Finding the person you were meant to spend your life with can be a monumental challenge, but Tiy Fountain and Mark Mazzuchelli simply had to look across a gymnasium. Before Cheer was a cultural phenomenon, Fountain and Mazzuchelli were both working in the industry, which not only launched their relationship, but has found them now in completely different careers. Throughout it, these two New Jersey professionals have managed to balance their careers with friends, family, Disney, and Drag Race (and made time for a splashy and one of a kind wedding)! As part of my ongoing #PrideSeries,I sat down with this couple for an extended chat about not just their love affair, but what its like living in today’s America.
Michael Cook: So take me back, how did you both meet?
Mark Mazzuchelli: We met through the cheerleading industry. We have both been in the cheerleading world for a little while and I knew who Tiy was, but we had never met before. I was working with a Pop Warner organization at the time & had an appointment to get to my routine music done at a well-known gym. As I walked up the stairs, Tiy was walking down. We gave each other the, “OK, who is that look.”! It was late at night and I didn’t expect anyone else to be there; At the time, I didn’t know it, but the music producer was Tiy’s ex- boyfriend!
Tiy Fountain: I moved to New Jersey for a job in the Cheerleading industry and was involved with a person that happened to be a co-worker and a cheerleading music producer. We broke up amicably because he wanted to have a “traditional” relationship with a female, get married, and have children. I decided I wanted to date someone opposite of me in height, mentality, character, build, and spirit. I went from dating tough, stalky, athletic, bad boys close to my age or older, to a 6′ 7” handsome nerd.
MC: When did you know that the other was definitely “the one”?
MM: For me, it was on a New Year’s trip to Miami. We were dating for about a year. Tiy used to live in Miami, and his friends wanted him to come down for New Year’s Eve. Without hesitation, Tiy asked me to go with him (and he treated)! To me, this meant a lot; I believe that you choose to spend this night with people you want to spend the year with. I went on the trip with one intention, to say “I love you” for the first time. Even though we were dating for a year, we only started getting serious about halfway through. So, I thought this was the perfect time to tell him. In true Tiy fashion (a man who can’t wait), I didn’t make it until New Years. We went out to a club the night before and he got upset/jealous. While walking back to the car that night I told him the reason I came on the trip-that’s the night I said, “I love you.”
TF: I told myself that I would never date a co-worker ever again, so I thought I was in a great place because Mark was part owner of his own competitive cheer gym. However, I was blindsided when he told me he was bought out and we’d be co-workers. I told him it wouldn’t work, and it was over. It only took fifteen minutes of a quick meltdown to realize how much I love Mark, and I couldn’t vision myself without him. I knew Mark was the one for me after realizing I had to stop projecting my personal insecurities of my past relationships onto him and allowing him to become closer to me.
MC: Career wise, how do you balance that with personal and family?
MM: For most of our relationship, we both coached at the same cheerleading gym. So, we were both on the same schedule and worked in the same building. During the summer, we both have independent choreography companies and travel a lot. We both understand that travel is part of this career and fully support each other. Sometimes, we collaborate and have produced many successful, winning routines. We both have our strengths when working and play off of that. Recently, we changed careers. I went back to school full time and became a teacher & Tiy started a Talent Agency. We both still choreograph in the summer and collaborate whenever we can.
As for balancing career and family, we cherish the time we spend with them. We love to have family dinners, barbecues, and play cards. We also have a close-knit group of friends that we consider family. We have our nights that we go out, but also love a good movie night. We try to different things to keep in interesting, but as long as we are with family, we don’t care what we do.
TF: I’ve been in the Cheer Industry since 1984 and professionally from 1989 to present. I’ve always been a transit person and have autonomy. Been career-driven when I was younger, I had to sacrifice seeing family and friends during holidays and special events, because of choreography gigs like Bowl Games, Parades, judging cheer and dance competitions. I’ve been the legal guardian of my daughter since 2004, and it was convenient that she was a cheerleader, so I didn’t miss any of her competitions. Also, my granddaughter cheers as well and, I’m glad I was able to watch her develop throughout her cheer career. I’m also blessed to see my niece become employed by the illustrious National Cheerleaders Association. Now that I’m older and I’m not on the road as much, family and friend time is something I hold close to me.
MC: Couples always find themselves in a great groove of hopefully finding activities or hobbies together that they both enjoy. What do you guys spend your time doing?
MM: One thing that we both love to do is travel. We have been on some amazing trips. Some celebrated milestones while others gave some needed R&R. Of course, there are the MANY trips to Disney! With working and traveling so much, we also love to be able to relax and watch our shows. We make sure our DVR is always set to record RuPaul’s Drag Race (and Untucked of course). We also love to go out to dinner and have a good movie night.
TF: We are, of course, “Disney Dorks,” Foodies, Disco, and House Heads. We enjoy what I like to call “Just Be,” because many people do not wish to be still, relax, and rejuvenate with each other. We enjoy each other’s company and love spending time with our friends playing the card games “Michigan Rummy and Spades” over cocktails
MC: What do you find you bicker about the most?
