Inside Aaron Rodgers’ Shocking Engagement

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By Terrance Turner

Feb. 23, 2021

Aaron Rodgers shocked the world on Feb. 6.

During his acceptance speech for the MVP award at the NFL Honors, Rodgers reflected on 2020 and casually dropped a bombshell: “I got engaged, and I played some of the best football of my career.” He later thanked his fiancée in his acknowledgements, though he did not name her.

Now, we know who the lucky lady is: Big Little Lies actress Shailene Woodley. She confirmed the news last night, during an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. When Fallon asked her directly, Woodley answered affirmatively: “Yes. We are engaged.”

The world was shocked by the announcement of their betrothal — after a whirlwind six-month romance. But Woodley doesn’t get why everyone is so surprised. “But for us it’s not new news. So it’s kind of funny. Everybody right now is freaking out over it and we’re like, ‘Yeah, we’ve been engaged for awhile,’” said Woodley. (Maybe people are “freaking out” because of the breakneck escalation of their relationship? Rodgers broke up with racecar driver Danica Patrick in July but got engaged to Woodley by February.)

But if Woodley’s comments are any indication, this betrothal may have been official for some time: “Yeah, we got engaged awhile ago and it’s been … he’s, first off, a wonderful, incredible human being. But I never thought I’d be engaged to somebody who threw balls for a living. But I never thought as a little girl, ‘Yeah, when I grow up I’m going to marry someone who throws balls, yeah!’ But he’s really just so good at it,” she said. “He can throw fast balls, he can throw slow balls, high balls, low balls.” (Indeed: Rodgers had a 70.7% completion percentage in 2020, throwing 48 touchdowns and just five interceptions. So he throws balls very well indeed.)

Fallon then asked her if she’s spent much time in Green Bay and if she is a football fan. “I didn’t really grow up with sports, especially American sports. It was never really on my radar,” she explained. “When we met, also, I knew he was a football guy, but I didn’t know like what kind of a football guy he was. And I’m still constantly learning.”

Despite Rodgers’ legendary career — he took Green Bay to the NFC Championship this year and led Green Bay to a Super Bowl in 2010 — Woodley doesn’t know much about football. “I still have never been to a football game,” Woodley said. That includes this past season: because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Packers stadium was closed. And before she met Rodgers, she hadn’t even watched a game on TV. “Before I met him, I’d never seen one football game,” she said.

“When we met, I knew he was a football guy, but I didn’t know what kind of a football guy he was,” said Woodley. “I am still constantly learning. I don’t get it. He’s good. He’s great. But, like, I don’t understand. Because I don’t know him as the football guy! I know him as like, the nerd who wants to host Jeopardy! That’s the dude I know. He just happens to also be very good at sports.”

The engagement took many by surprise, but E! Online quoted a source who echoed Woodley’s nonchalance. “It’s a quick engagement, but for those that know them, it didn’t come as a surprise.” The source added:  “They had a very intense connection from the beginning. They both knew early on that it was something special and different from what they had experienced in other relationships.” The source also revealed: “They have spent the entire fall together and lived together throughout.”

The engagement is remarkable not just for its rapid pace but for the unusually private way that it unfolded. The two have yet to even be photographed together! Elle magazine described their relationship as “private and low-key” in an article earlier this month. Also remarkable: the sudden shift in Rodgers’ closely guarded personal life. Rodgers, who turned 37 last year, has never married and has no children. For viewers like me, who thought of him as a career-centered, eternal bachelor, the news comes as a shock.

Until now, Rodgers was something of a statistical anomaly. According to the 2015 American Community Survey, 72% of men will marry by age 37. And 76% of men are married by 40. According to a 2009 data brief by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The probability that men will marry by age 40 is 81%; for women, it is 86%.”

Ariana Grande Releases New Album “Positions” (UPDATED)

By Terrance Turner

Oct. 29, 2020

(Updated Dec. 20, 2020; Jan. 14, 2021)

Ariana Grande is engaged!

The singer uploaded photos on Instagram today that showed a diamond ring on her (heavily tattooed) hand. The photo gallery also features Grande’s boyfriend (now fiancé), real estate agent Dalton Gomez. Grande’s fans went into a tizzy on Twitter:

In a (somewhat) surprising late-night move in October, Grande released a new album, “Positions”. According to RapUp, the 14-track project includes the title track, plus appearances from rappers Ty Dolla $ign (“Safety Net”) and Doja Cat on “Motive.” Grande also reunites with her “Love Me Harder” collaborator, singer ‘The Weeknd’, on “Off the Table.” That track features Grande questioning whether to explore a new relationship after a major loss.

