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Nelly and Ashanti's secret relationship timeline: meeting 20 years ago, split over betrayal, and baby news

The now-engaged couple first met in 2003, but were always mysterious about their romance and 2013 split

Beatriz Colon
Beatriz Colon - New York
New York WriterNew York
18 April 2024
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Nelly and Ashanti have a romance decades in the making, and years after their first meeting, and several ups and downs, they're embarking on a new phase of their relationship.

This week, the "Rock Wit You" singer, 43, confirmed that she is expecting her first baby with the "Just a Dream" singer, 49, and they're engaged too!

Below, catch up on the couple's years-in-the-making romance, from first meeting in 2003, their break-up, and what they've said about each other through the years.

When did Nelly and Ashanti meet?

Nelly and Ashanti first met in 2003, at the Grammy Awards nominations announcement. Ashanti, recalling the moment in VH1's Behind the Music episode on Nelly, said: "The first time I met Nelly he asked me for my autograph, but I think he was being sarcastic and I remember writing it down on the program."

"That picture has been in so many publications as something else, but it all started out as a joke. For the record, it took him a long time to get my number."

Ashanti and Nelly The 45th GRAMMY Award Nominations Announcements in 2003© Getty
The couple in 2003

How long was Ashanti with Nelly?

Ashanti and Nelly continued to make occasional appearances together throughout the early aughts, however they remained largely mum on whether they were actually together.

It wasn't until 2008 that Ashanti gave subtle insight into their relationship, when she coyly told People: "Me and Nelly, we're good friends. We kick it – hang out a lot… The industry is very hard, so it's good to have fun and lighten it up."

Nelly and Ashanti at Ashanti's 25th Birthday Surprise Party at the Glo in New York City, New York in 2005© Getty
Ashanti's 25th birthday in 2005

And while she denied any engagement rumors at the time, she did tease: "Definitely in the future."

By 2010, Nelly also kept maintaining the two were "just friends," and in an interview for RapUpTV said: "What people don't understand is that I think you really have to be friends first, that's the thing. It's not about how long it takes, there's no time limit on this."

MORE: Meet Nelly's four kids ahead of baby number five with Ashanti: all we know

He further explained: "I'm not a person who wants to be married more than once, I'm not a person who wants to be in a relationship more than once. You're dying if you leave me," and emphasized: "I'm married to getting things in a certain situation right now and she's married to getting things in a certain situation right now."

Ashanti and Nelly attend the Haze Nightclub New Year's Eve party hosted by Nelly at Haze on December 31, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada© Getty
The two in 2010

When did Ashanti and Nelly break-up?

Though they never quite fully confirmed they were in a relationship, rumors nonetheless swirled in 2013 that they had broken up.

Still, Ashanti appeared to have confirmed the split when asked about it while on The Meredith Vieira Show in 2015, revealing: "I've been betrayed. You just have to grow. You have to grow up. You have to accept responsibility for the things that you do. I'm not a big fan of people being cowards."

Ashanti and Nelly attend 3rd Annual Birthday Ball for Quality Control CEO Pierre "P" Thomas at The Fox Theatre on June 08, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia© Getty
They made their first red carpet appearance together since 2012 in June of 2023

They first appeared to have rekindled their romance last year, when they were spotted holding hands, and though just like a decade before they maintained it was casual, but by June, they made their first red carpet appearance together since 2012, and Ashanti confirmed they were dating that September.

NELLY at the 19th Annual Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards 2006 held at Pauley Pavillion on the UCLA Campus© Getty
Nelly with his kids in 2006

Does Nelly have kids?

Aside from his forthcoming baby with his fiancé, Nelly is also a father to daughter Chanelle, born in 1994, and Cornell Hayes III, born in 1999, who he shares with ex-girlfriend Channetta Valentine.

Plus, he adopted his sister Jackie Donahue's kids, Shawn and Sydney Thomas, after she passed away in 2005 following a battle with leukemia.

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