Twelve years ago, Ariana Austin and Joel Makonnen met in a dance club called Pearl in Washington, D.C. Couples meet in clubs every weekend around the world, so that beginning of their tale may not seem so special. One little detail: Makonnen is also known as His Imperial Highness Prince Joel Dawit Makonnen Haile Selassie — as in royalty.
Makonnen and Austin recently wed, bringing their love story into full-blown fairy-tale territory, with Austin and her Prince Charming and Prince Yoel and his heroine finally tying the knot among family and friends at an Ethiopian Orthodox church in Maryland in September. But it took 12 years to get to the altar. Yet even when they met, things seemed destined for the two. Just five minutes after meeting Austin, Makonnen told the New York Times in a recent profile, “I said, ‘You’re going to be my girlfriend.’”
Makonnen is a member of the Ethiopian royal family that gave up their rule in the 1970s as civil war erupted in the country. He was born in Rome, while his parents were living in exile. Austin is of African-American and Guyanese origins. The two boasted of their union being of “Old World aristocracy and New World charm” in their wedding invitations.
After they met, though, it took some time for the relationship to jell into the storybook situation they find themselves in today. There were internships in Paris for her, a return to Ethiopia for him, a stint in grad school at Harvard, and a law degree at Howard for each. After nearly 10 years, they eventually found themselves back in the same place at the same time, and the prince finally proposed.
It seems there’s plenty more to tell of their story together. Austin, who has an arts education master’s from the aforementioned Harvard, tells the Times that she wants to help Makonnen tell the story of his family in a documentary. “A biopic is definitely on our agenda,” she says. And we’re sure that a chapter on the two of them would be pretty compelling.
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