The lyrics are almost certainly a reference to her late ex, rapper Mac Miller. He died suddenly from an accidental overdose in 2018, at 26. Grande ended her rapid-fire engagement to actor Pete Davidson within weeks of Miller’s tragic death. Now, she wonders if finding love again is “off the table”. “Will I ever love the same way again? Will I ever love somebody like the way I did you? Never thought you’d be so damn hard to replace,” she muses. “Might not be quite yet healed or ready/shouldn’t be going too steady,” she sings.

But she’s definitely ready to spend some time in bed. “Can you stay up all night?/F–k me ’till the daylight,” she sings on the suggestively titled “34+35”. “I know all of your favorite spots/We can take it from the top,” she sings. “You’re such a dream come true/Make a b—h wanna hit snooze.”

UPDATE: On Jan. 14, 2021, Grande upped the ante with an ultra-raunchy remix, featuring rappers Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion. “Can we stay up all night, f–k a jet lag/You bring your fine ass and overnight bag,” Doja Cat raps on her verse. During her verse, she also throws in a jab at disgraced rapper Tekashi69. She sings, “Add up the numbers or get behind that/Play and rewind that/Listen, you’ll find that/I want that 69 without Tekashi/And I want your body and I make it obvious/Wake up the neighbors, we got an audience”. This shade comes comes eight months after they first started feuding over who deserved the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts, according to Complex.

Houston rapper Megan thee Stallion throws in some lascivious bars of her own on her verse. “Netflix or Hulu? Baby, you choose/I’m up like Starbucks, three pumps, ooh/This p—y good for your health, call it superfood/When I’m by myself, DIY like it’s YouTube/Rock you like a baby/But you know I’m ’bout to keep you up,” Meg raps. “Bad, bad b—h/All the boys wanna spank me/Left him on read, girlfriend need to thank me/Make his toes point, ballerina, no tutu/Baby, I’m the best/I don’t know what the rest do.”

Later in the album, Grande takes things even further. On “Nasty,” she sings: “Promise I’mma give it to you like you never had it / I do it so good it’s gonna be hard to break the habit / You’re like a whole constellation / Swimming like you’re on vacation.”

On the title track, Grande sings about a heavenly love that has her playing different roles at once. “Heaven sent you to me/I’m just hoping I don’t repeat history,” she sings. “Boy, I’m tryna meet your mama on a Sunday/Then make a lotta love on a Monday.” On the chorus, Grande demonstrates the title’s metaphor a little more directly: “Switching the positions for you/Cooking in the kitchen and I’m in the bedroom/I’m in the Olympics way; I’m jumpin’ through hoops/And my love infinite, nothing I wouldn’t do/That I won’t do/Switchin’ for you.” The lyrics likely reference Grande’s current beau, Dalton Gomez.

The new album is available for streaming on Tidal, Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Tidal, and YouTube Music, among other platforms. (Positions, her sixth studio album, debuted at Number One on the Rolling Stone Top 200 Albums chart.)  You can stream the album at https://arianagrande.lnk.to/positions. You can listen to the album’s title track (and see Grande as Madame President, with an all-female White House staff) below.

In Bombshell Interview, Mariah Carey Reveals Inspiration Behind Two Classic Songs

Baseball player Derek Jeter with singer Mariah Carey at rapper Puff Daddy's birthday gala at Cipriani Rest, in New York in 1998. (Credit Image: © John Barrett/Globe Photos)

By Terrance Turner

Sept. 3, 2020

“It wasn’t raining yet
But it was definitely a little misty on a warm November night
And my heart was pounding
My inner voice resounding
Begging me to turn away
But I just had to see your face
To feel alive…

My apprehension blew away/I only wanted you…
To taste my sadness as you kissed me in the dark.
Every time I feel the need
I envision you caressing me
And go back in time
To relive the splendor of you and I
On the rooftop that rainy night.”

“The Roof” (1997), feat. Mobb Deep

With this vivid, evocative prose, singer Mariah Carey recalls a memorable night on the roof, in the rain. She wrote the lyrics to “The Roof” — a dreamy, romantic love song with a hard hip-hop edge — for her 1997 album Butterfly. The album represented a liberation of sorts for Carey; it was released the same year she split from Tommy Mottola, former CEO of Sony Music. (Sony is the parent company of Columbia Records, to which Mariah was signed until 1998.)

