THE tattoo artist was concerned.
It was May 18, and Jon Mesa, the co-owner of Chinatown’s No Idols Tattoo shop, had just received a call from his friend Pete Davidson. The Saturday Night Live cast member, 24, wanted to cover up some ink on his forearm — specifically, the face of his recent ex-girlfriend, Cazzie David.
Mesa has done a variety of body art for Davidson, including an eyebrow-raising tattoo of 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. But this was different. After splitting with the actress and daughter of Curb Your Enthusiasm star Larry David, a totally smitten Davidson was ready to move on with one of the biggest pop stars in the world: Ariana Grande.
“So I did a huge cover-up [adding a forest of trees] … After we were done, I told Pete, ‘Hey, dude, let’s just stop with the girlfriend tats until after [Grande’s] your wife,’” said Mesa. “Because relationships come and go, and Pete is a really young man. [But] I think that went in one ear and out the other.”
Or maybe Mesa put a wild idea in Davidson’s head. On June 15, in an Instagram video, Grande showed off a $A125,000, 3-carat pear-shaped diamond ring. Last week — barely a month after it was first reported that the two were a couple — Davidson confirmed their engagement on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. It was also revealed that the couple were moving in to a $A21.5 million apartment in New York.
Mesa got to see the couple together last Monday, when Davidson brought Grande into the tattoo shop. The SNL star had already had Los Angeles-based ink artist London Reese adorn him with black bunny ears like the ones Grande sports on her Dangerous Woman album cover, and the initials “AG” on his hand. This time, for his hand, he requested something that seemed to declare how Grande has changed his life: the word “Reborn” — inspired by the new Kid Cudi and Kanye West song of the same name. The song’s lyrics intone: “I’m so reborn, I’m movin’ forward.” (Grande, 24, got the abbreviation H2GKMO, which stands for the singer’s favourite phrase, “honest to God knock me out,” on her hand.)
Although Mesa had previously warned Davidson not to get too serious too fast, he admitted the couple’s lightning-fast love seems like more than just a fling.
“They are just riding that magical wave of bliss together,” he said. “It’s obvious that Pete is super in love with Ariana.”
Still, even Davidson can’t seem to believe the turn his life has taken. “I feel like I won a contest,” he told Fallon. “You ever see that Derek Jeter commercial, and he’s retiring and everyone just tips their hat? Some dude came up to me and he was like, ‘Yo man, you gave me hope.’ ”
Indeed, the two seem like a bit of an odd couple: the diva singer, known for her glam outfits and never having a hair out of place, and the pimpled TV star who gets around town on a hoverboard and dresses like an overgrown teenager.
But insiders say the two have both been through periods of intense darkness over the past few years and are a good support system — and fresh start — for each other.
Davidson has been very public about his struggles with sobriety and mental illness.
“Pete went through some dark s**t,” said friend and fellow comedian Sherrod Small. “And you are never all the way clear of those battles. It’s always with you.”
Raised in Staten Island, Davidson was just 7 years old when his father, a firefighter, was killed on 9/11 alongside others from Brooklyn’s Ladder 118. In fourth grade, he began compulsively ripping out his hair, and at 16, he developed Crohn’s disease. Around the same time, Davidson — who has said he was an outcast in high school — did his first public comedy routine, at an open-mike night inside a bowling alley. Soon, he was sneaking into Manhattan to do weekly stand-up gigs.
By 18, he was regularly gigging at the West Village’s prestige Comedy Cellar. He dropped out of Brooklyn’s St. Francis College his sophomore year to do gigs for MTV and Comedy Central. Yet it was a tiny part in Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck that led him to SNL, after co-star Bill Hader passed his name along to show producer Lorne Michaels in 2014. He landed a spot that year, at age 20, becoming one of the youngest cast members in the show’s history.
On the show, Davidson often joked about his weed use. But in September 2017, he told podcast host Marc Maron that he “started having these mental breakdowns where I would, like, freak out and then not remember what happened after. Blind rage.”
Davidson, who had smoked pot every day for nearly eight years, went to a rehab facility, but when the blackouts continued, doctors said it had to be something else. He was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
In 2017, he publicly credited Cazzie, whom he began dating in 2015, for helping him get through the rough times, saying she was “very, very supportive.”
But he and Cazzie were reportedly on a break when Davidson and Grande made their relationship public. The comedian and the singer may have first met when she hosted SNL in March 2016.
