Aryn Drake-Lee speaks about her divorce from Jesse Williams: ‘I was falling’

The woman on the right in the above Instagram is Aryn Drake-Lee, best known (to me) as Jesse Williams’ ex-wife, the same ex-wife he dumped after 13-14 years together as soon as Minka Kelly came around. Jesse left Aryn in 2017, and that set off more than a year of legal drama as Aryn wanted #AllTheChildSupport. You see, Aryn supported Jesse when he was a struggling actor, then he was the breadwinner while she was a stay-at-home mom to their two young children. He actually dumped Aryn when their youngest child was only one year old. The court ordered Jesse to pay Aryn $100K A MONTH in child support and alimony, and Jesse is – I think? – still appealing that. I’ll admit that I tapped out of this story late last summer. It just felt like sh-t was too messy to even keep up with it.

Anyway, throughout the messiness, Aryn has remained pretty dignified. She’s not tweeting about him or making shady comments regularly in the press, although she’s definitely been behind a handful of “this is Aryn’s side of the story” articles over the course of the past few years. But now she’s going to have a public voice: she and her friend Trian Long-Smith have started a new podcast called BBS ARE TRASH (babies are trash), all about motherhood, children, being single, that kind of thing. To promote the pod, Aryn sat down for a lengthy interview with People Mag. You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:

What she’s learned about modern womanity today: “I think a lot of women are still in the place where we’re pretending like we can do everything. And it’s not realistic, and it’s not holistic, and it’s not sustainable. I want to empower women to find their voice, to take the mask off so that they can really find the connection and the community that they’re seeking.”

Why the pod name of “Babies Are Trash”: “It’s tongue in cheek in that when you are in the hard moments, that’s when you learn and that’s when you grow. We’re not over here trying to pretend like everything is cool and cookies and rainbows. That’s not at all what time it is.”

Where she was when Jesse filed for divorce: “When the divorce process started I had two nursing babies, and I am the one that ran our household for the 14 and a half years that he and I were together in the same house. And for our children, and for the creation of the businesses that we built together when I left my career in New York for us to move to California to pursue his, and then as a result built it…I knew, as the one that was really holding it all together, that I didn’t have a lot of room to fall, even though I was falling.”

A lot of their friends abandoned her: “I was in a place where I needed the support that was going to help to ground me. Most everybody I had spent the eight years here in LA with all went with him. It was a blessing in disguise because it was a real slap in the face to see who was around us and why, and at that point it became very clear. And it cleared a pathway for me to make a shift and get back onto a path that was more in alignment with how I wanted to live my life.”

She never really liked the Hollywood vibes: “Hollywood and I bump heads. It was never my value system, and it was never something that I was striving for. It never felt comfortable for me because of how superficial it was. And then that all became abundantly clear when everybody went left.”

On the tabloid reporting around her divorce: “Much of what they say is wrong. But I’m not interested in a tit-for-tat, because that’s just never ending. People believe what they want to believe because it’s easy.”

[From People]

I find it really inspirational that Aryn understood what she had done for Jesse and the value of their life together, and how she ran the house and raised their babies and she had stood by him for 14 years. She knew the value of all that. And she knew that after all that, he left her for someone he was just in-lust with. That thing with Minka barely lasted – his divorce drama lasted longer than whatever he had with Minka, and since Minka, he’s dated several (many?) other women. He just didn’t want to be married anymore, so he blew up his old life and thought he could just walk away without having to fully support Aryn and their kids. I’m glad Aryn fought for what she’s worth and then some. She absolutely deserves it.

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60 Responses to “Aryn Drake-Lee speaks about her divorce from Jesse Williams: ‘I was falling’”

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  1. Reef says:

    I honestly thought this man was just feeling himself. Getting caught up in the HW lifestyle but would EVENTUALLY come to his senses and go back to his family. But his friend group suggests he’s gone and he’s trash. I wish her the best.

  2. perplexed says:

    Why did he start a family? Didn’t he marry when he was on Grey’s Anatomy? It seemed like there was enough time during the actual height of his career to get out of the relationship if marriage and kids was not what he wanted. Did be feel obligated. I suppose it wouldn’t have been right to leave her as it seems she was true to him (more than the other women he’s been with), but it seems way worse to leave her after she had kids! I’m confused by men sometimes.

