Elon Musk has had his fair share of wives, girlfriends and women who mothered his children in his 52 years on this earth, and if he has it his way, he’ll soon help populate other planets too.
Walter Isaacson’s authorised biography about the tech billionaire is out today and in it Isaacson chronicles Musk’s complicated love life from his first date to the marriage proposal that was sealed with a handshake to his 11 children, one of whom died at just 10 weeks.
In the biography, Musk’s brother Kimbal and friends were candid in their feelings about the tech entrepreneur’s taste in women.
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“It’s really sad that he falls in love with these people who are really mean to him,” Kimbal told Isaacson for the book. Although Musk’s own moodiness and resulting drama also has to be acknowledged.
Let’s take a closer look at the love life of Elon Musk.
Jennifer Gwynne, 1994
Elon Musk’s first serious girlfriend was his college girlfriend Jennifer Gwynne. The couple were still together after Musk and his brother moved to Silicon Valley in 1994 to start their ventures.
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Over their Christmas break he “gave Gwynne a small gold necklace with a smooth green emerald,” Isaacson writes in the book.
She told the author: “His mom had a number of small gold necklaces in a case in her bedroom, and Elon told me they were from his father’s emerald mine in South Africa – he pulled one from the case.”
It turns out this wasn’t the case. The emerald mine in question was long-bankrupt and wasn’t in South Africa and was never owned by is father Errol Musk.
She sold the 14-karate gold necklace, notes and photos from their time together in 2022 via via RR Auction in Boston in the US. The necklace alone fetched US $51,000 ($79,383).
The couple split in the mid-nineties and quickly lost touch.
Justine Wilson, 2000
Musk’s first marriage was to Justine Wilson, who he first meet at Queen’s University.
“She met Musk when she was a freshman and he was a sophomore at Queen’s,” Isaacson writes in the book. “After seeing her at a party, he asked her out for ice cream. She agreed to go out with him the following Tuesday, but when he came by her room she was gone.”
He asked her friends what Jennifer’s favourite ice cream flavour was and when he was told “vanilla-choc-chip’ he bought a cone and walked around campus until he found her studying in the student centre.
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“He’s not a man who takes no for an answer,” she concluded.
Justine’s coolness at the beginning of their relationship was due to her being in the process of breaking up with someone. They would date on and off for a number of years, but Musk was smitten. He told his brother early on he planned on marrying Justine however Kimbal was concerned about the volatility of their relationship.
They eventually wed in January 2000 on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, but not before squabbling over the pre-nuptial agreement. She wouldn’t sign it until two weeks after their nuptials.
“He’s not a man who takes no for an answer.”
During their first dance, Musk reportedly told her: “I am the alpha in the relationship.”
Their first child, son Nevada, died at 10 weeks of age from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. They would go on to conceive twins Griffin and Xavier in 2004 and triplets Kai, Saxon and Damien in 2006.
Their relationship continued to be tumultuous with Musk telling her at one stage: “If you were my employee I would fire you.”
Wilson sights his “lack of empathy” and focus on work as contributing to their split.
“In the spring of 2008, amid the exploding rockets and turmoil at Tesla, Justine was in a car accident,” Isaacson describes in the book. “Afterward, she sat on their bed with her knees pulled up to her chest and tears in her eyes.
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“She told Elon that their relationship had to change.”
They entered marriage counselling but after three session they broke up for good.
“Justine’s version is that Elon gave her an ultimatum: either she accept the marriage for what it was or he would file for divorce.”
She said she felt “numb” but “strangely relieved.”
Talulah Riley, 2008
Musk met English actress Talulah Riley in 2008 when he travelled to London to deliver a speech at the Royal Aeronautical Society. Riley was 22 at the time and Musk was 37.
Her biggest role to date was playing Mary in Keira Knightley’s Pride and Prejudice in 2005.
“He seemed quite shy and slightly awkward,” she told Isaacson for the book. “He was talking about rockets, and at first I didn’t realise they were rockets.” Musk then asked if he could put his hand on her knee. She was “taken aback” but nodded.
Musk then reportedly said: “I’m very bad at this, but please may I have your phone number because I would like to see you again.”
Her father was not impressed, having Googled Musk and discovering he was married with five children. Riley was “furious” but later discovered Musk was newly divorced.
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Their relationship developed quickly and she bonded with his five children and remains in contact with them to this day. When he proposed, he didn’t have a ring.
“It was during a visit to LA that he popped the question in her room at the Peninsula Hotel.
“At the end of the visit, he proposed,” Isaacson writes. Musk reportedly said: “I’m really sorry I don’t have a ring.” Riley “suggested they shake hands on it, which they did.”
Musk and Riley married in September of 2010, divorced in 2012, reconciled in a divorce attorney’s office, remarried in 2013 and divorced for good in 2016 but they remain on reasonably good terms.
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When a close friend of hers died in 2021, Musk “flew to England to spend a day at her house.”
“We just watched stupid TV and laughed and hung out and he just made me laugh instead of cry,” she told the author. In 2022 when Musk was under pressure over his moves to purchase Twitter she flew to LA to console him, traveling with her new boyfriend Thomas Brodie-Sangster and reconnecting with Musk’s four older boys “who had bonded with her over the years.”
Amber Heard, 2016
The billionaire’s relationship with actress Amber Heard is described in the book as “the most agonising of them all”, with Isaacson writing that Heard “drew him into a dark vortex that lasted more than a year and produced a deep-seated pain that lingers to this day.”
Musk himself said of the relationship: “It was brutal.
Musk agreed to work as a consultant on Heard’s movie Machete Kills in 2012 because he wanted to meet her, but they didn’t connect until she request a visit to SpaceX a year later in 2013.
