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Memorable Romance

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By Mahlia Lone

Talk about a perfect life—Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively are blond, beautiful, famous and successful movie stars, with two lovely daughters and a picture perfect house. They live an idyllic life full of sweetness, sunshine and smiles. Everything is a choice and, according to Ryan, this is a life that Blake has created for her family. Let’s see how she is achieving her dream

Born Blake Ellender Brown in 1987 in Tarzana, Los Angeles to Ernie Lively (né Ernest Wilson Brown, Jr.) an actor, and his wife, Elaine, the good looking actress has an older brother, Eric, and half-siblings, Lori, Robyn and Jason, all of whom work in the entertainment industry. A beautiful child of English, Irish, German and a trace of Cherokee ancestry, she was cherubic with lovely golden ringlets. Her parents took her with them to acting classes that they taught instead of leaving her with a babysitter, where Blake said she picked up the “drills” of acting and gained confidence. At only 10 years of age, she appeared in the film Sandman (1998) directed by her father. Since showbiz was a family business, Blake was not particularly enamored by it and dreamt of attending Stanford University. Teenaged Blake had a crush on fellow child star Kelly Blatz with whom she was childhood pals. Lively said that when they started filming the teen horror flick Simon Says in 2004, “he finally came around” and the two started dating. He was her first boyfriend.

With her mom
With her parents, Ernie & Elaine Lively

During the summer between Blake’s junior and senior years at Burbank High School, her brother Eric asked his agent to send Blake on auditions, which is how she was cast in the coming of age movie The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005) alongside Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel and America Ferrera. Blake caught the eye in the film and was nominated for a Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Breakout – Female. Back in school, she became the senior class president, a cheerleader, and a member of the championship choir.

It was when she was cast as the poor little rich girl Serena van der Woodsen in the hit teen series Gossip Girl based on the bestseller book series by Cecily von Ziegesar that Lively became a household name the world over. The mega successful show ran from 2007 till 2012. During the summer hiatus of 2008, Blake reprised her role in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 and by this time she had become fast friends with the actresses.

Blake was a cheerleader and senior class president in Burbank HIgh School

“I don’t want to date someone just to date someone,” Lively said in an interview for Cosmopolitan magazine that year. “I want to be with a guy who’s going to better my quality of life, better me.” She outed her relationship with her GG costar Penn Badgley at the 2008 Met Gala and continued seeing him for the next three years.

Very close to her family, Blake said that on holidays, like Christmas Day, all the siblings would stay in bed together. “Somehow we just spend seven hours a day all together just chatting and it’s really nice to have that time, because it’s rare that we get together for such a nice chunk of time. We never leave the house. We’re together all day whether we’re making gingerbread houses, or baking cookies, or sitting around and watching movies all piled up.”

Inordinately fond of food and cooking, Blake called Martha Stewart her “idol” as well as being a fan of Nigella Lawson, a TV chef. Lively spent evenings working as a pastry chef at the renowned Per Se in New York City and took cookery classes wherever she travelled as a way of immersing herself in the local culture, including a tailor-made workshop at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Her ambition was to become a restaurateur and also “hoped one day to have an interior decorating company,” due to her love of “antiques, colours and textures and layering things.” Even though her GG role that she became synonymous with was of a spoilt rich girl, she was actually much more family oriented and more interested in perfecting her domestic arts rather than painting the town red like other celebrities her age. After GG ended, Blake was cast in the superhero movie Green Lantern starring Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Reynolds.

Before
After
Gossip Girl
Sisterhood of the traveling pants 2

Ryan Rodney Reynolds was born in 1976, in Vancouver, British Columbia the youngest of four brothers to James Chester “Jim” Reynolds, a food wholesaler, and Tammy, a sales assistant. The handsome blond actor is of Irish descent and was raised a Roman Catholic. His older brother became police officers, while Ryan began his showbiz career with a stint in 1991 in the Canadian teen soap Hillside. He graduated from Kitsilano Secondary School in 1994, but dropped out of Kwantlen Polytechnic University in 1996 and moved to Hollywood. His breakout role was in the hit show Sabrina the Teenage Witch with teen queen Melissa Joan Hart.

Reynolds’ next big role came in the sitcom Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place (1998-2001). He had a relationship with the show’s star Traylor Howard for two years even though she was a decade older than him; then he moved on to Kristen Johnston, also a TV star nearly a decade older; till he finally started dating Rachael Leigh Cook, an actress closer to his own age.

Penn Badgley (2008-2010)

Ryan made the jump to the big screen in the hit National Lampoon comedy Van Wilder (2002). At the same time, he started his first serious relationship with popular Canadian singer/songwriter Alanis Morisette. The couple spent five years together from 2002 to 2007 and the two were even engaged for the three last years. Morrisette wrote songs about her heartbreak after their breakup on her album Flavors of Entanglement, especially the track Torch that was all about her former fiancé. During this relationship, Reynolds, known mostly for his comedic roles till now, expanded his acting range. He built up his body for an action role in the 2004 film Blade: Trinity. And in George Lutz’s 2005 remake of the 1979 horror film The Amityville Horror, Reynolds traversed the horror genre as well. Continuing to play against type, he played an FBI agent alongside Ray Liotta in the 2006 crime action film Smokin’ Aces, and in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) he worked in a superhero film.

 

“I’ve had four boyfriends in my whole life. I’ve never been with anyone that’s not a boyfriend. If I spend time with a man, it’s because there’s somebody that I know well who has been a friend for a while”
—Blake lively

In 2008, Ryan married sex symbol Scarlett Johanssen, his girlfriend for a year, but the marriage only lasted for three years with Scarlett calling it quits citing her monogamy issues and hinting at his insecurity with her success. In the meantime, Reynolds had a big summer hit in The Proposal (2009) opposite established box office star Sandra Bullock. Not only did he effortlessly hold his own against the senior actress, but their on screen chemistry was hot, and the two ended up having a fling  after his marriage had irrrvocably broken down.

Ryan was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada

When the movie’s stars Lively and Reynolds made their debut as Green Lantern costars at 2010 Comic-Con at the San Diego Convention Center, he was still married to Scarlett, and she was still dating Badgley, but they had clearly established a good rapport with each other. With Green Lantern Reynolds was expected to become an A-list leading man but when the $200 million superhero movie hit theatres, it was a disappointment for critics and audiences alike. It just barely broke even. By the end of the year, the two stars were both single. During next year’s WonderCon press conference the two stars were seen giggling and enjoying each other’s company, but they were only friends at this time. Ryan told Details, “I’m very happy not to be in a relationship right now. That’s okay. I didn’t plan on it, that’s for sure . . . but that’s okay. I’ve been in relationships pretty much since high school….Some people look at that as a good thing. I think wiser people might see that as a house of cards….Anyone that gets divorced goes through a lot of pain, but you come out of it….I’m not out of it yet. At all.”

Men usually seek solace when experiencing pain in the arms of the next willing woman and Reynolds followed up his fling with Sandra with two more flings that year, one with German model Agnes Fischer and the next South African glamazon star Charlize Theron as salve to his ego and pain.

Meanwhile, Lively was concentrating on her career and snagged a lucrative and high profile campaign as the face of the new Gucci fragrance, Gucci Premiere. And she was the arm candy of none other than Leonardo DiCaprio who squired her around the South of France during the summer of 2011. But he is not one to settle down or even stay with any one woman for long, regardless of how good looking or sweet she may be.

X-Men Origins Wolverine
Smokin’ Aces
Blade Trinity

Back Stateside, Reynolds and Lively started spending more time together.  He later reminisced on Entertainment Weekly’s SiriusXM show, “We were buddies then. I remember it was funny because for about a year after Green Lantern had come and gone and all that stuff we were both single,” he said. “We went on a double date. She was on a date with another guy and I was on a date with another girl. That was the most awkward date for their respective probably because we were just like fireworks coming across (laughing). It was weird at first but we were buddies for a long time. I think it’s the best way to have a relationship is to start as friends.”

Soon rumors were rife that the Green Lantern costars’ were hooking up after they were seen at multiple spots together fall of 2011, and she was photographed leaving his Boston apartment early one morning. In a later interview with GQ magazine, he said, “I mean, I always imagined that would happen, and then it happened. Every idiotic Hallmark-card cliché is true.” Ryan said he knew Blake was “The One” not when they first met but after they had sex on their first date. Ryan explained that he asked the actress to dance in an empty restaurant, on a really late evening in Tribeca and knew instantly. He said: ‘It was just one of those moments where halfway through the dance, it was like, ‘Oh, I think I just crossed a line.’ And then I walked her home. And, uh, you know, I don’t really need to go into what happened after that.”

Speaking about the same date to Entertainment Weekly, Blake said: “That date went well for him. I don’t know about fireworks for me. No, we were such good friends for so long and we both got to know each other as friends so when we were both single, we were still trying to find each other’s perfect date—‘Oh, who would be good for you?’

First day on the set of Green Lantern, Blake arrived with a batch of freshly baked cupcakes that Ryan devoured

Blake Lively & Ryan Reynolds Promoting Green Lantern at Comic-Con 2010
Scream Awards 2010 Awards
GL-0740
(L-r) BLAKE LIVELY as Carol Ferris and RYAN REYNOLDS as Green Lantern in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure “GREEN LANTERN,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
<> at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on June 15, 2011 in Hollywood, California.

We’d sit around being like, ‘Oh jeez, do you know anyone?’ And it didn’t click for, I mean, a good year and a half. Like, ‘Oh hey, wait, hold on. We could date!’”

Lively paid him a visit him on the set of his movie R.I.P.D., a 3D supernatural action comedy film starring Jeff Bridges, in Boston on his birthday in October with a big bouquet of balloons tied to her dog Baxter as a cute surprise. Soon they became inseparable; the new couple spent the Christmas holidays with Reynolds’ family in Vancouver where they were spotted holding hands while walking through the Granville Island Public Market. In January 2012, they were seen going for an incognito stroll in New Orleans, La. In the summer, they were back in British Columbia, visiting the Ferry Terminal in Nanaimo.

Reynold’s back to back flings after his marraige disentigrated

“They are very much in love,” a source close to the couple reportedly told press. “They rarely travel without one another.”

“I’ve been with very few people. If I’m not with somebody who really excites or inspires me, then I’d rather be by myself,” Lively told Marie Claire. “To be around me, you must love food or I’m the most obnoxious person you’ve ever met. I’m in a big cooking phase. That’s all I’ll talk about.”

Perhaps in anticipation of putting down roots, Lively sold her West Village apartment and bought a $2.3 million country style house in Bedford, in upstate NY with 1.7 acres of garden, a wood panelled living room, formal dining room, library and sun porch. “They keep to themselves,” said a neighbor. “They frequent the Bedford Hardware store for home improvement goods, buy groceries and go to restaurants in the area, but aren’t very talkative to the locals. They eat out a lot, and are polite, but don’t make friends with people there. The pair just want to be left alone in their home.”

Blake sneaking out of Ryan’s Boston apartment once early morning in fall 2011

Following a romantic trip to Venice, the couple tied the knot in a super secret ceremony at Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina (where The Notebook was filmed) on Sept. 9th 2012 after only a year of dating They had not even announced their engagement before getting married. The bride, 25, wore a silk tulle Marchesa ball gown with rose gold embroidery and crystals while the bridegroom, 36, was in a Burberry suit. Only 35 guests were in attendance including her Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants costars — America Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn and Alexis Bledel. The ceremony was held in a rustic barn and the reception was held in a white tent at the plantation, while Blake’s good friend, British singer Florence Welch serenaded the newlyweds with three songs and Bette Midler performed as well. Blake’s elder half-sister, also an actress, Robyn Lively recreated her Teen Witch dance from the late ‘80s film classic that she had appeard in. No one, not even the performers or any guests were allowed to bring in phones and everyone was sworn to utter secrecy. Even after the wedding, no pictures were released except for those of certain details, like the bouquet, cake and dessert table, which were published in Martha Steward Living magazine. The vanilla-and-sour-cream wedding cake with peach-apricot preserves and Earl Grey-milk chocolate butter cream was made by Maggie Austin Cake in Alexandria, Virginia. Among the deserts were s’mores, espresso beans, blueberry cheesecake tartlets and lemon meringue tartlets, as well as fruit jellies and mini strawberry cupcakes.

Their super secret wedding at the Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

The morning after, the couple were pictured sharing a kiss in Charleston as the bride displayed her stunning pink diamond engagement ring designed by celebrity jeweller Lorraine Schwartz, featuring a large center stone supported by a band of small diamonds. “Ryan chose Lorraine Schwartz to help him find a flawless, light pink oval diamond. They worked together to design a custom setting in rose gold and pave diamonds with a nod to deco,” a spokesperson for the jeweller said. The bride’s rose gold wedding ring, also by Schwartz, has a series of delicate diamonds to complements the engagement sparkler.

Lively settled down to domesticity well, preferring to cook at home rather than head out to expensive restaurants. “I use a lot of fresh ingredients, which really does make a huge difference. It’s easier to be healthy when eating things that are fresh, because they are often fruits and vegetables,” she said while filming a segment making Puff Pastry for Vogue.com. Her go-to recipes are sausage and brie puff pastry and rotisserie chicken.

“Right now, I’m so peaceful. I’ve never been happier in my life. He treats me like a queen,” announced newly wed Blake

Even Martha Steward called her “a groovy cook.”

The newlyweds took a romantic trip to Paris that winter. An eyewitness told Us magazine “They were kissing the entire time. The locals said hello, but they were only interested in each other.”

Always known for her unerring fashion sense, Blake’s sartorial style climbed a notch even higher after her wedding. She said, “It’s (fashion) such a passion of mine. That’s the reason I don’t have a stylist, not because I think I can do it better than any of these people, but because I just love it so much that it would be like handing over something.”

As the face of Gucci Première

Lively’s career chart continued to progress and, in 2013, the blond actress scored her first major makeup campaign as the new face of L’Oreal, The next year she launched a lifestyle digital magazine and e-commerce website with artisanal hand-made one-of-a-kind items that she personally selected called Preserve. The products she was hawking were too expensive for the average consumer. The site never really took off and sensibly she shut it down after only a year, claiming that she had launched it before it was ready and she would redo it and relaunch it later.

Lively’s failed e-commerce website Preserve
The Age of Adaline

 

Lively returned to her lucrative film career and started filming for the The Age of Adaline with Harrison Ford in a cameo role. She plays a woman who “stops aging after recovering from a near-fatal accident,” but the film was only a modest success.

The Reynolds made a string of glamorous, high profile appearances that garnered them much publicity.  First stop was at the 2014 Met Gala. However, the genetically blessed married couple skipped the after parties to eat hot fudge sundaes with peanut butter sauce at NYC hot spot Serendipity despite being all glammed up. Right after they graced the red carpet of the 67th Cannes Film Festival to attend the screening of Canadian independent film Captives, starring Ryan Reynolds

Ryan declared on The Late Show With David Letterman, “I’m not one for vomiting declarations of sentiment out across the airwaves, but when we had that baby, I fell more in love with my wife than I’d ever been in my entire life. I couldn’t even believe it….I used to say to (Blake), ‘I would take a bullet for you. I could never love anything as much as I love you.’ And the second I looked in that baby’s eyes, I knew in that exact moment that if we were ever under attack, I would use my wife as a human shield to protect that baby.”

NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 20: Actress Blake Lively (L) and Ryan Reynolds attend Angel Ball 2014 hosted by Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation at Cipriani Wall Street on October 20, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation)

Lively shared her marital bliss with Marie Claire , “We’ve never gone a week without seeing each other. He’s my best, best friend. If I could spit out a litter of kids, I would.”

And she did, having her first, a daughter who looks just like her who they named James, on Dec 16th 2014. The wary couple kept the birth under wraps for weeks before any public announcement was made.

