She Married Emperor Haile Selassie’s Great-Grandson: Ariana Makonnen Tells Her Love Story

In an article published this week by Town & Country Magazine Ariana Makonnen shares how she and her husband, Joel Dawit Makonnen, met in Washington, D.C. (Photo: ANTWON MAXWELL)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Published: June 23rd, 2019

New York (TADIAS) – You may remember this great love story between a young American woman and an Ethiopian prince who met in a DC nightclub a few years ago. Their wedding celebration in 2017 had received international media attention.

In a recent personal essay published by Town & Country Magazine Ariana Makonnen, who is married to Joel Dawit Makonnen — the great-grandson of Emperor Haile Selassie — tells her story of how she met her future husband who happens to be a member of Ethiopia’s former royal family and “the oldest monarchy in the world” that traces its roots to “the biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.”

The year was 2005 and Ariana had just quit a Ph.D. program in English and got a job in a clothing boutique in Washington, D.C.

“Little did I know, that decision would not just change my career and my education, but the direction of my entire life,” Ariana shares. “I grew up in a close, ethnically mixed, fun-loving family with my two sisters and brother. My father is a writer, former sociology professor, and foundation executive from Kentucky, and my mother is an executive in the world of arts and humanities from Guyana. We were steeped in the arts, passionate about education, and oriented toward service and social justice. We believed in offering the world more than you took, making it better than when you arrived.”

Love at first sight

One night that same year Ariana was out having fun with friends at a nightclub in D.C. when “a man approached us and told my friend and me that we looked like a “Bombay Sapphire ad,” a line that’s now famous in our families. He had this open, playful energy and he was really handsome. We connected right away, talking easily and laughing,” she recalls in the Town & Country article. “He told me that his name was Joel and that he was finishing his last semester of college at American University, completing a double degree in international business — one part at his “home” college in Nice, France, and then this second portion in America.” Ariana adds: “From that first encounter on the dance floor, we were instantly drawn together. He was so cosmopolitan, charming — born in Rome, he had attended boarding school in Switzerland, lived in Ethiopia, and was fluent in several languages. We talked about our families: He told me that his mother worked at the United Nations and that his father, who’d passed away, had been a captain in the Ethiopian Imperial Army.”

But Ariana did not learn Joel’s family background until after they started dating and when a friend causally mentioned it: “He jokingly said you know you’re dating a prince, right?” I looked at Joel. He nodded and smiled. I reacted with a bit of shock and a bit of awe. “Really?” I said. Finally, he said “Yeah,” but not much more. I was definitely curious, but we didn’t discuss it further then, because he made it seem like not that big of a deal, and because I could tell he didn’t want to delve much deeper.”

Haile Selassie


“Even before I met Joel, I knew about his great-grandfather, Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia,” Ariana says. “Many West Indians, like my mother’s family, hold him in their greatest esteem.”

You can read Ariana Makonnen’s full article at townandcountrymag.

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