At the time Heard was dating Johnny Depp after they met on the set of their movie The Rum Diaries in 2012.
Musk and Heard would lose contact once more until May 2016 following her split with Depp. They would travel around the globe to see each other including Miami in the US and Italy where she was working in 2016.
By April 2017, Heard was filing Aquaman and Musk was smitten. Heard was 30 at the time and Musk was 45.
“Her playfulness, however, was accompanied by the type of turmoil that attracted Musk,” Isaacson wrote in the book. “His brother and friends hated her with a passion that made their distaste for Justine pale.”
Kimbal labelled her “just so toxic” and “a nightmare.”
“She didn’t have a goal or aim other than chaos,” he said. “She thrives on destabilising everything.” He said Heard and Musk would stay “all night fighting and then he would not be able to get up until the afternoon.”
They broke up in July 2017, then got back together for another “five tumultuous months” and then broke up for good during a family trip to Rio de Janeiro in December with Kimbal and his wife and some of Musk’s children.
“When they got to the hotel, Elon and Amber had another one of their flame-throwing fights,” Isaacson writes in the book. “She locked herself in the room and started yelling that she was afraid she would be attacked and that Elon had taken her passport.
“Elon and Amber had another one of their flame-throwing fights.”
“The security guards and Kimbal’s wife all tried to convince her that she was safe, her passport was in her bag, and she could leave whenever she wanted.”
Kimbal told Isaacson: “She really is a very good actress, so she will say things that you’re like, ‘Wow, maybe she’s telling you the truth,’ but she isn’t. That way she can create her own reality reminds me of my dad.”
Isaacson then commented: “Let that sink in.”
Kimbal said the relationship was part of a pattern for his brother.
“It’s really sad that he falls in love with these people who are really mean to him,” Kimbal said. “They’re beautiful, no question, but they have a very dark side and Elon knows that they’re toxic.”
Heard would contact Musk again in 2018 on his 47th birthday on June 28.
“Amber Heard called to wish him a happy birthday, after which he dropped his phone and it broke, so he was not in a good mood.”
If you ask Grimes about the status of her relationship with Elon Musk, the musician may describe it as “fluid” however Isaacson says recent tension during the birth of their third child together and Grimes’ discover that Musk fathered two children with an employee during their relationship may spell the end of their romance.
Musk and Grimes first saw each other in person when Musk was in an elevator with Amber Heard. Both later accused each other of staring at each other “very intensely.”
A X/Twitter exchange would cement their connection. Grimes produced four albums, drawing on science fiction themes and memes in her music videos and social media accounts and in her music.
Musk was 47 at the time and Grimes was 30 when they began dating.
“She had an adventuresome intellectual curiosity that led her to become interested in eclectic ideas, such as a thought experiment known as Roko’s basilisk, which posits that artificial intelligence could get out of control and torture any human who had not helped it gain power,” Isaacson writes. “These are the types of things that she and Musk worry about. When Musk wanted to tweet a pun about it, he Google-searched to find an image, and he discovered that Grimes had made it an element of her 2015 music video ‘Flesh without Blood.’
“She and Musk got into a Twitter exchange that led, in the modern way, to direct-messaging and texting.
By March 2018, the pair were dating and spending as much time together as possible.
“Despite wanting to help him through his turmoil, Grimes was not a calming influence,” Isaacson writes. “The intensity that made her an edgy artist brought with it a messy lifestyle. She stayed up most of the night and slept most of the day.
“She was demanding and distrustful of Musk’s household staff, and she had a difficult relationship with his mother.”
“Despite wanting to help him through his turmoil, Grimes was not a calming influence.”
Although he adds that “unlike Amber, hers (inclination towards chaos) was a chaos that was undergirded by kindness and even sweetness.” Isaacson concluded that Grimes was a “good partner for Musk.”
Grimes told Isaacson for the book: “Asperger’s makes you a very difficult person. He’s not good at reading the room. His emotional comprehension is just very different from the average human.
She said people should “keep his psychological makeup in mind when judging him.”
Grimes may be drawing on that advice herself these days.
In May 2020, Musk and Grimes would welcome their son X, conceived with the help of IVF. Musk takes X with him “everywhere” as is demonstrated on his social media accounts.
Musk’s older children took to X quickly, including Musk’s son Saxon, one of his triplets who is also autistic. Musk is estranged from his trans daughter, Jenna. Isaacson blames this on a misunderstanding over comments Musk made about transgender phrasing and Musk is reportedly devastated by this.
Musk and Grimes would break up following Musk’s 50th birthday in 2021 but reunited later that year in time to make an iconic appearance at the Met Gala. Grimes would pay homage to the sci-fi novel and movie Dune, with Musk choosing a white suit which complimented her outfit.
They welcomed daughter Exa in December via a surrogate in 2021. Grimes had no idea Musk had fathered a child with an employee, Neuralink executive Shivon Zilis, at the same time and that employee’s surrogate was in the same hospital as hers, and she was expecting twins. The twins would arrive in November and Grimes and Musk’s daughter in December.
Musk and Grimes would welcome a third child together, son Techno, born in mid-2022.
Grimes discovered the existence of the twins with Zilis when a court filing adding ‘Musk’ to their names leaked.
“That’s when Grimes discovered that Zilis, whom she considered a friend, had given birth to twins with Musk,” Isaacson writes. “When she confronted Musk, he simply said Zilis had the right to do what she wanted.
“Grimes was outraged.”
The trio would engaged in multiple conversations following Grimes’ discovery and as of April 2023 Grimes and Musk are reportedly still together.
The couple were pictured together in April 2023 following the SpaceX launch.