From Bey and Jay to Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson, what is it about famous people falling in love that fascinates us?
I am a firm believer that the contents of other people’s relationships are none of my business. And yet, when it comes to certain celebrity couples, I can’t help but feel curiosity.
It’s possible to cynically look at super-famous couples like Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Kim and Kanye, and simply see their relationships as dynastic exercises in brand-building, no different than how the royal families of Europe used to inter-marry as a means of securing political and economic advancement. And perhaps that’s true; maybe some celebrity marriages really are just business arrangements. The truth is, we’ll never know, because we only see the narrative that they choose. The Carters might look like that couple who have a shared Facebook profile now because the husband cheated, but who’s to say what really happened?
Much less complicated is the delight we feel for the stars who fall in love with a total lack of artifice. While some of us are still scratching our heads over the whirlwind engagement of Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson, they talk about falling in love with a guileless, wide-eyed sincerity that it’s impossible not to get caught up in the excitement. Similarly, Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra’s relationship has blossomed over a relatively short timeline, but there’s just something undeniably appealing about beautiful people falling in love.
Which is why we still feel sorrow when a high-profile relationship breaks down. I still have to remind myself that singer Seal and supermodel Heidi Klum are no longer together; I don’t know either of them personally, and they have been divorced for years now, but something about their over-the-top, meticulously planned couple’s costumes at Halloween made me really like them. It’s irrational, but I can’t help it.
It is possible to trace our obsession with celebrity couples back over 150 years, to Queen Victoria. Royal families have always set trends in fashion, and when it came to marriage back then, keeping up appearances was an absolute must, but all sorts of shenanigans would go on behind closed doors.
However, when Victoria married Albert in 1840, their marriage became a new kind of royal union; in order to distance themselves from the scandalous legacy of George IV and William IV, Victoria and Albert purposely cultivated an image of middle-class matrimonial stability to which their subjects could aspire. Theirs was a refreshingly scandal-free marriage, the original #relationshipgoals. (Victoria is also credited with popularising the white dress as a must-have part of nuptial celebrations.)
The emergence of celebrity culture over the next century meant that we ascribed greater and greater significance to royal marriages, reaching a peak in the Eighties with Charles and Diana. More recently, the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle reignited our enthusiasm for the popular fairytale narrative, while also demonstrating a more modern, relatable kind of relationship.
It makes sense that our interest in the lives and loves of celebs has intensified with the advent of tabloids and social media, which grant what we perceive to be a personal insight, creating the illusion of a friendship with these people. And there is certainly something positive to be taken from relationships in the public eye which model mutual love and respect.
What we need to remember though, is that our obsession with these couples is a two-way mirror; we can see them, but they don’t see us. And let’s be honest; nobody likes a third wheel.