So I guess we've cleared up that whole is-he-her-boyfriend thing.
Because as hesitant as Nikki Bella was to initially define her romantic entanglement with former Dancing With the Stars partner Artem Chigvintsev, she's happily accepting this new label. "The cat is out of the bag!" she opened her Jan. 8 edition of The Bellas Podcast with twin sister Brie Bella. "I'm engaged, Bella Army!"
Actually, she'd opened that particular bag five days earlier, kicking off the New Year by sharing she had secretly accepted Chigvintsev's ring during their November trip to France. But the why and how of it all remained a bit of a mystery. Hadn't she just been talking about how she found the whole marriage thing just a wee bit scary?
Shrug. Sometimes love happens and everything else sort of melts away. And when the guy who turned out to be your forever partner all along kneels down in front of you in a perfectly fitted tux...at a Parisian castle...on your birthday...you say yes without reservation.
"Artem's just taught me that love has no rules—it really doesn't," Nikki explained of the Russian ballroom pro, 38. "And it's so beautiful when it's like that—when you can just love."
That, of course, was just one of the surprises 2019 had in store for her. Weeks later, she was mid-yoga class when she couldn't shake the nagging thought that she should take a pregnancy test. Initially she brushed it off, thinking she was feeling some type of way because Brie just revealed she was pregnant. "When I came back in, and it said pregnant, I had to sit down for a second," Nikki revealed to People in January.
Because, honestly, the 36-year-old had begun having some doubts that she'd ever fulfill that long-held desire to have a child. "It's something I've dreamed of my whole life," she told the mag. "So when I thought it was going to be taken, for me, it was really difficult. I was just like, gosh, I can't imagine life without being a mom and experiencing the miracle of life and raising a child. I'm just so family-oriented that I couldn't imagine not having that family life."
But now she has a son and "we couldn't be HAPPIER and more in LOVE!" she shared of Baby Chigvintsev's July 31 arrival. "Everyone is safe and healthy." And grateful, the reality phenom nearly two years into a relationship that's as comfortable as it is exciting.
Being 100 percent, completely herself has been the hallmark of the romance that has been bubbling up since late 2018. "I get to just be me," she explained to E! News in October of life with Chigvintsev. "It's kind of like my soul gets to have no filter, no makeup. Like, I fully live in my truth with him." Having formed a working relationship on Dancing With the Stars back in 2017, what started as an easy friendship helped block out the types of insecurities that can seep into the early getting-to-know-you stage of a romance.
"There's no walking on eggshells," she said. "And it's amazing because I never have that fear of, 'Is he not gonna like me because I'm this?' or 'Am I afraid to say this thing?' He just loves every part of me. And it makes me feel beautiful, but not just on the outside, so much on the inside."
That confidence left her feeling at ease enough to lay it all out for her steady, unwavering rock at the start of their growing romance.
"There were certain things I was struggling with because I was still in the process of healing, but yet I was falling in love so fast with this man," she revealed on a May episode of The Bellas Podcast. "I had that conversation with Artem. I told him, 'Look, I have good days and I have bad days and I am trying to heal, but I don't want to lose you. But if you want to put up with what I'm going through and stay by my side, do it. But if you want to walk away and we come back to this relationship down the road, I one-hundred percent understand.'"
Naturally, he chose option A. And though she was far enough removed from her six-year relationship with fellow WWE superstar John Cena to have fully moved on from their 2018 split, she wasn't interested in being defined as another man's significant other just yet. Reality star. Wine purveyor. Clothing designer. Entrepreneur. All fine. But Artem's girlfriend? Can a girl have a moment?
For her it was enough to say that something had shifted in their friendship. She certainly hadn't seen it coming when they were spending hours rehearsing their tango and samba. At the time she was more interested in having the Latin dance specialist put together a number she and Cena might be able to perform at their reception. "I never would have thought even when Artem and I were dancing...we had incredible chemistry, but I never once thought that he would one day be my boyfriend," she explained. "We had such an amazing friendship and when we went on our first date, it was still kind of in that friend zone."