    • Cas says:

      You’re confused because you aren’t selfish

    • Jess says:

      He probably couldn’t handle her attention being on the two young babies instead of 100% on him. I think a lot of men resent their children for taking their wives away in a sense, they don’t feel as important and their precious little egos can’t handle it so they leave. Or he just wanted to bang pretty Hollywood starlets instead of raising the family he helped create! Either way he’s a loser in my opinion.

      • Surly Gale says:

        OMG-this is exactly why my son’s Dad left…he even said so. Before the kid was 2. After a terrible birth experience. After a cesarean, hemorrhaging, 2nd surgery, terrible engorgement and pain. Did my best offering hand and mouth loving, but it was never enough. @Cas, I was so hurt and humiliated but never got it till your simple sentence: “You’re confused because you aren’t selfish”. 8 simple words (sorta) ease my mind, and heart, many years later…thank you!

    • Bella Bella says:

      You probably aren’t being led by a Little Perplexed.

  3. Jess says:

    Good riddance, she’s much better off without him. We saw his true colors with the Minka Kelly situation, I think it tainted his image a good bit. I also can’t believe he makes enough money to pay 100k a month?!? She deserves all the money!

    • CSNy says:

      It seems good, of course, for her, but it’s often a terrible decision when a partner is awarded that much spousal support from someone in a field like acting.

      Whatshisface may be making decent cash now (I guess? aren’t there like 400 actors on Grey’s Anatomy, how can they pay them all well), but he’s not guaranteed to make that for long. The mercurial nature of acting salaries don’t tend to be taken into account as much as they should for these decisions; this leads to Person X being ordered to pay $Z per month, then Person X eventually not being in the cushy job role, then Person X being unable to come up with the amount, then Person X and Person Y and small children ending up in a difficult legal situation.

      • Shiba says:

        It’s not a difficult legal situation. The parties go back to court and re-present evidence of their change in earnings.

  4. LaraK says:

    Minka Kelly is messy AF – she just has the worst taste in men. Or maybe she loves being the temp bang… Either way, it was obvious this wasn’t true love, just an excuse for a divorce.

  5. Wellsie says:

    She comes off as very smart, thoughtful and honest, right? I’ll listen to the podcast.

    • Christina says:

      She is a hero in my book. She’s a great example of class and decency, and I’m glad that the fame he pursued put her out there for young women to see the example of self worth she gives.

      He would have left or cheated eventually even if they had not gone to Hollywood. Men who don’t want to be faithful aren’t regardless of fame or finances.

  6. Original T.C. says:

    Good for her. I will love to see her exceed him in success. She sounds like the brains of the family and has an business experience from co-running their businesses.

    • courtney says:

      he is trash and she is a strong woman. good for her

    • Julieta says:

      She’s asking for more money now because she lost money on every single one of her business investments.

  7. Veronica S. says:

    Man, the farther we get away from the drama of the original incident, the more and more Jesse looks the fool. We really just raise men in this culture to have no sense of value for the women in their lives.

  8. Jen says:

    I think they both looked messy in this. I’m kind of not surprised she’s doing this because she got a lot of heat on many AA-centric blogs in February when she filed a petition for more money, part of his residuals and part of a bonus Disney paid him for Grey’s. He should absolutely be paying her but the general attitude was she was out for revenge when what she wanted was leaked. Not a fan of either of them.

    • Jb says:

      Really? She supported him and their children for over 14yrs while he tried to make an acting career, she left her job that paid all the bills and stability so he could have a shot in LA. When he got his part she went from breadwinner to caregiver 24/7 that allowed him to seek out opportunities that included parts, Disney deals etc. And you think she’s “messy” for wanting what she helped make possible???? This is the 1st time she’s publicly speaking out and she’s doing it to help promote a venture that she’s hoping that could lead to things that would benefit her and her children and you think she’s “messy”?? Good lord, I guess she should just accept whatever he throws her way and crawl into a hole…

      • Snowslow says:

        I don’t know these people so I may be asking a silly question: but no one forced her to be the “care-taker” I guess? She could have found herself a job and have those kiddies in nurseries and schools right? Single parents do it. So the story that she left her job to support him is a bit biased as it seems to have been her choice.

      • stephanie says:

        Yeah I think I sense some bitterness from her. It seems to have been a choice to walk away from her career to pursue a relationship with him. I suspect she knew she had to keep an eye on him and cater to him once they moved to Hollywood in order to hold onto him. She divested in her career when she walked away from it and invested in him and it did not pay off. This guy is a kept man like Eddie Cibirian.

