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Zayn Malik, Selena Gomez and Millennial Hollywood's Three Dating Clusters

By Alberto Cox Délano | Celebrity | March 31, 2023 |

By Alberto Cox Délano | Celebrity | March 31, 2023 |


Each class at my school was divided into two sections, A and B, which is the way most schools are organized in Chile when they are big enough. In some cases, the section letters go all the way to M, but since my school was small enough, an interesting phenomenon took place: The students from the “A” classes would end up hanging out together, year after year, creating these large clusters of friends across four generations, give or take. Those were usually the cool kids. And they dated within their cluster, they went to college within their clusters and they became roommates within their cluster. Some, I think, have already had kids. Well, it turns out Hollywood, or at least Millennial Hollywood, is the same exact thing.

Selena Gomez and Zayn Malik are dating, news that is not surprising now and would’ve been even less surprising in 2013 when the header picture was taken (save for the fact that Selena is at a great moment in her personal and professional life, so why would she want to invest into that mess … but hey, she also wasted a decade on Justin Bieber). Zayn Malik, as you might recall, was the longtime partner and is the baby daddy of Selena’s friend Gigi Hadid (who has been pretty sensible about the news), who is also the sister of Bella Hadid, who dated The Weeknd, on-and-off, for several years before he dated Selena Gomez.

This is one of many closed loops among a certain subsection of the most famous Hollywood Millennials, like a game of six degrees from, but there’s only one degree and no Kevin Bacon. Which is funny considering these people, popular and attractive as they are, seem to be dating in a smaller pool than the hot folks in a tiny rural town. These are people who move constantly between LA, NYC, Atlanta, and, sometimes, London. Even if you narrow their Metro populations down to very attractive, well-off and well-connected people, you’d still have hundreds of thousands of people available to date. Well, through a very unsystematic analysis of systems, I’ve come to the conclusion that these people haven’t dated beyond a few clusters and hubs, no more than a few dozen strong.

The “clusters” are groups of people that share a similar profession or a similar way in which they became famous. These include The Billboard Top 40, The Victoria’s Secret Runway Show, and The Nepo Babies. The “hubs” refer to people that serve as connectors between the clusters, either by friendship or romantic relationships, whether they also are part of a cluster or not.

And let me be clear, I am not slut-shaming these people because of how many people they have dated, absolutely not! All I want is for these people to actually diversify their dating pools. I’m not saying they should do something crazy and start dating civilians, or worse, influencers. But they have everything going for them to date people outside those LA-NYC-ATL-London scenes … like Paris for example. Or Chicago. There’s a whole world of hot and cool people to meet! Diversify your portfolio! Just start with the third row of a Coachella lineup! (OK, I guess I am being a judgy bitch about their dating overlaps)

Cluster One: The Billboard Top 40.
People in the same line of work will tend to date in the same line of work. But with people in the Mainstream Music Industry, the very top 40 of the top 200, the feedback loop is tuned like one of those enclosed Swiss clocks that are almost perpetual motion machines because this is an industry that pretty much only chooses attractive people that must exude on-screen and on-stage charisma. When you put these people together in the same rooms, it’s almost predictable that at some point two will have enough chemistry and will start dating. I guess sometimes it will be because they both actually love their craft and deeply admire each other as an artist. Whatever the case, it’s a plus for their publicity teams.

Few of the most popular artists today have ended up with civilians or not super-famous people, like Ed Sheeran, Post Malone or Bruno Mars, plus I think a few of the other guys from One Direction not named Harry Styles (a regular of the Victoria’s Secret Runway Show Cluster) or Zayn.

As for the others, here are some of the loops:

— The Weeknd dated Selena so hard that he wrote an entire middling EP about her. There has also been long-time speculation that he and Ariana Grande had an affair, but that sounds more like just drummed up publicity for their collaborations. But the most significant one has been Bella Hadid, also from Victoria’s Secret…

— Selena Gomez, for her part, was linked to Nick Jonas during their Disney years (probably they actually liked each other, and probably it was in their contracts). She also dated, apparently, one of the other guys from One Direction, Charlie Puth (who’s apparently been a real Putz about their history) and most recently a Chainsmoker… one of the guys from the EDM duo The Chainsmokers that is. Only from her long-time relationship with Bieber she can close several loops

— But no one has had a more legendary list of conquests like Rihanna, who after freeing herself from the unmentionable one, dated Drake (who has never recovered from being passed over), Travis Scott and, finally, started a family with A$AP Rocky. A$AP Rocky has dated one of the Kardashian-Jenner sisters before, while Travis Scott is, famously, very bad at providing minimal crowd safety in his concerts. But also, he’s the baby daddy of another of the Kardashian-Jenner Sisters, both rappers closing the loop on the Nepo Baby Cluster.