Eager not to rush, she set the tempo: "The one thing that I absolutely adore about Artem is I am not in a place to move fast or have something official and he's such an amazing man that he's willing to take things slow with me," she shared at the time, "and we still have these amazing dates, but we don't have to have labels or titles." (Save for the few she shared on her podcast, dubbing him "a great kisser" and skilled enough in bed to leave her declaring, "Once you have a dancer, you don't go back.")
It wasn't until July 2019, some seven months in, that the Birdiebee fashion line cofounder was finally ready to admit what pretty much everyone knew all along.
"We're like, we're boyfriend and girlfriend," she shared on The Bellas Podcast.
She just didn't realize exactly how short-lived that title would be. Because sometime around when she was shooting down rumors that they were cohabitating ("He has his own house, I have my own house,") and hinting that Chigvintsev would make a good father one day ("Not to me, it could be to anyone," she insisted), he was out shopping for the perfect rectangular diamond bauble that would satisfy his girl's admittedly upscale taste.
"As a man, you want to try to give what you think she deserves," he explained while calling in to a January Bellas podcast. "And Nicole goes by the bigger the better."
He couldn't say precisely when he knew he'd be down on one knee in front of both of their families on Nikki's birthday Nov. 21. "But I remember this feeling in my mind thinking that, you know, I just don't see myself being by myself, living without Nicole," he shared. "I love her and I just feel this was the perfect decision to make."
Like with most things in their romance, Nikki was completely in sync. Because of course they had talked about it, they talk about everything. "We communicate on where we're at in the relationship and I have to say he's so supportive on, like, have more time to work on yourself or do these things," she's said on the podcast, "and that's what makes me in my head go, God this guy is the right one because he's willing to be there for me in that place."
As he tentatively launched into his speech, opening up about how she had cha-cha-ed into his life and turned it all upside down, "All of a sudden, when I could tell how nervous he was, I got really nervous and, in my head, I'm like, 'Oh my god! This isn't a birthday surprise anymore. This guy is about to propose to me,'" Nikki recalled.
She knew that on paper it seemed speedy, but she's so freaking thrilled to be cementing forever with the man she's called "one of the sweetest people I've ever met," she can't even pretend to be bothered with what others might think: "I'm extremely, extremely happy."
She was even happier once she got to slide that diamond back on her left hand. "Artem picked out this gorgeous diamond and it's a very rare diamond and I really love the shape," she explained on the Jan. 8 podcast. "But when I was looking at it, I was like, 'I think it could be set a little different.' And so the guy was like, 'Wow, your girl has a really good eye. She's actually right about the setting,' just because I felt it wasn't showcasing this gorgeous diamond that he picked out."
Nikki's ready to train that discerning eye onto place settings, veil lengths, bouquets and accessories. "I always thought the fall in Napa Valley or Lake Tahoe would just be gorgeous and amazing—fireplaces, wine, faux furs," she noted. But first she'd like to take a beat.
With his family largely based in Russia and hers stateside, nailing down a location is going to be particularly tough—making 2021 vows a more likely option even before COVID-19 through a wrench in most brides' plans. "I'm definitely going to take my time getting married," she insisted. "That was the one thing I told Artem is, I was like, 'I do not want to plan a wedding anytime soon. I really want to take our time being engaged and just soak it in.'"
But once the logistics are worked out, she's got some big plans. Namely, more Bella babies.
Though she shared on her September 2019 podcast that she was hoping for twins—"I want a boy and a girl and I want to knock it out all at once. I want an epidural right when I get into labor. I don't want to feel anything. Those are the things I want,"—she's happy to start with just one.
She's loaded up on clothes—including two pairs of mini Nikes that match Mom's—and put together a dreamy night sky-themed nursery in their Arizona home complete with dark wood, gray and blue tones and unique lighting. "I have this big half moon nightlight that I am loving. The wallpaper is stars and I even get lost in them," she recently described to Mini Magazine. "I just go and sit in his room and it just feels magical."
But, then, that's true of most things these days.
(Originally published Jan. 18, 2020, at 3 a.m. PT)
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