A striking resemblance—
Blake (left) & daughter James (right)

On Valentine’s Day 2015, Ryan said, “One of the most common things in the world is making out, having a couple of drinks, and then doing it, and then having a baby. I was perfectly sober for this one though. I gotta say,” he joked. “It’s amazing. I just always marvel how common it is and yet how profound it is. And I always laugh because you know celebrities you always cringe when they talk about their kids. Like ‘my child is the only one that has ever exited a womb out, ever. Amid his laughter he continued, “Well, a lot of people have done this, so you always want to temper it with a little of self-effacement. But I love it. I truly worship that kid. It’s terrible. She has me so far wrapped around her finger it’s dumb. She says ‘dada’ and I will walk through a cement wall to get to her.”

“I was recently asked how my style has changed since I got married, as if I was living under some sort of dictatorship. I’m very lucky to be with someone who has better taste than me. We influence each other in different ways”

CANNES, FRANCE – MAY 14: Blake Lively attends “The BFG (Le Bon Gros Geant – Le BGG)” premiere during the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival at the Palais des Festivals on May 14, 2016 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Still a working actress, Blake accepted the challenge of filming the movie The Shallows mostly in a bikini after the birth. Lively had been known for her incredible 5’10” tall and curvaceous but slim body before pregnancy. To get fit for her upcoming role, Blake hired a personal trainer who made her exercise for 90 minutes each day. Her circuit training regime included squats, lunges, push-ups and planking. The exercise did more for her than lose the baby weight she’d gained. She said, “I worked out with an amazing trainer Don Saladino. He kicked my butt. It was also eight months after having a baby so my body was already completely different than what it normally was. Not just aesthetically but also your muscles are different, your body, everything is just shifted and changed.”

Then speaking about the actual intense filming, she told E! News: “It was really crazy. But it was also nice to have that motivation because I wouldn’t have done that. I wouldn’t have gotten in that kind of shape. It was like training for a marathon, but a marathon is one day. This was six weeks straight, six-day weeks, no lunch breaks, thirteen-hour days, four-foot waves at all times. By the time I was done with the movie…I had muscles that I had never had before.” In the film, Lively has absolutely flat abs and there is not an inch of fat or loose skin anywhere.

Then in 2016, Reynolds finally hit the big time when Deadpool, the eighth installment of the X-Men film series, was released having been in inception since 2004.  After a new type of viral marketing campaign, the film earned over $783 million dollars, becoming the overall highest-grossing R-rated film as well as the highest grossing X-Men film to date. Script writer Rhett Reese described Reynolds’ role being instrumental in ensuring the success of the movie by being “the keeper of the Deadpool flame for many years … if we ever do something that is off the Deadpool path, or if it doesn’t feel like Deadpool, he catches it.” His tenacity paid off and finally Ryan had a superhero franchise of his own, with a sequel announced after the movie’s mega success.

“Everything we do in life we do together. I get to share my life with the person he’s become, and we get to grow from there”
—blake

Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively arrive for
the State Dinner in honor of Prime Minister Trudeau and Mrs. Sophie Trudeau of
Canada at the White House

The same year, Blake gave birth to their second daughter Ines. After having a second child, Ryan admitted that parenting gives him anxiety, because he now finds he is constantly in a rush and has to cram things into short bursts of time, “I think you’re just more desperate in everything you do, ‘cause you’re like, ‘I’ve got 10 minutes to do this, and then I gotta get home. There’s just no time anymore, so you’re hardened by it. Anxiety, I think, that’s probably it.” He said that earlier he didn’t think he would make a good dad because of his not having had a good relationship with his own father, but Blake assured him he would and patiently schooled him in becoming a hands on dad, changing diapers and cleaning spit up.

On December 15th  2016, Reynolds received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6801 Hollywood Boulevard. His beautiful wife, toddler daughter and new baby were all there with him to share in his honour. In another landmark, Blake took Ryan to Japanese restaurant O Ya in NYC to celebrate his  40th birthday.  Blake, in a rare public declaration paid tribute to her husband, posting on Insta, “We fell in love at your restaurant in Boston. We stay in love at your restaurant in NY. Thank you for the BEST food and memories!” In the photo, Reynolds holds a picture of the two, making the same pose, in a shot taken five years prior to this.

Lively celebrated Ryan’s 40th birthday in the Japanese restaurant OYa, NYC. They had gone to OYa, Boston,
for their first date five years earlier

During this year’s Met Gala, Humans of New York shared Ryan Reynolds’ heartfelt message about his other half on. Ryan was quoted gushing about some of Blake’s best qualities, “She always responds with empathy. She meets anger with empathy. She meets hate with empathy. She’ll take the time to imagine what happened to a person when they were five or six years old.” He added that she had made him a more empathetic person by helping him strengthen his relationship with his dad. “I had a very fractured relationship with my father. Before he died, she made me remember things I didn’t want to remember. She made me remember the good times.”

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – JANUARY 08: 74th ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS — Pictured: (l-r) Actor Ryan Reynolds and actress Blake Lively arrive to the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 8, 2017. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/NBCUniversal/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

HOLLYWOOD, LOS ANGELES, CA, USA – DECEMBER 15: Actor Ryan Reynolds and wife/actress Blake Lively and daughter James Reynolds and newly born daughter attend a ceremony honoring Ryan Reynolds with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – Dedication of the 2,596th star on the Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures on December 15, 2015 in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Xavier Collin/Image Press/Splash News)

Pictured: James Reynolds, Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively
Ref: SPL1412004 151216

Picture by: Xavier Collin/Image Press/Splash

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While Blake told USA Today: “We’ve both given up projects that we really love because we can’t keep our family together. People often think their career is something they have to chase and maintain, but for us, we said, ‘Let’s always chase and maintain our personal life.’ This is a career that’s like the stock market: You’ve got to stay hot while you’re hot. But your family, that’s the real thing that gives you security and success and happiness.” And that is the secret to her success.

By Mahlia Lone

This mega successful power couple of the music industry has collaborated on numerous hit albums, three kids and has had their share of public drama. Despite Beyonce’s determination to keep her personal life away from scrutiny and micromanaging the couple’s public image, the façade of their perfect marriage shattered when her sister Solange was caught on camera kicking Jay Z’s ass in an elevator of The Standard hotel following the 2014 Met Gala’s after party in New York City. Cheating rumors have dogged Jay Z for years and now there was proof that where there was smoke there was fire. Though the family hushed up the story at the time, Beyonce hit back with her bestselling album Lemonade two years later in which she powerfully addresses her marital issues. This is how you deal with your problems in a controlled, systematic, well thought out and intelligent manner

Shawn Carter was born in Brooklyn in 1969 where he was raised in a housing project alongside his three siblings. His parents’ taste in music had a profound influence on the little boy who grew up listening to their record collection of soul artists such as Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway. He said, “I grew up around music, listening to all types of people… I’m into music that has soul in it, whether it be rap, R&B, pop music, whatever, as long as I can feel their soul through the wax.” Their father abandoned the family early on, and their mother, Gloria Carter raised her kids single handedly. Just prior to his death in 2003 Jay Z’s father finally reconciled with his superstar son.

Shawn had a tough street childhood. According to his lyrics in 1982, at the age of 12, he shot his older brother in the shoulder for stealing his jewellery. At the same time as AZ, another future rapper, he attended the troubled Eli Whitney High School, a vocational school in Brooklyn, until it was shut down due to too much student violence in the halls. He then attended the George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School with future rappers The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes, followed by a brief period at Trenton Central High School in New Jersey, but he did not manage to graduate high school. By his own admission, during this period he sold crack cocaine and was shot at three times.

According to his mother,  Shawn used to wake up his siblings at night banging out drum patterns on the kitchen table, so she saved up and bought him a boom box for his birthday, further fueling his interest in music. This was the time that hip hop was growing as a music movement. Young Shawn too started free styling and writing lyrics and became known as Jazzy around the neighborhood, which he changed to Jay-Z in homage to his mentor rapper/producer Jaz-O.

Jay Z’s mother raised her kids single handely living in a housing project in a tough Brooklyn neighbourhood

In the early 1990s, Jay-Z got caught up in several battles with the popular rapper LL Cool J, already a success having released four albums, the fourth becoming a double platinum, and even having won a Grammy. The rap culture was rife with open gun violence and demanded that rappers have authentic “street cred.”  Finally, Jay-Z started to gain some recognition touring with established rapper and MC Big Daddy Kane. Kane said Jay-Z “wasn’t a hypeman, he basically made cameo appearances on stage. When I would leave the stage to go change outfits, I would bring out Jay-Z and Positive K and let them freestyle until I came back to the stage.”

Jay-Z’s first official rap single was called In My Lifetime, which he produced himself and paid for the  music video. Not offered a single record deal, determined Jay-Z sold CDs out of his car and with business partners, Damon Dash and Kareem Biggs, created Roc-A-Fella Records as an independent record label in 1995 that released Jay’s 1996 debut album Reasonable Doubt. It had beats from acclaimed producers such as DJ Premier and Super DJ Clark Kent and an appearance by The Notorious B.I.G.. The album that no big label had been willing to produce reached number 23, reached platinum status and was No. 248 on the Billboard 200 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The trio never looked back and they were on their way to becoming mega successful entrepreneurs.

This time with a distribution deal with Def Jam in 1997, Jay Z released his follow-up In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. produced by Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs. Jay-Z later said that this album was made during one of the worst periods of his life, after the drive-by shooting death of his close friend The Notorious B.I.G. who is considered to be not only one of the most influential rappers of all time known for his dark autobiographical lyrics, but was also the central figure of the East Coast hip hop scene as opposed to the West Coast that became popular first. Jay-Z too recounted true stories of his difficult upbringing and the album earned platinum status.

The Knowles

In 1998, Jay-Z released Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life with the hit track Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) that had more flow and wordplay, and mined beats from popular producers like  Swizz Beatz, an in-house producer for Timbaland. In 2000, Jay Z released the more soulful album The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, which helped introduce newcomers including Kanye West. The Blueprint with Eminem as a guest rapper, which Jay had written in just two days and quickly released after the 9/11 attack, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and reached 2x platinum status.

In 1999, both Jay-Z and Damond Dash romantically pursued the talented and popular R&B singer/actress Aaliyah who Dash won over before her tragic and untimely death in a plane crash in the Bahamas after filming a music video. This love dynamic the two business partners were to repeat years later. Though Dash was said to be engaged to Aaliyah, it was Jay Z who wrote the song Miss You after her death.

The business partners also launched Rocawear, a company that would go on to have an annual $700 million turnover. A budding fashion designer of a Bengali Indian father and Dutch mother, Californian Rachel Roy joined the startup as an intern. She would work her way up the ladder and would play a big part in both men’s lives.

In October 2001, Jay Z pleaded guilty to stabbing record producer Lance Rivera at the Kit Kat Klub in New York City in 1999 and was sentenced to three years probation for the second degree felony. This was the time when he met an eighteen year old singing sensation Beyonce, a part of the best selling girl group off all time, Destiny’s Child, who would curb his wild ways.

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles was born and raised in Houston, Texas, to Celestine “Tina” Knowles (née Beyincé), a hairdresser and salon owner of Louisiana Creole descent (African, Native American, and French), and Mathew Knowles, an African American Xerox sales manager. Beyoncé’s younger sister Solange also became a hit singer and  briefly a member of Destiny’s Child.

Beyoncé attended St. Mary’s Montessori School, where she enrolled in dance classes. One day, the dance instructor started humming a song and Beyonce finished it, hitting all the high-pitched notes. Aged seven, she won a school talent show, singing John Lennon’s Imagine beating out15-16-year-olds. Her parents realized that their daughter had a natural talent and they wanted to develop it into a lucrative career for her, which the whole family could benefit from. So in 1990, Beyoncé was enrolled in Parker Elementary School, a music magnet school, where she joined the school’s choir. When Beyoncé was eight, she, childhood friend Kelly Rowland and Latavia Roberson auditioned for places in the girl’s group Girl’s Tyme that sang, rapped and danced on the talent show circuit. They made it to California and were selected for Star Search, a TV talent show, but failed to take home the prize.

Continuing to hone her skill, Beyonce attended the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and later Alief Elsik High School. During this time, Beyoncé became a soloist at St. John’s United Methodist Church choir for two years.

In 1995, Mathew Knowles resigned from his job to manage the girls’ group full time. The family income was reduced by half, and they had to downsize. The girls’ group continued performing as an opening act for other R&B girls’ groups and kept auditioning before record labels hoping to get a break. During this tough financial time, Tina separated from Mathew but he still didn’t give up on his golden songstress daughter.

Michelle Williams, Beyonce & Kelly Rowland made up the hit girls’ group Destiny’s Child

Finally, in 1996 the group got a contract with Columbia Records under the new name Destiny’s Child based upon a biblical passage and the following year released their debut song Killing Time on the soundtrack to the 1997 Will Smith sci-fi blockbuster, Men in Black; they had finally hit the big time. The group’s self-titled debut album had the its first major hit No, No, No; its multi-platinum second album The Writing’s on the Wall (1999) had the group’s first number-one single, Jumpin’ Jumpin’ as well as Say My Name, which won two R&B awards at the 43rd Annual Grammys. The Writing’s on the Wall sold more than eight million copies worldwide, making the teenage girls household names.

Beyoncé’s long standing boyfriend, not being able to handle her huge success, broke up with her. She sunk into depression that lasted for a couple of years. It was so severe that she would lock herself in her room for and refused to eat anything. The family hid Beyonce’s depression from the world to preserve her perfect sultry. starry image and Tina helped her daughter slowly recover behind closed doors. In this way, Beyonce was schooled to hide her pain from the world.

In 2000, the song Independent Women Part I was featured on the soundtrack of the hit movie Charlie’s Angels and topped the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart for eleven consecutive weeks. The group’s third album Survivor was released just a year later, debuting at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200. Beyonce’s curves became synonymous with the track Bootylicious and the title track Survivor won a Grammy Award in the R&B category. After releasing their holiday album 8 Days of Christmas in fall 2001, the hard working group announced a hiatus to pursue their solo careers.

Beyonce had met Jay-Z by this time. Though they weren’t dating but only friends, they would speak on the phone and meet up. She was desirous of pursuing a solo career and he owned a record label and was an award winning producer with a talent for spotting and developing new talent, so it was a great match in more ways than one. Beyoncé started dating the 12 years older Jay Z after their collaboration on the song Bonnie & Clyde which appeared on his seventh album The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse (2002). In the music video, she plays his girlfriend, fuelling speculation about their relationship status, but the duo remained tight-lipped about the romance. The couple generally avoids discussing their relationship. Beyoncé has stated that she believes that not publicly discussing their relationship has helped them, while Jay Z agreed in a People magazine interview, “We don’t play with our relationship.”

Kareem Biggs, Damond Dash & Jay-Z were business partners as well as friends before they fell out

That year Beyonce branched out into movies, playing Foxxy Cleopatra alongside Mike Myers in the comedy movie Austin Powers in Goldmember, which grossed $73 million.  Work It Out was the lead single from its soundtrack album. The next year Beyoncé starred opposite Cuba Gooding, Jr., in the musical The Fighting Temptations and also sung two tracks for the soundtrack. Meanwhile, in her personal life, she was frequently spotted in Jay-Z’s company courtside at basketball matches, fashion shows and A-list events. The same year, she released her first solo album Dangerously in Love after her ex band mates, Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland had already come out with theirs. Her album debuted atop the Billboard 200 and sold more than11 million copies worldwide. The album’s lead single, Crazy in Love, featuring Jay Z, became Beyoncé’s first number one single as a solo artist. The single Baby Boy also reached number one.   Clearly the two were making amazing music together. The album earned Beyoncé a then record-tying five awards at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards.

Jay-Z started the 40/40 sports bars

The ever enterprising Jay-Z after visiting the South of France opened the upscale 40/40 Club in NYC in 2003, the first in a chain of sports bars known for their live music, celebrity patrons, and sports memorabilia. Great at marketing, he cleverly mentioned the bar in his song Dirt Off Your Shoulder: “Now you chillin’ with a boss, bitch of course SC on the sleeve/at the 40/40 club ESPN on the screen.”