In a jaw-dropping interview with Vulture this week, Carey reveals that she wrote the song about Yankees baseball legend Derek Jeter.

According to Vulture, Jeter and Carey “met at a dinner party and started text-flirting, secretly, while she was at the end of her marriage to Mottola”. Jeter and Carey shared “a clandestine kiss” on the roof of his apartment building, writes Vulture reporter Allison P. Davis. “There was Moet. She wore a buttery leather Chanel skirt. She remembers her boots and the rain and her hair curling in stunning detail.”

“Of course I do!” Carey told Davis. “I could never forget that moment.” Carey went on to say that “it was a great moment, and it happened in a divine way because it helped me get past living there, in Sing Sing, under those rules and regulations.”

Carey is referring to the $20 million compound that she shared with Mottola. She called it “Sing Sing” — a reference to the famous maximum-security prison in upstate New York. “It was fully staffed with armed guards, security cameras were installed in most rooms, and Tommy was in control,” she writes in her memoir.

Mariah and Mottola married in 1993, when he was 43 and she was 23. But the marriage soon went south; Carey reportedly felt trapped in it. “He’s controlling,” a friend of Carey’s told People around the time of the breakup. That matches what Carey herself has said over the years. “It was very controlled,” Carey told Cosmopolitan in 2019. “There was no freedom for me as a human being. It was almost like being a prisoner.”

Carey and Mottola at the CFDA Awards in 1995. Photo from MariahJournal.com

She elaborates further in excerpts quoted in her book, The Meaning of Mariah Carey: “Every move I made, everywhere I went, I was monitored—minute by minute, day after day, year after year,” she writes. “I was living my dream, but couldn’t leave my house.”

The situation epitomized Mottola’s control over Carey, which soon became evident to those in the media. A 1996 profile of Mottola in Vanity Fair by writer Robert Sam Anson says: “Mariah’s career was soaring, and Tommy was guiding it every step of the way. He approved her material, oversaw her arrangements, checked her promotion, and, to no one’s surprise, made sure her attorney was Allen Grubman, who, in addition to handling a goodly chunk of Sony’s legal chores, now represented a third of its talent roster and the bulk of its key executives. ‘Allen Grubman is my best friend in the world,’ Tommy says in response to questions about conflicts. ‘End of subject. Over and out’.”

“Mariah, friends say, is a very young 26-year-old. They also portray her as increasingly antsy about her husband’s wardening (‘Always being up my ass,’ a former staff member quotes Mariah as saying), which includes the employment of two bodyguards, whose duties extend to accompanying her to the bathroom door, and the placing on Sony’s payroll of a constant shepherdess, the wife of Epic Pres. Dave Glew.”

Anson continues: “For all of Tommy’s precautions, though, there have been slips: a Concorde flight during which Mariah poured out her problems to Diana Ross; an unwelcome friendship with an old high school boyfriend (‘Tear his eyes out,’ an aide recalls Tommy saying after he saw his wife being ogled, but Tommy says, ‘No, I never said anything like that’) and the most public incident, a noisy quarrel in a Beverly Hills hotel lobby after [the 1996] Grammy Awards.” (Carey had been nominated for a handful of awards, but went home without a single trophy.)

The Vulture profile mentions security cameras in the compound that watched her every move. In the book, she details that surveillance. The Daily Beast notes that Carey describes having to sneak downstairs “for a snack, or to sit at the table and write down some lyrics. But every time, right as I would start to settle into the calm of the quiet dark and begin to find my breath—Beep! Beep! The intercom would go off. I’d jump up, and the words ‘Whatcha doin’?’ would crackle through the speaker.”

Davis also notes that, when they started discussing Mottola during a Zoom call, Carey began to cry. Those tears were a long time coming. In 2008, Carey told Parade magazine: “On my new album [E = MC2], the song “Side Effects” says, ‘Kept my tears inside, ’cause I knew if I started I’d keep crying for the rest of my life.’ It’s really true. At that point in my life, I didn’t cry because I had to be so emotionally cut off to deal with it.”

Sure enough, the lyrics reveal a fraught emotional state that continues to haunt Carey: “Wakin’ up scared some nights still thinkin’ ’bout them violent times/Still a little protective of the people that I let inside/Still a little defensive, thinkin’ folk be tryna run my life/Still a little depressed inside, but I fake a smile/And deal with the side effects.”

