COVID-19 may have changed life as we know it, but in the case of one couple—a journalist and emergency room doctor—the virus also proved that love conquers all. Imagine moving across the country in the midst of a global pandemic when your fiancé is stationed in Los Angeles on the frontlines of a global pandemic. That chilling scenario became an unlikely reality for journalist Phillip Picardi and his doctor and ABC News Medical Contributor beau, Dr. Darien Sutton. And, believe it or not, it’s all thanks to the dating app Hinge.
Phillip Picardi knew he would marry Darien Sutton on their first date.
Picardi, former Editor-in-Chief of Out, former chief content officer at Teen Vogue and founder of Condé Nast’s LGBTQ-focused publication Them, was preparing to start a column about giving up men for six months on January 1—until he matched with Sutton on December 28.
“I had a feeling we should meet—just in case—so I sort of demanded we get together that evening at a wine bar,” he says, noting that it was both of their first times going on a Hinge date. “When I walked in, he was truly the most beautiful man I’d ever seen. Then he told me he was an ER doctor getting a business degree—I could practically feel my Italian mother screaming with glee. I knew that night I was going to eventually marry him.”
First comes the ring, of course. Keep reading for more details on the diamond Tiffany & Co. diamond ring and Phillip Picardi and Darien Sutton’s romance, in and out of lockdown.
What’s it been like living in L.A. during the pandemic?
Darien Sutton: We arrived right as L.A. began its second shelter-in-place order, so as a physician, it was a challenging time to begin a new job. I’ve been really relieved to see the vaccine effort unfold both locally and nationally, and I’m excited to get a chance to really enjoy all that L.A. has to offer quite soon.
Phillip Picardi: We moved to Manhattan Beach to be close to the hospital, which is such a jarring change of pace and scenery compared to Downtown Brooklyn. It was nice to slow down a lot and reflect and just sort of go on an internal journey during this past year, but I’m also eager to explore L.A. in all its glory.
How has life changed for you since 2020?
DS: This was my second year as an attending physician, and I fought the coronavirus pandemic in emergency rooms in Queens and Los Angeles, two of the hardest hit areas in America. It was a lot, and there are many really hard memories from this past year, but I’m so grateful that the vaccine and the science came through, and I’m still so moved by the many people who showed solidarity with frontline workers day after day.
PP: This was supposed to be my first year without a full-time job, so I was imagining lots of traveling, exploring and soul searching. While I didn’t do much of the first two things, I definitely did the third. The entire year was just a major inflection point for me, and I do feel like I learned a lot about what I want next, which is why I’m really excited about starting at Harvard Divinity School in the fall to get my master’s in religion.
What do you do to relax and unwind as a couple?
DS: We watch a lot of reality television and order a lot of takeout.
PP: Love Island marathons are probably our most recent bonding experience. (Watch Love Island UK Season Three! I love Camilla!)
What was your first impression of each other?
DS: Phil’s pictures showed him with wavy, coiffed black hair. When he walked in, it was bleached and gray.
PP: I had just gone through a breakup! But truly, the hair was terrifyingly awful. My first impression was that he was beautiful but also wearing cargo pants.
How did the proposal go down?
DS: I was so nervous about proposing that one night in bed, while we were laying together, I just popped the question. Phillip initially thought I was playing a joke on him, so he rolled over and tried to fall asleep. I had to shake him awake to tell him I was being serious.
PP: It was not a grand gesture—it was true to us. We are both big personalities but we don’t make much of a fuss.
Who chose the ring?
DS: Well, there was a ring before this one that was the proposal ring, by jewelry designer Monique Pean. But after we had to delay the wedding due to COVID-19, we both kinda got tired and a little bit antsy. So on Christmas Eve last year, we just took a trip to Tiffany’s and each picked out a ring that we liked and bought it for one another.
What’s the significance of the new ring?
PP: I just liked that it didn’t feel like a classically masculine ring. I wanted a band, but I also wanted a bit of bling and I didn’t want it to be a traditional diamond ring. This had the best of both worlds. Darien wears a simple rose gold band—he wanted something classic and understanded that complimented his skin tone.
What do you love most about the ring?
DS: It is always shining and sparkling like it’s just been cleaned. It’s really beautiful.
PP: Yeah, and I think it’s a nice bit of a statement without feeling ostentatious.
Why did you decide to choose a natural vs. lab-grown diamond?
PP: My friend Cleo [Wade] told me about how Tiffany’s only sources ethical diamonds, and how important that was to her for her own ring. I have always been a fan of Tiffany because it truly is timeless, so it was really nice to have that extra comfort when selecting a piece that I’d wear forever. There’s just something important about feeling extra good when wearing a real diamond ring.
Phillip, tell us about the diamond tattoo on your wrist. Is there a backstory there?
PP: My grandmother came to Boston from Italy when she was a young girl, and she’d meet a young Italian boy who worked in a donut factory who kept telling her he’d be her husband one day. He ended up being right. His mother was rather frail and only spoke Italian, which made getting around in the city pretty hard for her, and also made her social interactions fairly lonely. (Back then, right after World War II, a lot of Italian immigrants didn’t want to speak their language but rather, they wanted their kids to assimilate and “sound American.”) My grandma made a point to really embrace her mother-in-law and develop a relationship with her that defied all stereotypes. They even had a special knock for each other at the door to let them know it was safe to answer. They fussed over my grandfather together. And of course, they did their shopping together.
Well, one day, my grandmother and great grandmother went to the grocery store when my very elderly great grandma picked up a rhinestone off the floor. She pressed it into my grandma’s palm and said, “I found a diamond!” My grandmother thought she was crazy—what would a loose, multi-carat diamond be doing on the floor of a grocery store in East Boston?
Later that night, when my grandmother was recounting the story to my grandfather, he asked to see the stone. “Elena,” he said. “I think my mother is right.” Sure enough, they went to the local jeweler and he confirmed the diamond’s authenticity. My great grandmother was beaming triumphantly.
She grabbed my grandma’s hands, held them, looked her in the eyes and said in perfect English, “In life, may you always find diamonds.” It was a phrase my grandma said to me often.
After my grandma passed away, I got the diamond tattooed on my wrist so I could always remember her and the truly otherworldly blessings that come from the most unlikely circumstances. Much like my engagement ring, it reminds me to always believe that love is the closest thing to magic any of us can ever experience.