They finish each other’s sentences, look at each other with admiration and have cellphones filled with dozens of photos of their children. Jessica and Ben Mulroney may have been married for almost seven years, but they are still just as in love as if they got hitched yesterday.
Whether it’s watching movies with their twin boys Brian and John, dressing up their one-and-half-year-old daughter Ivy, doing Red Carpet interviews or hosting a massive show at Kleinfeld, the couple seamlessly manages to do it all.
They share some of their special moments with our readers this month and tell us why they think that romance should be present all-year-long instead of just on Valentine’s Day.
HANNAH YAKOBI: Since you are on the cover of The Love Issue, let’s begin by talking about love. Ben – when did you realize that you were in love with Jessica?
BEN MULRONEY: It was after our first dinner date. I was subconsciously weighing everything and then it just came to me. I always thought that she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen but we never had a chance to spend time together.
I was so nervous before our date: what if we don’t have anything to say to each other, what if the past 10 years of my life blow up in smoke and we sit there with nothing in common? But then I learnt very quickly that she had everything that I loved.
She is genuine and has love for her family. She carries herself with grace, she is honest and a hard worker. I knew then and there that I was going to marry her. I had to wait a few months to ask her to marry me though.
Where did you go on your first date?
BEN: It was in Montréal, at a sushi restaurant. Best sushi restaurant and karaoke, but I can’t remember the name! It was very industrial. After dinner, we did karaoke and, as Jess points out, I did karaoke and not her. I sang New York, New York. That is my best song. But yes, Jess was embarrassed even though no one was around. I do remember what I sang and I would knock your socks off.
Jessica, do you remember what you wore when Ben proposed?
JESSICA MULRONEY: Yes! We were in Montréal and we were only together for eight months. Although we’ve known each other since we were younger, I think I was 14 when I met him and he was 17. But after we started dating many years later, he would come back from Florida and come to see me in Montréal.
So it was the 28th of December, freezing cold as it always is, and we were at my apartment which is super close to our families’ houses and super close to this diner where we used to go growing up. It’s called Chez Nick. We were in huge coats, jeans, probably big boots too. We walked over to the diner in some kind of a snow storm. I remember being completely shocked: I had like a mouth full of salad when Ben proposed, because he was so nervous. We were sitting and I took a bite of food, and he just got down on one knee.
I remember just running out and running two blocks to my parents’ house! I was so excited. It was really fun and a very intimate time.
How did you choose the ring?
BEN: I went through consultation with the best person I know: my Mom. I asked her to help me get the ring and we chose it together.
And how did you choose the wedding dress?
JESSICA: How did I choose my wedding dress? Oh my goodness, well funnily enough, when I was getting married I wasn’t a crazy bride ― I was pretty relaxed, very excited to get married to Ben and excited about the whole process. I hadn’t dreamt about my wedding or dress my whole life as it really wasn’t my thing. So when I went to choose it, I went with my mother, without a big entourage and went to one store in Montréal. I looked at a couple of dresses, found one that I liked, tried it on and ended up getting the first dress.
Do you remember the designer is was by?
JESSICA: Prenovias, and it was beautiful. I didn’t want anything over the top. I’m a pretty casual person: I like to get occasionally dressed up, but I am more of a jeans, T-shirt and a pair of heels kind of girl. And that communicated through the dress, I was very happy to find it and not think about it again.
I wanted something that didn’t look too bridal; nothing over the top or too princess-like. It was a sheer, beaded gown, with lace, that had a bit of a Great Gatsby look.
Now that you work at Kleinfeld and are surrounded by hundreds of dresses on a daily basis, are you ever tempted to try them on?
JESSICA: Never, I haven’t ever. I feel like it’s a slippery slope, but I definitely think that one day Ben will show up at the house and I’m going to be in a wedding dress ― it’s going to happen! (laughs)
There are so many dresses and designers that I’m crazy about here, like Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta, so many that I look up to in fashion. But I think that it’s something much more enjoyable to help others with than search for yourself. It can be so nerve-wrecking for others, so the best part for me is to be able to help and inspire brides, and bring them what they are looking for.
