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Fans saw the beginning of Brigitte Nielsen and Mattia Dessi’s relationship play out on reality TV.
The couple met in Switzerland in 2004 and moved in together at the end of VH1’s reality show Strange Love, which originally focused on Nielsen’s relationship with rapper Flavor Flav. Nielsen and Dessi’s relationship flourished, and it wasn’t long before the couple tied the knot in a stunning ceremony in Malta.
Nielsen was married four times before she and Dessi wed in 2006.
“I have that real old-fashioned feel to my family that I always wanted, the kind my mom and dad had,” she told PEOPLE in 2018. “I finally found the real deal.”
The couple welcomed their first child together and Nielsen’s fifth, a daughter named Frida Dessi, in June 2018.
So, who is Brigitte Nielsen’s husband? Here’s everything to know about Mattia Dessi.
He is from Italy
Dessi is from Sardinia, Italy, and he previously worked as a model. He has since moved to Los Angeles, where he lives with Nielsen and their daughter.
He met Nielsen in Switzerland in 2004
The couple met in Switzerland, at a hotel where Dessi was a waiter. Nielsen wasn’t looking for love at the time, as she wasn’t officially divorced from her fourth husband, Raoul Meyer. However, Fate had other plans. “Mattia walked in, and I literally fell off my chair,” Nielsen recalled to PEOPLE of their first meeting.
He appeared on the reality TV show Strange Love with Nielsen
The VH1 reality series Strange Love aired in early 2005 as a spin-off of The Surreal Life, in which Nielsen and Flavor Flav became romantically involved. Strange Love followed Nielsen’s often contentious relationship with Flavor Flav as well as her budding relationship with Dessi. The series ended with the Red Sonja star splitting from Flavor Flav and choosing to pursue a relationship with Dessi.
He and Nielsen had two wedding ceremonies
On Feb. 21, 2005, Nielsen and Dessi had a wedding ceremony in the Dominican Republic. However, the nuptials were not legal, as Nielsen was still in the process of divorcing Meyer.
Nielsen’s longtime friend, Luigi Balduini, later told PEOPLE that their ceremony “was more like an official engagement.” He added, “They put it on the news that it was a marriage, but it was an engagement because she was still legally married.”
The couple legally tied the knot on July 8, 2006, in a ceremony at the Radisson Golden Sands Resort & Spa in Malta.
He is Nielsen’s fifth husband
Prior to tying the knot with Dessi, Nielsen had been married four times.
From 1983 to 1984, Nielsen was married to Danish musician Kasper Winding, with whom she shares a son, Julian Winding. She was later married to actor Sylvester Stallone from 1985 to 1987. Then, she was in a relationship with New York Jets player Mark Gastineau from 1988 to 1990; though they never married, they welcomed a son named Killian Marcus Gastineau.
From 1990 to 1992, she was married to photographer Sebastian Copeland. And from 1993 to 2005, Nielsen was married to Swiss actor Raoul Meyer; the former couple share sons Douglas Aaron and Raoul Meyer Jr.
He and Nielsen have a 15-year age gap
In a 2011 interview with The Guardian, Nielsen opened up about her marriage to Dessi — and their significant age gap.
“My current husband, Mattia Dessi, is 15 years younger than me and I’m really happy now,” she told the outlet. “He’s probably more mature than me mentally, but physically we’re not the same and I do wonder if he will love me when I am 60 and he is 45.”
While the age gap doesn’t phase the couple anymore, Nielsen has said that it was difficult in the beginning due to the public scrutiny she received.
“All those people who were laughing and pointing fingers at me are divorced now, and we’re still together,” she proudly told PEOPLE in November 2023. “We’re a good team.”
He and Nielsen have one child together
Nielsen announced in May 2018 that she was expecting her fifth child after undergoing in vitro fertilization treatment for 10 years. The actress debuted her baby bump in an Instagram photo with the caption, “family getting larger.”
On June 22, 2018, Nielsen and Dessi welcomed a daughter named Frida Dessi. In a statement, the couple told PEOPLE: “We are overjoyed to welcome our beautiful daughter into our lives. It’s been a long road, and so worth it. We’ve never been more in love.”
He has Flavor Flav’s stamp of approval
Although Nielsen ultimately chose Dessi over the “Fight The Power” rapper, there are no hard feelings amongst the three of them, and Flavor Flav wants the best for the couple.
Shortly after Nielsen announced her pregnancy, Flavor Flav shared how happy he was for his ex with PEOPLE. “All I want to see is her happy and everything she wants in life. All she wants in life is a happy life and good family life,” he said.
He added of Dessi, “He’s a great guy, I love that guy.”
“The way I want the best for her is the way I want the best for everybody, not just [Nielsen]. I can’t wait to see her and Mattia again,” he continued.
He and Nielsen attended the Starlite Occident in July 2023
Dessi and Nielsen traveled to Spain for Starlite Occident — a boutique music and culinary festival in Marbella. The couple were photographed packing on the PDA during Lionel Richie’s concert and dancing along during Ricky Martin’s spicy set.