“Yesterday John and I were looking at couples therapy and stuff,” announces supermodel Chrissy Teigen, popping an oily Italian olive into her mouth. She clarifies: “Not for us, I mean.”
Teigen and her husband, the musician John Legend, are cuddled up at il Buco in downtown Manhattan. Over a tapas-style feast of roasted Spanish octopus, poached eggs with wild mushrooms, Hawaiian King prawns and milky burrata, we’re discussing the intricacies of marriage—in particular, what makes theirs work, given the pressures of being in a “Hollywood” relationship. “We were watching a [reality] show about the first year of marriage, and we couldn’t understand why things change so much when people get married,” says Legend, in the familiar smooth-as-silk tone that, for 10 years, has translated into hit record after hit record. Teigen deadpans, “Honestly, you would have to cheat. That’s the only reason I could foresee us needing couples therapy.” They laugh—as if to say, “Could there be a more ridiculous suggestion?”—and reach for more prawns.
Legend and Teigen may scoff at the label, but they are pop culture’s undeniable Couple of the Moment. In the year and a half since their September 2013 nuptials, their respective careers have skyrocketed—he went on a world tour, won an Oscar and performed at the Super Bowl; she landed the cover of Sports Illustrated, inked a book deal and is preparing to cohost her fourth TV show. And while their success as individuals has been remarkable, the real appeal—the reason why fans are as enamored of them as they are of each other—lies in their dynamic as a couple. They are goofy, self-deprecating, unpretentious and totally, believably, in love. Their social media personas, which reach a collective 19 million followers, chronicle life as a normal couple doing normal couple things: taking selfies, cooking dinner in their bathrobes, playing with their dogs and going on vacation, with only occasional dispatches from the more glamorous aspect of their lives.
It’s this willingness to offer such ordinary-seeming, no-holds-barred access that, in fact, makes these two such a rewarding celebrity fixation. We know that Teigen’s mother is ostensibly their third roommate, and that Legend makes a killer mac and cheese. Unlike more frustratingly elusive celebrities, they give us what we want—or at least do a very good job making us think they do. Consider this in contrast to Jay-Z and Beyoncé, who spent years denying they were an item, or Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, who hid their marriage from the press for several months. (Only after Kunis appeared on a talk show wearing a wedding ring did she ambiguously confirm that she and Kutcher were “maybe” married.) That brand of orchestrated behavior is no longer satisfying to fans—we now favor celebrities who are relatable, imperfect and honest over those who are rehearsed and perfectly posed.
Teigen, though a supermodel, is rarely perfectly posed. At this year’s Golden Globes, the most viral moment was not Legend’s poignant acceptance speech after his Best Original Song win for Selma’s “Glory,” but the reaction of his teary-eyed wife, whose awkward “ugly cry face” became an Internet sensation. She was in on the joke before the show had even ended. “Sorry I don’t practice my cry face, okay,” she tweeted, followed by a snap of her and Legend imitating the expression.
“John and Chrissy completely remove any expectation we have about celebrity couples. Everything you see is authentic, and people respond to that,” says Joe Zee, the editor in chief of Yahoo! Style and Teigen’s cohost on the upcoming daytime talk show The FAB Life. “We live in an age where everything is so heavily contrived. Even Instagram posts can be produced and strategized. But they’re just being themselves.”
“Strategy” is something that Legend hasn’t even considered. His and Teigen’s social media interactions range from snarky (@chrissyteigen: “John just called the hunger games ‘the thunder games.’ I married my dad”) to sweet (@johnlegend: “@chrissyteigen I wonder if our 16 year old selves would date each other,” accompanied by a nerdy childhood photo of Legend in oversize, owlish glasses). They are almost always revealing in some way. “I never understood the purpose of being secretive and coy and trying to disguise the fact that you’re together,” says Legend. “It’s odd to shut off a major section of your life and say, ‘Well, that’s off-limits.’ ” Teigen leans over, as if to give him a peck on the cheek. Instead, she digs her perfectly manicured talons into his scalp and proclaims, like a proud parent, that she’s discovered a gray hair. He shrugs and continues. “We don’t discuss everything in public, but I feel like it’s OK to show people that we love each other.”
Legend did just that in 2013 with the release of his hit single “All of Me,” a romantic ode to Teigen that declares, “All of me/ Loves all of you/ Love your curves and all your edges/ All your perfect imperfections.” The ballad earned two Grammy nominations, while the song’s intimate black-and-white music video—which the couple filmed two days before their wedding—became, in a way, their coming out as a celebrity duo. Teigen, true to form, couldn’t let the moment remain sappy forever. She took to Twitter: “2 grammy noms for @johnlegend no one has congratulated me for being the inspiration behind ‘all of me.’ without me there is no all of me,” warranting an equally quick-witted response from Legend: “@chrissyteigen who told you this song was about you?”
But when you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile. Legend and Teigen were recently on a flight together when Teigen, who says she reads 99 percent of everything tweeted at her, saw that she’d been tagged in a photo. A passenger behind them had snapped a picture of the couple kissing through the gap between the seats. “I rarely lose it, but I confronted him,” says Teigen. “I held my phone up and I was like, ‘Are you f–king serious?’ ” Legend told the guy not to be a douche bag.