At the opening of the sports bar, he announced his eighth album, The Black Album featuring producers such as Kanye West, Timbaland and Eminem among many others. He has such clout and such a successful track record that all the bright stars of the industry want to work with him. Jay brags about his hot girlfriend Beyonce on the track, Public Service Announcement, rapping “I got the hottest chick in the game wearing my chain.”

“I was 18 when we first met, 19 when we started dating. There was no rush. No one expected me to run off and get married. We were friends first, for a year and a half, before we went on any date, (we were) on the phone for a year and a half. And that foundation is so important in a relationship. And just to have someone that you just like, is so important. And someone that is honest.” –Beyonce

Jay-Z also collaborated with R. Kelly, ex-husband of the late Aaliyah, on a collaborative studio album, The Best of Both Worlds. At the end of the year, Jay held a charity concert—billed as a “retirement party”—at NYC’s Madison Square Garden, the footage of which was later used in his rockumentay/hip hop film Fade to Black. Missy Elliott, Mary J. Blige, Foxy Brown, Pharrell Williams, R. Kelly and Beyonce were just some of the big names that headlined the show. He also invited the mothers of The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur in memory of his dead friends.

 

Beyonce, right, is joined by boyfriend Jay-Z as they perform during the 6th annual BET Awards on Tuesday, June 27, 2006, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

In February, 2004, Beyoncé was honoured by being asked to perform the American national anthem at Super Bowl XXXVIII, at her hometown of Houston. At top of her game, and with the genius producer Jay-Z behind her, she was finally ready to take their relationship public. Jay-Z, after having split with his partners in Roc-A-Fella Records due to too many business disputes was named president of Def Jam Records. Fresh from their success and feeling confident, Jay and Bey made their red carpet debut as a couple at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards in colour coordinated outfits of white and gold.

Making their first public appearance as a couple at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards in colour coordinated outfits

As President of Def Jam, Jay-Z signed the phenomenally talented new artist Rihanna to an astonishing six-record recording deal in 2005. The record company executives literally wouldn’t let the Barbadian teenager leave the building till she had signed on the dotted line lest she sign with a rival company. Jay and Rihanna began a close working relationship and a year into it, rumors that the two were hooking up were rife. We still don’t know how much truth there is to the rumours, however, as neither addressed them.

Meanwhile, Beyonce, still concentrating on her career, came out with another solo album B’Day  to coincide with her twenty-fifth birthday that debuted atop the Billboard 200. The  hit lead single Déjà Vu, again featured her steady boyfriend Jay-Z. She also continued her foray into films by playing a sexy pop singer in The Pink Panther (2006) starring the veteran comedian Steve Martin. The movie was a smash, grossing $160 million worldwide. Though Dreamgirls, the film version of the 1981 Broadway musical based on The Supremes, was supposed to be a Beyonce vehicle to award glory, it was singer/actress Jennifer Hudson who in a supporting role ended up winning the Oscar. Beyonce covered up her disappointment well.

East Coast rappers in Miami

In 2006, when Jay-Z released his comeback album Kingdom Come, featuring the song Lost One, the track’s somber lyrics fuelled speculation that the pair’s relationship was on the rocks. He raps: “I don’t think it’s meant to be, B/But she loves her work more than she does me/And honestly, at 23/ I would probably love my work more than I did she.” These lines are about trying to have a real, serious relationship with another ambitious and super busy high profile professional. This song was in complete contrast to his earlier songs like Big Pimpin’, where women exist almost completely as predators or objects. It’s about respecting the woman you are with and a real relationship of equals. The duo was listed as the most powerful couple for TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2006.

In 2007, Jay Z released his tenth album entitled American Gangster, a new “concept” album depicting his experiences as a street-hustler, recorded Umbrella with Rihanna, one of the most popular songs of the year, and sold Rocawear for more than $200 million. On Bey’s birthday in September, Jay proposed to her but the two decided to keep the engagement a secret. Beyoncé did not publicly debut her $5 million Lorraine Schwartz engagement ring until the Fashion Rocks concert a full year later in New York City whereby the public learnt of their engagement. In anticipation of this major life change perhaps, on January 1, 2008, Jay resigned as president of Def Jam.

It was speculated that Beyonce’s song Ring That Alarm was about Jay-Z cheating on her with Rihanna

On April 4th (4/4, their favourite number and both their birthdays) 2008, Jay and Bey married at a private ceremony at the bride groom’s massive Tribeca apartment in NYC. A source told the press: “Jay wanted it to be a really private affair – close friends and family.” The bride wore a dress designed by her mother, Tina, and instead of wedding rings, the couple opted for matching tattoos of the Roman numeral four (IV) on their ring fingers as a permanent mark of their commitment to one another. The Carters went to a super exclusive resort in the Maldives for their honeymoon.

Photo tweeted by the Obama 2012 Campaign showing President Barack Obama greeting Jay-Z and Beyonce during a campaign fundraiser at the 40/40 Club in New York Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2012. The caption read” A couple supporters in a New York state of mind last night.”

The Carters are great supporters/friends of the Obamas and Beyonce sang at both of the ex-President’s inaugurals

In an interview for Essence magazine later that year, Bey was unusually candid about her private life, explaining that it was a joint decision to keep quiet about their relationship, “We decide everything. My word is my word. What Jay and I have is real. It’s not about interviews or getting the right photo op. It’s real.” She also said that their wedding was “small, intimate, and drama-free.”

Beyonce publicly revealed their marriage in a video montage at the listening party for her third studio album, I Am… Sasha Fierce, in Manhattan’s Sony Club six months later. Sasha Fierce is Beyonce’s powerful alter ego. The album featured the number-one songs Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), a favourite of ex-President Barack Obama’s who is also a big fan of her husband’s work, as well as Halo, the longest-running Hot 100 single in her career. With these songs, she attained more top ten singles on the list than any other woman during the 2000s. She also starred as a blues singer in the 2008 musical biopic Cadillac Records. Jay Z too became the first hip hop artist to headline UK’s Glastonbury Festival. In January 2009, Forbes ranked them as Hollywood’s top earning couple, with a combined total of $162 million. They also made it to the top of the list the following year, with a combined total of $122 million between June 2008 and June 2009.

LOS ANGELES, CA – AUGUST 28: Singer Beyonce arrives at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE on August 28, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Beyonce reveals pregnancy at 2011

Friends and supporters of President Barack Obama, Beyoncé performed At Last at the First Couple’s first inaugural ball in 2009. At the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, Beyoncé received ten nominations, tying with Lauryn Hill for most Grammy nominations in a single year by a female artist. She won six awards that night, breaking her own record set in 2004 for the most Grammy awards won in a single night by a female artist. Meanwhile, Jay-Z featured on two more of Rihanna’s songs Talk That Talk and Run This Town, which they also performed together at high profile concerts. He released a studio album The Blueprint 3 that year days ahead of schedule due to heightened anticipation. It became his 11th album to reach No.1 on the Billboard 200, surpassing Elvis Presley’s previous record. He also dropped the hyphen from his name.

In late 2013, Beyonce released a visual albgy gown to the MTV Video Music Awards in 2um and a string of video features where she spoke candidly about home life for the very first time: “Nothing feels like my child singing ‘mummy.’ No, nothing feels like when I look my husband in the eyes, nothings feels like when I’m respected, when I get on the stage and I see I’m changing people’s lives.”

Beyonce & Jay Z with Blue Ivy VMA’s 2014

Beyoncé announced a hiatus from her hectic career in January 2010, heeding her mother’s advice, “to live life, to be inspired by things again.” She later said, “I did it for my sanity, my life, my relationships, my nephew, my husband, my sister and my friendships,” she said of her career break. “I can decide I want to have kids. I can be the mother I want to be.” During the break she and her father parted ways as business partners. She travelled, visited museums and took in various cultural performances during this time. The public speculated that Bey was focussing on starting a family.

Beyonce didn’t share when exactly she had a miscarriage in the early stages of her pregnancy, just that she did. “I flew back to New York to get my check up—and no heartbeat,” she recalled sadly in the HBO documentary Life Is But a Dream. ‘Literally the week before I went to the doctor, everything was fine, but there was no heartbeat.”

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 04: Beyonce and Jay Z attend the “China: Through The Looking Glass” Costume Institute Benefit Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 4, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

Beyonce makes quite a fashionable entrance at the Met Gala 2015 after the debacle at the previous year’s party

Luckily she became pregnant again in 2011 and this time she would bear the baby full term. After cautiously keeping the pregnancy a secret, she decided not to say anything but let the image do the talking by wearing a red clingy gown to the MTV Video Music Awards in 2011, rubbing her pregnant belly during a performance of Love On Top and saying “Tonight I want you to stand up on your feet, I want you to feel the love that’s growing inside of me,” the mosttweeted moment of the year. and unbuttoning her blazer at the end and proudly rubbing her stomach.

Solange kicking and punching Jay Z in The Standard hotel elevator when the 2014 Met Gala post party went viral after it was leaked to TMZ

Jay Z holding his cheek after the incident

A source revealed to a reporter, “Rachel used to be an intern at Rocawear back in the day. It was alleged that Jay and Dash would pass girls around that office. Jay’s partying shot when the music label split was, ‘and I had your wife'”

Later she said: “I didn’t want a crazy picture or gossip story to break the news, so I decided to say nothing and proudly show my baby bump.”

Indian-Dutch Californian fashion designer Rachel Roy

In an interview she said, “being pregnant was very much like falling in love. You are so open. You are so overjoyed. There’s no words that can express having a baby growing inside of you, so of course you want to scream it out and tell everyone. ‘I felt the baby kick for the first time. Kicked five times.”

Following the baby news the pair gradually grew more and more comfortable with PDAs (public displays of affection). They were even spotted on double dates with fellow high-profile pals Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Always the hard working, thorough professional, she dropped another number one album with the popular tracks: Run the World (Girls) and Best Thing I Never Had.

Beyonce’s visual album Lemonade was a huge critical and commercial success

On January 7, 2012, Beyoncé gave birth to her first child, a daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. In an official statement released after the birth, the couple announced: “Her birth was emotional and extremely peaceful, we are in heaven. We are thankful to everyone for all your prayers, well wishes, love and support.”

Two days later, an emotional Jay Z released Glory, a song dedicated to their child, on his social website LifeandTimes.com. The song detailed the couple’s pregnancy struggles, including a miscarriage Beyoncé suffered before becoming pregnant with their daughter. Because Blue’s cries were included at the end of the song and she was officially credited on the song as “B.I.C”, and at 2 days old becoming the youngest person ever to appear on a Billboard chart.

Rita Ora posted a picture of herself wearing a bra with lemons on it and a necklace with the inital J, but then denied being the other woman after getting trolled by Beyonce fans called Bey-hive

With their marriage going well, the couple celebrated their four-year wedding anniversary by renewing their vows in front of a star-studded group of friends and family, which reportedly included Oprah Winfrey, in early 2012. A few days later, Jay Z was spotted leaving jewellers Jacob. And Co. sporting a new gold ring on his ring finger.

Bey sported a t-shirt with Aaliyah
(Dash’s late ex-fiancee)
on it to get back at Rachel

Beyonce went on a sell-out Mrs. Carter World Tour around the globe, and shared with her fans an intimate look at family life with candid behind-the-scenes pictures of the couple kissing and holding each other.

When Jay received the Grammy for Holy Grail, his Justin Timberlake collaboration, he pointed to Bey and said, “I want to thank God, I mean a little for this award, but mostly for that and all the universes for conspiring and putting that beautiful light of a young woman in my life. And I want to tell Blue that look, Daddy got a gold sippy cup for you!”

Comparing his hard life growing up without a father to how he was planning to bring her up, he said on MTV,“I was going to have to go through some things, and they were preparing me. She has to love herself, she has to know who she is, she has to be respectful and be a moral person.”

In addition to his record company, Jay Z has many other investments and sources of income. He is the co-brand director for Budweiser Select, advising on strategic marketing programs for media and high profile events as well as creative ad development He has been a part-owner of the Brooklyn Nets NBA team. He has launched his own sports agency, Roc Nation Sports, his own Life + Times website, real estate development company, J Hotels, which owns a $66 million mid-block parcel in Chelsea, NYC, as a potential site for a 12 storey hotel and/or art gallery, has invested $200 million in Armand de Brignac champagne owned Sovereign Brands, a New York-based wine and spirits company, and even has his own brand of Cuban cigars. In an interview, he said, “my brands are an extension of me. They’re close to me. It’s not like running GM (General Motors) where there’s no emotional attachment.”

Jay and Bey overtook supermodel Gisele Bundchen and pro quarterback footballer Tom Brady as Forbes magazine’s highest-paid celebrity couple in 2012, with an estimated total income of $78 million combined.

Beyonce sat down for a long interview with Oprah, in which she opened up about her marriage. “I would not be the woman I am if I did not go home to that man. It gives me such a foundation.” She also described her earlier miscarriage as being “one of the hardest things I’ve been through.”

In December 2013, Beyoncé unexpectedly released her eponymous fifth studio album on the iTunes Store without any prior announcement or promotion. The album debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart, making her the first woman in the chart’s history to have first five studio albums debut at number one. Beyoncé received critical acclaim and commercial success for the album that sold one million digital copies worldwide in six days. Musically an electro-R&B album, it has darker themes previously unexplored in her work, such as “bulimia, postnatal depression, and the fears and insecurities of marriage and motherhood,” according to a critic. On the one hand, the single Drunk in Love, featuring Jay Z,  showed the world how the couple has passionate sex in the kitchen. On the other,  on the track Mine, Bey appears to express doubts about the relationship, singing: “Been having conversations about breakups and separations/I’m not feeling like myself since the baby/Are we gonna even make it? Oooh/Cause if we are, we’re taking this a little too far.”

But soon all was to be revealed. By April 2014, the uber successful music couple had sold a combined 300 million records together, but all was not well at home. At the Met Gala 2014 after party in The Standard Hotel, Jay Z was seen bumping into Rachel Roy by Solange Knowles. Rachel had also climbed the career ladder and had been made creative director of women’s and children’s lines at Rocawear clothing in 2001. Four years later, Rachel married Dash, amid rumours she had already enjoyed a brief fling with Jay Z, which is alleged to have cemented their closeness over the years.

Pregnant with twins

Rachel’s blossoming relationship with Kim Kardashian, whose soon to be husband Kanye West was close friends with Jay Z, was another link between them. By this time, Rachel had gotten divorced from Dash and was close to Jay after two decades of association. This was a relationship that Bey didn’t trust or like. Solange and Rachel even exchanged words at the party after the latter had spoken to Jay. Solange, Jay and Beyonce were leaving the party when in the elevator the camera recorded a heated exchange in which Solange actually physically attacked her brother in law who to his credit did not defend himself. In the full three-minute video, a bodyguard has to physically restrain Solange as she tries to repeatedly punch and kick Jay Z. The recording was leaked to TMZ and went viral.

In the morning the Knowles-Carter family tried to whitewash the story by issuing a statement: “As a result of the public release of the elevator security footage from Monday, May 5th, there has been a great deal of speculation about what triggered the unfortunate incident. But the most important thing is that our family has worked through it. Jay and Solange each assume their share of responsibility for what has occurred. They both acknowledge their role in this private matter that has played out in the public. They both have apologized to each other and we have moved forward as a united family. The reports of Solange being intoxicated or displaying erratic behavior throughout that evening are simply false. At the end of the day, families have problems and we’re no different. We love each other and above all we are family. We’ve put this behind us and hope everyone else will do the same.”

Jay, Barack and Bruce at the Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony 2017

The sisters also posted a series of happy pictures of them together on Instagram before 7 a.m. New York time the day after the footage was leaked.

