When MMA fighter Jessica Aguilar began dating actress Shalita Grant during the past year, their relationship had to contend with two major obstacles: long distance and the pandemic.
Nonetheless, they figured out how to make it work.
“During the pandemic, our relationship was really ‘in the house,’” Grant told Outsports. “Jess would come and see me for a month or two weeks, so it felt like we’ve lived together for this past year.”
Their respective careers provided a means for the pair to see one another as much as they could at a time when travel was difficult. While Grant was shooting in Los Angeles, Aguilar noted, “I was training out there with Kings MMA and a good group of people down in L.A. So it just worked out really well.”
Despite the obstacles the world was throwing at them, the easy and natural chemistry the two had was obvious and they were finding ways to make a new relationship work.
Then Aguilar contracted COVID-19. But while the coronavirus put a halt to all major sports leagues and the Olympics, it couldn’t stop what the two of them had already built.
Even when they talked about dealing with COVID, they still sounded like the ultimate dating app success story:
Aguilar: We’re strong. She was actually stronger than me! I was a big baby.
Grant: But I was her tele-nurse. Honestly, the first time we Facetimed, we Facetimed for 17 hours!
Aguilar: I think she put on this song, it was like...
Together: “Fuck Sleep!”
Grant: I sent it to her right before our Facetime...
Aguilar: And I was like, “OK!” It worked out really well!
Thankfully Aguilar recovered, and she and Grant are now fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and living together.
“It’s just nice that we don’t have to say good-bye,” Grant said.
With Aguilar’s most recent fight taking place last November, she is currently back in training and is hoping to take on her next challenger in July. In the meantime, Aguilar is also working as a commentator for the XFC on ESPN Deportes. She was able to utilize some of the downtime of the past year in a positive way to focus on her mental health:
“I got a lot of time to reconnect with my sports psychologist to work on my mental game and other aspects of my career which are really important,” Aguilar said. “A lot of athletes don’t believe in sports psychology, but I think it’s one of the most important things. I got to reconnect with [my therapist] and work on myself and to have love. It makes you stronger.”
As for Grant, who just completed shooting for season three of Netflix’s “You,” the pandemic hit just as she was finalizing a divorce. So she used the time on her hands for some serious self reflection.
“For me, it was great to be able to be alone and really contemplate and meditate and rebuild myself from the inside,” she said. “And really take responsibility for my actions and why I chose the people that I chose. Having the government tell you, ‘You can’t see people’ was like, ‘OK, great! So when I do get to see people, I need to be a lot more intentional about the people that I am seeing.’”
Part of what makes Grant and Aguilar work as a couple is that both of them know what it’s like to forge their own paths in industries that make it incredibly difficult to do so.
“As women, too, in our fields, it’s not an easy thing,” Aguilar noted. “Now we’re a gay couple so we carry that flag as well.”
Expanding on that thought, Grant stated her belief that a lot of LGBTQ relationships are patterned after straight domestic arrangements, “where you have someone who has the money, the job, and then you have the other person supporting.”
But because both she and Aguilar have forged independent and successful careers, they broke that particular relationship mold as well.
“One of the biggest things that I noticed for me was that calm,” Grant reflected. “She doesn’t need me for anything and I don’t need her for anything.”
At which point, Aguilar interjected, “I just want the love!”
That sentiment is at the heart of the relationship the pair have forged so far.
Of course, it also helps that when asked if they enjoyed showing each other their professional “greatest hits,” Grant immediately shouted, “Fuck yeah!”
They both agreed that their greatest hits were still ahead of them.