She slept with hyenas, survived abuse and is still a top model: Maye Musk, the mother of the richest man in the world

Ageless glamour… Maye Musk with her son Elon Musk at the Vanity Fair Oscars party (Photo by Karwai Tang/Getty Images)

She was one of the first to publicly interact with Twitter’s new owner, mega tech mogul Elon Musk. She and unlike the rest of the mortals, she is perhaps the only one in the world capable of having the last word in front of a man with a reputation for being irreverent and that many believe she bought the social network just to be able to say what she wants. But she learned that limitless freedom from a woman she recognizes as her only heroine: her mother, Maye Musk.

On Sunday, the Canadian-South African supermodel and nutritionist retweeted her eldest son to recount in two posts an anecdote from growing up in Durban as a teenager. “You were 14 years old and you asked me to buy shares in a company that you really believed in. A friend broker He told me it was a bad idea, so I only bought the equivalent of $1,000 at the time, which was the most I was willing to lose… The shares quickly reached $3,000. My friend panicked and told me I had to sell, so I freaked out too and sold. You were not happy; stocks continued to rise. You also believed that I was unfair in dividing the profits between you and (your brothers) Kimbal and Tosca. Who was right?

Her eldest son, who had tweeted earlier about the importance of not panicking when the markets do so – as long as you believe in the value of your stock – gave Maye the benefit of the doubt, but thousands have responded without doubt that, due to the legitimacy of the results, the formula with which she educated who today is the richest person on the planet –with a fortune valued at US$300,000 million– qualifies her as a model mother. And not just professional default.

It’s just that this smiling and resolute lady did not have an easy life, although it seems that way now. She arrived in Pretoria in 1950 when she was just a baby, along with her twin Kaye and her parents, Joshua and Winnifred Haldeman, two adventurers who flew around the world in a plane that they took disassembled on a ship from Canada to explore the Kalahari desert. where they fell in love with Africa.

A part of her future began to be defined at the age of 15: the girl who returned every summer to the desert with her family in search of the Lost City and hid from the hyenas with her four brothers, covering herself with sleeping bags so that they would not eat the face, she entered a modeling school of her mother’s best friend and her haughty beauty soon made her a regular face on catwalks and in catalogues. He also met in high school the man who would change his destiny, for better and for worse: Errol Musk.

At 74, Maye Musk is a fashion icon (REUTERS / Henry Nicholls)
At 74, Maye Musk is a fashion icon (REUTERS / Henry Nicholls)

He always rescues that the positive is that he gave him three wonderful children. The bad thing, the tremendous thing, is that that somewhat aggressive engineer who promised her that he would change when they got married, not only did not change at all, but also became an animal as fearsome as the desert hyenas, from which he had to escape just with the clothes on. Or, in the words of Elon, in “a horrible human being, who committed almost all the crimes you can think of”, as he revealed to Rolling Stone magazine in 2017.

In 1969, at the age of 20, Maye was a finalist for Miss South Africa. A year later, and already with a nutritionist degree under her arm, the prettiest girl in the class married her boyfriend from her school in front of her parents and a few close friends of hers. As she would later confess in her memoir, A Woman Makes a Plan: Advice for a Lifetime of Adventure, Beauty, and Success (2019, translated as A woman, a plan), at that time I had the firm intention of making her become “a good person”.

But as she became pregnant with one child after another – Elon was born in June 1971, Kimbal in September 1972, and the youngest, Tosca, in July 1974 – and silently suffered tremendous beatings that soon the boys began to suffer as well, he quickly understood that choosing a partner with the idea that they change can only lead to failure: “It just doesn’t work”.

In South Africa there was no divorce, and Maye suffered years of abuse with that rich and obscure engineer linked to the emerald mines, and whom she describes in her memoirs as “physically, emotionally and financially manipulative and abusive.” In order to leave him, he had to flee with his children to Durban. She was only able to do it when things had gotten so out of control that her husband beat her up at a social gathering and her friends managed to take her to her mother’s house.

Until then, only Elon and Kimbal knew what went on behind the walls of their Praetorian mansion. To console herself, Maye, still seeing patients at her house and occasionally modeling when Errol would let her, ate desperately, around the clock. When she signed the divorce agreement in 1981, she had gained about 30 kilos.

But the tech tycoon’s mother is not only possessed of an iron will, but was already then a pioneer of acceptance and body-positive. And before embarking on a “flexitarian” diet -vegetarian at home, but without restrictions outside, except for the portions that she tries to keep small to this day-, with which she lost 18 kilos, mainly for health reasons (she had begun to have joint problems from weight), became one of the first plus-size models.