MM: We find we bicker about the everyday mundane things. Cleaning, doing the dishes, laundry, bills, and day to day activities. The other major thing we bicker about is who said what: “I told you this, No, you SAID this.” It then becomes and argument of who has the better memory, especially as we are getting older.
TF: Let me tell you, the older I become, I have more conversations in my head and could have sworn Mark and I discussed them. We have daily light bickering, but if it is severe, we make sure that we kiss and make up before we go to bed. I’m more of a confrontational person and Mark can be very quiet or “passive aggressive.” This combination can be deadly if it’s not checked. We don’t like to push each other’s buttons, but we do enjoy “reading” each other throughout the day for humor purposes.
MC: Your wedding was so unique and a true splashy affair! What was the inspiration for that?
MM: There were two inspirations for our wedding; us and our guests. We wanted a wedding that truly represented us. We each had certain items that we weren’t willing to budge on and others that we compromised. We wanted our guest to have FUN! We didn’t want people to sit around at a table and watch the event unfold all night; we wanted them to have an experience! So, we created one. The hall was split into three separate rooms. We opened the night with a red carpet, cocktail hour, and a performer pouring champagne from silks. During our ceremony, we had choral seating (No isle). As our sign said: “Have a seat, they have no sides. We are two grooms, there is no bride! From there, the night took off with food, a DJ, a band, a flash mob, and a dessert room that would make Willy Wonka jealous. The night was meant to reflect us as a couple: very untraditional and you come to expect the unexpected. The night was a celebration of love and we wanted our guest to feel that. To this day (five years later) we still have people who tell us it was the best wedding they have ever been to.
TF: We wanted a wedding that was an eclectic and immersive experience. Our guests were greeted by an aerialist serving champagne before the ring exchange. This creative option set the tone for what was in store for the remainder of the event. Mark mainly said it all.
MC: Our community is under such assault right now. Is your life together your own form of advocacy?
TF: I was born in 1970 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Being black and open in a Baptist upbringing was not only unheard of, but it was also frowned upon. As a teen and young adult, I didn’t gain a total sense of who I was and inner pride until I found a supportive core of friends and had an open dialogue with my mother and father. That allowed me to explore myself more and as well as seek the history and knowledge of the gay/queer community. The more I’ve learned, the more comfortable I was able to open up and support our LGBTQ+ community. Mark and I were able to advocate for athletes, give them a positive, safe environment instilling technique, life skills, and professionalism. Once our athletes have graduated our program, we also mentor them throughout life, one thing we tell them is to have people interested in the eighty percent of your life and not necessarily the twenty percent behind closed doors. They both define you, but one does more than the other.
Mark: We live our lives for us, no one else. That alone has become an inspiration to people. We do not “flaunt” our lifestyle by any means. At the end of the day we are a married couple, just like the rest of the couples out there. I recently had a good friend text me to tell me that she wanted to thank me for being an inspiration to her son. She told me that just being around a successful, openly gay man following his passion helped him to be who he is when he came out. I believe that just by being married and living our lives is an inspiration in itself.
MC: Quarantine; how have you both handled it, both individually and as a couple?
MM: During quarantine, I am still working full time. As a teacher, I am probably working more at home than I was in the classroom. Tiy has been very good about giving me my space to work. He will stay in one room while I work in another. I have tried to stay on a schedule with school and working out. It has helped me keep my sanity. As a couple, we will grocery shop together, take walks when it is nice outside, and watch TV at night. During the week of May 4th, we watched a Star Wars movie every night (in the order they were released)! I believe with me working, it gives us our separate time during quarantine, and then we come together as a couple. It has been a good balance.
TF: Being quarantined is easy for me because I don’t mind sitting still and working from home. Mark goes to bed two hours before I do which, gives him a head start in the morning to work out, have breakfast, and begin virtual schooling with is students. Since the quarantine, I’ve decided to further my education by taking courses in Project and Leadership Management. We try our hardest to stay out of each other’s hair during the day. We incorporate fitness to break the monotony, and in the evening, we choose a show or movie we haven’t seen.
MC:You guys just married the loves of your lives. What would you each tell the Tiy and Mark that grew up not knowing that what you share would be a possibility?
MM: The best thing I could tell my younger self is to stop trying to plan everything out. I grew up trying to plan out my life and it turns out the best thing that happened wasn’t planned at all. I didn’t come out until my early twenties. After that, my life began to change. I stopped worrying and started living. I didn’t try to plan my career, it just happened. I didn’t plan where to live, it just happened. I didn’t plan to meet Tiy, it just happened. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good schedule and course of action, but I find the best things happen when I don’t expect them. It’s something I had to learn as I got older, but I am glad I did. Tiy is one of the reasons, in more ways than one.
TF: I would tell my younger self, “If you don’t expect, you’ll never be disappointed.” Make sure you always follow your gut instincts and your intuition. You have an energy that can’t be denied but, you must learn to harness it, so you’re not taken advantage of. The more you educate yourself, the more you’re able to help and protect others.