wants to talk about it. The celebrity smoke detector is going off, warning us of… what, exactly?
The initial reports were tentative, calling the relationship “casual.” Then, things picked up: Grande released a statement defending her recently-exercised right to end her relationship with not-A-List-rapper Mac Miller, and Davidson also released a statement, this one defending his right to date in light of his publicly disclosed struggle with borderline personality disorder.
“Normally I wouldn’t comment on something like this cause like fuck you,” Davidson wrote on Instagram. “But [I’ve] been hearing a lot of ‘people with [borderline personality disorder] can’t be in relationships’ talk. I just wanna let you know that’s not true. Just because someone has a mental illness does not mean they can’t be happy and in a relationship. It also doesn’t mean that person makes a relationship toxic.” Davidson rarely releases statements like this. (That’s Michael Che’s thing, for the SNL stans in the back.)
Grande, like Davidson, is not the type of celebrity prone to releasing statements. But, on Twitter, the “No Tears Left to Cry” chanteuse shared a Notes app screenshot (a tactic also favored by her pop peers Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber) responding to an upset fan who questioned her breakup from Miller. Miller was arrested on May 17 for driving under the influence, and the fan connected the DUI to his breakup with Grande, low-key blaming the singer for her ex’s recent travails.
“How absurd that you minimize female self-respect and self-worth by saying someone should stay in a toxic relationship because he wrote an album about them,” Grande wrote, adding, “I am not a babysitter or a mother and no woman should feel that they need to be. I have cared for him and tried to support his sobriety & prayed for his balance for years.”
Normally I wouldn’t comment on something like this cause like fuck you.
“Normally.” That’s a funny word to use. It implies this situation isn’t normal — and, from the outside, it’s not!
Davidson dating Grande is a breach of norms in part because of their professional/creative disciplines. Grande, a musician, has only dated musicians (Big Sean and Mac Miller, to the knowledge of most). Davidson, a comedian, has only dated other comedians (Girl Code’s Carly Aquilino and Larry David’s daughter Cazzie David, to the knowledge of some). It’s always a little jarring when celebs dip into other dating pools — Nicole Kidman jamming out at the American Country Music Awards is a bit like seeing your school teacher at the grocery store or, er, Kim Kardashian in the Oval Office. Comedians especially operate within a musty little bubble — they don’t attend awards shows, they perform at comedy-specific venues, and they wield a more nebulous grade of celebrity clout. Davidson’s personality is, in effect, his talent. Grande has the luxury of profiting off a more removed persona. The public perception of Davidson is that he’s a goofy kid from Staten Island who has a Hillary Clinton tattoo. The public perception of former Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande – to million of fans around the world — is that she’s flawless, from her complexion to her high notes.
The other breach is that Grande only recently ended her relationship with Miller. Similarly, news broke about Davidson’s split from David in mid-May. (“She’ll be fine,” he told Complex.) Davidson and Grande are fresh off two very typical, normal, cheerleader-dates-jock celebrity relationships, and they’re heading into weirder territory. The veer feels bizarre, but it might actually be a course correction.
Let me be clear: Grande not as banal as her image suggests. Thanks to an excellent and virtually unchanging lewk, Grande presents as something static. For lack of better words, she seems like a literal doll. But she’s slyly subversive and wittier than her image gives her credit for. Remember when she sang the lyric “dick bicycle”? Word on the street from The Fader is that the song “God Is A Woman,” favored by her grandmother, has a beat that “you could get excommunicated for dancing the right way to.” She’s a master at musical impressions. Her Twitter feed reads like late night texts from a best friend. “Hi i love u” is a common theme.
Davidson, too, isn’t as basic as he first presented. In the years since arriving on Saturday Night Live, he’s become a mental health advocate, speaking out about his struggles with BPD. He’s ruthlessly charming on social media, and there’s that Hillary Clinton tattoo we mentioned earlier.
The last big breach: They’re cheesy. On Wednesday, Davidson shared a photo of the two of them in Harry Potter robes. Grande commented, “U tryna to Slytherin” before declaring that she would delete her account. On one of Grande’s posts, Davidson wrote, “Hey cutie u up.” On another, he declared her the “caption queen.” (Buzzfeed compiled an impressive list of their Instagram flirtations.) Even in the land of normals, being this openly, barf-inducingly cute on Instagram isn’t really allowed. This is also what sets Grande and Davidson apart from their “weird couple” peers like the PDA-averse Colin Jost and Scarlett Johansson or Elon Musk and Grimes. Or, for that matter, Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas. They’re not just “in a relationship, per reports.” They’re in a fucking relationship. Grande recently shared an Instagram of the two of them canoodling.
“I thought u into my life,” she writes. “Woah ! look at my mind.”
When the news first broke that they were dating, Refinery29’s headline read that “we should’ve seen it coming.” I’m not sure anyone literally saw it coming, but the pairing does, in the end, make a very cozy sort of sense. Grande is secretly goofy, but it’s rare that female musicians are seen this way, even if they repeatedly display humorous chops. I’m still waiting for Camila Cabello to host SNL, aren’t you? Davidson is secretly earnest, a quality that actually comes in handy with his comedy. She got her start singing on Broadway in the musical Thirteen. (The opening lyric goes, “Picture me: Just another cool kid in NYC at the Park and the Met.”) Davidson made a name for himself as a teenaged stand up doing sharply observant material about being a teen. Both are dweebs who found themselves climbing the Hollywood ladder. We thought this was a case of cross-clique dating in Hollywood, but it’s not. Turns out, Davidson and Grande were in the computer lab the whole time, making Harry Potter puns.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story misstated that Davidson has bipolar disorder. We regret the error.