If you were to press the issue, Jenna Dewan would likely admit 2018 wasn't her most favorite of years.
By early April, she and Channing Tatum had finally worked up the nerve to announce a truth they had accepted long before: their envied, adored marriage simply wasn't working. "Absolutely nothing has changed about how much we love one another, but love is a beautiful adventure that is taking us on different paths for now," they shared in matching social media statements. "There are no secrets nor salacious events at the root of our decision—just two best-friends realizing it's time to take some space and help each other live the most joyous, fulfilled lives as possible."
While the news was equal parts crushing and baffling to fans—Weren't they one of Hollywood hottest couples? Didn't they simply radiate chemistry?—the pair had already taken the time to wrap their minds around the end of their nearly nine-year union.
"They have been separated and have had a few months to get used to this privately. They are both doing ok with it because it was a long time coming," a source reported to E! News at the time of the pair. "They had been trying for a long time to see if they could make it work. It became clear over the last year that they wanted different things and were no longer on the same path."
Still one had to wonder how they would do forging off on their own. Having met as 25-year-olds on the set of 2006's campy good girl ballerina-meets-bad boy break dancer rom com Step Up, the pair had spent nearly the whole of their adult lives together, tying the knot on July 11, 2009, at the Church Estates Vineyards in Malibu and welcoming daughter Everly Tatum not quite four years later.
For some, finding themselves suddenly single for the first time in more than a decade might feel daunting, the idea of going it alone, if not paralyzing, at least a considerable challenge.
Dewan has thrived. As she makes clear in her October book Gracefully You: Finding Beauty and Balance in the Everyday, it wasn't the easiest hurdle to scale. "In the beginning of my separation," she writes, "it felt as though I were in a dark closet, desperately trying to find the light or the way out." But now the 39-year-old triple threat can look back on all of that as the struggle she had to endure to get to her future: balancing acting gigs, her new role hosting Fox's Flirty Dancing, several projects in development with her production company Everheart and the family she's building with her brand-new fiancé, Tony-winning actor Steve Kazee.
"A lifetime to love and grow with you...you have my heart," Dewan posted to Instagram, offering a glimpse of the oval diamond Kazee designed with Dewan pal and BaYou With Love jewelry brand founder Nikki Reed.
Her husband-to-be shared his own post with equal depth: "When you wake in the morning I will kiss your face with a smile no one has ever seen. When you wake in the morning I will kiss your eyes and say it's you I have loved all these years."
And now the pair have another person to love on. Their son, Callum Michael Rebel Kazee, entered the world last Friday, March 6, "And just like that, our hearts exploded into all of eternity and beyond," Dewan shared in her Instagram post.
So what if she had to stumble a bit in act two to reach her happily ever after?
"[Divorce] was never on my docket of dreams, but alas, here I am, learning and growing through one," she shared in Gracefully You. "In the beginning I turned to the typical remedies. I drank a whole lot of wine with friends. I had many moments of deep, painful, big cries. And both were very necessary in getting me to the next hour, through the day, on to another week."
There were also moments of positivity, but they were often zapped out by a quick spin around the Internet. "I was in a state of shock. One week I'd be doing really well and the next I was slammed with a whole new slew of emotions," she explained. "The rumor mill was churning out story after story. There were many times I hid under the covers, wondering what was next. The pain hit me like a tumbling avalanche. I was completely overcome with fear and sadness. It took many moments of sitting alone with my grief to force me into surrendering to my roller coaster of a situation."
By May of 2018, though, she was declaring "a new dawn" in her life while speaking to Harper's Bazaar, the writer noting in the profile how positive Dewan seemed about this transitional period. "There is a joy and there is a vulnerability to it," the actress said. "But I have a lot of hope for what the new chapter of my life will be."
Nearly two years later, it's panning out quite well, the normally fastidious vegetarian having surrendered to her pregnancy cravings for Cheetos and 7-Eleven Slurpees and letting her excited 6-year-old show off her bump to whomever they meet. "Everywhere we go, she pulls up my shirt, so everywhere we go she'll be like, 'There's a baby in this belly!'" she revealed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. "And then she's like, 'Don't you wanna touch it?'…She's so proud."
As for her romance with Kazee, a man who has unabashedly declared himself her no. 1 fan, an insider reveals they're "crazy about each other and have a great relationship. It's just easy and comfortable."
Her bounce back comes after months of some decidedly new world soul-searching, including a holographic breathing meditative technique that she credits with opening her up to new possibilities.
A self-described "spiritual nut" and early adopter of crystals, she joined up with her closest girlfriends to form a goddess circle. Huddled together, they "talk about what we're going through," she shared with Harper's Bazaar, then take part in a shaman-led group meditation utilizing the ever-present crystals and sound bowls. "I'm aware how weird that sounds," she admitted. "It's the whole L.A. hippie experience."
File it under you've got to do what you've got to do to move past a painful divorce. Dewan noted her band of pals have helped her find the courage "to confront the unknown." The raison d'être of their gatherings, she said, "is women coming together and supporting each other, and connecting, and bonding." The longer she's existed in this world and the greater Hollywood sphere—her first role coming in 2002's The Hot Chick—"It sounds cliché," she said, "but it's more important to have a really solid group of girls that are there for me, who get me."
Who that "me" is—dancer, host, producer, actress, entrepreneur, mom—well, Dewan is having fun figuring that out.
"I did a lot of work healing from the inside out, becoming more in touch with my womanly power," she told Women's Health in 2018. "It was always, 'I'm a dancer,' or 'I'm married,' or 'I'm an actress.' Over the last couple of years, it became about learning about myself."
