There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good love story. Anime is full of them, with romance playing a key role in so many series, from shoujo to shounen, and all types in between. But do you know what’s even more doki-doki than an anime romance? A real life love, the kind that two people share, grow, nurture, and develop over time.
But what about this…a case where real life crosses into the realm of anime, where, for instance, two voice actors kiss kiss fall in love?
Jordan Dash Cruz and Kesley Maher fit into that unique category. The voice actors (you’ve heard him in Shadows House, The Millionaire Detective, and Sing a Bit of Harmony, and her in SMITE, One Piece, and Akebi’s Sailor Uniform) celebrated their one year anniversary this past November, and shortly after sat with me to chat about their shared faith, how they support one another, and what it’s like to date during a pandemic.*
The pair first connected after the shutdown happened in 2020. Jordan followed Kelsey on Twitter and she followed back, and then he invited her to a Jackbox event on Twitch that he was hosting with other voice actors that summer, which created an opportunity for the VAs to “hang out” during a time when we were all stuck at home. Then, as the two connected further, Jordan asked her out on a very 2020 kind of date:
I eventually ended up asking her, “Hey, would you be cool doing like a little Discord tea date and we can just kind of chat and get to know each other a little bit more? And she said, “Yes.” So I was like, “All right. Cool. Sweet.” So we ended up chatting for like three hours over Discord and had tea. I remember I had like an herbal like, it was like a wild berry tea or something. It was delicious. Important details. And then when we finished, I asked her, “Hey, would you be cool if I got your number and we could just like text?” And she said, “Yes.”
And so it all magically came together as Jordan then asked Kelsey to be his girlfriend while they were out under the stars, soaking in a hot tub, with romance all around. Well, not exactly. That moment did happen, but not for some time. Kelsey was recently out of a long-term relationship and wasn’t ready to date. Still, she liked spending time with Jordan, and he was undeterred since Kelsey left the door open for a future relationship. “I was a hopeless romantic. She wasn’t saying ‘no,’ so I was just like, there’s a chance! I was very hopeful.”
As Kelsey becoming and Jordan came to know each other more and more, that hope would turn into reality. While she was attracted to him immediately because of his humor and he found her physically attractive and sweet, the two bonded most strongly over their shared faith. As Kelsey related, “We both love God. We’re both Christians. And that to me is a very important thing.”
Each was raised in the church for the most part, but grew to really personalize and understand their faith more fully as they grew older and started to live out their convictions. Jordan’s journey has over the past few years really emphasized authenticity in faith, including expressing his feelings to God and admitting his faults. “That’s the same thing with a romantic relationship, too,” he adds, expressing the need for patience, openness, self-evaluation, and being genuine.
There’s a connection there to another important facet in a partner for Kelsey, which is empathy: “I’ve felt that in past relationships, people have tried to change me or turn me into a whole other person. And because I’m such a golden retriever early, I’m just like, ‘Oh, really? Great. Sure. I’ll try this out. If it makes you happy, then great.’ But sometimes that’s to my detriment. He, on the other hand, comes at it from ‘I don’t want to change you. I just want to know you, how you’re doing, and where you’re at.'”
Quick Bits: LoTR, Mel Brooks, and Anime
Twwk: What are some of the things you do together as a couple?
Jordan: We hang out and watch movies.
Kelsey: We’re about to watch Lord of the Rings again. It’s the 20th anniversary of when Fellowship of the Ring came out.
Twwk: I’m so glad you brought him into that fandom, Kelsey!
Jordan: She got me hooked. I’ve never seen them because they were just so long. I was like, “I can’t spend 12 hours watching this.” And that’s exactly what I did.
Twwk: What else do you watch?
Jordan: We also like going around and finding a random movie. Oh, and I showed her Blazing Saddles, which to this day, I think is really funny. And we recently watched Mortal Kombat, so we span a bunch of different genres. Don’t get me wrong, we also watch anime. I showed her Angel Beats, School Rumble, and Baka and Test. She enjoyed all those.
They also connected through challenges they endured growing up, those that wouldn’t have predicted a future in voice acting. Reared in a household with grandparents whose first language was not English, Jordan had difficulties finding the right words to say in conversations, leading to laughs at his expense and a disconnect with classmates. Kelsey’s experience was somewhat similar:
There was a year in life where I rarely talk just because I had pretty bad social anxiety. I was going to a very, very, very small school. There were about six other people besides me in my class. And you’d think that I’d get along with at least one person, but it just felt like I was kind of in this corner where nobody really wanted to talk with me, and I was so afraid of talking to them.
For both Kelsey, who still identifies as an introvert, and Jordan, things became better and they grew past these struggles. And then of course, they grew together. Eventually, Jordan would fly out to visit Kelsey, at the time living in Arizona, to ask her out in person. This time, she agreed.
And voila! That’s how a voice acting couple is born!
Because of their shared profession, the two can relate to and help one another specifically through professional struggles, as Kelsey relates: “If one or the other of us is going through a hard time, like whether it’s a dry spell, or we’re feeling somewhat inadequate—because we all go through that as artists, feeling I’m just not good—we have an understanding for each other. We can say, ‘I’ve seen your work and I know you as an actor. You’re a really good actor.'”
An added benefit after Kelsey moved to Texas to focus on work and the relationship was making friends in the VA community. Jordan introduced her to his pals, and now sometimes she hangs out with them even without him!
Not that Jordan is jealous. Indeed, what really stands out when speaking with these two is how gracious and kind they are to one another, an outpouring of a faith that values these qualities. And for them, indeed, it always returns to God—in how they care for each other, how they approach their work and life, and how they treat others.
So, does that mean a different kind of church event is on the horizon, one involving a dress, flowers, and a cake? I didn’t ask, but since the time of our interview, their “family” has grown, with Sokka and Momo joining their new mom and dad.
One thing’s for certain—the kitties are coming into a family that’s full of love already. Jordan and Kelsey are a testament to the kind of relationship that can develop when we put our significant others ahead of ourselves, and when a couple follows a genuine kind of faith, founded in a gracious love. And though Kelsey and Jordan are part of a community where each contributes incredible creative energy and skill toward bringing stories alive for so many fans, it’s perhaps this model of selfless and kind love that’s the greatest gift on display for all of us to see.
* This interview was conducted toward the end of 2021, but I sat on it for a while (gomenasai), and then a bit longer to post on this love-filled day!