Chrystina Morteo-Bowman always loved to sing.
So, when she was scheduled to perform at Dubuque’s Smokestack during a talent showcase, she was hopeful it might lead to more opportunities to make music locally.
However, she didn’t anticipate it would lead her to her future husband.
“I needed someone to play piano for rehearsals and the show,” she said. “He was just this young guy. But when he started to play and sing — wow. He really knew his stuff. Music is such a passion for me, so it was great to be able to share in that.”
But it wasn’t love at first sight — at least not for Chrystina.
Twelve years separated the two in age. Chrystina also was a single parent who owned a business, Gaia Waxing Beauty & Wellness Studio, and had established a beauty line, G Bare Care Products.
For her betrothed, musician Brion Bowman, it was a different story.
“I was introduced to her, and in those first couple of rehearsals, I think I knew there was something special there,” he said. “She was just so beautiful and so talented. I had to try to play it cool.”
After that initial show, the two wouldn’t come into orbit with one another again for another three years, when another opportunity to collaborate in performance presented itself.
“We would go through these long periods of time when we wouldn’t see each other,” Brion said. “We had different relationships during that time. But then we’d perform and would come back together. It was always a work in progress.”
Collaboration began to turn into a friendship. And that friendship, in time, began to blossom into something more that just a common love of music.
“We started writing music together,” Chrystina said. “Our rehearsals became hours long. You get to know a lot about someone when you’re spending so much time together and working so closely.”
“The more I knew, the more I wanted to know,” Brion added.
While the couple call Dubuque home today, both originally were from the Chicago area before attending junior high and high school locally.
Chrystina later spent a stint in Pennsylvania before studying at the International School of Skin, Nailcare & Massage Therapy in Sandy Springs, Ga.
After earning her esthetics license in 2010, she returned to Chicago, working for the European Wax Center chain.
She returned to Dubuque to open Gaia Waxing Beauty & Wellness Studio in 2014, located in the Millwork District.
Brion attended the School of Music Vocations — based out of Southwestern Community College in Creston, Iowa — returning to Dubuque to launch BKBMusix, which provides live entertainment for a variety of events in the tri-states.
He also is a piano and voice teacher at Centrally Rooted in Dubuque.
Chrystina, 36, said the first six months of their courtship presented unique challenges that many couples don’t face during the “honeymoon phase.”
“I have a child, so I have to be a grown-up,” she said. “That meant (Brion, 24) had to be a grown-up, too.”
The couple also acknowledged having gone through life experiences that had conditioned them in certain ways. Yet, it also laid the foundation for learning and growing opportunities in the relationship.
“There are a lot of differences in how we evolved,” Brion said. “One of the things I learned from Chrystina was how to continue growing together in healthy ways through communication and supporting one another, and in continuing to work on ourselves and our past traumas to come to a place of healing.
“We laugh a lot. And whenever we come to difficult spots, we communicate. It makes it all worthwhile.”
Love throughout the world
After dating for some time, Chrystina — and avid traveler — and Brion decided to take a trip together to Cancun, Mexico.
“It was my first time outside of the country,” Brion said, with a laugh.
Before the trip, he had purchased a ring, but was waiting for the right moment to propose.
One morning during breakfast from the couple’s balcony overlooking the ocean presented the perfect opportunity.
“The food, the view, what could have been better?” Brion said. “I was very insecure when I was younger, especially when it came to finances and being able to provide and support myself and another person. I had no expectations in life. This was one of those special moments that made me see things differently.”
As he and Chrystina set to planning their big day, they received an invite to another wedding taking place between two Vietnamese friends in their home country.
“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to have our wedding in Vietnam?” Chrystina said.
And wed there they did.
Eight years and many rehearsals after meeting, Chrystina and Brion tied the knot on Dec. 16, 2022, in Ho Chi Minh City.
“It was a traditional Vietnamese wedding,” Chrystina said. “We love boats and having that connection to water, so we did that, and we were with our closest friends and family.”
At home in Dubuque, the couple are fixing up their 1930s house, previously belonging to Chrystina’s grandfather.
They also continue making music with one another, in addition to supporting each other in their respective businesses.
“Life is always crazy between home and running our businesses,” Chrystina said. “Together, there is a sense of calm.”
There also is a sense of groundedness for one another, the couple said.
“It can be easy to lose yourself in a relationship,” Brion said. “I feel like we support one another and encourage one another to be better as individuals. We’re constantly brainstorming together. And we’re constantly trying to create a safe space for the other person to be loved and to heal.
“I feel like through her, I learned what real love is. And I realized what a good woman I have. She’s so smart. She owns her own business. She’s a single parent putting her child through private school and dance classes. She’s the best there is.”
Megan Gloss writes for the Telegraph Herald.