Love is a lie

Stacy Nguyen dishes on guilty pleasures, heartbreak, and Jason Momoa

Words by Stacy Nguyen

Nguyeners and Losers: A weekly JoySauce column full of hot takes and emotional deep dives on pop culture and celebrity news. This column is a manifestation of the countless hours of ‘research’ and ‘analysis’ of stuff like Reddit AMAs and YouTube convo threads that writer Stacy Nguyen likes to obsess over at 11pm.

You know, when Jason Momoa first announced his split from Lisa Bonet, I honestly needed a moment. I believed that their love was forever, so the end of it kind of came out of nowhere for me. 

See, I’ve spent years combing through Jason’s Instagram feed but never daring to actually follow him because I feel self-conscious over the creepy devotion. Like, I knew that he’s really passionate about fighting climate change with aluminum cans of water, I knew that he really loves jewelry shaped like skulls, and I knew that he really, really loved his wife in a way that was completely different from how other male celebs loved their wives. 

Happy I Love You GIF by Warner Bros. Deutschland - Find & Share on GIPHY

So what even happened?


Girl meets boy

Momoa first came into my consciousness in 1999, when my sister made me watch Baywatch: Hawaii with her on weekends. In 1999, I was in the thick of puberty, I didn’t have a driver’s license yet, I lived in the suburbs and attended really a white school, and initially I didn’t think slo-mo shots of beautiful white women and men running down the beach would resonate with me—but actually, I found Baywatch: Hawaii absolutely riveting. Because it had juicy storylines like: “Mitch faces off with an old Navy Seal vet who is planning to bomb in the name of ecoterrorism”—and it featured slo-mo shots of beautiful men and women of color running down the beach. 

Momoa, then 19 years old, played a character named Jason Ioane, a young and often brash lifeguard learning the ropes from old pros, with a heart and a yearning dedication to his Hawaiian cultural roots. He was really cool! A little bit whiny sometimes, but mega dreamy. 

Baywatch: Hawaii stood out from regular Baywatch beyond the location change from Los Angeles to Hawaii. It resonated so hard in me. In many ways, I felt represented by the new cast members and the sexy new setting. 

I also think that was the first time we were given a sneak peek into what Momoa’s personal brand would come to be: a really sensitive and spiritual alpha male-turned-family-man, attuned with nature and the vast complexities of the ocean.

Like, swoon, right?

And would you believe it, five years after Baywatch: Hawaii, Momoa fell in love with the gorgeous and super wise Lisa Bonet, who was 37 to his 25. Initially, the match seemed disorienting. Baywatch guy and Denise Huxtable? But once I put some thought to it, their pairing really made sense.

By the way, this is how I imagine their dynamic when they first met. It’s based on a shaky amount of facts: 

Momoa and his career were both super young—and he was quiet to the point of being almost ignoble (he was just starting out in Stargate Atlantis when they first met). When he ran into her—on the sidewalk probably in front of a really cool and approachable bar—her legend was already immense. He was probably like, “OMG, Denise!” 

But then after having a conversation with her, he probably figured out that she’s not really Denise. She is Lisa Bonet, this inside-beautiful, outside-gorgeous woman who had this appealing rebellious streak, who has been trying to tell us about Bill Cosby ever since the ‘90s. 

Momoa probably fell in love with her because she was a grown-ass woman, having lived an entire life of marriage, family, and divorce already, standing in stark contrast to every other 25-year-old that he knew at the time.

And she reciprocated his love. To her, it didn’t matter that he was significantly younger, maybe because he was so great at making life fun. To him, it didn’t matter that she was so much more famous, because he’s one of those men who loves being with a woman who’s a total badass. In fact, he almost seemed gleeful about it. In a 2019 interview with Esquire, Momoa more or less declared, “Mama is the boss—everyone knows that.” 


Red Carpet Couple GIF by The Academy Awards - Find & Share on GIPHY

So what even happened?

How did we go from a beautiful meeting in front of an approachable bar to Momoa moving out of their home and into a $750K trailer?


I blame Aquaman (and toxic masculinity, the trappings of fame, and maybe the ocean, too) 

Swimming GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Look, it’s a proven fact that when dudes’ careers launch into the stratosphere because they are playing superheroes in mega franchises, their marriages totally go down the crapper. I mean, you also saw what happened to Chris Pratt (our least favorite Chris) and Anna Faris, right? 

Momoa and Bonet seemed like they were going to be an exception to this, with this man being so down with making a family with a woman who had greater name recognition than he did, a woman who was so effortlessly cool and badass and un-Hollywood. 

But they weren’t the exception at all. 

Snl Change GIF by Saturday Night Live - Find & Share on GIPHY

Momoa’s Instagram used to be cool. I used to be proud of stalking it. But I checked it out the other day, and I didn’t even recognize him anymore! His IG used to be littered with charming non-professional, chill photos of him hanging out in hot tubs with a bunch of non-famous friends. His IG used to be so approachable with all of the low-key brags on the latest skull ring he acquired.

And now it’s full of professional and curated images of him being such a movie star. Now, it doesn’t even look like he runs it. It looks like he’s too busy and a really hard-working social media manager is combing through hot pictures of him on the daily and writing captions in the first person to trick us into thinking it’s him—but no, it’s really someone named Jennifer or Michelle or whatever. 

In the past few years, it seems like he has really leaned into fame in a way that seems diametrically opposed to the way Bonet has shied away from it.  

Look, I know the reasons why couples break up is complicated. It’s probably a million little things that added up to general incompatibility that led to the end of their relationship. 

But I mean, if I had to boil it down into a soundbyte, I would say that going from being a lifeguard who saved the lives of, like, one to three people a week to becoming king of the entire fucking ocean and saving an entire race of people just really changes a person. It changes their soul and mind. And maybe there’s no coming back from that. 


I will still love you forever, Lisa Bonet

There’s an insidious habit on gossip magazines and gossip sites of painting women as pathetic and too old when they are ‘left’ in a relationship. That’s been kinda happening with Bonet, and it’s been honestly triggering me. I want to go to all of these gossip writers’ houses and start emotional arguments about why they hate women so much.

Like, does this look like someone who deserves our pity?

Lisa Bonet GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

No. She deserves our unending adoration.

And you’re right. I really do need to switch my IG stalking from Momoa to Bonet. She is obviously still the cooler one. But plot-twist: She doesn’t have an IG! I know you’re like, “Stace, yes she does. It’s @officiallisabonet.”  

Nah, bro! That account isn’t verified! Just because something has “official” in the name doesn’t mean it’s actually official. Words are often lies. Just like everlasting love. 

Final tally:

Momoa's increasingly curated Instagram feed: Loser

Momoa's skull rings: Nguyener

Bonet continuing to eschew Hollywood: Nguyener

Published on February 13, 2022

Words by Stacy Nguyen

Stacy Nguyen is a Seattle area-based Vietnamese American writer, artist, and designer whose work explores the ways race and gender are reflected within the lens of popular culture. She makes a lot of logos and moves shapes around in a pleasing manner in her day job. She used to be a journalist and news editor, but now she mostly writes hot takes on celebrities. This is because she watches an obscene amount of TV that she should be embarrassed about, but is inexplicably not.