        I’m curious as to her claim about the “businesses” they built together? I thought he was just an actor and she stayed home with kids.

        That being said I think she should get as much money as she can be awarded by the court. It’s a fair calculation by the court. She is the one raising the kids it sounds like.

      • Jen says:

        Not clear on who said “she should accept whatever he’s willing to throw at her” or “slink into the shadows” or “this is the same as women who support Chris Brown” (huh?) as mentioned below, but
        -He got the Greys job in 2009. Aryn stopped working that year and they got married in 2012.
        -As I said, he should absolutely be paying her-and he’s paying her $100k a month, 50/50 spousal and child support. Now she wants retroactive support in the form of almost a million dollars because they were split before the 100k was approved by a court.
        -She wants residuals from his Grey’s checks to continue to be split indefinitely on top of the spousal and child support.
        -She wants a piece of a bonus check he was given after they split.
        -She wants him to pay for three houses for her and the children.
        -She claims she has tried to make money since they split but isn’t able to. She’s invested in businesses that haven’t been successful and that was that.

        I get it. He left her for Hollywood and I would be heartbroken too. But this is about to trying to make him feel the pain she’s feeling at the expense of kids growing up with two parents who hate each other, so yeah, sometimes the desire for revenge can make you “messy.”

      • Julieta says:

        Where does this 14 years come from? They were friends who started dating in 2007, and she quit working in 2009 when he landed Greys Anatomy. He was a teacher who was also getting some small acting gigs for most of those 2 years too, so while she was making more money then it’s not like he was her dependent. He was working and doing ok for himself.

        She financially supported him using her savings for a few months after they moved to LA. After that, he was the breadwinner and she gave up work entirely to be a stay at home girlfriend (they didn’t have children til years later). He doesn’t owe her millions on top of spousal and child support because she paid the bills for a few months.

        She didn’t give up her career to be a care-giver. She gave up her career because her boyfriend of two years got a high paying job.

      • Goldie says:

        @Julietta where are you getting this idea that they started dating in 2007? Both Jesse and Aryn have stated that they were together for 13-14 years. Jesse stated that they were together for 13 years in an interview, and in this interview Aryn says 14 years. I think I will take their word.

    • LORENA says:

      Agree 1000% with Jen. There is a lot more to it that isnt mentioned here

    • Market Street Minifig says:

      After all he put her through, she would not be human to not want even a little bit of revenge. She didn’t blow up their lives—he did. And if she can secure the best possible safety net for their kids and herself while maintaining her dignity and self-respect, good for her.

      TBH I’m sick of all the unreasonable expectations being put on women. We are not long suffering doormats. We are entitled to our own emotions. We shouldn’t be ashamed to feel anger or seek what we are due. Stop expecting us to turn emotions inwards and slink into the shadows when our partners decide they are done with us.

      • Alissa says:

        She is OF COURSE entitled to her emotions. But being entitled to feeling something is not the same as being entitled to act on those emotions. She’s not due endless amounts of money and never having to work again simply because he ended up being a crappy husband. I’m sure it was a horrible, horrible time for her. But I don’t think she’s actually maintaining her dignity terribly well.

      • Shannon says:

        Yes! Why are women asked to not be “messy?” Did she start the messy? No, she didn’t. Yes, she made a choice, a choice LOTS of women make when they’re in relationships and there is an agreed-upon system of who will breadwin and who will caretake. So does that mean because she willingly made that decision she’s not entitled to this money and she should just pipe down? No, it doesn’t. It’s about time more women took themselves and their role seriously like this and demanded what they’re worth. Good for her. Not messy – smart.

      • HK9 says:

        @Alissa, She’s not due endless amounts of money-just half of everything. If he didn’t want to do that, he should have gone to Cali on his own like everyone else who wants to get into the industry there. He knew what he was doing, and financial compensation is part of it.

      • Alissa says:

        That doesn’t entitle her to half of everything AFTER they separated. It’s ridiculous.

        Just because he cheated doesn’t mean she’s automatically due anything she asks for.