Grande, the daughter of a graphic designer father and CEO mother who split when she was about 8 years old, grew up in an affluent neighbourhood in Boca Raton, Florida. Inspired by her older half-brother, Frankie, also a performer (now a YouTube star), Grande started singing and acting in community theatre when she was 6, and at 15 made her Broadway debut in the musical 13. That led to the Nickelodeon show Victorious and a short-lived spin-off, Sam & Cat.
But Grande has said she hated acting, and uploaded videos of herself singing hits by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey to YouTube in the hopes of getting noticed. It worked: By the time she was 17, she had a record deal, and in 2013, at the age of 20, she released her first album, Yours Truly, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart.
Yet the perennially ponytailed Grande — who is releasing her fourth album, Sweetener, in August — developed a reputation as an entitled diva. In 2015, a bizarre video surfaced showing the singer in line at a Los Angeles doughnut shop, licking baked goods, proclaiming “I hate America,” and leaving without purchasing anything. (She apologised, saying that she was commenting on the country’s obesity epidemic.)
Still, Grande hasn’t had an entirely entitled life. She described herself to Billboard as a “dark and deranged little girl,” admitting, “There was a stage, when I was 3 or 4, where my mom thought I might grow up to be a serial killer.”
In May 2017, a horrific terror attack took place at her concert in Manchester, England. The singer was still backstage when a bomb exploded in the foyer, killing 23 people and injuring 59. She performed at a benefit concert for victims a month after the attack, but otherwise cancelled her tour and retreated from the limelight for many months. (Grande has said she now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.)
At the time, she was dating rapper Mac Miller, but the two split in early May. Soon after, she tweeted: “I am not a babysitter or a mother and no woman should feel that they need to be. I have cared for [Miller] and tried to support his sobriety & prayed for his balance for years.”
A Grande insider told The Post: “Her engagement to Pete is no rebound. Ariana’s a serial monogamous dater. She doesn’t play around when it comes to relationships.”
So what triggered the romantic spark between the new couple?
“Laughter,” said Small, who was introduced to his pal’s girlfriend during Davidson’s June 15 gig at the Comedy Cellar.
He was impressed with the pop star. “They giggled and shared their food,” said Small, who co-hosts the podcast Race Wars.
“Pete and Ariana were all over each other,” he added. “I told Pete that it was great to see him in such a good mood and, more importantly, happy and smiling. He laughed and told Ariana what I said because he knows that I truly know him.”
Not everyone is so supportive of their public displays of affection, however.
Last weekend, Grande took to Instagram to reveal a snippet of a song called “Pete” from her new album. When fans began commenting under the post and trashing the song, the singer hit back: “The truth is I been the f**k thru it and life’s too short to be cryptic n s**t about something as beautiful as this love I’m in.”
It’s apparently also too short to waste any time. The pair was spotted last week shopping for furnishings for their lavish new home — according to TMZ, a $A21.5 million apartment.
Grande shared on Instagram a photo of cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants sitting on a floor, with the caption: “Us in our new apartment with no furniture 1 speaker and red vines.”
The pad is in a Space Age-looking West Chelsea building that was one of the final projects of prestige architect Zaha Hadid before her 2016 death. A luxury broker told The Post that Davidson and Grande had been looking in that neighbourhood specifically, and are likely renting the place. The development sits directly on the High Line and includes a private IMAX theatre, robotic parking and, according to the developer, a home storage system inspired by the design of a Swiss bank vault.
Another high-end broker, who has seen the 4,000-square-foot apartment, said, “There are no angles — every shape is curved. When you are in the kitchen, it’s like cooking on a sculpture counter — all smooth and curved like the facade.”
Apparently, the other residents — including Sting — can look forward to new neighbour Davidson as a friendly face.
A tenant in the TV star’s previous building told The Post, “He was very nice. I had leg surgery once, and he offered to carry my stuff.”
“He was the best. Pete was a great tipper and a good guy,” said an employee of the old building. “I love his mum. She used to come here. He was with Cazzie [when he lived in the building]. She was a very nice girl. He would get me into ‘SNL.’ He got me very good seats.”
As for when the wedding might happen, sources say they wouldn’t be surprised if Davidson and Grande have a short engagement. Additionally, an insider told Hollywood Life that “She’s been dreaming about getting married forever. She said for a long time that she wants her brother Frankie to be the one to walk her down the aisle. And, she wants her dogs to be included somehow too.”
“They are super stoked,” Mesa said of the couple. “When they walk into a room together you can tell Pete and Ariana are in love. How could you not be happy for them?”
This story originally appeared in the NY Post and is republished here with permission.
Originally published as Inside Ariana and Pete’s whirlwind romance