Everything to Know About Ariana Grande and Her New Boyfriend, SpongeBob (Ethan Slater)

Everything to Know About Ariana Grande and Her New Boyfriend, SpongeBob (Ethan Slater)

What hath an adaptation of a novel into a Broadway musical and finally into a two-part film wrought? One of 2023’s biggest celebrity relationship storylines so far. Less than a fortnight ago, news broke that performer Ariana Grande and her Wicked costar Ethan Slater have been seeing each other. This news came just days after the announcement of Grande’s separation from her husband Dalton Gomez and less than a week before the announcement of Slater’s separation from his wife Lilly Jay. It’s the kind of timing that makes the hair on the back of the necks of every tabloid reporter in America stand at ready attention, requiring things like timelines and red string to hold in one’s head.

TMZ, which originally broke the news of Grande’s separation, reported on Saturday that Grande and Slater are not currently in the same place, but are enduring the sudden blinding spotlight on either coast. Slater is in New York, TMZ’s sources say, managing his divorce, while Grande is reportedly in Los Angeles, giving Slater some space. They reportedly “haven’t been in the same city for several weeks.” (Grande and Slater didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.)

How did these two people—one an internationally regarded pop star, the other a star of the slightly smaller New York theater circle—get to the point where they’re reportedly managing their new relationship with 3,000 miles between them? Some anonymously sourced answers below.

How did they meet?

Grande was cast as Glinda the Good Witch in Jon M. Chu’s Wicked adaptation, which is slated to go from stage to screen in two parts, the first of which is due in November 2024. Slater will play Boq in the films. The production began in London late last year.

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Why does everyone keep calling Slater “SpongeBob”?

Slater nabbed a Tony nomination for his role as SpongeBob SquarePants in The SpongeBob Musical.

Are they still dating?

According to TMZ’s sources, as of yesterday, they are “100% still dating.”

What was going on with everyone’s marriages?

First came the announcement of Grande and Gomez’s separation. A source confirmed via People that they were “quietly and lovingly working on their friendship.” Soon reports that they’d actually separated back in January followed. After all of this was out, the news came that Slater and Grande were dating.

“Ariana and Dalton both realized they were very different people and quietly separated earlier this year,” an anonymous source recently told Entertainment Tonight. “Ariana and Ethan connected as friends first because they have a lot in common and many similar interests.”

Though, according to TMZ, Slater officially filed for divorce from his wife Lilly Jay on Wednesday after four years of marriage, this source insisted that they had also been separated for some time (and that they continue to co-parent their one-year-old child).

Entertainment Weekly’s source was careful to mention that any connection the costars had or have had was all above board in terms of their relationship’s timing: “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.”

What does Lilly Jay have to say?

In a conversation with Page Six, Jay recognized that the sudden media attention hasn’t been amazing for her young family, but did not confirm or deny whether she and Slater were separated when he started dating Grande. “[Ariana’s] the story, really,” Jay told the tabloid. “Not a girl’s girl. My family is just collateral damage. The story is her and Dalton.”

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An anonymous source told Page Six that “[Jay is] telling Ethan and others that she only cares about protecting their child. She’s rightfully upset because her marriage fell apart, but Ariana and Ethan didn’t do anything wrong… Ethan is trying to take the high road and hopes he can resolve this situation for the sake of their child.”

What does the “real” SpongeBob have to say about all this?

And most importantly in all this brouhaha, does Jill Talley, the wife of Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants on the long-running Nickelodeon cartoon, have thoughts? Yes, and it’s that the SpongeBob everyone is referring to is not her SpongeBob husband.

“Hi everyone, I’m married to Tom Kenny (who voices SpongeBob on the TV show),” Talley commented on a story on The Cut’s Instagram. “He is not dating Ariana Grande. I don’t know if Ethan Slater (who played SpongeBob in the musical) is or isn’t dating Ariana Grande. However, they’re both adorable and I totally ship it. Just wanted to set the record straight. PS: as for me and Tom Kenny—we are celebrating our 27th wedding anniversary today.”