Bey and Jay’s absence at Kim and Kanye’s wedding that year was conspicuous. They were on holiday at the time in Europe and could easily have made it. Perhaps it was due to Rachel Roy’s attendance at the wedding that kept them at bay. Beyonce has remained cold to Kim despite the fact that their husbands were friends, and Kanye had even caused embarrassment to himself  when  he disrupted Taylor Swift’s speech at the 2009 VMAs and insisted that Beyonce deserved have rightfully won the award. Kim has also repeatedly made  overtures towards Beyonce but only to be repeatedly publically rebuffed.

Rumours continue to dog  Bey and Jay with claims that they were planning a trial separation but did not want to go ahead with a divorce due to their complicated financial and work entanglements. A source told The New York Post’s Page Six: “They are trying to figure out a way to split without divorcing. This is a huge concert tour and they’ve already gotten most of the money from the promoters up front. There are no (wedding) rings (currently on their fingers), if you haven’t noticed.”

The Carters are a family of five now after the birth of twins

But the show must go on. After much speculation, Beyoncé and Jay Z spent the summer of 2014 on their On the Run Tour, the couple’s first co-headlining stadium tour together. All seemed hunky dory with the couple holding hands and kissing onstage as lots of intimate home video footage helped to reinforce the couple’s commitment to each other. There was a hiccup, however, at the Cincinnati show when Beyoncé changed the lyrics to her ballad Resentment (which she performed in a wedding gown). The line “I’ll always remember feeling like I was no good/Like I couldn’t do it for you like your mistress could” was replaced with “I’ll always remember feeling like I was no good/ Like I couldn’t do it for you like that wack bitch could.” And “Been ridin’ with you for six years…/ I gotta look at her in her eyes and see she’s had half of me” became a harsher “Been ridin’ with you for 12 years…/I gotta look at her in her eyes and see she’s had half of me./She ain’t even half of me. That bitch will never be.”

By the end of the year, Forbes reported that Beyoncé was the top-earning woman in music for the second year in a row, earning $115 million in the year, more than double her earnings in 2013.

“They had been having problems for years,” revealed a source close to the couple. “There was a constant commitment issue between them and in the end they were barely speaking. Beyoncé didn’t fully trust Jay and it was hard for her to get past that And so began an intense period of reflection for the couple. They went to a lot of counseling and have been working on their issues ever since. They had help to get them through it.”

Apparently, the couple took some time to work on their marriage and went into marital therapy together at the end of which Beyonce decided to use her songwriting as a form of catharsis or perhaps she was ready to tell her story and make a buck out of it. Beyonce dropped her visual album Lemonade that debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, making Beyoncé the first act in Billboard history to have their first six studio albums debut atop the chart. With all 12 tracks of Lemonade debuting on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, Beyoncé also became the first female act to chart 12 or more songs at the same time. Additionally, Lemonade was streamed 115 million times through Tidal, setting a record for the most-streamed album in a single week by a female artist in history. The previous year, Jay Z had completed the $56 million acquisition of Aspiro, a Norwegian media technology company that operates the subscription-based music streaming service Tidal, so they were both in on using the rumours about their marriage to make money. They put a spin on the story to suit their purpose.

“The album was released on Tidal, Jay’s streaming service, and what better way to draw attention to Beyoncé’s album release than to hint at all the speculation about past problems in their marriage,’’ a source revealed.

In one song, named Sorry, Beyonce sings the following lines discussing the break-down of a relationship and the presence of another woman: “So what are you gonna say at my funeral now that you’ve killed me?/Here lies the body of the love of my life/whose heart I broke without a gun to my head./He better call Becky with the good hair.”

Lemonade traces the story not just of infidelity, but also of reconciliation. It starts with Beyoncé questioning her relationship. “Are you cheating on me?” she asks the viewer. When the evidence of unfaithfulness becomes conclusive, she protests: “They don’t love you like I love you,” followed by anger: “I’m gonna fuck me up a bitch,” she sings baseball bat in hand. Later she adds, “Who the f___ do you think I am?/You ain’t married to an average bitch, boy!/You can watch my fat ass twist, b

By Mahlia Lone

The Billionaire & the Bollywood Star

Nivrutti Munim was born in Bombay in 1955 the youngest of nine sisters and one brother in a Gujarati Jain family residing in Bhuleshwar, an older South Mumbai neighbourhood where most of the Gujarati community resided. Inspired by her elder sister Bhawna, a model, Nivrutti adopted the Anglicised name Tina and entered the beauty pageant circuit. Fair, pretty and slim, she was crowned Femina Teen Princess India 1975 and subsequently represented India at the International Teen Contest in Aruba 1978; she became the 2nd runner up and won the Miss Photogenic and Miss Bikini awards.

After appearing in a toothpaste commercial, Tina caught the eye of producer/director/star Dev Anand who cast her as his leading lady in Des Pardes (1978), which became a big hit. He cast her in two more films with him in the lead, Lootmaar and Man Pasand, which also became blockbusters quickly making her a household name. The press linked her with the elderly lothario who had launched her into films and whose production house she was signed to, a claim she denied later. Tina had been childhood friends with bad boy star kid Sanjay Dutt and they became sweethearts. When Sunil Dutt launched his son in Rocky (1981) and Tina was cast as the movie’s leading lady, she not only left Dev Anand’s “camp” but also turned down two other romantic films that went on to become big grossers: Rajendra Kumar’s film Love Story introducing his son Kumar Gaurav and Ek Duje Ke Liye starring South Indian popular actor Kamal Haasan. Tina dimmed her light to play the supportive girlfriend, but Sanjay was heavily into alcohol and drugs. Despite several interventions by friends and family, Sanjay was badly addicted and eventually the two broke up.

Des Pardes with elederly lothario Dev Anand who launched her in her film career

Tina’s rapid climb to success via the men in her life

With boyfriend Sanjay Dutt, her co-star in Rocky

Tina was paired with the superstar Rajesh Khanna in a total of 11 films of which 8 were released and became huge hits including Souten and Bewafai. In their personal life too, the pair clicked. After his divorce from Dimple Kapadia, Khanna took up with Tina in 1980. She moved in to his palatial house Aashirwaad on Carter Road, but he never sealed the deal by marrying her. Towards the end of this scandalous, by the standards of the time, live in relationship, she attended a Gujarati wedding wearing a black sari. Traditional Gujarati wedding colours are red and gold, and she was the only one dressed minimally. A Gujarati industrialist’s son couldn’t help but notice the stylish Bollywood star, and thought himself how pretty and different she was. This young man was Anil Dhirubhai Ambani who would go on to transform her life.

Tina played the heroine in 11 Rajesh Khanna starrers as well moved in with him in his house after his divorce from Dimple Kapadia

Sex symbol

Three years younger than Tina, Anil was the son of one of India’s leading industrialists Dhirubhai Ambani of Reliance Group. He had gotten his Masters degree from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania and had brought his modern ideas back with him with which he was modernizing his father’s business. A few months later, Anil ran into Tina in Philadelphia and was formally introduced to her. He asked her out, but being a star often propositioned by random men she was standoffish. Besides she was still living with Rajesh, who was not marrying her. In 1986, after she broke up with her older lover, Tina was again introduced to Anil by her nephew who insisted she  meet this eligible Gujarati boy. She agreed to meet him reluctcantly, but kept dilly dallying. When she finally capitulated and met him, she was struck by how straight forward and genuine he was, saying simply to her, “You are pretty.”

The Gujarati business tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani with Mukesh & Anil Ambani

CAPTION CORRECTION- CORRECTING NAMES AND ADDS IDENTIFICATION Vice Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani (L-standing), Managing Director Anil Ambani (R-standing) and Chairman Dhirubhai Ambani (seated) of the Reliance Group pose for a photograph at their residence in Bombay November 3, 2000. Few analysts find it strange that two brothers run the $13.2 billion petrochem-to-telecoms giant Reliance Group, the countrys‘ largest by sales, assets and profits. Picture taken November 3, 2000. REUTERS/Jayanta Saha TO ACCOMPANY FEATURE INDIA-BUSINESS-FAMILIES

Kokilaben & Dhirubhai Ambani

On the talk show, Rendezvous with Simi Garewal, Tina recounted their first date, “The first time I met him, I was quite struck by his simplicity. I found him very upfront and genuine….He was unlike the other men I had met, because most of the guys I met were from films. Also, we spoke the same language, not literally, but we were brought up in a similar manner.”

Anil agreed on the show about their affinity to each other, “When you meet someone from the film fraternity, you have certain notions about them. I have known many people from that industry, but she is just different. The attraction came about only after I met her.”

Anil knew that he had found The One, while Tina realized that he was the kind of marriage material guy she needed to settle down with. But it was not to be that easy. They dated only a few months before the budding romance was splashed all over the tabloids and the conservative Ambanis were not amused. Their son wanted to marry a scandalous actress who had openly been living with a man.  Anil’s parents asked him to end this relationship, which could have no future. The dutiful son promptly complied by breaking up with Tina after explaining the situation to her. Tina’s film career was already at its tail end. After yet another failed romance, disheartened, she decided in 1987 to leave for Los Angeles to qualify as an interior designer.

Extremely lavish but traditional Gujarati wedding

The two had no contact for the next four years, even though Anil said of his feelings at this time, “There was a lot of pain. A feeling of great loss!”

Then one day after a big earthquake hit the Los Angeles area, Anil called up Tina to check if she was safe. She greeted him warmly and said she was fine. Anil abruptly disconnected the call. After he hung up, Tina was flabbergasted that he called her out of the blue and then hung up so quickly. She recalled, “That was the time I was so upset and crying away. And, I asked myself why this guy called me, came into my life, and revived all the feelings? Obviously he cared that’s why he wanted to know whether I am OK or not. But, he did not even complete the conversation. The least he could do is complete the conversation.” It was an emotional blow for her. For the first time, she realised that Anil really cared for her.

On their first date, Anil said simply to Tina, “you are pretty”

Anil explained his side, “There was no conversation to be held. It would have been a sob-sob conversation, because when you are talking to someone you love so much after three to four years, you get into it.”

Though he could have had his pick of girls, Anil all this time kept trying to convince his parents to let him marry Tina. She in her turn had kept her head down and did not make any waves. Finally, seeing their son’s loyalty and commitment to Tina, they caved. With his parents blessing, Anil again called her up, and asked her when she would return to Bombay. Still smarting from his abrupt  call two years prior, she brushed him off saying “soon” but not thinking anything of it she kept postponing her plans. After six weeks of this cat and mouse game, Anil told her that if she did not come this time, he would not call her again. Hearing the seriousness in his voice, she said, “That was when I realised that something is going on and I shouldn’t miss this. Now, I should go back, and that following week, I came back.”

The very next day, Anil picked her up and immediately took her to his home to meet his parents. He recalled, “Even before she came back to India, I had very clearly laid out a plan. This is the day she will meet my parents, this is the day will get engaged, this is the day we will get married and this would be the location.”

Anil Ambani with sons, Anmol & Anshul

When Anil left Tina with his family, his older brother, Mukesh Ambani, casually asked Tina how she felt about getting married the next month. She said that she was shocked when she realised that once the parental consent was given how quickly they were to be married. After this, Anil only had her family to contend with.

Anil said, “I went to her house in Khar. Tina’s sister and brother-in-law were there. They both were quite shocked to see me because they didn’t know what was going on (in Mumbai). Her brother-in-law went inside to tell her mother. She was shocked to see me. I said that you love your daughter, Tina, very much, and she said, ‘yes, absolutely.’ I said that ‘if that is the case, then you can keep her here otherwise, I very much want to marry her.’”

The billionaire brothers with their wives, Nita & Tina

Tina & Anil with the Spielbergs at the Golden Globes 2013 representing their co-production Lincoln

When Tina’s mother figured out that the son of India’s richest man was asking for her daughter’s hand in marriage, she was overjoyed and took his hand in gratitude. Anil and Tina got married only six weeks later in February 1991 in a lavish but traditional Gujarati wedding. Tina wore a red Gujarati bridal sari with heavy gold Gujarati jewellery. Anil wore a cream coloured sherwani with gold embroidery and a Maharaja’s multi strand pearl necklace.

Tina, after leading an independent life, moved in with her in laws. When the former sex symbol was asked how she felt about staying in a joint family system, she said, “I have all the freedom that I want. If at all there is a restriction, it has been put by me. I believe that in our culture and our society, it’s not only the guy you are getting married to, the family is also apart of the marriage. I was brought up like this, so this hasn’t been difficult for me.”

The couple has two sons, Jai Anmol Ambani and Jai Anshul Ambani, who Tina said have been brought up in as simple a manner as possible and don’t make many public appearances.

Sibling Rivalry

Mukesh Dhirubhai Ambani
Net worth: $31.3 Billion (as of March 2017)

Chairman & MD, Reliance Industries,
inherited their father’s core
businesses, which he made even more profitable

Reliance Group
Reliance Industries,
Reliance Petroleum (RPL)
Indian Petrochemicals Corporation Ltd (IPCL)
Reliance Industrial Infrastructure Ltd (RIIL)

Anil Dhirubhai Ambani
Net worth:$2.9 billion (as of March 2017)

Chairman, Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG)
inherited the newer companies, which suffered losses

Reliance Communications (RCOM)
Reliance Capital (RCL)
Reliance Energy (REL) Reliance Natural Resources
Ltd (RNRL)
Reliance Broadcast Network
Ltd (RBNL)

After the death of Dhirubhai, Mukesh and Anil fell out over their vast inheritance, but finally their mother mediated and divided up the family’s businesses and assets. Mukesh Ambani is India’s first trillionaire in INR or worth more than $33 billion and lives with his wife and three kids in India’s most expensive private residence Antilia, a billion dollar high rise, while Anil, a low single digit billionaire, owns Telecom, Entertainment, Financial Services, Power and Infrastructure companies. His notable deals include launching India’s largest IPO of Reliance Power in 2008, which was subscribed in less than 60-seconds on offer, fastest in the history of Indian capital markets till date. In 2008, he also signed a joint venture worth US$1.2 billion with Steven Spielberg’s production company DreamWorks. He is also building a multi story residence called Abode, ironically on Nargis Dutt Road, Pali Hill, Bandra, which will cost even more than his brother’s home. Both the brothers have been awarded many outstanding business awards by prestigious institutions the world over.

Tina at 62 has lost her former slim figure and has also had a nose job

While her husband is hard at work wheeling and dealing, Tina spends her free time promoting worthy charitable foundations including Harmony Foundation – For Senior citizens, Harmony Art Foundation – For Promotion of Art, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital & Medical Research Institute – Mumbai, and Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Nursing College (KDA-NC) – Mumbai.

She sums up her wedded bliss, “Lots of happiness, two beautiful children, a wonderful marriage.”

Recently during Emmanuel Macron’s race in the French Presidential elections that he won, everyone was agog with curiosity about his teenage romance with his high school teacher, a married mother of three, nearly 25 years his senior, and their subsequent marriage decades later. Instead of keeping Brigitte in the background, the youthful 39 year old French President confidently flaunts his youthful looking 65 year old wife everywhere and has proclaimed that anyone who doesn’t understand their union is a “misogynist and homophobe.” Let’s take a closer look at this unusual marriage

By Mahlia Lone

Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron was born in the northern French town of Amiens in 1977. At that time, his future wife Brigitte was already a married woman with a two year old toddler son and a baby daughter born the same year. The son of a physician, Françoise Noguès and Jean-Michel Macron, professor of neurology at the University of Picardy, Emmanuel was a bright and precocious boy. Raised in a liberal, non-religious family, Macron insisted to his parents on being baptized a Roman Catholic at the age of 12 since he attended a French private Jesuit school, the Jesuit Lycée la Providence. At the tender age of 15, he met the love of his life, his drama teacher, Brigitte who was also the mother of his friend and fellow pupil Laurence Azuiere..

