Brace yourself dear reader. What I’m about to say may rock you to your very core. Sometimes, off camera, celebrities can be fake. Gasp! And sometimes, this fakery involves the most pure and true of all human emotions: love. Inconceivable!
Okay, so you probably knew that. But much of the time, the couples involved in a “showmance” or “PRomance” (a.k.a. public relations romance) are so convincing that the public is easily fooled. Is that really such a bad thing? In the end, everyone usually gets what they want – celebrities gain more attention and ultimately, more money, and fans get to witness an exciting “love” story filled with drama, rumors, and eventual shade-throwing. But not every PR relationship can appear to be totally authentic. Here are four celebrity couples who couldn’t completely convince me that their love was the real deal.
Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello
Let’s start with a couple so unconvincing that even your Entertainment Tonight watching grandma thought they seemed “off.” The two singers first met in 2014 and eventually formed a friendship. Camila and Shawn later collaborated and released the hit song “I Know What You Did Last Summer” in 2015. In 2017, Shawn appeared to “date” Hailey Baldwin for approximately 10 minutes and about 5 minutes after that, Baldwin married Justin Bieber. The strange situation led many many to believe that Baldwin and Mendes were simply a PR relationship that quickly ended when Hailey began seeing Justin again.
After the Bieber/Baldwin embarrassment, Shawn and Camila seemed to increase the flirt factor and gushed over one another in both interviews and on social media (perhaps laying the groundwork for a future showmance?) In June of 2019, the singers released a duet called “Senorita.” By July, Camila had joined Shawn on his tour and the singers were spotted frolicking along the beach, hand holding, and kissing.
Now, it could be a coincidence that the two began dating a few weeks after the release of their single and at the beginning of Shawn’s big tour. But as summer gave way to fall, the ubiquitous paparazzi shots of major PDA and multiple public declarations of love became a little suspicious. Some noted that the singers seemed more like friends who were just really bad at acting. And really bad at kissing.
When the pandemic began, the couple declared they were quarantining together and lo and behold, we were gifted with almost daily paparazzi pictures of the two taking walks together. And perhaps looking totally over their “arrangement.” Whether or not Shawn and Camila are a real couple doesn’t really matter. Because in the end, we were gifted with this. Thanks guys.
Drake and J.Lo
So technically these two superstars never actually claimed to be in a relationship. But the evidence suggests that Drake and J.Lo either hooked up or wanted us to think they hooked up. In 2016 Drake posted a picture to his Instagram of Jennifer snuggled in his arms, his face half-buried in her hair. J.Lo posted her own pic of them together at one of her concerts. Fans speculated that maybe the cozy pair was working on a musical collaboration. And while J.Lo confirmed this to a reporter, nothing ever materialized.
In the meantime, anonymous “sources” (like maybe their publicists?) told magazines and websites that the two were definitely collaborating on music and falling for one another in the process. And then just as quickly as it began, their “relationship” was over. No music, no pics, and no sources giving quotes. Months later when Drake was asked pointblank if the two dated, he answered, “I have plenty of love for her. . . We were just hanging out at one point.” So translation “I’m going to be real vague but subtly hint that something went down just to keep people guessing.” Drake continued to fuel rumors after he released his song “Diplomatic Immunity” in 2018 that included the line “2017 I lost a J. Lo.”
Jennifer kept fairly tight-lipped about the alleged affair but fans are convinced she threw some subtle shade Drake’s way during her concerts. Per OK! Magazine, “During the concert at The Forum, Drake’s hit “Hotline Bling” started playing during a dance break. After the famous lyric, ‘You used to call me on your cell phone,’ played J.Lo paused and jokingly said, ‘Huh — booty call.’ ”
Some may argue that their affair was too brief and low-key to be a showmance. But the first two Instagram pics alone were enough to keep J.Lo and Drake in the headlines for months so even if this was a brief, lazy PR relationship, it still worked.
Pete Davidson and Everyone After Ariana Grande
In 2018, comedian and actor Pete Davidson had an intense, brief love affair with singer Ariana Grande. The stars began dating only weeks after breaking up with their former partners. And while rebound relationships aren’t a crime, these two were just, so, extra – so much so that anyone over the age of 16 could see where the train wreck was headed. Within weeks of dating, the pair became engaged, moved in together, and got multiple matching tattoos. They gushed over their mutual obsession for each other and packed on the PDA. But alas, only 6 months later the pair confirmed they were no longer together.
It’s possible that Pete started dating again in an attempt to relieve some portion of his broken heart. But it seems more likely that he agreed to be set up with multiple, consecutive PR relationships after he saw how much attention he received from dating Ariana. And that maybe his former fiancee would become jealous and want him back. The first unlikely lady was Kate Beckinsale, the gorgeous actress who was 20 years his senior.
When the pair wasn’t engaging in make out sessions that looked like SNL skits, Beckinsale appeared to look uncomfortable and not that into it. Rumors began swirling that she was only dating the young comedian to get back into the headlines. Next came up-and-coming actress Margaret Qualley. And while there were less paparazzi shots this time around, Margaret still benefited from dating “the guy who was engaged to Ariana Grande.” Finally, Pete was seen out with model Kaia Gerber, Cindy Crawford’s daughter. Several paparazzi shots later, that “relationship” was toast as well but suddenly everyone wanted to know more about the leggy Kaia. Pre-Ariana, who could have guessed that a young, goofy comedian would have become a publicist’s dream candidate for a PR romance?
Taylor Swift and Harry Styles
I’m too much of a coward to risk getting hate mail from One Direction fans, so I’ll just say that many people were convinced that Taylor Swift wasn’t Harry’s “type” and that he was already in a secret relationship. But even if you don’t believe that conspiracy theory, the Swift/Styles pairing reeked of a classic PR setup. The two singers were first linked when cameras spied them wearing identical paper airplane necklaces in November of 2012. The rumors seemed to be confirmed when they met up for a very public stroll in Central Park in December. The timing of this new romance was highly suspect. Taylor had just released her album Red in October and One Direction’s second studio album, Take Me Home, was released in November. Oh, and that paparazzi-captured Central Park date in December was on December 2 – the day before Harry and his band members performed at Madison Square Garden.
Swift and Styles were photographed together several more times in December. By January, various media outlets reported that the pair had broken up after having a fight while vacationing together in the British Virgin Islands. So they kissed in front of hundreds of people in New York on New Year’s Eve, then broke up a few days later while on vacation. Sounds like the kind of situation that would give Taylor lots of material for her next album. And give Harry and 1D even more attention. And keep both of their names in the headlines for months to come.
Sure enough, Swift’s next album had two songs that were obviously about Harry, including one called “Style.” Four years after their breakup (or contract ended) Styles told Rolling Stone that dating Swift was difficult due to all of the attention (uh huh). Harry went on to praise Swift but declined to spill any details about their time together. Which either means he is a true gentleman or signed a non-disclosure agreement.
How to Spot a PR Relationship
PR relationships are as old as Hollywood itself and are here to stay. The next time you wonder if a celebrity couple is legit or fake, ask yourself: 1. Do these stars have an album or movie coming out or one that was just released? 2. Are you always reading about quotes from various “insiders” or “sources” who spill details about the relationship to the media? 3. Is one of the celebrities perhaps trying to divert attention from a recent scandal or some bad press? 4. Are there endless paparazzi shots of the two on dates and engaging in PDA? If the answer is yes to all of these questions, it’s probably a showmance.
And for those of you shaking your head in disbelief and refusing to believe that anyone would lie when it comes to love, I really admire your idealism. And also check your e-mail – you won the Bulgarian lottery! They just need your bank account number to wire you the money.