Meet Suleika Jaouad, an award-winning Tunisian-American writer and Jon Batiste's new wife

Jaouad is currently undergoing treatment for leukemia

Jon Batiste and Suleika Jaouad married in February. They couple are seen here at the 71st Emmy Awards on September 22, 2019. AFP
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Congratulations are in order for Jon Batiste, and not only for the five Grammys he won on Sunday.

The American singer, 35, revealed he recently married his long-time partner, Suleika Jaouad, 33, at a small, private ceremony in February, the day before his new bride underwent a bone marrow transplant. Jaouad was first diagnosed with leukemia aged 22. Last year, she found out that her cancer had come back.

Jaouad, a writer and motivational speaker, spoke about the marriage over the weekend in an interview with CBS.

"We have known that we wanted to get married, I think, from the first week that we started dating. That's when Jon first brought up the topic of marriage to me. So, we've had eight years," Jaouad said. "This is not, you know, a hasty decision!"

And while the couple chose the day before the transplant to get married, Jaouad said her illness was not a factor in the decision.

"He said to me, 'I just want to be very clear, I'm not proposing to you because of this diagnosis. It's taken me a year to design your ring. So, just know this timing has nothing to do with it. But what I do want you to know is that this diagnosis doesn't change anything. It just makes it all the clearer to me that I want to commit to this and for us to be together,'" she said. "But once we realised we had this tiny window before the bone marrow transplant, we decided to go for it."

The couple wed in a "tiny" and "perfect" ceremony, with Jaouad saying she walked into the hospital unit the next day “on cloud nine”.

"We were so happy, so brimming with love and positivity from this beautiful evening that we'd had,” she said. “And I really believe that that carried us through."

Who is Suleika Jaouad?

Jaouad is an American writer who was born in New York City in 1988 to a Tunisian father and Swiss mother. Her name is Arabic, meaning “brilliant beauty”, and she displays her Arabic roots proudly, including in her social media handles.

At the age of 22 she was diagnosed with leukemia and given a 35 per cent chance of long-term survival. In the years since, she has used her diagnosis and health experiences to publish a book and become a public speaker. She has chronicled her experiences as a young adult with cancer in her Emmy-winning New York Times column, Life, Interrupted. She also published a memoir, Between Two Kingdoms, in 2021.

Jaouad met Batiste in 2014, and while the pair have kept much of their relationship private, Batiste has spoken of how she has influenced his music. In an interview with People last year, the singer revealed how his track, Show Me The Way, from his now Grammy-winning album We Are, detailed the couple’s love story.

"It speaks to a lot of me growing up and also our relationship," Batiste said. "It's a beautiful thing to have that piece of our relationship sliced off into the album."

Batiste’s Grammys success

Jon Batiste with his Grammys. Reuters

Batiste won five Grammy awards at Sunday’s ceremony, including Album of the Year, the biggest award of the night.

During interviews in the press room after the ceremony, he spoke of the “duality” of the moment, given his wife’s second cancer diagnosis.

"It puts it in perspective. Life has ups and downs. And sometimes the ups and downs occur at the same time," he said. "And when you have that happening, it really lets you know by shaking your consciousness and saying, 'Be present. Be here.' So what's going on back home and what's happening today are both in their proper place for me."

Updated: April 04, 2022, 10:26 AM