The Rollercoaster Romance of Ashanti and Nelly: From On-Off to Pregnancy and Engagement

Bintano
10 Min Read

Ashanti finally confirmed her pregnancy after months of rumours that she and Nelly were expecting their first child.

Speaking to Essence, the singer, 43, also revealed she is engaged to the rapper, who is six years her senior.

While this will be Ashanti’s first child, while Nelly has two children with his former partner Channetta Valentine and also adopted his niece and nephew – Shawn and Sydney Thomas – after the death of his sister Jackie Donahue.

Nelly, real name Cornell Iral Haynes Jr, and Ashanti have had an on-off romance going back over two decades.

Look back at the couple’s relationship timeline by reading on.

The Rollercoaster Romance of Ashanti and Nelly: From On-Off to Pregnancy and Engagement

Ashanti finally confirmed she and Nelly are expecting their first child, and are engaged (pictured together last month)

The musical duo (pictured in 2006) met at a Grammy Awards press conference in 2003

The musical duo (pictured in 2006) met at a Grammy Awards press conference in 2003

When did Ashanti and Nelly meet?

The musical duo first crossed paths at a Grammy Awards press conference in January 2003 where nominees were announced.

In a future VH1 Behind The Music special, Ashanti revealed Nelly playfully asked for her autograph when they met. 

‘I think he was being sarcastic,’ she recalled, ‘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.’ 

In 2005, Ashanti revealed that she and Nelly had 'gone out' but were not in a relationship (pictured that year)

In 2005, Ashanti revealed that she and Nelly had ‘gone out’ but were not in a relationship (pictured that year)

Ashanti and Nelly relationship timeline

2005

Ashanti revealed to PEOPLE that she had ‘gone out’ with Nelly but insisted the pair were ‘not boyfriend and girlfriend’ at the time.

That October, Nelly was spotted at the singer’s 25th birthday party, and the Ashanti returned the favour at Nelly’s 31st the next month.

2006

In February 2006, the pair were snapped together at the launch party for Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs’ new perfume in New York.

The following July, the Ashanti brought the rapper as her date to the premiere of John Tucker Must Die, in which she played Heather – a cheerleader.

As they continued to dodge questions about their relationship status, they showed up together at another New York event in November.

2007

The pair collaborated for the first time on the song Switch in 2007.

The pair collaborated for the first time on the song Switch in 2007, which they are seen performing the following year

The pair collaborated for the first time on the song Switch in 2007, which they are seen performing the following year 

2008

In June 2008, five years on from the first rumours that the pair were dating, Ashanti openly teased that they were in a relationship.

She told PEOPLE that they were ‘good friends’ who spend a lot of time together, but absolutely ruled out that they were engaged.

However, she foresaw: ‘Definitely in the future. Haha!’

2009

In another musical collaboration, Ashanti appeared in the music video for Nelly’s Body On Me, released in December 2009 – just months after rumours that the pair had split.

The song includes the lyrics: ‘I wanna make you more than just a bone in my closet/ I wanna win that type of relationship.’

2010

In October 2010, Nelly reiterated that the pair were just friends in an interview with Complex.

‘We never admitted that we were together or back together or separated,’ he said.

Nelly echoed this message two months later when he spoke to RapUpTV, although hinted that he might want to marry the singer some day.

He said: ‘What people don’t understand is that I think you really have to be friends first, that’s the thing. 

‘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.

‘Right now we’re friends, I’m married to my work.’

After a 10-year relationship, the two singers (pictured in October 2012) quietly broke up in December 2012

After a 10-year relationship, the two singers (pictured in October 2012) quietly broke up in December 2012

2013

After continuing reports that Ashanti and Nelly were a couple, rumours surfaced for a second time that they had split up during the summer of 2013.

Ashanti told HOT 97 that they were still ‘good friends’ with all well between them.

2014

The pair were seen partying in February 2014 at the Super Bowl, but in another interview with HOT 97 the next month, Ashanti continued to be tight-lipped over whether there was ever a relationship with Nelly.

She repeated that she had ‘no beef’ with the rapper, but said: ‘I feel like in a relationship, it’s like ping-pong. 

‘Sometimes you love them, sometimes you hate them. That’s a real statement, everyone goes through that.’

2015

A year later, in March 2015, Ashanti seemed to finally confirm that there had been a relationship between her and Nelly, but only in confirming that the pair had broken up.

She told The Meredith Vieira Show: ‘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 appeared on The Meredith Vieira Show in 2015, saying: 'I've been betrayed'

Ashanti appeared on The Meredith Vieira Show in 2015, saying: ‘I’ve been betrayed’

2021

It took a further six years for the duo to reunite – at Ja Rule and Fat Joe’s Verzuz battle, during which Nelly crossed the stage at one point to give his ex a hug.

Ashanti took to Instagram Live after the event and said she ‘had no idea he was going to be there’. 

She added: ‘I haven’t seen him or spoken to him since we broke up. Six years or something? So, I didn’t know what to expect.’

2022

Over a year later, at the end of 2022, Nelly and Ashanti performed together as they sang Body On Me at Power 98.3 and 96.1’s Under the Mistletoe concert in Arizona.

Weeks later Ashanti told Andy Cohen that the pair were in ‘a better place’ after the earlier performance went viral.

Unexpectedly, the pair reconciled in 2023, with rumours first sparked by the Grammy winners being seen holding hands at a boxing match between Gervonta 'Tank' Davis and Ryan Garcia

Unexpectedly, the pair reconciled in 2023, with rumours first sparked by the Grammy winners being seen holding hands at a boxing match between Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis and Ryan Garcia 

2023

Unexpectedly, the pair reconciled in 2023, with rumours first sparked by the Grammy winners being seen holding hands at a boxing match between Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis and Ryan Garcia that April.

There was another surprise in May, when Ashanti brought her ex out at her Los Angeles show to give a rendition of Body On Me and a month later they Stepped out together at an event in Atlanta – their first red carpet together in 11 years.

In August, Nelly shared a video of the two cosied up to sing Usher’s Nice & Slow in an Instagram Story, as they rested their heads on one another. ‘Take it nice and slow! So long! I just want to take it nice and slow!’ they sang.

The couple’s rekindling was confirmed in September 2023 by Nelly during an interview with Love and Hip Hop stars Rasheeda and Kirk Frost.

Another month later he penned a gushing 43rd birthday post for his partner, calling her ‘such a beautiful, an incredible person inside and out and one of the hardest working women I know’. He gifted her a matching Cartier diamond necklace and watch.

Ashanti returned the favour by throwing Nelly a surprise 49th birthday party in November and gave him a vintage 1962 Chevrolet Impala.

Shortly after, rumours began to circulate that Ashanti was pregnant, with a source confirming the news to Us Weekly in December.

Rumours that Nelly and Ashanti were expecting their first child together were confirmed in December 2023 (pictured February 2024)

Rumours that Nelly and Ashanti were expecting their first child together were confirmed in December 2023 (pictured February 2024)

2024

Ashanti finally publicly revealed her pregnancy, and engagement, on April 17, 2024, saying: ‘This new year of my life is such a blessing full of love, hope, and anticipation.

‘Motherhood is something that I have looked forward to, and sharing this with my family, fiancé and loyal fans, who have been so supportive of my career, is an amazing experience.’

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