French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte hug as he addresses his supporters at his election day headquarters in Paris , Sunday April 23, 2017. Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen advanced Sunday to a runoff in France’s presidential election, remaking the country’s political system and setting up a showdown over its participation in the European Union. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Brigitte Marie-Claude Trogneux came from a well off family of generational chocolatiers. Their multi million dollar successful enterprise Chocolaterie Trogneux with a turnover of €4 million was founded in 1872 in Amiens is famous for its delicious macaroons.. The family business is now run by Brigitte’s nephew and has been renamed Jean Trogneux.

Emmanuel as a precocious boy in Amiens

“Here is my Brigitte at the school (the private Jesuit Lycée la Providence in Amiens) where we met. She was my acting teacher”—Emmanuel Macron

The kiss at the end of the
theatre production that sparked their physical relationship

Brigitte was the youngest of her parents’ six children. In 1974, she married a banker André-Louis Auzière with whom she had three children: Sébastien, an engineer, cardiologist Laurence and Typhaine Auzière, a lawyer who now works for Macron. In the ‘80s, Brigitte Auzière taught literature at the Collège Lucie-Berger in Strasbourg. At the end of the decade, she unsuccessfully ran for the city council of Truchtersheim, before moving back to her hometown in northern France with her family in the ‘90s. There she joined the Lycée la Providence as a teacher for French literature, Latin and drama. Young Macron was also her student in her drama classes.

Emmanuel Macron at the Lycee de La Providence

“A perfect young man”

Macron was an unusual teenage boy with dishevelled hair and an innocent, penetrating look who enjoyed reading and was wise beyond his years. He lived in his own world of “texts and words.” Emmanuel was breezing through “La Pro” (as the school is known) and did not seem interested in girls. His parents remembered only one girlfriend who visited their home just once. “She was the same age, she was sweet; she was the daughter of a local doctor and a friend of ours. It lasted a few months,” his father said.

Trogneaux family chocolaterie in Amiens

The French joke that they’ve had the macarons d’Amiens for generations, and now they have the Macron d’Amiens

Macron admitted in his autobiography Révolution that the only two high points in his life were piano, which he plays very well but is largely self taught, and drama club. “It was at secondary school, through drama, that I met Brigitte. It was surreptitiously that things happened and that I fell in love. Through an intellectual bond, which day after day became ever closer.  Then emerged a lasting passion,” he recounted in the book.

At her daughter Tiphaine’s wedding

Brigitte added that when she arrived at La Providence, “all the teachers were buzzing about Emmanuel.” Her daughter, Laurence, also told her that Macron, her classmate, was “that amazing guy” who “knows everything about everything.” When he joined her drama club, Brigitte found herself drawn to his “exceptional intelligence, a way of thinking that I had never ever seen before.” She was 40 and having a mid life crisis of sorts married to a banker specializing in international finance who often travelled away for work. Theirs was an average, comfortable, middle-class life and she must have been yearning for attention, even from a nubile young boy. It’s interesting to note that Brigitte hardly mentions her ex-husband and brushes that part of her life under the carpet. Known for her quick wit and sharp tongue, she is ready to retort if anyone hints at any impropriety on her part.

Le Figaro journalist Anne Fulda meticulously researched and chronicled the love affair in her new book Emmanuel Macron: a Perfect Young Man, The teacher and her pet student would have long discussions and, impressed by his writing, she would read out his work to the class. “She used to recite his work all the time. She was totally captivated by his writing skills,” a former classmate told Le Parisien newspaper.

They became even closer when they co-authored a play. Brigitte confided in a friend years later: “The writing became an excuse. I felt that we had always known each other.”The night the play was staged, the teacher gave her pupil a kiss on the cheek, sparking the love affair. Macron has described it as “a love often clandestine, often hidden, misunderstood by many before imposing itself.”

Madame Auziere reportedly started meeting her star pupil for trysts at homes belonging to her family, though they both deny that the relationship became physical till he was 18, the legal consensual age between teacher and student in France. Mr. Macron’s parents became troubled by the rumors flying around about their son’s infatuation with a woman twice his age. The Macrons had been under the impression that their son was dating Mme Auziere’s daughter, until a family friend let the cat out of the bag. When one of Emmanuel’s friends, at whose grandmother’s home near Chantilly where he was supposedly studying for his baccalaureate exams, called to organise the coming weekend, Francoise realised that “Manu” who called her every day to tell her about her son’s day was not actually in Chantilly.  She smelled something fishy.

Dinner with the King of Spain, summer of 2015

French presidential election candidate for the En Marche ! movement Emmanuel Macron (R) and his wife Brigitte pose for the photograph, on April 22, 2017, in Le Touquet, northern France, on the eve of the first round of presidential election.
France is on edge on the eve of its most unpredictable presidential election in decades, which will happen under heightened security after the jihadist killing of a policeman. / AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Jean-Michel said he “almost fell off his chair” when he discovered their son was instead in a relationship with the mother not the daughter. “When Emmanuel met Brigitte, we certainly did not say ‘How wonderful!’”At the end of the week, his father went to the station to collect his son on his supposed return from a week’s revision with friends. At home, his parent confronted him.

“What mattered to me was not the fact he was having a relationship with Brigitte but that he was alive and that there weren’t any problems,” his mother said later.

But that is not how Emmanuel’s father remembered it. He said it was mainly his now ex-wife who was “wound-up… I figured, ‘he would get over it.’ I wasn’t worried, but Emmanuel still had to finish his schooling and not let it all go to waste.”

Françoise told Fulda: “We just couldn’t believe it. What is clear is that when Emmanuel met Brigitte, we couldn’t just say ‘That’s great.’”

Quick witted and sharp tongued, Brigitte handles the jokes and satire on their age difference with humour, “He (Emmanuel) needs to go for it (the Presidential race) in 2017 because by 2022, his problem will be my face,” she was quoted in Nicolas Prissette’s book Emmanuel Macron en marche vers l’Élysée. Though she has not admitted to it, cosmetic surgeons speculate that she has had hair extensions, teeth veneers, botox and a mini facelift.

Their three story villa in Touquet, northern France

So they staged an intervention to ask Mme Auziere to back off from the affair. Francoise pleaded with her, “Don’t you see? You’ve had your life. But he won’t have children with you.” In response, the errant teacher started to cry. Even when they asked her not to see their son until he had become an adult, she replied that she could not “promise anything”.

Not knowing what to do, they tried to match-make him with a girl his own age, but their son too refused to comply. The illicit affair had tongues wagging in the quiet, middle-class neighbourhood of Amiens where the respectable Jesuit school was located. Francoise recalled the reaction to the relationship from a woman at the reception desk of the hospital where she worked: “Ah, but what’s going on! I’ve been thinking of you, it’s terrible!” Left with no choice, the parents decided to send their son to one of the most demanding sixth-form colleges in France, Lycée Henri-IV in Paris, 90 miles (145km) away to get him away and make him focus on his work instead, hoping that he would forget.

PARIS, FRANCE – APRIL 17: French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron gestures as he delivers a speech during a campaign rally at Bercy Arena on April 17, 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo by Antoine Gyori/Corbis via Getty Images)

Macron believes in a secular state and defended the right of French Muslim women to wear the veil. Hence, the Grand Mosque of Paris urged the country’s Muslims to vote en masse for Macron as President

Macron promised Brigitte that he would come back to find her, “I will come back and marry you.”  She took him at his word. He continued to make clandestine trips back to his hometown to visit her in secret and when he was 18 and graduated from school, she followed him to Paris. According to what they have said to the press leading up to the election, Macron had only been in touch with Brigitte through letters and proposed marriage when her turned 18, the legal age when she could no longer be jailed for being in a sexual relationship with her minor student.

Brigitte Trogneux, wife of French presidential election candidate Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, casts her ballot in the second round of 2017 French presidential election, at a polling station in Le Touquet, France, May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Feferberg/Pool

Upon his return to Amiens after finishing school, he told his mother: “I still love Brigitte, if you understand that then all the better, because if not I am going not going to stop.” With no choice in the matter, Macron’s parents reluctantly accepted.

“I had to fight in order to live both my private and my professional life as I wish,” Macron says. “I had to fight, and it wasn’t the easiest or the most obvious, or the most automatic thing to do, nor did it correspond to established norms.”

“Strength of conviction was required,” he said. “They thought on several occasions that it was going to stop and naturally did everything to encourage that. In fact, I don’t know how I myself would have reacted. It is very hard. An experience like that makes you think…You have to learn to fight for things, to bear the burden and have a life, which does not in any way correspond to other peoples’ lives. That was what we went through for 15 years. We managed to achieve the situation we’re in today, because we knew it was what we wanted. It didn’t just happen all by itself.”

While Brigitte continued to teach in Paris, Macron studied philosophy at the University of Paris-Ouest Nanterre La Défense, obtaining a DEA degree (Master of Advanced Studies) and worked as an editorial assistant to the distinguished French Protestant philosopher, Paul Ricoeur. He obtained a master’s degree in public affairs at Sciences Po, and trained for a senior civil service career at the École Nationale d’Administration (ENA), graduating in 2004.

In 2006, Brigitte finally divorced her long suffering husband and married Macron 18 months later. She was 54 and he 29. They got married in Touquet, northern France, in their country home where the couple often escapes to when not on duty in Paris.  His best man was Henry Hermand (1924–2016), the same businessman who loaned €550,000 to Macron to buy his first apartment in Paris when he was Inspector of Finances in the Ministry of Economy

During a BMFTV interview this April, Macron emphatically stated that he and his wife decided not to have any children. “We have chosen not to have children. A choice that was not selfish for me. It is a choice that has been assumed, which I had to make very young given the age difference. I did not need my biological children and grandchildren to give them as much love as I gave them.” The couple has seven grandchildren from Brigitte’s three offspring.

As Minister of Economy from 2004 to 2008, Macron focused on helping to improve French economic growth. In 2008, he paid €50,000 to buy himself out of his government contract and instead started to work as a highly paid investment banker at Rothschild & Cie Banque. In 2012, he was given a senior role in President Hollande’s staff, and in 2014, he was appointed as the Minister of Economy and Finance in the second Valls Cabinet, pushing through business-friendly reforms. At the Ministry, his wife remained a discreet presence during high level meetings. “She spends a lot of time here because her view matters to me, because she brings a different atmosphere that is important. My life is here, you cannot work well if you are not happy,” Macron said after he resigned from the Hollande government in 2016.

The next year, Macron declared that he had quit the Socialist Party years ago and was an independent. He formally founded an independent, liberal and progressive political party, En Marche!, in Amiens in 2016 and resigned from the government. In his speech announcing his candidacy, Macron called for a “democratic revolution” and promised to “unblock France.” Pro EU and a safe alternative to the “neo Fascist” Marie Le Pen, Macron gained many supporters from the Socialist Party, centrist and centre-right politicians. A New York Times article described Macron as “ardently pro-Europe and who has proudly embraced an unpopular European Union.” Many foreign politicians such as European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former US President Barack Obama publicly supported him as a Presidential hopeful, as did the French minorities.

French President Emmanuel Macron kisses his mother Francoise Nogues as his father Jean Michel Macron looks on

With Brigitte’s mother

Macron’s mother
said that she sees Brigitte “more as a
friend than a
daughter-in-law.”

Where religion is concerned, Macron staunchly supports secularism (laïcité). He said that “we have a duty to let everybody practice their religion with dignity.” At the first meeting of En Marche!, Macron expressed opposition to the ban on Muslim headscarves in universities, “Personally, I do not believe we should be inventing new texts, new laws, new standards, in order to hunt down veils at universities and go after people who wear religious symbols during field trips.”

In an interview with the French news magazine Marianne, Macron said that “secularism is not designed to promote a republican religion.” He responded to comments made by other popular politicians regarding the practice of Islam in French society by condemning the notion that citizens should be “discreet” in their religious practice, stating that “historical precedents when we asked for discretion in matters of religion did not bring honor to the Republic….I ask one thing (of French Muslims): absolutely respect the rules while in public. Religious relationships are about transcendence, and I am not asking people to be moderate – that’s not what I’m arguing. My own deep conviction is that a practicing Catholic may believe that the laws of his religion go far beyond the laws of the Republic. I simply believe that when one enters the public realm, the laws of the Republic must prevail over religious law.” He also condemned “religious schools that teach hatred towards the Republic, with instruction mainly in Arabic or, in other instances, which teach the Torah more than basic fundamentals.” The Fonds Social Juif Unifié (FSJU), an organization that runs Jewish religious schools in France vociferously criticized this statement but the Grand Mosque of Paris urged French Muslims to vote en masse for Macron.

Brigitte Macron was actively involved in her husband’s campaign as was her youngest daughter. A top adviser even told an interviewer that “her presence is essential for him”.

“She spends all her time beside him, she reads and listens to everything that is said about him. He asks her questions and takes her advice,” the Paris Match magazine reported.

In an interview for Le Petit Journal, when asked why her husband was “so good at politics,” she retorted, “He is good at everything. Not just politics, you’re being quite restrictive. I’m yet to find an area where he isn’t good.”

Macron boldly told supporters that upon his winning the French presidency, “If I’m elected — no, sorry, when we are elected — she will be there, with a role and place that she always had with me, she will not be hidden.”

Macron formally became President on 14th  May 2017, the youngest person to ever be elected as President of France as well as the youngest French head of state since Napoleon. That is not surprising because in France though a politician must not be financially corrupt, his sexual and personal life doesn’t concern the public. In the past while in office, outgoing President Francois Hollande was caught having an affair with Julie Gayet, an actress nearly two decades his junior; former President Nicholas Sarkozy left his wife for the actress/musician/model Carla Bruni and even Jacques Chirac was nicknamed “five minutes, shower included” for his matter of fact, business-like approach to extramarital dalliance.

In a country like the U.S. however, this would never have happened as the laws there are much strictly enforced where teacher student impropriety and underage sexual relations is concerned. Though the age difference between the Macron is about the same as that between Donald and Melania Trump, even the Donald would not have gotten away it had he seduced a fifteen year old Melania.

Brigitte Macron was till 2015 teaching literature at the élite lycée Saint-Louis de Gonzague in Paris and now is expected to concentrate on education reform as France’s First Lady. “She will have an existence, she will have a voice there, a view on things. She will be at my side, as she has always been, but she will also have a public role,” Macron said.

Not everyone bows down to them in deference. French cartoonists and comedians regularly mock the couple’s age difference, portraying Macron as a schoolboy being instructed by his teacher. Macron blames latent misogyny for their not understanding their relationship. Brigitte handles the satire well and has even joked that his president run better be while she still looks presentable. “He needs to go for it in 2017 because by 2022, his problem will be my face,” she was quoted in Nicolas Prissette’s book Emmanuel Macron en marche vers l’Élysée.

Macron’s unconventional marriage has also led some to speculate that he’s secretly gay. As recently as February, he lightly dismissed rumors that he was having an affair with Radio France CEO Mathieu Gallet: “If you’re told I lead a double life with Mr. Gallet it’s because my hologram has escaped.

The Macron’s unconventional marriage seems to work for them better than many more traditional set ups. The moral of the story to take away from this may be: don’t judge a book by its cover; or get them while they are young and make them dependant on you—it all depends on your perspective. Either way, taking up with an underage student regardless of the level of your connection is still morally reprehensible in my opinion.

