Ariana Grande’s reported romance with Wicked co-star Ethan Slater has been quite the “Popular” topic as of late. On Wednesday, a new development: Slater reportedly filed for divorce from his estranged wife, Lilly Jay.
According to legal documents obtained by TMZ, which first reported the news, Slater filed in New York City without stating an official reason for the split. Slater and Jay, high school sweethearts, had been married for five years. They share a son, who was born in 2022.
TMZ cited one unidentified source saying Jay was heartbroken, while another source, described as close to Slater and Grande, said, “It’s understandable that emotions are high and it’s hard seeing your ex move on, especially in such a public way, and her 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.”
News broke this month that the “7 Rings” singer had split from husband Dalton Gomez after two years and is dating Slater, and there’s been a lot for Arianators, and everyone else who follows this kinda thing, to unpack. When did she officially part ways from Gomez and start seeing Slater? When did Slater’s marriage to Lilly Jay unofficially end? Is Gomez happily dating again or totally heartbroken?
Sources close to the parties involved have been blowing up the phones of their favorite celebrity news outlets, spilling details about the complicated romantic quagmire — and here’s what’s being said:
While the initial headlines announcing Grande and Gomez had split were published on July 17, it was noted the separation occurred in January after the luxury real estate agent visited his wife in England, where she was filming the Wicked adaption pre-strike, and they realized their marriage was over. Almost immediately, it was reported that Gomez had started dating again, with Grande’s blessing. Soon after, on July 20, we learned that he wasn’t the only one back in the dating pool. Grande was too — and she was seeing the Broadway actor who’s playing Boq to her Glinda. There was an immediate wrinkle, however — Slater was also going through his split with Jay.
More details are emerging which aren’t particularly flattering to Slater and Grande. According to an Us Weekly source, Slater told his wife of four years, with whom he welcomed a child last August, that their marriage was over “days” before news broke he was dating Grande.
“Ethan sat Lilly down a few days before the news broke about him and Ariana and said that he wanted a divorce,” the insider claimed. “Lilly never saw it coming!”
While a source close to Grande denied that’s how it played out, the insider went on to claim Grande and Slater “weren’t careful” about keeping their feelings for each other hidden on the Wicked set. “They’d hold hands … in between takes. They were sloppy and not hiding it.”
However, a second source told the outlet, Grande and Slater “have only recently begun seeing each other” and it’s all “fairly new.” She and Gomez “split in January, and Ethan is separated from his wife.”
Meanwhile, a Page Six source said Jay was “completely blindsided” by Slater’s decision to end their marriage. He “suddenly” split from her “when nothing appeared wrong between them,” said the source, who added, “It’s horrible. They were high school sweethearts. They have a baby! She’s a wreck.” Similarly, a source told Entertainment Tonight that Jay is “devastated.” The person added, “This is not the future she had in mind” and said she’s”doing her best to get back on her feet.”
And while Gomez was initially reported to be happily dating around again, per TMZ on July 17, sources have since used the same “D” word in describing his mindset. “Dalton has been devastated,” an insider told Us Weekly. “A separation is not what he’s wanted.” They “were having issues before she left for Wicked filming that they couldn’t resolve, and the distance did not help.” And while he had “been dating casually” it was to distract himself from the split and not serious. He’d “still love to win her back.”
A source reiterated Gomez’s hope of saving his marriage to People magazine, saying he’s “very religious and was committed to making it work,” but it became clear to him that “Ariana had moved on.”
As this drama unfolded, Slater went private on Instagram — where he praised Jay on Mother’s Day, calling her “the most loving caring and wonderful mom/person in the world.” That same month, Grande posted a rare PDA pic with Gomez to mark their second anniversary — despite the fact that they had apparently separated. Grande has since deleted all their wedding photos.
Making it even more complicated, Page Six reported that Slater’s wife and their baby visited the Wicked set — and Grande spent time with the couple. Plus, in November — one month before Slater left to film Wicked, he posted a social media tribute to his “best friend” Jay for their fourth anniversary, a post fans have since discovered that Grande “liked.” Also, a photo Michelle Yeoh posted back in March of Grande and Slater hanging out — sitting side-by-side in a restaurant booth — is being looked at in a new way.
Grande’s marital status change came to light after she attended Wimbledon on July 16. Leading up to it, fans noticed she hadn’t been wearing her wedding ring in various Instagram posts. At the tennis match, which she attended with another Wicked co-star Jonathan Bailey, she was very clearly without her ring. The last time Grande wore it publicly was in April.
Grande and Slater — and their respective soon-to-be ex-spouses — have yet to officially comment on all the drama.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story was published on July 25, 2023.