Maye continues to walk the runway and have an active career as a model and nutrition expert (Getty Images).
Maye continues to walk the runway and have an active career as a model and nutrition expert (Getty Images).

It was one of the five jobs he managed to move from Durban to Canada, thanks to his dual citizenship, but then he ran into an additional problem: South African law prevented him from taking all his savings from the mainland, and Errol was unwilling to send him food money. But there is another story about Maye’s life as an investor that she recounts in her book and also shared on her son’s social network this weekend: “In 1969 I won 100 South African rands (about $6) in a beauty contest and the I invested in the stock market on the advice of a friend. They fell to 10 rand. In 1971 I was disappointed, but instead of selling, I put them in Elon’s name. In 1989 I found them. They had reached US$2,000 and paid for their transfer to Canada.”

In One woman, one plansays the only reason her kids didn’t go hungry during the worst of times, between classes at the University of Toronto and her modeling career, is because she used all the nutrition techniques she’d learned in high school. faculty: he gave them bread with peanut butter and legumes so that they could add calories to their diet. “I didn’t even have dates, for fear that the candidate on duty would split the bill,” he confided in an interview with the Daily Mail.

But when Elon and Kimbal told her in 1995 that they wanted to invest in their first company, Zip 2, she was the one who gave them the initial capital of $10,000. She also took them out to eat at the best restaurant in Palo Alto so they could rub shoulders with investors and raise more funds.

A year later, Maye’s career took an unexpected turn, just at the moment when most models see their jobs decline. It was when she decided to stop dyeing her hair, something that today seems almost like a new post-pandemic mandate, but in the nineties it was the closest thing to sacrilege. And more so for a model who was about to turn fifty and wanted to keep her contracts.

“I was the famous one in the family until Elon became famous"Maye joked about her billionaire son (REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)
“I was the famous one in the family until Elon became famous,” Maye joked about her billionaire son (REUTERS / Danny Moloshok)

The first thing that happened, in fact, was that the agency in which he worked dispensed with his services. But within a few months he was not only working at another agency, but his blue-gray eyes were peering deep from the box of Special K cereal: his beauty was just part of the combo, Maye was selling wellness, health, healthy living and something that marketing would only begin to exploit years later: a real woman.

Also in 1996 he published his first book, Feel fantastic: Maye Musk’s Good Health Clinic. Just as before she had been a plus-size model, now she remained one regardless of her age and without the need to fight the passage of time in any way. Fashion brands and designers began to take inspiration from her and she became an early symbol of diversity and inclusion with her all white hair on the runways of the FAshion Weeks from New York and Paris before anyone noticed the paradox that she was the mother of the richest man in the world.

With the first profits from Zip2, her children celebrated her 50th birthday at an investor’s mansion in San Francisco and gave her an expensive dress that she still could not afford to buy on her own, along with a small house and a toy car. , with the promise that one day they would buy him a real house and car. Today he has an apartment near the beach and his grandchildren in Los Angeles and drives a Tesla.

“I was the famous one in the family until Elon became famous,” she rightly said a few years ago on the red carpet of the MET gala, where she arrived as Diane Von Furstenberg’s muse. And it is that her career only took off over the years: as with her actions, her vision allowed her to arrive just in time for the era in which the big brands are finally looking for women of all ages. Maye appeared in the clip of hauntedBeyoncé, in commercials for Revlon, Target, and Virgin, and is the biggest ambassador for Cover Girl.

The firms have various explanations for the phenomenon. The most common is that consumers want to see models they can relate to, get older, gain weight, lose weight, have things happen to them, and Maye, even if she’s rich – she’s worth $20 million alone. – clearly has a history that can be seen in his face and in his body. But she, like her son, is much more specific when explaining the reasons for her validity: “I just want to continue working.”

In 2020 he said in an interview with Page Six that he is having the time of his life thanks to fashion and that he is no longer interested in “the dating market”. “I travel all over the world and I think that anyone who wanted to be with me would hardly be able to see me. Also, he would have to be more fun than my dog ​​and be happier than my dog ​​when I come back, which is hard, because my dog ​​is really happy to see me when I come home,” she said, declaring herself a “perennial single.”

He also assured that he learned something very well from his own experience: he never gives an opinion about his children’s partners: “I never criticize them, because my record is not very good and they know it. If there’s one thing I’m not, it’s a dating expert!”

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She slept with hyenas, survived abuse and is still a top model: Maye Musk, the mother of the richest man in the world