It's hard to imagine her current career surge isn't at least tangentially connected to her discoveries, though she insists her marriage had no affect on her professional life. "The moves I'm making are completely not related to my marriage or separation, interestingly enough. I was always very happy being a wife," Dewan told Harper's, but she copped to grabbling with life's bigger questions, such as, "'Who are you? What do you want to give to the world? What excites you?' Those feelings started bubbling up for me, naturally...so I really wanted to expand my life, and myself. And that was my journey, no one else's."
While she's making her way down a new road, she still accepts Tatum as co-pilot when it comes to Everly. The couple meant it when the said they would always be "loving, dedicated parents" to their daughter, a willful, free-spirit that Dewan already predicts big things for: "If she's not running her own business, or ruling the world, I have failed as a mother."
A source told E! News at the time of the split that they'd continue to do family activities together: "They want to keep her routine the same. Nothing is going to change in her life and she has two parents who will be very involved in everything she does."
Having hammered out the details on their shared, 50-50 custody plan and finalized their divorce, they've settled into a different type of partnership that holds firm to that plans. "She and Channing are doing the co-parenting thing," the insider tells E! News, "and always put Everly's needs first."
Their vibe includes "a lot of love" she told Harper's Bazaar. "We're just getting used to it. We're in a very positive energy together, trying to be the best parents to Everly."
Their conscious uncoupling game is so on par that the Supergirl alum didn't seem the least bit fazed when news broke in 2018 that Tatum had been courting another talented brunette: British pop singer Jessie J.
Though, as she admits now, it wasn't exactly a banner moment. Despite the fact she was already exploring things with Kazee, "There I was, on a plane, alone, finding out about his new relationship," she wrote. "I felt blindsided. Choosing grace as I learned everything about my personal situation along with the rest of the world was really difficult."
Still, she resisted the urge to lash out or post leading deep thoughts to Instagram and she kept all the more honest tweets she penned stashed away in drafts. "Instead of reacting the way I wanted to...I asked myself this: How do I choose grace in this moment?" she shared. "Had I not been practicing this way of life beforehand, I definitely wouldn't have handled this news very gracefully."
Instead, she showed not a trace of pettiness even when the most superficial of fans pointed out the ladies' physical resemblance and offered their thoughts on who was or wasn't up to snuff. Dragging the new significant other may be a time honored tradition enjoyed by exes everywhere, but Dewan wasn't playing.
She offered a virtual high five when the Grammy-nominated singer, 31, took to Instagram to share her thoughts about "a story I have seen be re written over and over again in the past few weeks that talks about myself being compared directly to another beautiful woman regarding our looks and people picking who they think is prettier."
Continued the musician, "Is picking who is prettier and then continuing to say why a good activity for women to participate in? No." Dewan was quick to show they were on the same side of this particularly offensive battle, posting to her own Instagram page, "Amen Jessie! Yes!!!!! Women for women all the way. No need for negativity. Let's live in a world where we support each other and raise each other up."
Besides, she couldn't possibly get herself riled up about her former husband's new gal when she had her own smoking hot romance to attend to. The truth came out at Mike Meldman's 2018 Casamigos Halloween bash when Dewan was spotted engaging in a full-on make-out session with a handsome mystery man. Turns out she had been seeing the striking suitor—Shameless and Nashville alum Kazee, who scored a Tony and a Grammy for his work in the Broadway musical Once—for several months.
"She was introduced to him by mutual friends," a source explained to E! News, "and they hit it off right away."
In the 44-year-old dog-loving Kentucky native (an avowed "proud feminist") she found someone who got her excited at the prospect of being back on the dating scene. "When I was ready, I started dating someone amazing," she penned in her book. "It was this cosmically great thing where we circled back around each other after a moment of instant recognition years ago."
With the news out there, suddenly the pair and their sweet displays of affection were everywhere: posing together with pals at the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride attraction, walking hand-in-hand through Palm Springs one day, stopping to kiss in front of a Mexican restaurant in the desert resort town the next and grabbing a smooch to go with their Pressed Juicery drinks while out in Beverly Hills. They also paid a visit to WWE's Monday Night Raw ("My boyfriend, is a huge wrestling fan and he got me so into it, she explained on The Ellen DeGeneres Show) and took the plunge of becoming Instagram official.
Perhaps this is what she predicted when she spoke with Women's Health for their July 2018 issue, reflecting on what life would be like as Jenna Dewan, no longer Tatum.
"It's been a journey, and it's been a transformation of myself—my needs and wants as a woman," she shared. "I think everyone wants to hold on to what's in front of them, but when you open your mind saying, 'I want what's best for myself and my daughter,' you have to be OK with however that looks. I feel like I've been on a wave of growth. It does look different; it's a new normal, and I really think we'll get used to that."
It took time to adjust to the outcries of fans who declared the end of their romance meant the end of all love, the belief being if these two incredibly attractive people couldn't make it, what hope did the rest of us have?
But eventually they moved on right along with her, she told the mag. "It's always challenging to go through a big change and have the whole world have an opinion about it. It's OK for a relationship to change into a new form that is actually better for both people involved, and I think maybe that's what shocked everyone so much—that it can be a positive thing. That was ultimately what happened with us."
Because now Dewan spends much of her time being grateful for her journey. (That is, when she's not posting impossibly adorable matching photos with her man or gushing about his entire existence.) "He's a kind, good hearted guy and Jenna feels so lucky to have found him," a source tells E! News of her life with Kazee. "She feels very confident and secure with him. He makes her feel like the most important thing in the world and there's never any doubt."
To hear Dewan tell it, she was sure, completely sure, from the moment she laid eyes on Kazee. "I wasn't looking for it," she told People recently. "But it sort of took me by complete storm. It happened when I least expected it....It was an instant connection when we met each other. All of a sudden. In my eyes it was truly, completely meant to be."
(Originally published Oct. 22, 2019, at 3 a.m. PT)