What do you enjoy most about Red Carpet interviews, Ben?
BEN: I love talking to people who are good at what they do, who are at the height of success in their career. How did they get there and what makes them tick? I love talking to people on the best day of their lives. And if they win an Oscar, that’s amazing.
You’ve travelled quite a bit this season. What has been the most interesting interview so far?
BEN: The Golden Globe interviews are always great, and we have incredible positioning on the carpet.
There’s a level of informality on that carpet, people are just having fun and even though they know that winning a Globe can change a lot in their career, the casual aspects and the high stakes create a great dynamic on the carpet.
Let’s speak a bit about your personal fashion sense — for most people, there is always one moment in life at which we look back with a chuckle. What stands out for you?
JESSICA: I always loved to shop, and I definitely had a phase where it was like a skater girl kind of look: a bit tomboyish, with baggy jeans, little T-shirts and lots of piercings, which are now back in style! Fashion is cyclical, it always comes back. I should have kept those small T-shirts.
Even the 90s werent’ very good to me. Sometimes I look back at things even eight years ago, and think: “What was I doing with my hair and make-up?” We are always judgmental of ourselves, so I look back and laugh at it.
BEN: For me, I think when I was eight I had a rat tail, I don’t know why, kids had them and I had one! (laughs) And a kid just snipped it off, I turned around and he said: “You will thank me one day.”
Then, I used to have a brown leather briefcase that I used to carry around with me. Other than that, about 10 years ago, when low-rise flare bottom pants came back, I wore those for a bit. Bad idea. And the pointy shoes that looked like you got them from Harry Potter’s house. (laughs) They wreaked havoc on my back and they looked like wizard shoes. They were terrible. The stylist would hand them to me and I wore them on Canadian Idol — never again. My stylist now knows to dress me as classically as it gets.
What about current fashion brands that are your favourite?
BEN: I like a lot of sweaters from J.Crew, Hugo Boss for shirts. Garrison Bespoke also made me a tremendous suit and a sports coat. I’m lucky that’s not a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination.
Oh and Stubs and Wootton: they are from Palm Beach and make amazing shoes, like dinner slippers. People always notice them on the Red Carpet. If you check them out on Instagram, they’re phenomenal.
Jessica, let’s chat a bit about Browns. Is it true that your family owns the business?
JESSICA: My great grandfather started the business and then it was handed over to my cousins. For some reason, a lot of the past press says that we handle it but it’s bad fact-checking on their end — I did work for them at one point and it’s a great family business but not directly related to us. The business initially started in manufacturing lingerie, pyjamas and nightwear, which even followed through later on with my sister and we started our own distribution of lingerie. It was definitely a great inspiration but my family was never directly involved in the business. People just read information and then they just recycle it but a lot of it isn’t true, so I’m glad you asked!
You have been working in the fashion industry for many years. Could you tell me a bit more about that?
JESSICA: I started out with a lingerie distribution business with my sister, but before that I designed my own line of lingerie and then I worked as a consultant for different brands like Birks. Now, I am with Kleinfeld, so I have been immersed in the industry on different platforms, which has been very interesting and fun from business and design perspectives. For example, the distribution business taught me all about retail and I also learnt about small and big businesses along the way.
Speaking of fashion, is there something in your closet that is very dear to your heart?
JESSICA: I got these diamond studs from Ben’s parents when we got married, and I wear them every day. And my Mom got me pearl earrings that I wear; they are my go-to and are very meaningful.
Any clothing isn’t really meaningful to me, I mean there’s nothing in my closet that was passed down, so I don’t think I can address that meaning to clothing. But Ben got me a yellow, pink and white gold ring for our fifth anniversary, and inscribed in the back the birthdays of our children. It’s very meaningful to me.
BEN: For me, I have a picture in my closet where I am a newborn and being held by my grandfather. It’s a black-and-white photo that was taken almost 39 years ago with my Mom’s father. He was a psychiatrist at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montréal. He was a wonderful, intelligent, funny guy. I miss him a lot.
Another thing that I have is my Dad’s father’s watch. I never met him and my Dad gave me his watch that he earned after 35 years of service at the Quebec North Shore Paper Company. That is my most prized possession besides my wedding ring.
