When joining the first season of MTV's "Are You the One?" Austin residents Amber Lee and Ethan Diamond had no idea what their love story had in store for the world.
The reality matchmaking show premiered in January 2014, following 20 young men and women in hopes of winning a cash prize and a perfect love match. The show predetermines 10 perfect pairs through a matchmaking algorithm, but it is up to the contestants to figure out their secret other half. While isolated together, the contestants have 10 rounds to determine the pairs. If guessed correctly, the entire group shares a $1 million prize.
Amber and Ethan during Season 1 Episode 2 of "Are You the One?" (MTV's "Are You the One?"/Netflix)
Out of eight seasons of "Are You the One?," only nine couples have stayed together and Amber and Ethan remain the only match from Season 1, filmed seven years ago in Hawaii, that have stuck it through.
The MTV stars have since shifted to a simplier way of life in Austin with their two daughters.
Before the transformative experience, Amber and Ethan were just two young college students. Ethan, who is originally from Denver, Colorado, studied natural resource tourism. Amber, who was just another local Austinite, was attending Texas State University in San Marcos, enjoying her weekends on Sixth Street.
As the pilot season, producers reached out to cast members in various ways with the questions: "Are you single? Are you looking for love? Do you want to win some money?"
In an interview with Austonia Amber said, "I never thought I was going to get cast and honestly we didn't know anything about it. I rode it through to see how far I could get and then I met my husband."
Amber secretly visiting Ethan in Colorado before the airing of MTV'S "Are You the One?" (Amber Lee Diamond)
Inside the crowded house in Hawaii, Amber and Ethan's relationship grew throughout the season. When asked if they had any idea that this would be their lives seven years ago, Ethan said, "No way! Watching the show, did you? Did you think we would be together?"
Shortly after the show ended, Amber and Ethan continued their college education while Amber was pregnant with their first child, Scarlett. Per Amber's request, Ethan relocated to Austin where they have lived with Scarlett and their youngest daughter Serena since 2014.
Amber, Serena, Ethan and Scarlett Diamond. (Amber Lee Diamond)
"(Austin) is the best city in the whole freaking world," Amber said. "I love Colorado, but it's too cold and they don't have an H-E-B."
Now a true local, Ethan has spent the last seven years adjusting to the Austin lifestyle. The two say they don't plan on leaving any time soon.
In the past year, their family has spent the past year at home, avoiding large crowds and leaving the house. Ethan, who is a sales director at Oracle, has been working from home and enjoying the time spent with family.
Ethan, Amber and their youngest daughter, Serena during an interview with Austonia. (Isabella Lopes/Austonia)
"The one year you spent in quarantine with your significant other is like four years. I feel like we did that when we met each other; we were quarantined in that house," Ethan said. "And now, quarantine is happening and this feels familiar, for a lack of better term."
Amber and Ethan are often recognized by strangers around town for their brief stardom from cashiers at H-E-B to receiving messages on social media about relationship advice. The couple says they try to be as transparent as possible.
"We don't work because we are the perfect match," Amber said. "We are not a fairy tale couple. We've had a hard time and we worked really hard to make it work. We are a hard-working, loving family and that's why we love Austin, it's perfect here."
The Diamond family enjoying snowy Austin. (Amber Lee Diamond)
MTV's "Are You the One?" season one is available to stream on Netflix where you can watch the beginning of Amber and Ethan's love story.
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As summer temperatures continue to increase, so does Austin's "Party Island"—a hundreds-strong army of kayakers and paddle boarders who gather each weekend in the middle of Lady Bird Lake.
Born from the pandemic, the swarm of paddleboarding partiers has continued to grow each summer and can be seen from the nearby Lamar Boulevard Bridge. And while "Party Island" certainly lives up to one half of its name, it's not actually an island at all: instead, it's located at a shallow sandbar near Lou Neff Point.
With beers, burgers from portable grills and even DJ turntables in hand, more friends and strangers continue to beat the heat in new ways at the distinct Austin hangout.
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If you are a committed, grunge-wearing resident of the Pacific Northwest, it is easy–almost automatic–to look at Texas as an extraordinarily dry, hot and culturally oppressive place that is better to avoid, especially in the summer. Our two granddaughters live with their parents in Portland.