Recently at this year’s Met Gala in NYC, Serena Williams made an entrance in a tight emerald green Versace gown highlighting her almost full term pregnancy bump. With diamond and emerald earrings dripping from her ear lobes and a huge grin lighting up her face, she was positively glowing. The tennis champ came on the arm of her brand new fiancé, Reddit co- founder Alexis Ouhanian, who looked proud as punch to be with her. After a string of flopped romances, she is serenely happy with her 6’5″ “techie geek” because he lavishes her with love and attention. Here is how they met and love blossomed

Serena Jameka Williams was born in 1981 in a small Michigan town to Richard Williams and Oracene Price. Both her parents were divorced and had children from their first marriages. Her mother had three older daughters from a previous union while her father had six children from his ex-wife. The couple got married in 1979 after Venus was born and then had their youngest child Serena. The family moved to Compton, a rough, gang infested, primarily black, LA neigbourhood where Richard started taking tennis lessons from a coach fondly called Old Whiskey.  He got so taken up by the game that one day, after watching women’s professional tennis being played on TV, he decided that his two toddler daughters would also become tennis professionals. He methodically wrote up a 78-page plan, and started giving lessons to Venus and Serena when they were only four and three respectively at public tennis courts. He now advises that six is the right age for a child to start receiving tennis lessons. To ensure that the girls had sufficient time to dedicate to the sport, he home-schooled them. Both he and their mother coached the girls in addition to another Compton tennis coach also called Richard Williams who went on to found The Venus and Serena Williams Tennis/Tutorial Academy in Compton. When local professional tennis player Tony Chesta spotted Venus playing when she was nine, he was very impressed with her talent. Richard knew the girls needed access to better facilities.

Step 2 was the Williams’ family relocating to West Palm Beach, Florida when the girls were ten and nine so that they could attend the famed tennis academy of Rick Macci. Macci is a United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) Master Professional, and seven-time national coach of the year who has in his illustrious career trained a few number one ranked players, namely Andy Roddick, Jennifer Capriati, Maria Sharapova, besides the Williams sister of course. To have him agree to coach a youngster means that child shows exceptional skill and promise. He agreed to give both Venus and Serena additional coaching at his academy. At times, Macci and Williams did not see eye to eye, but the former empathized with their father understanding that he “treated his daughters like kids and allowed them to be little girls.”

But then, Williams stopped sending his daughters to national junior tennis tournaments after only a year when Serena turned 10 for two main reasons: firstly, he wanted them not to neglect their studies and, secondly, he had heard white parents talk about his daughters in a derogatory, racist manner during tournaments. Even though, at that time, Venus held a an astonishing 63–0 record on the United States Tennis Association junior tour and was ranked No. 1 among the under-12 players in Southern California, and Serena held a 46–3 record and was ranked number one among under-10 players in Florida. Then, in 1995 when Serena was in the ninth grade, their father pulled his girls completely out of Macci’s academy and took over all their coaching. When asked later why this happened and whether having followed the normal path of playing regularly on the junior circuit they would have become even better, Serena replied, “Everyone does different things. I think for Venus and I, we just attempted a different road, and it worked for us.”

With their father

The Williams family

Much discipline, sacrifice and work ethic later, the two sisters dominated the tennis world. Everyone has seen the Williams sisters’ powerful style of playing tennis, their bodies so strong and well built, they look almost super human. You can clearly hear the tennis ball as it’s whacked powerfully by the racket and the sinews of their long limbs glisten with perspiration in the sun. It is an indeed an impressive sight. Both the sisters are not only tennis champs but credited with ushering in a new era of power and athleticism on the women’s professional tennis tour. The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has ranked Serena world number one in singles on seven occasions from 2002 to 2017. On her sixth time, she held the ranking for 186 consecutive weeks, tying the record set by Steffi Graff for the most consecutive weeks as world number one by a female tennis player. In total, Serena has been world number one for 318 weeks, which ranks her 3rd in the Open Era among female tennis players. Venus’ seven Grand Slam singles titles ties her twelfth on the all-time list, more than any other active female player except Serena.

With their mother

Some commentators and sports writers regard Serena as the greatest female tennis player of all time, having set many records. Her total of 23 Grand Slam singles titles marks the record for the most Major wins by a tennis player in the Open Era, and second on the all-time list. In fact, Serena is the only tennis player in history (man or woman) to have won singles titles at least six times in three of the four Grand Slam tournaments, and the only player ever to have won two of the four Majors seven times each (seven Wimbledon titles and seven Australian Open titles). She is also the only tennis player to have won 10 Grand Slam singles titles in two separate decades. Impressively, she holds an all-time record for the most singles matches won at the Grand Slams (man or woman) with 316 matches.

The two sisters also make a formidable team playing doubles, having won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles together; the pair is unbeaten in Grand Slam doubles finals. As a team, the Williams sisters have the third most women’s doubles grand slam titles. Both have won four Olympic gold medals each, one in women’s singles and three in women’s doubles, an all-time record that they share.

Celebrating her wins

The Williams sisters are hardly one dimensional, even authoring a book alongside writer Hilary Beard titled Venus & Serena: Serving From The Hip: 10 Rules For Living, Loving and Winning, which was published in 2005.  While elder sister Venus is worth $75 million and is dating a Cuban model, younger sister Serena is worth a whopping $150 million. Venus’ career has experienced setbacks due to injuries, but Serena is still going strong as the world’s highest paid female athlete in 2016, earning $28.9 million in prize money and endorsements. She is the three times winner of the prestigious Laureus Sportswoman of the Year award and was named Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine in 2015. The two invested some of their millions into becoming minority owners of the Miami Dolphins in 2009 after purchasing a small stake in the team, becoming the first African-American women to hold any amount of ownership in an NFL franchise. Their home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, is an hour’s drive from the Dolphins’ stadium.

Both the sisters love fashion and flaunt their unique sense of style on and off the court. Venus even got an associate degree in fashion design from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. They have always bucked the trend of tennis whites by dressing in colourful and creative attire and have worn their hair long and flowing. Serena has even worn a black lycra catsuit at the US Open, while another time she wore a denim skirt and knee-high boots, which tournament officials made her replace for tennis shoes during matches. For one Wimbledon match, Serena turned up in a white trench coat despite the sunny weather. They two have also graced the runway for charity fundraising fashion shows. Serena has her own line of designer apparel Aneres (Serena backwards).

Besides these accomplishments, Serena has released her first solo autobiography entitled On the Line, following the 2009 US Open. And that’s not all, she is fluent in French, giving her on-court interviews at the French Open in French and knows some Spanish and Italian as well. In 2015, she became the first black female athlete to grace the cover of American Vogue. Close friends with Beyonce, she danced in her music video for her track Sorry on the hit album Lemonade after the director told her, “We would love for you to be in this particular song. It’s about strength and it’s about courage and that’s what we see you as.”

Serena’s personal life during her many career successes has been patchy with a string of broken romances. She dated many A-list stars from the world of film, music and sports. Her first high-profile relationship was in 2002 with football star Keyshawn Johnson, a decade her senior. The footballer was playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the time and had recently split with his first wife. Serena is notoriously reticent about her personal life and never confirmed her relationship. The two sports stars gave each other stability with Serena winning four straight Grand Slams for the first time in her career between 2002 and 2003 and Johnson leading the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory while they were dating. However, for some reason they called it quits.

In 2004, Serena dated movie director Brett Ratner for a period of two years. He was 12 years older than her and at the peak of his career at the time due to the success of the first two Rush Hour films. During their relationship, he directed the biggest grosser of his career X-Men: The Last Stand, which made $500 million worldwide, while Serena won just one Grand Slam in those two years. Then, she moved on with actor Jackie Long in 2007 who reportedly dumped the tennis star badly. She later blogged about the experience describing how he “disappeared for a week” before calling to break up with her just as she was falling in love with him. Next came the rapper Common with whom Serena spent two years. She was briefly linked to Amar’e Stoudemire, the New York Knicks power forward. Bulgarian tennis player and heartthrob Grigor Dimitrov was her next boyfriend, who left Serena for Maria Sharapova. Smarting from this, she fell in the arms of her tennis coach Patrick Mouratoglou. Though the romantic relationship fizzled out, Mouratoglou has continued to be her coach and is credited with her incredible success over the past five years. In 2015, rumors flew thick and fast that Serena was dating musician Drake. This is around the time she met Alexis.

The two sisters are very keen on fashion

Alexis Kerry Ohanian, born in 1983, is two years younger than the tennis star. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Chris Ohanian, an Armenian-American whose grandparents came to the US as refugees fleeing the Armenian genocide, and German-born Anke, an au pair girl visiting NYC when she met Chris and overstayed her visa. After President Trump took over the White House, Alexis tweeted, “My father’s family were refugees & my mom was an undocumented immigrant. Without them, there’s no me & no @Reddit.”

Alexis attended Howard High School in a small Maryland town where he gave the student address for his graduating class in 2001. After graduating from the University of Virginia in 2005 with degrees in commerce and history, Alexis and his college buddy Steve Huffman, a computer science major, pitched the idea of My Mobile Menureddit.com to Y Combinator that gives seed money to tech startups, many of which have gone on to become giants in the industry. Though the venture capital company passed on the idea, the two friends managed to impress the executives enough to encourage them to come up with a better idea that they could fund. The 22 year old fresh college grads came up with reddit.com, potentially the “front page of the Internet.” It was to go on to become huge!

Sinewy muscles

On a lighter note

Taking her bow after a successful fashion show at NY Fashion Week 2016

 The two friends moved to Boston and were only a month into development when tragedy struck. Alexis learned that his girlfriend had fallen five stories and was in a coma. Then his father called and told him that his mother had been diagnosed with an inoperable tumor. Hence, under pressure, the partners decided to sell their fledgling company to publishing giant Condé Nast in 2006 for an undisclosed amount between 10–20 million dollars. Later, Huffman said that his decision to sell Reddit had been a mistake, and that the site’s phenomenal growth exceeded his expectations. Both continued to work closely with Reddit as members of its Board of Directors. When it became independent in 2015, they were asked to lead it full time. Huffman was appointed CEO of Reddit, while Ohanian became executive chairman It was recently valued at £407million and is reported to be the seventh biggest site in the U.S.

With pro footballer Keyshawn Johnson in 2002 at a Super Bowl after party in 2003, during her first Serena Slam 

An enterprising young man, in 2007, after he had sold Reddit, Ouhanian didn’t merely retire with his millions in the bank but started the social enterprise Breadpig an “uncorporation” that produces “geeky merchandise” and donates the proceeds to charity. He also launched the travel search website Hipmunk with Huffman in 2010 for which they now act as advisers. In addition, Alexis  Ohanian launched his company Das Kapital Capital in 2010, which focuses on startup investing, advising and consulting. Like Serena, he also published a book titled Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed in 2013, which ranked fourth on the Wall Street Journal’s best sellers list  in the Hardcover Business category and which he promoted thorough an intense five-month, 150-stop and 75-university tour. The same year, Ouhanian was featured as one of the “champions of innovation” in the 20th Anniversary issue of Wired. Ohanian served as a partner at the same firm that had first funded him Y Combinator and was named its “Ambassador to the East,” meeting with East Coast applicants, mentors and NYC founders. Forbes included him in the “30 Under 30” list as an important figure in the technology industry for two years running—2012 and 2013.

Known for his skill and expertise for spotting smart start up ideas, Ohanian was named in Crain’s “40 Under 40” list for business in 2015. Last year, he left Y Combinator with another partner there Gerry Tan to launch the third Initialized Capital, an early stage seed fund with over $160 million under management. Ouhanian was that year named one of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business.” Quite an achievement oriented young man of only 33.

With New York Knicks star Amar’e Stoudemire in 2010

Grigor Dimitrov who left Serena for tennis rival Maria Sharapova 

With rumoured boyfriend in 2015 Drake

With coach & ex-bf Patrick Mouratoglou

The two powerhouses, Serena and Alexis first met each other by chance in Rome in May 2015, when she was there playing the clay court tournament ahead of the French Open. They kept their burgeoning relationship underground as is her wont. Though Drake was actually at Wimbledon in July cheering Serena on and celebrating her Wimbledon win with her, at the same time Alexis posted a picture of his laptop on Instagram, showing that he had woken up early to also cheer Serena on from afar. We don’t know if there was any overlapping, if Serena was keeping her options open or if Drake was just a friend. Regardless, Us Weekly tabloid reported in October that Serena took Aexis to her workout at the Los Angeles School of Gymnastics, where he called her “babe” and they “held hands.” He must be quite a confident young man to workout alongside a Williams sister. Perhaps she put him through his paces to see if he could keep up with her, as others clearly couldn’t.

In November of 2015, the undercover duo happened to get caught on surveillance camera having dinner in San Francisco (where he now resides) as a man knicked her phone off their table during the date. Superhero style she gave chase, managed to retrieve it and calmly resumed her dinner.

Alexis Ohanian made it big at only 22

“The Mayor of the Internet”

Over the past year, Alexis has regularly posted about being a Serena Williams’ fan cheering her on both on and off the court, but no one caught on. Last May, he posted her photo winning a tournament in Rome with the caption, “A year ago today, I became a tennis fan. One of the best decisions I ever made.” Two months later, he again posted about her historic win at the All England Club, writing: “Our queen stopped by center court today. So proud of you, @serenawilliams. 22 looks good on you. #Wimbledon.’”Not only did he support her after her loss at the US Open, afterwards he sat front row at her fashion show and posted he photo taking a bow on the runway with the caption, “‘Congrats on a great show @serenawilliams – so proud of you. Well on your way to dominating another industry. #NYFW #blurry.” Little did anyone realize that he was more than just a fan of the tennis superstar. What a supportive and kind boyfriend! Who wouldn’t want such a man in their life?!

A friend of Serena revealed to the press once the news finally got out that “They’ve never seen Serena this happy before with a man. It sounds cheesy, but it was love at first sight. They laugh non-stop and that really fuels their relationship. They are on the same page in life and are excited to start something great with each other.”

First date caught on camera

Celebrating Halloween 2016 together

They got engaged in Rome

Alexis it seems is quite the romantic. Last December, he flew Serena to Rome where they sat at the same table where they had first shared a meal together and popped the question. Later she told Gayle King at a TED business conference about what she felt at hearing his proposal, “I never felt pressure to get married, and I can’t say I’m the marrying type. I love my life. I love my freedom. I hear that kind of changes. I love my career, and I didn’t want anything to interfere with that. … When he proposed, I was almost angry. Not almost, I was angry because it was right in the middle of my training season and I thought, ‘I have to win the Australian Open.’ … I really wanted to pass Steffi Graf’s record.”

Revealing V-daygift from her fiance this year, a game

Serena and Alexis announced the news of their engagement where else but on their social media accounts. Accompanying a picture of them in Rome grinning with sheer joy as they hugged and she showed off a dazzling diamond engagement ring.

Serena posted a poem she wrote on Reddit, what else?

“I came home

A little late

Someone had a bag packed for me.

And a carriage awaited

Destination: Rome.

To escort me to my very own ‘charming’

Back to where our stars first collided.

And now it was full circle

At the same table we first met by chance.

This time he made it not by chance

But by choice.

‘Down on one knee

He said 4 words /And I said yes.’”

Alexis too shared his happy news on his Facebook page posting, “She said yes.”

After the engagement, the couple came out in the open. They rang in the New Year together in Auckland, New Zealand and were spotted boarding a helicopter to fly to Waiheke Island for a quick romantic getaway. She was in the tiniest Daisy Duke shorts, highlighting her muscular thighs.  Even though Alexis is very tall, Serena is no shorty standing at 5’9” and visually they go together as well.

Alexis was next seen cheering on his fiancée as she competed and won at the Australian Open and achieved her goal by surpassing Steffi Graf’s Grand Slam win tally and cement her status as the greatest of all time. And she did this while eight weeks pregnant!

Glamorous at the Met Gala 2017 this April

Serena posted her for Valentine’s gift from him, a $60 NES Classic Mini, which is a reimagining of the 8-bit video game console from 1983.“When you date a ‘techie’ you get these gifts,” she wrote and said she loved it. Even though, according to Forbes, her net worth was estimated at $150 million in 2016 and Ohanian’s at $4.5 million, approximately just 3 percent of hers, she demonstrated that it’s the thought that matters where gifts are concerned. The gift was probably an inside joke between the couple that finally he can beat her at a game because he could never beat her at tennis, and she appreciated his sense of spirit and humour.

When King remarked that she hadn’t expected Serena to end up “with a geek.” She joked back, “You can tell he’s into technology.”

