Actor-dancer Tom Holland and actress-singer Zendaya (full name Zendaya Coleman) have been the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s resident will-they-or-won’t-they pairing since before the world even saw them act opposite one another in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Years before his Spidey senses started tingling, the English-born Holland caught the acting bug at the age of 12, playing the title character in London’s production of Billy Elliot in 2008. He continued to work steadily in the industry, earning critical acclaim and accolades for his on-screen work in 2012’s The Impossible and 2015’s In the Heart of the Sea. Meanwhile, American-born Zendaya got her start in 2010 within the Disney Channel’s sitcom circuit on Shake It Up and K.C. Undercover. Before she danced, sang, and trapezed her way through 2017’s The Greatest Showman, she even independently released her own music.
While these Marvel stars grew up on opposite sides of the pond, their on-screen chemistry as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Michelle « MJ » Jones is undeniable. However, it’s their close relationship off screen that’s kept us all wondering: Is there maybe something more going on between them? Keep on scrolling to find out the untold truth about Tom Holland and Zendaya.
Their awkward (but totally platonic) meet-cute
Tom Holland and Zendaya met during the Disney starlet’s screen test audition for Spider-Man: Homecoming, but things got off to a bit of a rocky start. « My first meeting with Zendaya was very embarrassing, actually, for me, » Holland told The Hollywood Reporter in 2016. « It just wasn’t my smoothest moment. » Zendaya said, « I don’t remember this, but he says that there was some type of awkward hug shake thing. » Eek!
Luckily, things were smooth sailing for the duo following this awkward yet totally platonic and professional meet-cute. « We did the first scene together, and I think the producers cast her, like, then, » the British actor said. « Before she even left the room, they knew that she was gonna play her character. » While Holland famously kept up with Iron Man Robert Downey Jr.’s penchant for improvising lines and literally flipped into a scene with Captain America’s Chris Evans during his own grueling audition process, Spider-Man director Jon Watts told Backstage that Zendaya simply had to be herself. « She’s been doing it for such a long time that she had both of the things that we want, » he explained. « Being a really good technical performer and also having a sort of effortless charisma. »
Even more important? Zendaya’s chemistry with Holland was undeniable right from the start…
A web of dating rumors surround them
Fans began linking « Tomdaya » together in the summer of 2016, when Tom Holland and Zendaya started showing up on one another’s Instagram feeds. By the following summer, sources cited by People claimed the Marvel co-stars were indeed an item and had « started seeing each other while they were filming [Spider-Man: Homecoming]. » An insider alleged low-key couple had « been super careful to keep it private and out of the public eye but they’ve gone on vacations with each other and try and spend as much time as possible with one another. »
For her part, Zendaya was quick to publicly comment on reports about their supposed blossoming romance, tweeting: « Wait wait…my favorite is when it says we go on vacations together HA! I haven’t been on a vacation in years! hbu @TomHolland1996??? » To which Holland quipped: « Does the press tour count? » Despite laughing off the relationship hearsay, persistent rumors suggest the superhero flick stars were following in the lead of previous Spider-Man co-stars-turned-love-interests (turned-exes), including Tobey Maguire/Kirsten Dunst and Andrew Garfield/Emma Stone.
Is she really the MJ to his Peter Parker?
As Holland and Zendaya continued to use their signature online banter to deflect claims about their love lives, their responses to the topic became a bit more pointed during interviews. The actress outright refuted the rumors in August 2017, telling Variety, « We are friends. He’s a great dude. He’s literally one of my best friends. This past how many months we’ve had to do press tours together. There’s very few people that will understand what that’s like at 20 years old. » However, she wasn’t too bothered about the ongoing dating gossip, telling Entertainment Tonight, « It happens all the time, and of course we expected it. I mean, it comes with the territory. It comes with the job, so it’s all good. »
But did their fans buy it? Well, not really. A number of « Tomdaya » fanatics continued to view the co-stars’ social media interactions as low-key flirting, according to Teen Vogue. Adding fuel to the fire as so-called « proof » of their alleged romantic tryst? The pair was spotted on multiple joint red carpet appearances and dining out with Zendaya’s parents. Holland was also spotted leaving actress’ Los Angeles home in the early morning hours in 2018. Still, the simple fact that they seem to spend a lot of their free time together doesn’t necessarily mean this relationship is anything but platonic.
Did Skai Jackson’s mom accidentally out them?
In December 2017, a source cited by Entertainment Tonight claimed Tom Holland and Zendaya were allegedly together but trying to keep their supposed relationship quiet for « privacy reasons. » (If true, we can’t say we blame them.) However, Kiya Cole — the mother of Zendaya’s friend and fellow Disney Channel star Skai Jackson — reportedly publicly confirmed the duo’s relationship status the following September … or so it seemed.
According to Elle, Just Jared‘s Instagram account referred to Holland as Zendaya’s « rumored real-life boyfriend » in a post about the actress’ 22nd birthday celebrations. « Rumoured boyfriend hahaha ya’ll dream too much, » a Marvel fan commented. To which Cole appeared to reply, « Yes. It’s true. They been on the low for a while. » Just like that, the dating speculation was once again abuzz. However, Cole promptly denied writing that comment in the first place. « [Cole] has zero idea who anyone is dating nor does she make it her business to know, » her agent said in a statement (via Bustle). « Her Instagram account was hacked and she’s since reclaimed her account. » Meanwhile, Holland and Zendaya avoided publicly commenting on the matter, which was probably in their best interest.