Recently we decided to take the older girl, who is 15, to Dallas. Setting aside the summer heat, a Portlander can adjust to the vibes of Austin without effort. So let’s take Texas with all of its excesses straight up. Dallas, here we come.
Our 15-year-old granddaughter and her sister, 12, have spent summer weeks with us, usually separately so that we could better get to know each individually. In visits focused on Austin and Port Aransas, the girls seemed to be developing an affection for Texas.
Houston and Dallas are two great American cities, the 4th and 9th largest, each loaded with cultural treasures, each standing in glittering and starchy contrast to Austin’s more louche, T-shirts and shorts ways.
Three hours up I-35, Dallas loomed before us as a set of gray skyscrapers in a filmy haze, accessed only through a concrete mixmaster of freeways, ramps and exits. I drove with false confidence. Be calm, I said to myself, it will all end in 10 minutes under the hotel entrance canopy. And it did.
The pool at the Crescent Court Hotel in Dallas. (Crescent Court Hotel)
We stayed three nights at the Crescent Court Hotel ($622 a night for two queens), a high-end hotel in Uptown, patronized by women in white blazers, business people in suits, and tall, lean professional athletes, their shiny Escalades and Corvettes darting in and out, and other celebrities like Bill Barr, the former attorney general who shoe-horned his ample self into a Toyota.
Each morning as I walked to Whole Foods for a cappuccino, a fellow identified by a bellman as Billy the Oilman arrived in his Rolls Royce Phantom. Where does he park? “Wherever he wants to. He likes the Starbucks here.”
We garaged our more modest set of wheels for the visit. We were chauffeured for tips by Matt Cooney and Alfonza “The Rev” Scott in the hotel’s black Audi sedan. They drove us to museums, restaurants and past the enclaves of the rich and famous. In Highland Park, The Rev pointed out the homes of the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman along with the family compound of the Hunts, oil and gas tycoons.
The Dallas Museum of Art’s “Cartier and Islam” exhibit (until Sept. 18) attracted an older crowd; the nearby Perot Museum of Nature and Science was a powerful whirlpool of kids’ groups ricocheting from the Tyrannosaurus Rex to the oil fracking exhibit. Watch your shins.
A Geogia O'Keeffe oil painting called "Ranchos Church, New Mexico" at the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art. (Rich Oppel)
For us, the best museum was the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, a 50-minute, madcap drive away via a 75 mph toll lane along I-30. Don’t try it during rush hour. The Carter has an exquisite collection of Remington paintings and sculptures and an excellent array of 19th and 20th-century paintings as well. Pick one museum? The Amon Carter. Peaceful, beautiful, uncrowded, free admission and small enough to manage in two hours.
The Fort Worth Stockyards, a place of history (with a dab of schmaltz), fun and good shopping, filled one of our mornings. The 98 acres brand the city as Cowboy Town, with a rodeo and a twice-daily (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.) cattle drive. We shopped for boots, drank coffee and watched the “herd” of 18 longhorns. So languid was their progress that if this were a real market drive the beef would have been very tough and leathery before it hit the steakhouse dinner plate.
The cattle drive at the Fort Worth Stockyards. (Rich Oppel)
But we could identify: the temperature was 97. “I saw a dog chasing a cat today,” said the emcee, deploying a very old joke. “It was so hot that both were walking.”
With limited time, we chose three very different restaurants:
- Nobu, in the Crescent Court Hotel; Jia, a modern Chinese restaurant in Highland Park; and Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth. Nobu’s exotic Japanese menu set us back $480, with tip, for four (we had a guest), but it was worth it.
- Jia was an ordinary suburban strip mall restaurant, but with good food and a reasonable tab of $110 for four.
- Joe T.’s is an 85-year-old Fort Worth institution (think Matt’s El Rancho but larger), a fine Mexican restaurant where a meal with two drinks was $115.
Sushi at high-end restaurant Nobu. (Crescent Hotel)
It was all a splurge for a grandchild’s visit. Now we will get back to our ordinary road trips of Hampton Inns, where a room rate is closer to the Crescent Court’s overnight parking rate of $52. And to corner cafes in small towns.
Did Dallas change our 15-year-old’s view of Texas? “Yes. I think it’s a lot cooler than I did. The fashion, the food.” So, not only Austin is cool. Take Texas as a whole. It’s a big, complex, diverse and wonderful state.