Showing off her figure in a yellow bathing suit on Snapchat in a video where her baby bump was clearly visible, Serena accidentally leaked out news of her 20 week pregnancy on April 20th, a post she quickly deleted but by then the news had gone viral. Therefore, her representative had to confirm the pregnancy.

US Open Tennis representative posted congratulations: “Serena Williams will have a new pride and joy to hug and call her own soon! Congratulations on the exciting baby announcement!”

Happily ever after in an Instagram photo

Serena then shared a tribute to her unborn baby on her Instagram page, writing she “couldn’t wait to meet them. I can’t wait for you to join the players box next year. But most importantly, I am so happy to share being number one in the world with you…. once again today. On @alexisohanian bday from the world’s oldest number one to the world’s youngest number one. Your Mommy.” Clearly the driven athlete is planning to resume tennis after the birth and she’s already 35. That is quite the drive and ambition.

Currently, Serena is pondering over  whether she should relocate to San Francisco where Alexis currently resides, “That’s the question of the hour. I couldn’t be stuck in a more beautiful place,” she answered a question posed by Vogue’s Andrew Leon Talley at the Met Gala.

Looks like the statuesque, super high achieving couple has as good a chance of making it together as anyone else and we wish them all the luck!

Most Bollywood fans know Preity Zinta, the dimpled actress whose high energy, bubbly persona shot her to fame. Part owner of the IPL cricket team Kings XI Punjab, Preity’s romance with Ness Wadia, heir of Bombay Dyeing and great grandson of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, kept her in the limelight after her star wattage dimmed. But who she ultimately tied the knot with is a lesser known fact. She settled down with a blond Californian executive Gene Goodenough who helped her get over her breakup. This is their story

Preity Zinta & Her Goodenough Husband

By Mahlia Lone

Preity Zinta was born into a Rajput Hindu family in Rohr, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh in 1975. Her father, Durganand Zinta, was an officer in the Indian Army and she grew up “an army brat” by her own admission, a tomboy in the company of two brothers. Their father set an example of discipline and punctuality that he expected the children to follow. The family’s fortunes took a turn for the worse when Durganand died in a car accident. He was behind the wheel, while his wife Nilprabha was in the passenger’s seat. She was severely injured and became bedridden for two years. Preity was only 13 years old when the accident took place and she said that both her and her brothers, Deepankar and Manish, a year older and a year younger, had to grow up almost overnight, leaving their carefree childhood days behind them. Nowadays Deepankar too is a commissioned officer in the Indian Army, while Manish lives in California.

A plump Preity with her friends

Preity became a boarder at the all girls’ Convent of Jesus and Mary boarding school in Shimla.  Though she missed her family, she said that she had the “perfect set of friends.” She was a good student, who enjoyed literature, particularly the works of William Shakespeare and poetry, as well as playing basketball. At 18, she graduated from The Lawrence School and enrolled at St. Bede’s College where she first she earned a graduate honours degree in English, and then a post graduate programme in criminal psychology.

With her mother

With her father

A chance meeting with an ad director who asked Preity to audition on the spot at a friend’s birthday party in 1996 led to her first television commercial for Perk chocolates. Soon, she also appeared in an ad for Liril soap in which she is drenched under a waterfall. In 1997, Preity Zinta accompanied a friend to an audition where she met the director Shekhar Kapur. He asked her to audition too. Upon seeing that she was a natural actress, he offered her a role in Tara Rum Pum Pum opposite Hrithik Roshan.  After its filming was cancelled, the former recommended her to director Mani Ratnam for his film Dil Se (1998) a Shahrukh Khan and Manisha Koirala starrer. Although Preity only had a small supporting role in the movie, her perky persona made her instantly famous and earned her a nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. That year, she won the Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut for her performance in both Dil Se and her first leading role in the action drama Soldier.

With her brothers

Preity recalled that her friends teased her when she joined Bollywood that she too would “wear white saris and dance in the rain,” so she was determined to play different parts. Apart from a number of romcoms that she has appeared in, she has also chosen to play unconventional characters. On such was in the drama Kya Kehna (2000), which addressed the topic of single parenthood and teenage pregnancy. Her portrayal of a teen single mother who fights social prejudice earned her several award nominations, including her first nomination for Best Actress at the Filmfare Awards.

At this time, she was living with model Marc Robinson. The relationship only lasted a year or two and after their breakup she said she has “very, very fond memories of the times we were together and I’d like to keep it to that.”

in an ad for Liril soap

During the filming of Dil Chahta Hai, she was rumored to be having an affair with Aamir Khan

After her breakup, during the filming of Dil Chahta Hai (2001) rumors were rife that Aamir Khan and Preity were having it off, but she denied the affair.

According to film critic Sukanya Verma, Preity’s “energetic nature extends from her real-life into her appearances in films and is an integral part of her technique. What can you say about an actress who giggles non-stop in a tone that is anything but prim and propah? She is carefree. She is animated. She talks non-stop. She laughs all the time. She has a chilled out sense of humour. And a tomboyish streak too”

According to film critic Sukanya Verma, Preity’s “energetic nature extends from her real-life into her appearances in films and is an integral part of her technique. What can you say about an actress who giggles non-stop in a tone that is anything but prim and proper? She is carefree. She is animated. She talks non-stop. She laughs all the time. She has a chilled out sense of humour. And a tomboyish streak too. Preity Zinta is all that and more. All this greatly contributes to her style of acting.” Perhaps this friendliness off camera led her into trouble—we can only speculate.

In Chori Chori Chupke Chupke with Rani Mukherjee & Salman Khan

Abbas-Mustan’s romantic drama Chori Chori Chupke Chupke (2001) was the first film to deal with the topic of surrogate childbirth. Initially, Preity was reluctant to play the role of a prostitute hired as a surrogate mother, but the director convinced her. To prepare for it, she visited Mumbai’s red-light areas to study the slang and mannerisms of the working girls. For her convincing portrayal, she received a second Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Filmfare Awards. Rakesh Roshan’s science-fiction Koi…Mil Gaya (2003), about a developmentally disabled young man played by Hrithik Roshan who came in contact with an alien followed. Preity plays his love interest. Not only did it garner her another Filmfare Best Actress nomination in addition to winning the Filmfare Award for Best Movie, but it also became her highest-grossing film, with a domestic total equivalent to $10 million.

Bharat Shah being led out of court in police custody

 In 2003, the national spotlight was on the sensational Bharat Shah case that highlighted Bollywood’s links to the Indian mafia. Police had recorded 32 telephone conversations between producer Nasim Rizvi, financier Bharat Shah and Pakistan-based Mumbai underworld boss Chhota Shakeel during late 2000. Unlike the great Khan actors, Shah Rukh  and Salman, producer-director Rakesh Roshan, directors Sanjay Gupta and others who all retracted their statements under pressure, Preity Zinta defiantly stuck to her statement of receiving threatening calls from the underworld while she was shooting for the film Chori Chori Chupke Chupke in 2000. She told the sessions court in Mumbai that she received a call from a man who said, “Main bhai ka aadmi Razak bol raha hoon aur mujhe 50 lakh chahiye.” Preity was threatened that there would be consequences if she did not pay up.

Producer Nazim Rizvi

 “I was very scared and upset and confided in Nazim Rizvi, the producer of the film. He told me not to worry and that everything would be alright. He gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him if I have any further problem,” she said in court.

Preity became the first recipient of Godfrey’s Mind of Steel Award at the annual Red and White Bravery Awards due to her testimony in the sensational Bharat Shah case

After her testimony that convicted both Bharat Shah and Nazim Rizvi, Preity  was given witness protection for two months and Indian citizens lauded her bravery because most of the men had backed down from taking on the wrath of the underworld that she a single woman had so courageously done. For this, she became the first recipient of Godfrey’s Mind of Steel Award at the annual Red and White Bravery Awards. Upon receiving the award, she said, “To be brave is not to be fearless. It is when you fear and you get over it, then you can be called brave. I am human. It is not that I fear nothing. But getting over a fear is a continuous process and I have been successful so far.”

Preity Zinta with ex-boyfriend model Marc Robinson with whom she lived for a year or two and from whom she separated on good terms

The Don, Chhota Shakeel

After the case was won thanks to her testimony, Preity starred in Yash Chopra’s cross border romance Veer-Zaara (2004) as a dupatta clad traditional Pakistani woman opposite Shahrukh Khan playing an Indian officer. She polished up her Urdu for this and was so convincing in the role that later was cast in another movie as a Pakistani. She received her fourth Filmfare Best Actress nomination. Fresh from this success, Preity starred in another Yash Raj Film, Siddharth Anand’s dramedy Salaam Namaste opposite Saif Ali Khan. The movie is about a modern Indian couple who live together and their unexpected pregnancy. The New York Times review stated, “She is cheerleader-homecoming queen-fraternity sweetheart pretty, so even when her characters are being unkind it’s hard not to like her.”

With Danish actor Lars on their romantic Hawaiian vacay

In 2004, Preity was rumoured to be dating Lars Kjeldsen, an actor from Denmark who starred in Rang Rasiya (2008), after their pictures from a Hawaii holiday surfaced. Lars later got married to another B’wood actress Suchitra Pillai.

Preity’s career at this time was at its zenith, but with younger actresses on the horizon, her star was soon on its way down with two of her big commercial films flopping badly. Then in late 2004, Preity suffered two near death experiences: first when there was an explosion at a Temptation concert headlined by Shah Rukh Khan in Colombo, Sri Lanka. To offset her near miss, her personal life was looking bright with a burgeoning relationship with industrialist and bachelor about town Ness Wadia. In fact, in an interview, she said that she was friends with Ness and after the explosion upon her return to Mumbai, she rushed to visit him at home, tell him the story and be comforted by him. They grew closer and she went for a holiday with him and other friends to Phuket to recover from the shock of the bomb explosion. As luck would have it, the devastating tsunami occurred in Thailand while they were holidaying there. Preity was sleeping in her water villa. Ness rushed to wake her up and take her to safety. He saved her life and she turned to him for security.

The press changed her go-to epithet from “bubbly” actress to “the only man in Bollywood,” both of which she disliked

Her work reflected this change in her. Having had an epiphany or wanting to reinvent herself, Preity changed tracks and started working in art, neo-realistic films, also known as parallel cinema. In her first English film, Rituparno Ghosh’s The Last Lear, she plays a struggling film actress opposite Amitabh Bachchan. At the film’s premiere during the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, Preity said, “I did think with art films that they don’t pay you, they don’t feed you, but I was wrong, and I’m so happy to be here.”

Then came an out of the blue allegation, which she dismissed nonchalantly. When filmmaker Shekhar Kapur’s wife Suchitra Krishnamoorthy ended her marriage in 2007, she alleged that her husband had been cheating on her with Preity, but the actress dismissed it as being “a figment of her imagination….It is unfortunate that I am bearing the brunt of someone else’s paranoia. She’s clearly unstable and I wish her a speedy recovery.”

CANNES, FRANCE – MAY 16: (L-R) Pietry Zinta and Afef Jnifen attend the Chopard and Valentino Party Dinner at Nikki Beach during the 60th International Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2007 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Eric Ryan/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Afef Jnifen;Pietry Zinta

For her next project, she chose Deepa Mehta’s Canadian film Heaven on Earth (2008), a mystical drama in Punjabi based on the true story of an Indian woman who has an arranged marriage to a non-resident Indian (NRI) man from Canada, migrates to Toronto and becomes a victim of severe domestic abuse. Preity had wanted to work with Mehta in a role that would be “a new kind of acting challenge.” To prepare, she conducted extensive research on domestic violence as well as learning Punjabi in only fifty days. She recalled, “I never knew a character would affect me so deeply. I’ve become completely withdrawn and introspective… I can’t snap out of the character.” She also called it her most challenging project because it helped her “shed everything that Preity Zinta was about.” The film was screened at several international film festivals, earning her a Silver Hugo Award for Best Actress at the 2008 Chicago International Film Festival for “her strong yet subtle performance as a woman struggling to keep her dreams despite brutal realities.”

Along with Ness and another mutual industrialist friend Mohit Burman, Preity acquired ownership rights in 2008 for the Mohali-based Twenty20 cricket team of the Indian Premier League (IPL) for $76 million. They named the team Kings XI Punjab. Until 2009 when Shilpa Shetty too bought a team with her husband, Preity was the only woman to own an IPL team even in partnership and the youngest owner. She took a two year hiatus from films to focus on her new business, getting involved with launching ticket sales and promoting the team. She said, “My involvement with the team is total. I am extremely passionate about our team and I do believe that I am the team’s good luck factor, so I want to be there for everything.”

Explosion at the Temptations concert in Colombo

 

 

Yuvraj Singh, Preity Zinta at IPL match Victory Celebration in Henry Tham on May 21st 2008 shown to user

Preity and Ness’ high profile relationship became the regular topic of press speculation. By 2009 their relationship was truly on the rocks. Apparently Ness wasn’t committing, nor was he willing to let go. Rumors of an engagement were rife, but the easy on the eye couple broke up with Preity taking the initiative to call it quits. They had been together five years, she was in her 30s and it’s natural for a woman to want the solid commitment of marriage.

Amitabh Bachchan, described her as being “frank and painfully honest,” and said that she had “drive and guts in a world that can be most cruel to a single girl”

To help her get over her heartbreak after such a serious relationship, Preity was rumored to have had a couple of flings, the first with the tall, well built Punjabi cricketer Yuvraj Singh who was close at hand as the captain of King’s XI Punjab. It was short lived and the two dismissed the rumours saying they were “just friends.” Next up was Vikram Chatwal, a hotelier, married man and notorious womanizer. In 2009, news about Preity’s fling with Chatwal spread like wildfire. They were spotted together at several occasions and a source was quoted saying that they had become quite close and the two got along like a house on fire. However, it too turned out to be just a rebound fling.

With ex-boyfriend Ness Wadia

Preity often went to spend time with her younger brother and his children in LA and there she met 6’1” 185 lbs grey eyed blond Californian executive Gene Goodenough who she said she “hit it off with immediately.” Gene has an MBA from the Esade Business and Law School in Spain, and another masters’ degree in management from the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business, LA, and works as a financial consultant. He is currently at NLine Energy Inc., a renewable energy development company in LA as the Senior Vice President in their product & finance department. Earlier he  worked as tje Assistant Vice President in Bank of America and as the Vice President/director of product management at Interthinx. Gene was extremely different from the type of men she had dated so far.

“I met him in Santa Monica in Los Angeles. Then we dated for five years,” she shared with her fans on social media much later. When they first started dating, her close friends did not think the relationship had a future; they weren’t even sure if the two were even remotely serious. For reasons better known to herself, Preity kept this relationship under the radar from the social/Bollywood crowd. She would travel to LA for the ostensible reason of meeting her family and meet up with Goodenough as well.

In Mumbai, Preity turned back to mainstream Bollywood films, which had made her rich and famous. Not having had a lead in a big movie since the flop Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (2007), she decided that she would put her money where her mouth is and produce her own comeback vehicle Ishkq in Paris. After being initially set for a release in fall 2012, the film was postponed multiple times before finally being released in the summer of 2013. But it bombed. She had sunk a lot of money into this project and apparently creditors came a calling.

Meanwhile her relationship with her American beau progressed steadily. Not many know that Gene was bedrock of support in helping her get over her ex-boyfriend Ness. He happened to be at her side when Ness allegedly pulled her hand, molested and abused her at Wankhede Stadium summer of 2014 during an IPL match in which their team was playing. Reportedly, her chivalrous American boyfriend was the one to stop her Indian ex at the time and shield Preity. She lodged an FIR against Mr. Wadia. Goodenough was initially reluctant to get involved in legal battles in India and left for the U.S. Not one to give up so easily, Preity flew to LA to convince him and he agreed to be the key eyewitness from her side.

Shekar Kapur & ex-wife Suchitra who claimed the director was having an affair with Preity, an allegation the actress dismissed

Ness Wadia gave his side of the story to The Times of India. He said that he was “shocked and dismayed” and that “the allegations are totally false and baseless. It is disgusting that she would stoop to this level.”

