Why wait when it feels good, thought Antony Van der Wee. So he already took the knee in 2008, when they had been together for a year. Karen Damen immediately said “yes” and received an engagement ring on her finger, but due to full agendas they did not get married until September 2016, after her exit from K3 offered some breathing space. They did this in an overall limited circle, but against the idyllic backdrop of the Spanish island of Ibiza. Her father led her to the altar to the sounds of James Last, and she saw her other half in his costume for the first time. “Godnondedju, such a handsome guy,” she later looked back on that moment.
Not that love had to be put on hold all this time: in 2010 they had a son together, Sky. And moreover, her view on marriage was partly pragmatic. “I think it’s better to be married, purely administratively. I don’t know exactly how it works, but what if something happens to me? Then everything must be properly arranged. I admit: there may be more romantic reasons,” she previously told Nina magazine.
The two had known each other for some time. Ever since they were teenagers and hung out in the cafes in Mortsel and Lint. But the age difference – he is five years younger – put the brakes on more. Until they met again years later. “During that period I worked as a hairdresser and at the weekend I worked as a waiter in the Nanno Sur l’O, a disco in an old cruise ship at the MAS in Antwerp,” says Van der Wee in Humo. “That’s where I started talking to Karen, and one thing led to another.”
The relationship also came with a manual. “I have had to accept that she is partly public property,” he said in the same interview. Because his wife rarely dimmed the spotlight and also found her way outside K3: from the debate program Karen and De Coster or New Neighbors with James Cooke to acting in Family. She also started a solo career as a singer. “But it wouldn’t have worked without Antony,” she said.
For Van der Wee, this interest was not necessary: “I have always consciously kept myself in the background.” Not that he was twiddling his thumbs: his work as a drummer took him to The Ditch and cover band Top Guns – an eighties project with Sean Dhondt behind the microphone – and he recently committed himself to the local N-VA branch of Lint. “And yes, my financial contribution to our story is of course much smaller. But I am proud of Karen, she is living proof that women can also build a great career.”
Yet they always showed concern for the other. Caring, too. Points of difference were merely an impetus to complement each other. That is why Van der Wee acted as her manager for a while and did the tasks with which she is less familiar: accounting, contracts, insurance. Even when life dealt an uppercut and they had a miscarriage, before the birth of their son Sky, they stood shoulder to shoulder. Until now, now that they have decided to end their marriage. They do not want to give details about this at the moment.