    • Christina says:

      It’s true that the AA blogs and commenters ripped her for going after more money. Many of the attitudes around that, in my opinion, were about protecting a prominent, popular African American man. Some folks in the community believe that his prominence as an example of a successful, woke Black man is more important than his obvious flaws. Women of color are supposed to step back and allow themselves to be abused in silence if he’s doing good things in the community. This actor left his wife, but a lot of people still believe that Bill Cosby’s “good” legacy should not be dimmed by the accusations made against him. Misogyny lives everywhere. White men don’t suffer the consequences of their behavior the way that minority men do in this society, but what he did is still wrong, and Aryn (and, in Cosby”s case, all of those women, many Black and with their own reputations to protect , like Beverly Johnson) still deserve justice. It makes me sad. It’s like the young women who say, “choose me, Chris Brown!!! Hit me!!!” It’s complicated and heartbreaking.

      • Original Jenns says:

        Absolutely agree about supporting men of color against their character flaws. What was interesting was the turn of the tide when he started dating white women. Many still put her down, but all of a sudden, they weren’t fans of his, either. It’s like you said, complicated.

      • Avery says:

        @Christina every word of this! So many time BW have to sacrifice themselves at the altar of BM and if you stand up for yourself and refuse. You will be slandered by some in your own community.

    • BaronSamedi says:

      I agree with you. The sums mentioned here seem utterly ridiculous to me. And of course she is absolutely entitled to child and spousal support. But her husband is not making Marvel money. He is part of a 12 people ensemble cast and Ellen Pompeo is the one bringing home the millions on that show.

      And sure she helped build his career but let’s not act like she was/is not still benefiting from that now too?

      What she did absolutely felt vindictive. She wanted full custody AND all the money too. I get al the rah-rah supporting of a woman scorned but I don’t agree with it. At the end of the day she needs to successfully co-parent with the father of her children. She DID choose him, stay married to him for however long AND had two children with him. She can share some accountability for her choice in partner.

      • Courtney says:

        That’s so victim-blaming. She is not responsible for his actions; people can choose to be trash upfront on day 1, or after day 7,529 of a relationship.

        And this narrative when women want money = greedy, but when men want money = smart, needs to die already.

    • AryasMum says:

      Oh, she definitely supported him before his big break, but he joined Grey’s in 2009. He was around 28 when he got that job, so saying she supported him for 14 years is a bit of an exaggeration – unless she was financially supporting him at 14.

      • Tiffany says:

        They were together for 14 years and he said that he wanted to become an actor. So they took the chance, while she was the breadwinner and when things were looking up, she stayed home.

        Your math is not there to say that she was supporting him since the age of 14.

      • Alissa says:

        Tiffany, I think AryasMum’s point was that he started making good money on Grey’s around 28 – at which point she no longer had to financially support him, because he was the breadwinner and she wasn’t working. She ran the household and raised the kids and still supported him, but not financially.

        So Aryn is saying she supported him for 14 years, and AryasMum was taking that support as financial support – which she wasn’t doing from age 14-28. She supported him in their marriage and relationship for 14 years.

    • Gigi La Moore says:

      I have 2 eyes and both of them get one each for the side eye. I think they both need to put the kids first. I heard she refers to him as “what’s his name” on the podcast. If that’s so, that is the opposite of dignified.

  9. Kathryn says:

    She sounds great, love the name of the podcast. But I cut Jesse some slack – it must be really hard to stay married in Hollywood, with people throwing themselves at you, telling you constantly how fabulous you are etc. Their marriage lasted longer than most.

    • Anon33 says:

      It’s hard to stay married anywhere. Doesn’t mean you just give up and cheat.

    • ADS says:

      “…it must be really hard to stay married in Hollywood, with people throwing themselves at you…”

      It is not hard. It just takes character and a moral compass. A huge number of normal average women everywhere could be sleeping with a different dude every day if they wanted to. Yet they don’t. The way we socialise men is a big part of the problem.

  10. kerwood says:

    Jesse Williams broke my heart. I actually believed all his speeches and his apparent support of Black women. And then he tossed his wife and children aside for…Minka Kelly?!?! And dragged his wife’s name through the tabloids.

    I’m glad she went after his money. What was he spending it on? His latest booty call? What kind of man fights against giving the mother of his children enough money to properly care for his children?

    As a Black woman, I really resent the theory that we have to support Black men NO MATTER WHAT, even when they’ve kicked on of us in the teeth. It’s time Black men returned the favour. It’s only been about 500 years.

  11. perplexed says:

    How did it end with Minka Kelly? Just curious.

  12. stephanie says:

    There is something about her I just can’t get behind. I think she overplays her martyr hand.