Now that you have your own children, how do you manage to juggle everything between work and kids?
JESSICA: I really think that it is crazy, there really aren’t enough hours in the day! I actually get mad when I have to go to sleep because I want to do more, so when it’s time to go to bed, it actually angers me now! (laughs) Not that I do not love sleep, but I always have the need to do more. I try hard to balance work and my children.
Obviously, when you are a working mother, you can’t do everything that a stay-at-home Mom can do, and there are times when you feel a little disappointed that you can’t do it all. But you need to be able to manage your time properly, know what the important things are, and the values you want to communicate to your children. And know the times to be with them.
BEN: We have help, which is important since we both work full-time. I think there’s nothing wrong with that and everyone needs help: it’s either family or friends, or someone you bring into your home who you trust. It’s the time you put into with your kids that matters. There are plenty of parents who are with their kids all the time and don’t communicate. The amount of time that we do spend together is great and we love it.
So who dresses the kids?
JESSICA: I do for sure, I micromanage that a bit and I’m a bit crazy with their outfits. And then, you know, with my daughter now, that’s even crazier. She is a year and half.
The boys are four. They are fraternal twins and I dress them the same, so people can’t tell them apart. But it’s so cute! So far the boys really accept the clothes I choose, but they are starting to have opinions and really become obsessed with superheroes, just like their father. Ben is still obsessed with superheroes. I mean, all they want to talk about is Spiderman and Batman. (laughs)
I heard they have capes?
BEN: Jess got them online — they are superhero capes. Jess is an expert in finding weird things online. They have their names on their backs, so they are individualized.
Tell me a bit more about your children.
BEN: The ‘entertainment factor’ in them is purely me: they love their comic books and superheroes as much as their Dad does. And they love to snuggle with us. They have a lot of patience. Ivy is a bit more all over the place, so a lot of the time we will say: “Let’s go watch a movie!” I will run upstairs with the boys and choose a superhero movie, while she will come in a bit later and realize that and say, “I’ll see you in an hour.”
The boys are very picky eaters like I was, I think they took it from me. Ivy eats anything, so she’s a bit healthier. They are very funny and they surprise me all the time. I see a bit of Jess in Ivy and I think with the boys you can see similarity with me.
Since you were friends before you started dating, what is it like to now be married to someone who is your lover and your friend? And what is it like to work together?
JESSICA: We do a lot of work and production together. We also work with pitching ideas to television. We are so creative and passionate together, and love bouncing ideas off of each other.
I think of him fondly, I think of him as my best friend and I’ve never had that before in a relationship. Maybe that was the missing key.
I heard that you both like cooking?
BEN: I make chili and ribs. I like making comfort food, spaghetti Bolognese, BBQ. I’m not so good with delicate foods, I’ve sliced my fingers up a couple of times and even gone to the hospital.
The first time Jess came to Toronto to visit, I was making my Bolognese and chopping to impress her with my skills, and I ended up slicing off the tip of my finger and had to go to emergency room! (laughs) Anyway, so I’m not so good with the delicate stuff, I can only rough chop!
What do you normally do for Valentine’s Day?
JESSICA: Ben is really romantic. He is really good at planning things but, that said, both of us agree that Valentine’s Day is not really necessary for us. We enjoy staying at home and making our favourite meal, or we sometimes even celebrate with friends.
He is romantic with me almost every day of the year so it doesn’t take Valentine’s Day for him to do something special.
Last year, I made him his favourite meal, we ate and we included the kids in it, it’s really great for them. He loves filet mignon, with green beans, a special salad with lettuce and a specific dressing, and some kind of dessert.
Going back to your earlier question, I love cooking too, I wish I had more time to cook. And 2015 is my year to get back into the kitchen and really get back into it. I think that eating as a family is really important, and I want to be able to connect with our kids. It’s always really important to discuss not only what we are eating but how was our day, its highlights and what we all learned. It’s a very important time for us.
FAJO would like to thank Kleinfeld for providing the location for this photoshoot.
Special thanks to Ada Yakobi for editorial coordination.