But what about Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, you say? Well, Taylor Swift has a more diversified dating portfolio, and she seems to prefer actors.

But Justin Bieber? Justin Bieber is the ATL of inter-celebrity dating hubs, because he’s been around all of these clusters, probably with some overlap: He’s dated at least three Nepo Babies, including a Kardashian, Nicole Richie’s younger sister and the wife of Brooklyn Beckham. He also had flings with several Victoria’s Secret models, including an hilarious one with Miranda Kerr, which lead to fisticuffs with her ex-husband Orlando Bloom, who would then have his revenge teaming up with Selena Gomez. He’s now married to another nepo baby, whose relationship with Selena Gomez has made tabloids crazy because they’ve proven you can be civil and even friends with your ex’s new significant other.

Cluster Two: The Victoria’s Secret Runway Show.

Leo can’t with them all. He’s certainly tried, but there are only so many hours in a day, and by the time he moves from one VS model to another, some might end up turning 26!

The number of famous singers that have dated VS’s models and vice versa is staggering, probably because the minute a model is recruited by them (the premium vendors of female lingerie for the teenage male gaze), they will be approached by the agents of dozens of famous singers trying to set them up on a date. Because if famous male singers have one thing in common, is that they are Basic AF, don’t expect them to understand that VS’s designs are only good when they’re plagiarizing other independent brands, or that Etam is superior. They just want the caché that comes with saying “I’m dating a Victoria’s Secret Model”… or the cover that dating a VS model provides regarding “certain” questions.

Now that VS it’s on its way out (dying from a severe case of other lingerie brands being better and providing a size range beyond impossible and famished), perhaps up-and-coming, male cishet (and not so het) music artists will realize there is a whole world in lingerie beyond crappy fabrics and Michael Bay-directed ads… oh, wait, right, VS was never about selling lingerie, it was about selling impossible body standards. That’s why they have been such an integral part of the celebrity ecosystem, for over two decades now: Commodifying lifestyle aspirations. And perhaps that’s why they made such a dynamic publicity synergy with Top 40 artists, it was all about promoting middling products.

There is some overlap between this cluster and the Nepo Babies cluster, with the Hadid sisters and Kendall or Kylie Jenner, whichever of the two, representing Nepo Babies. The latter has also dated Harry Styles (him again), Nick Jonas and, currently, Bad Bunny, newest addition to the Top 40 cluster.

There are also the NBA players they have dated, but that’s a cluster that is always renewing itself. These clusters, in particular, have remain stable since 2011.

This also happens to be the one cluster where there is some Queer diversity… Open Queer Diversity that is, in Cara Delevigne, who has also been linked to Harry Styles, but also St. Vincent, Ashley Benson and Michelle Rodríguez, so she is also dating from a much more diverse dating pool in terms of industries… and music quality.

The Nepo Babies.

This is perhaps more a sign of the deeply unequal times we live in, in which the mediocre children of wealthy people, blessed by genetics and/or surgery, take up way too much space in every industry, more so in the kind of industries that rely on social events. We’ve already mentioned the Hadids, Cara Delevigne and Kardashian-Jenners, but there’s also Hailey Baldwin, who dated Shawn Mendes before marrying Bieber … so she went from Bieber’s replacement to the real thing. Then there is the other Richie sister, Sofia Richie, that as mentioned previously, dated Bieber, but also closed many interNepo loops by dating Jaden Smith, Brooklyn Beckham and one of the exes and baby daddies of one the Kardashian-Jenners. So it’s basically a more organic and modern-day-dating way of the classical marriage arrangements between wealthy families. Perhaps the luckiest SOB of the Nepo Baby dating cluster is Anwar Hadid, brother of the Hadid sisters, who dated Dua Lipa during the Pandemic, even though there’s no clarity as to what he actually does. Meanwhile, Dua Lipa might be the stalwart as to how to diversify your dating, being linked to chef Isaac Carew, Trevor Noah and Athena director Romain Gavras. Get’em girl.

But what about actors (as in, popular mainstream actors)? Well, that’s when the dating clusters begin to spread out. Perhaps it’s because, unlike models, singers, and nepo babies, they are always working with different sets of people (or combinations thereof if you work for the MCU), so their dating pools are wider and more complicated. Or maybe it’s because there is less overlap between the industries that you might think. Or maybe it’s because they believe dating models and singers is too much of a Leo thing to do.

Or perhaps, since they are all partly theater kids, an endogamic group of people if there has ever been one, they are already even more closed-off than these folks above.

Alberto Cox made a lackluster use of the Greatest Dating Pool any person will ever experience: University.