    She chose to sacrifice her career in order to chase him to Hollywood before they were married and had kids. She has to own that choice. Nobody held a gun to her head and made her walk away from a lucrative career. That is a desperate move in my opinion. Why drop your whole life to build someone elses? If you do do this, fine I’m all about taking risks in life – but take responsibility for your life choices and don’t blame other people when things don’t turn out the way you expected them too. There was always that possibility things wouldn’t work out with Jesse. You don’t get to ruin someones life because your relationship didn’t work out.

    She should have continued to build her career while supporting his. The fact she dropped it and followed him across the country is a bad move that SHE is solely responsible for – not him, in my eyes.

    She isn’t dignified about this at all because she is STILL airing her dirty laundry years after the fact – now to people magazine. Nothing dignified about airing your problems and dragging the father of your children through the mud to a tabloid. I bet she won’t see much of his money after the lawyers get their pay out,she has been dragging him through court for years it seems like.

    After 8 years together in Hollywood, all of their “friends” went with him? That says something.

    • stephanie says:

      just worth mentioning, she has racked up almost 500K in lawyers fees fighting him and she wants HIM to pay for it. whats the phrase the brits say…she has lost the plot?! lol

      • ADS says:

        It is standard to do this. You don’t understand how this process works. You’re so busy tripping all over yourself to call her greedy that you haven’t even bothered to inform yourself. This is all very misogynistic. I am not at all convinced that you are genuinely a black woman because you are just repeating old school rap tropes in the most trollish way.

      • AG-UK says:

        Yes that’s the phrase

      • stephanie says:

        ADS I’m not black nor sexist. I just think it’s NUTS to spend 500K in lawyer fees in divorce. It is very very very common in contentious divorces for spouses use the divorce court and lawyers as a way to get revenge on each other.

        People often experience a serious change in standard of living and Aryn seems completely unrealistic about this change,

    • Courtney says:

      The “friends” went where the money/power/attention went. That’s a tale as old as time.

      And almost ALL women with children sacrifice some part of their career after becoming parents, while men do not. That is how are system is set up. Women still do more physical caretaking, emotional labor, and all the “default parent” duties. Women sacrifice so men can have it all.

      • stephanie says:

        Apparently her oldest is 5 years old and she hasn’t worked in over a decade…

    • perplexed says:

      She married him though. She wasn’t simply a girlfriend who had a negotiable commitment. Usually one person has to move for the marriage to take place. Heck, even common-law people live together and could be seen as married. I don’t think she made any out-of-the ordinary choices. She was likely at that stage in life where she probably thought it was a good idea to marry the guy she had been with for a long time. She loved him and chose to marry him. That’s what a lot of people do. I don’t necessarily think she could have foreseen that he’d drop her and the children they had together (especially the children).

      I don’t think she’s blaming anybody either. I think she’s just talking about hindsight. We all look back on choices we’ve made and think to ourselves how we might have done something differently when it doesn’t work out. Also, as far as I can tell, she stayed faithful and he didn’t so I think she was committed to making a marriage work. Him, not so much. Why HE chose to marry is what baffles me.

    • kgeo says:

      I’m sure he agreed that it made sense for her to quit her job and be a SAHM once he started earning so much.

      • Julieta says:

        She quit her job as soon as he started making money, which was years before they had kids.

        She didn’t give up her career to be a SAHM, she gave up her career because her boyfriend landed Greys Anatomy.

  13. Christina says:

    I agree that she has to own that she trusted him and needs to own it, and she needs to co-parent with him. As for the Hollywood friends leaving, they were the Hollywood friends, not the life long friends. LA can be very shallow, and people do keep “friendships” for fame and money.

  14. ADS says:

    The amount of victim blaming going on here is shocking. This woman was cheated on and left whilst she was still nursing two children. She is entitled to sue for spousal support – as is every married person who finds themselves in a divorce situation with a bread winner partner. The amount she sued for will have been based on calculations of what they owned together and what she felt she was owed. It does not make her greedy, just realistic and smart.

    • Julieta says:

      She’s asking for far more than spousal (and child) support though. That’s why there’s this whole legal battle; she’s going after far more than just what she’s legally owed.

  15. Hmmm says:

    I like her a lot and happy to see she seems to have landed on her feet.

  16. Sirius says:

    She’s a good one. The irony is that Jesse Williams onscreen love interest looks so much like her; makes me wonder if Shonda is messing with him.