She’s been secretive about romances before
After spending much of her life working in Tinseltown, Zendaya is understandably guarded when it comes to keeping her personal life out of the spotlight — notoriously so. In 2016, she told Vogue that she’d managed to date a previous boyfriend in secret for four years. (How is that possible in the age of cell phones, paparazzi, and social media?) « It was my first love, » she told the magazine. « It wasn’t a good ending … You know you’re OK in a breakup when your first thought is not, ‘What did I do wrong?’ It’s, ‘That was the dumbest decision of your life, and you’re going to regret it forever.' »
As of this writing in 2019, fans still aren’t 100 percent certain who the ex in question was. However, Page Six notes that the actress had been previously romantically linked with Disney alum Trevor Jackson and NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. Zendaya admitted that she’d been cheated on, explaining on her app (via Entertainment Tonight): « I’m so anti being in a committed relationship when you’re young and people are learning and growing … It’s very hard to be in a relationship when the both of you are still figuring out life. » With these wise words in mind, it makes sense that Zendaya and Holland’s relationship status has remained a big if.
Coming to his co-star’s defense
When Zendaya’s Spider-Man: Homecoming casting was announced in 2016, fans assumed she’d be playing Peter Parker’s popular love interest, Mary-Jane Watson. The character had been traditionally portrayed as a white woman … and because the internet is the internet, an egregious wave of racist comments erupted in the Twittersphere over Zendaya landing the part. Naturally, our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man came to his co-star’s defense. Speaking with Collider, Holland said Zendaya had been feeling nothing but love from her Marvel colleagues and devoted fans alike. « I feel like our generation of people are moving on from that. This whole, you can’t cast someone who’s not of the right race for a character and such, and I really feel like we’re breaking through and changing that, » he said. « And Z is perfect. She’s so strong willed, it’s not going to shake her at all. »
Indeed. When Zendaya initially addressed the casting controversy, she told The Hollywood Reporter, « People are going to react over anything. » She added, « I’m like, ‘I don’t know what America you live in, but from what I see when I walk outside my streets of New York right now, I see lots of diversity and I see the real world and it’s beautiful, and that’s what should be reflected and that’s what is reflected so you’re just going to have to get over it.' » Mic drop, Z.
Tom Holland: the ultimate hype man
Tom Holland has become known for not only coming to Zendaya’s defense, but for also continually commenting on her social media posts and praising her in his own posts and during interviews. « We are like the best of friends, » he told People in 2017. « She’s so great and amazing. » According to Teen Vogue, the actor’s sweet hype-man game hasn’t gone unnoticed by the duo’s fans. For her part, Zendaya has regularly returned the favor both online and in the press. « He’s great, » she told Entertainment Weekly. « I think the most important thing to me is that he is a good person, and it’s good to know that the person who gets to play your favorite superhero is actually a nice dude. He loves doing this. »
It should be pointed out that Holland and Zendaya have both noticeably placed themselves in one another’s terribly-named « friend-zone » with the words « friend » and « mate » often cropping up in their compliments. But who cares? As far as we’re concerned, these two have officially joined the love-fest ranks on the level of Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, and who doesn’t love to see Marvel stars supporting Marvel stars?
Their ongoing air-hockey rivalry
Nothing says friendship like a little healthy competition, which Tom Holland and Zendaya happen to have in spades. While the two are known for collaborating on dance routines in their downtime, they famously battled it out on Lip Sync Battle in 2017: Zendaya oozed charisma as she brought her very best Bruno Mars to her performance of « 24K Magic, » while Holland showcased his impressive dance background by channeling Gene Kelly in « Singing in the Rain » and Rihanna in « Umbrella. » If you haven’t seen it, go do it now. (It’s fine, we’ll wait.)
Back? Cool. Because what you may not know is that Holland and Zendaya also take their ongoing air-hockey competition very seriously. The two opened up about their rivalry during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in May 2019. « Zendaya is the calmest person you’ll ever meet, » Holland told the titular host. « She’s super chill until you start playing an arcade game with her. » The two then battled it out on air. Zendaya may have gone into the competition as the reigning champ, but after scoring three consecutive points, Holland took back the crown. Let’s just hope this doesn’t turn into another Team Iron Man/Team Cap type of situation in the MCU.
An Instagram mishap reignited dating speculation
The rumors surrounding Tom Holland and Zendaya’s love lives quieted down a bit between Spider-Man films. However, an Instagram mishap reignited the dating speculation in the lead up to Spider-Man: Far From Home‘s 2019 release. Following a Disneyland outing with his Spider-Man co-stars that May, Holland shared a seemingly innocuous snapshot with Zendaya and Jacob Batalon, but he accidentally tagged the actress’ name in, well, his crotch area. According to BuzzFeed, that did not go unnoticed by fans, one of whom wondered whether this was some sort of « subliminal message » from the movie star.
« Nah he’s just Instagram stupid, » Zendaya tweeted. She also took to the pic’s comments section, writing alongside multiple crying-laughing emojis: « I’m assuming because you don’t know how to work ig, that’s the reasoning behind my name placement. » The Avengers: Endgame actor, who’s admittedly « not very good at Instagram, » replied, « Very much so. » Holland then moved the tag to a much more SFW area (her head), and thanked Zendaya « for making me aware of my obvious blunder » in the photo’s caption.
So, what’s our verdict on « Tomdaya »? At this rate, we should probably just take their word for it. These two totally adorbs stars are simply best buds.