Valentine’s Day stories: Southwest couples share how they met

Robin and Jimmy Slonina

Although Robin and Jimmy Slonina were both born in Chicago and were involved in the arts scene there, they didn’t meet until they were in Las Vegas. A mutual friend from Chicago contacted Jimmy and asked him if he could get Robin and her mother tickets to see Le Reve, which he was performing in.

On that night, the lead character of the show was out with an injury, so Jimmy played the role. It was Robin’s first time seeing him after hearing rave reviews from her friend who was trying to hook them up.

“I saw him was onstage at Le Reve and it’s a water show, so he was wearing these red shorts that were all wet so I could really see his butt,” she said. “That was my first impression. I was like, ‘Ooh, he’s really talented and he’s got a nice ass.’”

After the show, Robin and her mother met up with Jimmy and his friend (the injured lead character, Wayne Wilson) to get cocktails at the hotel.

“I got to get the meeting the mom out of the way right away,” Jimmy joked.

Afterward, Robin and Jimmy went dancing at a club, then went to the Peppermill for breakfast at dawn.

The following day, Jimmy invited Robin and her mother to a show. Within a few weeks they were inseparable, and Robin decided to stay in Las Vegas after Jimmy invited her to paint a mural in his kitchen.

“I really felt the potential of the relationship right away,” Robin said. “I would say about three weeks in was when I was surprised at my own feelings and how strong they were.”

Robin, 45, is the owner and creative director of Skin City Body painting and a producer and judge on the GSN body-art television series Skin Wars. Jimmy, an entertainer, plays a clown in Cirque du Soleil’s Mystere show. He also toured with pop singer Pink.

While they were dating, the couple went to Chicago after Jimmy’s father passed away to clean out his family’s home and to move his mother into a nursing home.

“The day was very unglamorous because we were up to our elbows cleaning a dirty house,” Robin said.

After picking up a pizza at his favorite pizzeria, Palermo’s, Jimmy brought her to Marquette Park in southwest Chicago for a picnic.

“All of a sudden there’s, like, a violin player, and he’s on one knee, so it was pretty shocking,” Robin said.

Jimmy proposed to her and gave her a vintage ring with a ruby.

The couple had what they called a “fun, low-stress wedding” in September 2007 at Tule Springs. The circus-themed wedding featured a bounce house, barbecue food, a snake charmer and a child in a lion costume who passed out popcorn.

“It was half wedding, half show,” Robin joked.

The couple have a 7-year-old son, Leo, and will mark a decade of marriage in September. They said they plan to renew their vows at the weirdest Las Vegas chapel they can find.

Amanda and Joel Zela

Joel and Amanda Zela could have met on several occasions, going back to middle school.

When they were younger, they lived a couple of miles from each other in Green Valley and attended the same recreation center. Amanda’s mother was Joel’s bus driver when he was in middle school. They went to different schools.

And they had the same tattoo artist, whose girlfriend worked at the salon where Amanda was an assistant hairstylist.

When Joel started going to the salon about five years ago, the two finally met. Amanda’s friend would cut his hair, and Amanda shampooed it.

“I would try to talk to him,” Amanda said. “I always thought he was attractive, and then he just wasn’t picking up on anything.” She has been a hairstylist for six years and works at Glo Salon in the Summerlin area now.

Amanda, 26, said she used to get dressed up and drive to work on her off days so she could shampoo his blond locks, but he didn’t notice until their tattoo artist told him about her interest.

“I’m oblivious to everything,” said Joel, 32. “I never even really talked to my stylist that much, so when my tattoo artist told me one day, he was like, ‘Yeah, bonehead.’ Then it clicked.”

“She was really friendly, and I thought she was attractive,” he added. Joel, who often goes by the name Shake, owns hip-hop website 2dopeboyz.com.

“So attractive that the first time I ever saw him, he started following me on Instagram like the second he walked out the door,” Amanda joked. “Thank God for social media, sometimes.”

Once Joel got the hint, he asked Amanda on a date. He recalls her being nervous.

“She barely ate anything at all,” he said. “Now when we go to sushi and it’s all you can eat, the table is flooded with rolls. So I always think back to that. I could see her inner self just screaming.”

Although Amanda was excited that Joel finally noticed her and they went on a few dates, Joel had to work to keep her attention.

“Courting her was different,” he said. “Just trying to get established as a couple, oh boy …”

However, their relationship grew quickly over the next six months, which surprised them both.

“It was really instant, actually, when we just started being around each other,” Joel said.

They don’t claim an official day that they started dating. Amanda moved in after he bought her a dresser because she stayed at his house often. And she met his mother at a Super Bowl party before he was able to introduce her to his family.

However, Joel made sure to plan out his proposal to meet Amanda’s standards on Christmas Eve of 2015.

Dogs are important in their family, so Joel included their pitbull boxer, Champion; a Yorkie, Bear; a Shih Tzu, Fiona; and a Chinese crested dog, Tsuki, in the proposal. Each wore heart-shaped dog tag featuring a single word; together, they read, “Will You Marry Me?”

When Amanda had arrived home from getting a tattoo, she’d known something was up because the dogs weren’t barking.

Their wedding was as nontraditional as their relationship, according to the couple. The special day was Dec. 10, 2016. After getting fed up with the stress of wedding planning, they decided to marry in Joel’s grandparents’ backyard.

After they were announced husband and wife, the DJ played the instrumental version of “International Player’s Anthem (I Choose You)” by UGK (Underground Kings).

“Which is just so perfect,” Amanda said. “It was just like a house party. Someone was just getting married at it.”

This is their first Valentine’s Day as a married couple. They plan to have children soon.

“I think we’ll be very happy, like we are now, even when we’re old,” Amanda said, adding, “We try to make the most of life and just enjoy it.”

To reach View intern reporter Kailyn Brown, call 702-387-5233 or email kbrown@viewnews.com. Follow her on Twitter:@KailynHype.

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