Grande and her co-star Ethan Slater, who is also separated from his wife, started dating recently, as People, Entertainment Tonight, and TMZ reported on July 20, 2023. Slater and Grande’s commonalities go beyond their work in Wicked, though: Both are Broadway alumni (Grande for her work in 13: The Musical, Slater for his in the Spongebob musical).
Here’s what to know about Slater and his history with Grande.
Slater is a 31-year-old actor best known for playing Spongebob on Broadway, for which he earned a Tony nomination.
Slater is a Gemini and celebrated his 31st birthday on June 2; he grew up in Washington, D.C. and attended Vassar College. His most high-profile role so far was starring as Spongebob in Broadway’s SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical. It was a project he was involved in for years, starting when he was just 19.
“Working on SpongeBob changed the way that I approach everything because I started working on it when I was 19, and it was seven years of development—from starting development until closing on Broadway,” he told Pop-Culturalist.com in August 2021. So it was like my full education, which is awesome. We approached it from this perspective, which came from [director] Tina [Landau], that this isn’t a show that is talking down to kids. This is a show that is funny; it’s funny, it’s visually stimulating, it’s physical humor. Kids like it because it taps into this optimism and heart; and adults like it because it taps into things they remember from their childhood. But it’s not a show that is solely designed for kids. It was meant to make us laugh while we were making it.”
Slater is playing Boq in Wicked.
Boq notably has a big crush on Grande’s character Glinda in Wicked. Slater and Grande have been shooting the film adaptation in the U.K. since December. Slater’s casting in Wicked was announced in December 2022.
Slater recently separated from his partner of 10 years and wife of four years, Lilly Jay. They had a son together last year.
Both Slater and Grande are newly single after being married. People reported that Slater and his wife Lilly Jay were separated after news of his dating Grande broke on July 20. Jay and Slater started dating in 2012 and got married in November 2018. They welcomed their first child, a son, in August 2022.
Slater celebrated Jay this Mother’s Day on his Instagram account. He wrote, “Happy first Mother’s Day to the most loving caring and wonderful mom/person in the world. – from me and this little guy.” Grande had liked the post.
He also posted a tribute to her in November 2022, writing, “My best friend. 4 years married, 10 years together. And this is easily the best (and most *bizarre*) year yet.” Grande liked that post too.
On Saturday, July 22, a source who knows Lilly told ET that the new mother is “devastated” and that “this is not the future she had in mind.”
They added, “She’s doing her best to get back on her feet. She’s incredibly smart and driven…she is truly the best mother.”
He made his Instagram private shortly after news broke of his and Grande’s romance.
Slater had a public Instagram account when reports initially broke of his and Grande’s dating. But shortly after the news stories spread, Slater went private on his Instagram. He had already limited comments on some posts beforehand.
Slater and Grande started dating after they separated from their spouses.
A source told People, “Ariana and Dalton separated in January. She and Ethan recently began dating, and he is separated from his wife.”
Us Weekly received similar intel from its source: “Ariana and Ethan are dating; however things are fairly new. Ariana and Dalton split in January, and Ethan is separated from his wife. Ariana and Ethan have only recently begun seeing each other but they have a lot of fun together and are enjoying each other’s company.”
Entertainment Tonight‘s source also stressed that this is very recent: “Ariana and Ethan recently started dating. They have a lot in common and have a lot of fun,” the source said. “They didn’t start dating until both were broken up with their significant others. Ariana and Dalton remain friends.”
TMZ, meanwhile, reported that Slater and Grande had been dating “several months ago during production” of Wicked, per its multiple sources. The insiders stressed that Slater and Grande did not start dating until after they were separated from their spouses. They were photographed sitting next to each other while celebrating Wicked co-star Michelle Yeoh’s Oscar win in March.
On July 28, a source emphasized to ET that Slater and Grande started as friends, saying, “Ariana and Dalton both realized they were very different people and quietly separated earlier this year. Ariana and Ethan connected as friends first because they have a lot in common and many similar interests.”
Slater lost his mother as a child and spoke about how that tragedy shaped him.
In an August 2021 interview with Pop-Culturalist.com, Slater discussed how he co-wrote the musical Edge of the World based on that loss. “One of the big things is the mining [of] my personal experience for writing,” he said. “When I was 7 years old, my mom died, and so that’s been a really big, formative thing in my life. She had left this huge imprint on me, even though I had so few memories. And that’s what happens to this character, Ben. He grows up not knowing his mom, being raised by a single dad, and yet the impact she has on his life and his life trajectory is immeasurable. So those are the two inspirational elements that came together.”
Senior News and Strategy Editor
Alyssa Bailey is the senior news and strategy editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage of celebrities and royals (particularly Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton). She previously held positions at InStyle and Cosmopolitan. When she’s not working, she loves running around Central Park, making people take #ootd pics of her, and exploring New York City.