According to "CBS Sunday Morning," Jon Batiste, Grammy Award-winning musician and bandleader of "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," secretly married Suleika Jaouad, author of the bestseller cancer memoir "Between Two Kingdoms," in February.
The couple chose to marry after Suleika was diagnosed with leukemia for the second time, after eight years of dating. "We got married the day before I was admitted to the hospital for my bone marrow transplant," Suleika told correspondent Jim Axelrod.
“We have known that we wanted to get married, I think, from the first week that we started dating. That’s when Jon first brought up the topic of marriage to me. So, we’ve had eight years. This is not, you know, a hasty decision!”
Despite the fact that they married before Suleika's bone marrow transplant, she claims Jon did not propose to her solely because of her diagnosis.
“He said to me, ‘I just want to be very clear, I’m not proposing to you because of this diagnosis. It’s taken me a year to design your ring. So, just know this timing has nothing to do with it. But what I do want you to know is that this diagnosis doesn’t change anything. It just makes it all the clearer to me that I want to commit to this and for us to be together. But once we realized we had this tiny window before the bone marrow transplant, we decided to go for it.”
Who is Suleika Jaouad?
Suleika Jaouad was born in New York City on July 5, 1988. She took on the lessons of double bass in the Julliard School's pre-college program.
Suleika graduated with honors from Princeton University, where majored in Near Eastern Studies and minored in Gender Studies and French, in 2010.
The author worked on several human rights campaigns and studied in Africa during her time at Princeton.
Suleika is also a motivational speaker and journalist who won an Emmy for her New York Times column "Life, Interrupted." Her experiences as a young adult living with leukemia were chronicled in the book.
According to her official website, Suleika's original ambition was to become a foreign correspondent, but her dreams were cut short when she was diagnosed in 2011.
"After my diagnosis of cancer at age 22, I moved back into my childhood bedroom so my parents could take care of me. At the same time, I've had no choice but to grow up fast." - Suleika Jaouad on her website
Since then, Suleika has published a best-selling memoir, Between Two Kingdoms, given a TED Talk, served on Barack Obama's Presidential Cancer Panel, and appeared on shows such as Today.
She currently gives wellness workshops in schools, hospitals, and organizations across the country.
How did Jon Batiste Meet His Wife?
Their love story goes all the way back to their childhood. In the podcast, "How It Is: Hello Sunshine," Suleika stated that she met the musician when she was 13 years old.
"Jon and I met at band camp when I was 13 and he was 15," Suleika said. “Even back then, at a sort of end-of-summer recital, I remember hearing him play and thinking, 'Wow, this guy has something really special.' And he was very different back then than he is now. He was awkward and shy, and he wore braces."
After being estranged for several years, they reconnected when Batiste enrolled at the Juilliard School, according to Suleika. The author told Hello Sunshine, "We ended up reconnecting a few years later at Julliard, where he was a freshman and I was in the pre-college program. We just kept orbiting in and out of each other's lives."
Jon Batiste and Suleika Jaouad were able to marry swiftly, and their wedding was intimate. In a recent interview, Suleika revealed that they skipped traditional wedding bands in favor of bread ties. She revealed:
“And I’ll tell you, we talked into that bone marrow transplant unit on cloud nine. We were so happy, so brimming with love and positivity from this beautiful evening that we’d had. And I really believe that that carried us through.”
Jon Batiste spoke out to People in 2021 about the making of his album We Are and how the single Show Me the Way is a representation of his relationship with Suleika.
“It speaks to a lot of me growing up and also our relationship. It’s a beautiful thing to have that piece of our relationship sliced off into the album.”