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Celebrity breakups and their secret star: The PR team

| Monday, September 11, 2023

Trey Paine | The Observer

What do Ariana Grande and Dalton Gomez, Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner, Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn and Gigi Paris and Glen Powell all have in common? They are all long-term famous couples that have broken up this year. So many celebrities have broken up in 2023 that people have deemed it the year of the celebrity breakup.

Due to celebrities, well, being celebrities, their breakups are always public affairs. Their relationships are the subject of intense interest from the get-go. Even though people do not really know these celebrities, they end up fans of their romance — falling in love with the idea of their love. Fans will follow all the stages of the relationship from Instagram official all the way to married with kids.

While this phenomenon is neutral at best and a complete invasion of privacy at its worst, it often causes people to want to know just what went wrong when such a couple splits. As such, when a relationship ends in any manner but amicable, celebrities turn to their public relations (PR) teams to keep their image clean. Sometimes, though, despite the best efforts of their teams, the dirty details of the split are revealed.

An example of a potential truth coming out despite the best efforts of PR teams is what occurred after the break-up of Ariana Grande and her ex-husband Dalton Gomez. Grande and Gomez had been married for two years before divorcing earlier this year. Instead of simple silence after the split or a message that the split was amicable, “sources connected to the former couple” reached out to TMZ and said that Gomez “was taken aback by Ariana’s celebrity.” The information provided by the source openly implies that the problems in the relationship started and ended with Gomez.

It’s doubtful that a random friend of Grande and Gomez reached out to one of the most well-known tabloids to blame the relationship problems on Gomez. Instead, the most likely source of this information is a member of Grande’s team trying to create a certain narrative regarding how the couple split. This theory becomes more plausible after looking at the details released when Grande’s new romance with Ethan Slater, her co-star from the upcoming Wicked movie adaptation, became public.

While not negative on the surface, their budding romance was quickly eclipsed by rumors of how exactly it started. Reports were soon released that Slater had just filed for divorce from his wife Lilly Jay, with whom he has a one-year-old child. When asked for comment, Jay told Page Six that Grande was “not a girl’s girl… My family is just collateral damage.” That quote fueled wild speculation as to what role Grande had in Slater and Jay’s divorce.

Soon a deluge of rumors began about when Slater and Grande began seeing each other and how their romance began. People started to claim that Grande, Gomez, Slater and Jay went on double dates together and that Grande spent time together with Slater, Jay and their newborn child. Yet despite all these new rumors, others still claimed that Grande and Slater did not begin to date until after both had broken up with their respective spouses.

Of course, none of these rumors can be confirmed. Unless a comment comes directly from Grande or Slater themselves, we cannot know for sure if the two ever did engage in an affair. However, this incident does seem to show how celebrities try to get ahead of any potential unflattering rumors about their lives. When it came to the story of why Grande and Gomez split, Grande’s team wanted to put the focus solely on Gomez’s supposed inability to handle Grande’s celebrity, not Grande’s potential affair. Again, none of this is confirmed, but when celebrity couples split — as so many have in 2023 — this example shows that you can usually find the work of a PR team trying to spin a certain narrative. After all, if there is one thing a celebrity needs, it is to keep their image squeaky clean — or clean enough — to keep themselves appealing to the public.

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