Same-Sex Wedding Video Goes Viral

Weddings are supposed to be filled with joy and excitement, but Artie Goldstein had mixed emotions when his daughter, Jill, got engaged to another woman. His trip to the wedding became a video journey that father and daughter wanted to share with the world. Host Michel Martin finds out how this personal moment became an internet sensation.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, I share a few of my thoughts in my Can I Just Tell You essay. That's in just a few minutes.

But, first, except for the ones airing during the Super Bowl, ads are mostly things we try to avoid. Isn't that right? But every now and again, there is an ad that catches our attention in a way that makes you want to stop and listen. And recently, we heard one like that. Here it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPEDIA COMMERCIAL)

ARTIE GOLDSTEIN: My expectations of what Jill's life was going to be included a husband, so when Nikki came to ask permission to marry our little girl, that startled me. I told her, this is not the dream I had for my daughter. I didn't say yes. I didn't say no.

MARTIN: The video tells a story of a father traveling cross-country to attend his daughter's wedding. Along the way, he talks about coming to terms with the fact that his daughter is gay and marrying another woman. The video is titled "Find Your Understanding." It's part of Expedia's Find Yours campaign, which the company insists is actually not an ad or a commercial. The video has earned more than two million views on YouTube and joining us now to talk about it are the real-life father and daughter from the video, Artie and Jill Goldstein.

Welcome. Thank you for joining us.

JILL GOLDSTEIN: Thank you for having us.

A. GOLDSTEIN: Thank you for having us.

MARTIN: One of the reasons we're excited to talk to you is that I know a lot of people were wondering whether you were actually real people or actors. I'm sure you get that - right - that people were wondering?

J. GOLDSTEIN: We have. I have heard that feedback, in fact, but no. That was our wedding. This whole experience is very real, very authentic.

MARTIN: And, speaking of real, congratulations are in order because, earlier this month, on your second wedding anniversary, in fact, you gave birth to a baby boy. Congratulations.

J. GOLDSTEIN: Thank you. Do you believe he came on our wedding anniversary? I mean, talk about a present.

MARTIN: How are you doing?

J. GOLDSTEIN: I'm well. I mean, you know, with the exception of exhaustion, which every new mother knows, we are over the moon. It's indescribable.

MARTIN: So let's go back, then. The ad was just released this month, but it's been two years since the wedding. So, Artie, would you do me a favor and take me back to when you realized your daughter was going to marry a woman? I mean, the ad captures something that I'm betting a lot of people can relate to. Is that really the way it was for you? You just weren't really sure how to feel?

A. GOLDSTEIN: Oh, absolutely right. When Jill came to visit us - we live in Georgia - she brought Nikki with her and we had an inkling that they had a serious relationship and it was a great pleasure meeting Nikki, who I have fallen in love with, and during the course of the visit to our home, yeah, we just got a sense that there was more to this than a casual relationship.

As the visit went on, Nikki approached and asked for our blessing and I was a little startled, to say the least, but Nikki is such an unusual, wonderful young lady that it was very easy for me to start to appreciate her and over a rather short period of time to fall in love with her.

MARTIN: Jill, you actually met Nikki when you were in camp as kids. Right?

J. GOLDSTEIN: I did. When I was a child, Nikki, myself and my older brother went to an overnight camp together. So, I don't know if you had heard, but when I was I believe about 7 or 8 - and Nikki is a few years older than I am, as is my brother - they were each other's first little boyfriend and girlfriend, which is quite funny. So, you know, I idolized her from the start. She was - we would run around camp telling everyone, you know, we were sisters. It was - she was just this role model to me at a very young age and then everyone stopped going to camp and we lost touch for 25 years until about 2008 when we reconnected. So there was a very special bond present when we were reintroduced.

MARTIN: How did you know she was the one?

J. GOLDSTEIN: That's a very good question. I felt things towards her that I had never felt before and it was very instant for me. There was such a comfort and a familiarity, I think, having known her, which certainly helped, but I looked at her and I actually - I admired her from the get-go because she was just this strong, confident, beautiful, successful woman. And, to be honest, at the time that I had met her, I was still struggling with my sexuality and I was very quiet about it and not really certain and lacked some kind of confidence, I think, to really own the decisions I was making and who I was.

I looked to her and I was very taken aback by just how confident she was in her decisions and it really helped me find a self-confidence that I was lacking.

MARTIN: You know, it's funny because in the ad, you know, there is a moment where your dad is giving a speech at the wedding and he describes the spark he said that you had in your eye as a kid and how he hadn't seen it in a while. So let me just play a little bit of that part.

J. GOLDSTEIN: Sure.

MARTIN: Here it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPEDIA COMMERCIAL)

A. GOLDSTEIN: And all of a sudden, bam. There's Nikki and that spark is back and we are just so happy that we have our Jill back and now we have Nikki. We love you both.

MARTIN: What about that, Mr. Goldstein? When you were talking about what you were struggling with, were you struggling with the question of your daughter's sexual orientation or was it the idea that she was going to make it permanent, that marrying another woman meant it was permanent and not a phase or something like that? What do you think?

A. GOLDSTEIN: Well, it became obviously apparent to us that what she was feeling was very, very real. And having, you know, raised Jill from the time she was born until, you know, these recent times, you know, you get to know a child pretty intimately and pretty thoroughly. And Jill has always been a great kid - 99 percent of the time she was just an absolute pleasure to be with. And so when you have a sense that positive feeling is no longer present to the extent that you used to know it, as a parent, you know what's going on. And so, over a period of time, it became obvious to my wife and I that there was something missing in Jill's life. That spark, that cheerfulness and that personality started to show itself again as Jill's relationship with Nikki started to mature.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm speaking with Jill and Artie Goldstein. They are the father and daughter who were recently featured in an Expedia travel ad titled "Find Your Understanding." Yes, they are real people. It really is them.