Mottola issued a diplomatic statement as Carey’s book neared publication. In it, he wished his ex-wife and her family “the very best”. In his 2013 memoir, Mottola apologized for “any discomfort or pain” he had caused Carey: “If it seemed like I was controlling, I apologize. Was I obsessive? Yes. But that was also part of the reason for her success.” Carey, too, acknowledged to Parade: “I do believe that I learned a lot from him and that he really did believe in my talent and I am very grateful for that.”

By 1996, however, it was clear that the marriage was crumbling. “In the beginning,” Carey writes, “I was walking on eggshells. Then it became a bed of nails, and then a minefield. I never knew when or what would make him blow, and the anxiety was relentless.”

She details a chilling moment towards the end of the marriage: “Tommy walked over and picked up the butter knife from the place setting in front of me. He pressed the flat side of it against my right cheek. Every muscle in my face clenched. My entire body locked in place; my lungs stiffened. Tommy held the knife there. His boys watched and didn’t say a word. After what seemed like forever, he slowly dragged the thin, cool strip of metal down my burning face.” 

Into this nightmarish situation stepped Derek Jeter.

The two met at the aforementioned dinner party, and sparks began to fly — inspiring one of Carey’s most memorable singles. “It was a little misty on a warm November night”, she writes on “The Roof”. The accompanying album, Butterfly, was released in Sept. 1997. That would place her clandestine meeting with Jeter ostensibly at Nov. 1996 — just after his star-making rookie season with the Yankees.

Jeter spent his entire 20-year career with the New York Yankees. He is the Yankees’ all-time leader in hits, singles, stolen bases, and games played, according to New Jersey newspaper The Record. He won five World Series championships with the Yankees, including one during his rookie season in Oct. 1996 and three consecutive championships from 1998-2000. (The Yankees won again in 2009.)

When he wasn’t playing shortstop and hitting home runs, Jeter was quietly seeing Carey. In December 1997, he showed up on the set of a video that Mariah was shooting — a clue that a romance was already brewing. And “The Roof” wasn’t the only Mariah Carey song inspired by Derek Jeter. In the Vulture profile, Carey revealed that she also wrote “My All” with Jeter in mind. The lyrics outline intense but conflicting feelings:  “I am thinking of you / In my sleepless solitude tonight / If it’s wrong to love you / Then my heart just won’t let me be right / ‘Cause I’ve drowned in you / And I won’t pull through / Without you by my side.”

The song was written after a trip the two took to Puerto Rico — which may explain the Spanish guitar and Latin percussion. In an interview with Fred Bronson, Carey explained: “I had gone to Puerto Rico and was influenced by Latin music at that moment. When I came back, the melody was in my head. It was at a melancholy point in my life and the song reflects the yearning that was going on inside of me.” Released in April 1998, “My All” became Mariah’s 13th #1 single.

By then, the romance was public — and in full swing. According to ESPN, Mariah joined Jeter in Florida for his team’s spring training in March 1998. The Yankees began the season 1-4. Tongues began wagging in the sports world, and some blamed Mariah for Jeter’s hitting slump. But the Yankees won 25 of their next 28 games, according to Yankees Magazine. Jeter would eventually earn his first All-Star honor and his second World Series ring. By June, however, he and Carey had fizzled out. Constant media attention was cited as a reason for the breakup.

Still, Carey spoke warmly of Jeter for years afterward. “I think he’s a great guy,” she told Larry King in 2002. “And I really, really love his family. They taught me something special,” she said. “I never saw an interracial family that had stuck together and stuck it out that way. I learned a nice lesson from them.”

Like Mariah Carey, Derek Jeter is biracial. Both grew up encountering racism. Jeter has spoken about being pulled over while driving down the street and being accused of stealing things from stores. Carey’s mother Patricia was disowned by her family for marrying Mariah’s father, Alfred Roy Carey. Carey writes in her book about being invited to a friend’s house in the Hamptons only to be called the N-word. (Comedian Sandra Bernhard reopened those wounds after Butterfly‘s single “Honey” was released, saying during her standup that Carey ‘was acting real ‘niggerish’ up there at the Royalton Hotel suite with Puff Daddy and all the greasy, chain-wearing Black men.’)

Carey speaks explicitly about growing up biracial in the Vulture interview and in her new book, The Meaning of Mariah Carey. The memoir, published by Andy Cohen Books, was released Sept. 29. In the meantime, enjoy one of the songs inspired by Jeter — with a remix featuring rap group Mobb Deep. “The Roof” is embedded below.