So how did you all come to a decision as a family to put your story out there in front of the public?

J. GOLDSTEIN: Well, we were contacted by a colleague of Nikki's about the campaign. We had heard that they were looking for a same-sex story and we said we would be very amenable to talking to the producers. So they called and we told them our story, and Nikki and I and how we met and how we evolved. But the two of us very quickly realized that the gem, I think in this story is my father and his coming to terms with our relationship and where he started and where he ended up, you know, virtually 180 degrees difference. And it was just such a special story that we presented that to the producers and said you might want to talk to my parents. And they were instantly interested. So I called home and I presented this to both of them. And I said, listen, I don't want you to do this for us. There's no pressure here, but if you're comfortable telling this story, we'd love you to have the conversation. And, you know, they were immediately interested. They said they'd be happy to discuss it, which, you know, melted my heart really, because I didn't know how they'd feel about sharing that kind of vulnerability and honesty. I mean, it's raw. It's very real and I was blown away that my father was just so receptive to sharing that part of him. So we put them in touch and from there it just kind of took on a life of its own.

MARTIN: Well, yeah, Jill - your wife, Nikki, said that coming out isn't just about the people or couple involved, that the parents also have to come out.

J. GOLDSTEIN: Yes.

MARTIN: Artie, what about that? Why did you want to tell your story?

A. GOLDSTEIN: Well, getting back again to the vision that I had of Jill's happiness, as a parent you want to support your children in any way you possibly can. And so I felt very, very strongly that I would want to do whatever I could possibly do to support Jill. And if it meant, you know, putting my inner feelings out there for the world to know, I felt that that was a not a big sacrifice for me if it would make Jill's life easier and make her the happy child that I always adored.

MARTIN: What's been the reaction? You know, friends, neighbors.

A. GOLDSTEIN: Well, that's a very interesting question because that was a, you know, a bit of a hurdle. But as I realized that this was going to be a relationship of some great permanence, you know, we hoped, and we saw the fact that Jill and Nikki were so wonderfully in love with each other, that hearing comments or exposing ourselves to the rest of the world took a secondary place. And we were very willing to just go with it.

MARTIN: One more question for you, Jill. I'm going to direct this to you - is that, you know, there's been recently, there was this big controversy around Chick-fil-A.

J. GOLDSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: Like, the comments that the chair of - the current president of Chick-fil-A, the son of the founder made about his views of same-sex marriage. It caused this huge reaction. He opposes same-sex marriage.

J. GOLDSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: And there are a number of people who felt that he should have the right to say whatever he wants to say. And there are other people who felt that his comments were offensive and said that he should not be bringing his personal views, you know, into the business world. And I'm wondering, you know, Expedia is taking the opposite tack.

J. GOLDSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: But I - and perhaps this is a question best directed to them. But I am curious about this idea of people saying well, you're mixing your politics with your business. And is that really a good idea?

J. GOLDSTEIN: You know, I have - I guess I have mixed feelings about it because the Chick-fil-A incidents did make me very angry, and I thought, why are they allowed to use a fast food business to put out such negativity, in my opinion? I really do believe in freedom of speech. I think that it's wonderful that companies have the opportunity to - you know, just as people have their opinions. I think companies can have their opinions. And I think it's a very bold stance to go either way. And if it's going to affect their business for the good or for the bad, it's their choice. I guess I believe that they have just as much as an opportunity to put their views out there as any individual does. But they're going to have to expect that it's going to - it might change their business based on how people react to their message.

MARTIN: Artie Goldstein, did you have any thoughts on that...

A. GOLDSTEIN: Oh, yeah.

MARTIN: ...as a retired businessperson yourself?

A. GOLDSTEIN: Yeah. I think it's a huge mistake. First of all, they lost me as a customer. So that's a tremendous loss right there.

MARTIN: You're talking about Chick-fil-A?

A. GOLDSTEIN: Chick-fil-A, of course. But in all reality, you know, everybody deserves an opportunity to express their opinion, but they don't know Jill. They don't know Nikki. And they don't know probably thousands, or perhaps millions of other people out there who wish to follow, you know, the same course in their lifetime of same-sex marriage. And for somebody, you know, sitting at a corporate desk somewhere to come out with a comment like that is very, very shortsighted and to me displays a lot of ignorance about the world.

MARTIN: So Artie Goldstein, what does it feel like to be famous?

(LAUGHTER)

A. GOLDSTEIN: Well, I don't think I really understand the magnitude of, you know, Facebook and YouTube and all the hits and things. I mean, that's kind of the younger person's generation. But I get a lot of feedback from Nikki and Jill telling me how successful this campaign has been and I'm fortified, you know, with that knowledge and that information and it's kind of fun. And, you know, I just get a tremendous thrill out of the fact that it's been a great reaction, it's been very, very positive and the kids are happy and my wife and I are very happy.

J. GOLDSTEIN: You know, it's funny, the other day - every time an article comes out or the views on YouTube increase, you know, Nikki and I very excitedly call my dad just to kind of give him a perspective. And like he said, you know, he's certainly very modest about it, but I don't know that he really understands the magnitude of just how many people are fortunately seeing this commercial. But I said to him the other day, I said if you Googled your name the day before this commercial launched and you do it now I think you may be able to get an understanding of the change in just - and the reach of the campaign.

MARTIN: Jill Goldstein is a freelance writer and a new mom. She joined us from her home in Los Angeles. Her father, Artie Goldstein, is a retired businessman. He joined us from NPR member station WUGA in Athens, Georgia.

I thank you both so much for joining us, and congratulations again on everything.

J. GOLDSTEIN: Thank you so much.

A. GOLDSTEIN: Thank you very much. I enjoyed it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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