Sources close to both claimed that Preity Zinta was “upset as Wadia was seeing someone…Zinta could not digest the fact that her former boyfriend, who is still her business partner, was involved in another relationship.”

B-175, MOHALI – 230518 – MAY 23, 2008 – Mohali: Kings XI Punjab owner Preity Zinta hugs skipper Yuvraj Singh after their team’s victory over Deccan Chargers in the IPL T20 match at PCA Stadium in Mohali on Friday. PTI Photo by Atul Yadav

Wadia agreed that he indeed had started seeing someone two months prior to the incident and they got close when the IPL was being played in the UAE.   He said that his mother (who had not wanted him to marry the actress) had to undergo serious discomfort when attending a Kings XI Punjab match resulting in an argument between the two. This was a  clear case of he said/she said with emotions high on each side.

In Heaven on Earth

Author and columnist Shobhaa De, while commending her for lodging a molestation complaint against Ness Wadia, pointed out that Preity’s repeated quest for justice would eventually play against her: “India is not terribly kind to strong-willed, outspoken women who are dubbed ‘trouble makers’ if they dare to raise their voices, especially against men. Zinta is such a woman.”

Though at the beginning of her career, Preity was described by journalists as having a bubbly, outgoing persona, an image she disliked, by this time, the journalists dubbed her “The only man in Bollywood” a label she was also unhappy with.

Preity didn’t let other people’s opinion of her get her down, but persevered and got her life back on track. Her finances bounced back in due course thanks to her team ownership. She is currently worth a healthy $30 million. On February 28, 2016, Preity Zinta quietly got married to her longtime-beau Goodenough that she had been seeing for 6 years now. The couple tied the knot in a traditional Hindu Rajput wedding ceremony near Mulholland Drive, Beverly Hills, LA complete with a pandit conducting all the rituals, including pheras in an outdoor red and gold mandap with the glittering LA skyline as the backdrop. Preity’s mother oversaw the entire arrangement,” a source revealed. The bride and groom were clad in super traditional Indian wedding attire. Though Preity claims to be agnostic, telling The Times of India reporter that “I believe in good deeds, in karma, I don’t believe in going to temples. For me, religion is very personal. It’s all about having faith … We have heard and read that all religions are equal. Now I increasingly believe this.” But all little girls plan their weddings in their head and even though Preity’s bride groom turned out to be a blond American executive and not an Indian industrialist was no reason for her to alter her dream wedding.

The wedding was so hush hush that only her close friends Sussanne Khan and Surily Goel apart from family were invited. She announced her wedding to her fans via Facebook, “I was holding onto the ‘Miss Tag’ rather seriously till now, until I met someone ‘Goodenough’ to give it up for. So now I join the married club, folks. Thank you all for your good wishes and for all your love. Love you all.” The proceeds from her wedding pictures were donated to the Preity Zinta Foundation, a charitable organization. The couple held a grand reception in Mumbai on Fri, 13th May, 2016 where all the who’s who of Bollywood were invited and turned up. The bride chose to wear another custom made Manish Malhotra red gown.

Just prior to the reception, Preity was spotted at the Mumbai airport, along with her husband, greeting her in-laws. She was keen to show off her country to them, took them to Taj Mahal, Agra. After the reception, she whisked off Gene and his parents to a five star luxury spa in Rishikesh, Uttaranchal, a Himalayan paradise famed for its yoga and Ayurvedic practices.

Happy and content in her new life, Preity has also patched up with her business partner and ex Ness Wadia. They were seen together when their team beat Royal Challengers Bangalore in Indore. The two came face to face during the match and much to everyone’s surprise they were more than cordial with each other, celebrating their team’s victory together. Clearly they have both moved on.

Preity, though a famous, rich and glamorous actress, waited till 41 before tying the knot proving the adage that sometimes you gotta kiss a lot of frogs before finding your prince.

Will Meghan Markle be the first, gasp, mixed race/divorced/actress daughter in law of the British royal family?

By Mahlia Lone

The whole world knows who Prince Harry is, how he grew up and what he does now. The younger royal Prince has had two serious girlfriends, South African businessman’s lawyer daughter Chelsy Davy who he dated for seven years and aristocratic theater ingenue Cressida Bonas who he dated for two, both part of the jet set aristocratic circles that he moves around in. He has also had his share of partying and acting rebellious with the tabloids calling him a “wild child.” In 2012, he was photographed in the nude playing strip poker with scantily clad young women in Vegas. These days he has sobered up and is rumoured to have shacked up in his apartment in London’s Kensington Palace with his new girlfriend Meghan Markle, a little known TV actress till she started dating the Prince. It’s been reported that they are on the cusp of a royal engagement. Let’s steal a march on the others and find out more about her.

Born Rachel Meghan Markle in 1981 in the Valley in Los Angeles, the American actress, now aged 35, is three years older than Prince Harry. Her Dutch/Irish descent father, Thomas W. Markle Sr. is an Emmy Award winning director of lighting who worked for years on the long running successful sitcom Married…with Children. He grew up comfortably off in Long Island, near NYC. Her African-American mother Doria Radlan, who holds a Master’s degree in social work and works as a yoga instructor and social worker, came from a working class background. Her immediate ancestors included a presser at a laundry, a janitor and a cook, all residing in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She divorced Thomas in 2003 when Meghan was six years old and Doria relocated with her daughter to Crenshaw, a rough, gang infested neighborhood in LA to be near her sister. Because of where they lived, Meghan was educated at private schools, which the majority of Americans don’t do. She first attended the Little Red Schoolhouse elementary and then the all-girls, Roman Catholic Immaculate Heart High School. Outspoken on women’s rights, at only 11, she wrote a letter to then First Lady Hillary Clinton complaining that a soap advertisement showed women belonging in the kitchen. Due to her letter, the soap’s manufacturer had to change the advertisement, so early on she learned that standing up for her beliefs gets results. She has also spoken out on racism and talked about growing up mixed race. Meghan graduated from Northwestern University in Illinois with a double major in theater and international relations.

The Royal Family at Trooping the Colour 2016

From 2002 to 2014, Meghan had small roles in one episode each of a daytime soap opera, several TV series and a couple of TV movies. To make money between jobs during her early acting days, she worked as a calligraphist. Money was tight and her mother declared bankruptcy, owing more than $50,000 on her credit cards. Meghan meanwhile managed to get small roles in five feature films. Since 2004, she was in a long term relationship with TV producer Trevor Engelson. They got married in 2011, the same year she was cast as paralegal on the popular legal drama Suits, but the marriage only lasted two years. With the security of her recurring role on the hit show, she passed up on receiving spousal support after her divorce and started dating Canadian restaurateur Cory Vitiello, whom she promptly dumped upon meeting Prince Harry.

Prince Charles & PrincessDiana dropping PrinceHarry to his first day atEton with Prince William

With girlfriend of 7 years Chelsy Davy

With ex-girlfriend Cressida Bonas

Playing strip poker in Las Vegas

Last year, Meghan’s father declared bankruptcy owing $30,000 and relocated to Mexico. She has two half siblings from her father. Eldest sister Samantha, who used to work as a small time model, is a mother of three and suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. She says that she helped bring up Meghan till she was the age of 12. Samantha feels bitter because when she was diagnosed in 2008, and needed help from her younger sister Meghan, the latter cut contact with her and refused to help her out financially despite being able to afford it. Meghan’s half brother Thomas Jr. has a drinking problem and was recently charged with holding a gun to his girlfriend’s head during a fight. His son also named Thomas runs a pizza joint.

As a young girl in Crenshaw she enjoyed practising calligraphy

Her half sister Samantha, a mother of three & MS patient

Meghan has a lifestyle blog The Tig and frequently posts pictures of herself practicing yoga. She volunteered as a counselor for the international charity One Young World and spoke at its annual summit in Dublin in 2014 on gender equality and modern-day slavery. In 2016, she became the Global Ambassador for World Vision Canada, traveling to Rwanda for the Clean Water Campaign.

At the all-girls, Roman Catholic Immaculate Heart High School

With yoga teacher mother Doria

The Prince first met the actress as recently as May of last year in Toronto where Meghan has been living to film Suits. The Prince was in town promoting the Invictus Games, a sporting event created by the Prince in which wounded, sick and injured servicemen take part in Paralympic-style games and sports. They were introduced by the fashion designer wife, Misha Nonoo, of one of his Etonian friends Alexander Gilkes, who have since separated. New York-based Misha and Meghan had previously holidayed in Spain together in a group. Harry’s cousin Princess Eugenie is also a mutual friend of Misha’s since Prince Andrew’s daughter worked for Alexander’s up-market Paddle8 Auction firm in NYC. Harry is very close to Eugenie, who also remains friendly with his last serious girlfriend, Cressida Bonas.  The royals’ set it seems is as interconnected as social circles are in Pakistan.

Half brother Thomas Jr.’s mugshot

Wedding to TV producer Trevor Engelson

With ex-boyfriend restaurateur Cory Vitiello

Harry and Meghan apparently bonded as both had taken trips to Africa in a bid to improve lives there. Prince Harry spent a part of his gap year in Lesotho where he set up charities benefiting kids, while Meghan is the face of the Canadian charity World Vision in Rwanda. After hitting it off, the two holed up in secret at her Toronto apartment. When the Prince returned to London in June, they kept up by texting each other daily. Meghan started following his private Instagram account and herself fueled dating rumors when she posted a picture of her on Insta wearing an identical African bracelet to his. Then she posted a picture of two bananas spooning with the caption “Sleep tight!” The Prince was also following the actress from his Instagram account. She followed him to London where they went out on a couple of dates to Soho House, where he was surrounded by his friends.

Harry also reportedly introduced Meghan to his father Prince Charles, who himself had set royal precedent by marrying a divorcee, Camilla Parker Bowles, now Duchess of Cornwall. Everyone wanted to know more about the little known actress. The press scrambled for details. A source revealed to reporters, “Harry loves that she is so into philanthropy. One of the first things they spoke about were her dogs rescued from an animal shelter. He loves that she’s so caring.”
But then all sorts of stories about her family came to light. In October, Prince Harry canceled a trip last moment planned to visit her in Toronto.

The cast of Suits

To capitalize on her growing stardom, Meghan launched her line of lower priced women’s fashion workwear, not exceeding $70 for a garment, for Fall/Winter 2016, in collaboration with the Canadian clothing company Reitmans. Canadian newspaper the Vancouver Sun published an interview with Meghan promoting her collection, in which she said, “I was not a girl who grew up buying $100 candles. I was the girl who ran out of gas on her way to an audition. I’m deeply and passionately involved in the design process. I’m a brash American.” Though she made no direct mention of Harry, she let drop the cryptic remark, “My cup runneth over and I’m the luckiest girl in the world!”

Meanwhile, haunted by the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales being hounded by paparazzi to her tragic death, soon after Prince Harry owned up to his relationship by having his communications secretary issue a statement for the press to stop harassing Meghan and her family.

Again a source close to the Prince told a reporter, “He’s happier than he’s been for many years. He’s in a very relaxed period of his life and Meghan has come along at the right time.”

In mid-November, Meghan was seen grocery shopping at Whole Foods near Kensington Palace, dressed casually in a black jacket and black Hunter Wellington boots, as British as you can get. She was trailed returning to the Prince’s digs.

These days news travels at lightning speed. In late November, during an official visit to Antigua, Prime Minister Gaston Browne could not refrain from teasing Harry, “I believe we are expecting a new Princess soon. I want you to know that you are very welcome to come on your honeymoon here … there will be nowhere in the world as special to spend your honeymoon, when that day arrives,” quickly plugging his country as a desirable holiday spot. Harry “clearly embarrassed, went bright red” at the remark. Prince William was reportedly not happy that Harry had gone so public with the relationship.

Certainly no shrinking violet, in response Meghan was photographed at a flower shop in Toronto, wearing a 14K gold Maya Brenner Asymmetrical Letter necklace with the initials “M” and “H.” It was a trinket that spoke its own tale loud and clear.
Soon Prince William’s staff issued a press release on his behalf, addressed to the Telegraph, refuting reports that William was unhappy that his younger brother had made his relationship public. It stated: “The Duke of Cambridge absolutely understands the situation concerning privacy and supports the need for Prince Harry to support those closest to him.”

Diana on a Red Cross trip to Africa

Prince Harry in Lesotho

Meghan in Rwanda

In December, Google confirmed that Meghan became the most-searched actress of 2016, with Brad Pitt becoming the most searched actor after his divorce.

After concluding his two-week tour of the Caribbean, Prince Harry took a 1,700 mile detour to see Meghan in Toronto before returning to London and more royal engagements where she soon followed him.

Back in London, Meghan and Harry were first spied out shopping for a Christmas tree at Pines and Needles in Battersea. The shopkeeper said, “They came in at about 8.30 p.m. last night. Prince Harry was with Meghan and hilariously the staff only recognized Meghan at first – they were so excited to have the girl from Suits there. It wasn’t particularly cold but they were gloved and hatted out.” After picking out 6-feet tall lush Fir, Harry and Meghan loaded it in their car before heading back to Kensington Palace.

A couple of days later, they were publicly holding hands while strolling together after catching The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime at the Gielgud Theatre in the West End. They were wearing his-and-hers beanies and admiring the Christmas lights along Piccadilly.

After spending NYE together in London, Meghan and Harry took their first official vacation together, jetting off to the Norwegian fjords. There they stayed with a close friend of Harry’s, expedition guide and polar consultant Inge Solheim at his luxury property in Tromsø. The couple stayed in a cabin, whale-watched, took a lake trip and looked at the Northern Lights. Harry had reportedly “put a lot of thought into it and wanted to make it as romantic and special as possible.”

Eagle eyed fans spotted the two sporting similar African bracelets

The relationship had grown serious overnight and in mid January this year, Harry invited Meghan to stay with him at Kensington Palace where Harry lives near the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, plus the junior royals. Harry took her over to apartment 1A where she met Kate. Not only did Meghan give Kate a belated birthday gift, she also played with Princess Charlotte. A source told the Sunday Express, “William and Kate really liked her and she fitted in straight away.”

Meghan was photographed buying flowers in Kensington High Street wearing Harry’s favourite brown baseball camp.
In late January, while Harry was busy attending events in support of Heads Together (his charity with Prince William and Kate) in London, Meghan carried out her duties as a World Vision ambassador on a visit to India where she learned about various issues affecting women and young girls in slum communities, including education and health care. She mirrored his philanthropic activity with one of her own.

Prinyanka Chopra, a close friend of Meghan’s, answered a reporter at this year’s Golden Globes, “I’m just happy for Meg. And I hope whatever she does, wherever she goes in life, she’s always happy”

By February, sources said the actress has “virtually moved in” with Harry at his cottage in Kensington Palace.

Kensington Palace

Northern Lights of Norway

An anonymous friend said, “I know that sounds a bit crazily soon, but he’s head over heels and they can’t bear to be apart.”
Just before Valentine’s Day, the couple was seen holding hands after a dinner at the exclusive Soho House. She was photographed wearing a ring with an “H” initial. Keen to spot another sign, press speculated that it’s a promise ring from the Prince, implying an early engagement. V Day itself they spent cosily together in his cottage at the Palace.

Forced to briefly return to Toronto to film Suits, a show she has now refused to be in next season so she’s able to be with Harry full time, Meghan was invited by the Prince to join him at his best friend’s wedding in Jamaica in March. There, the pair was spotted leaving the church before heading to the reception at a nearby hotel.

A plot twist occurred when, seeing that she is in dire need of money while her half sister is lording it with the royals, Meghan’s half sister Samantha is seeking revenge and has threatened to write a tell-all book titled The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister. In her interviews, Samantha called Meghan “a social climber who grew up following the royal family and having a thing for ginger haired men.” She added, “The royal family would be appalled by what she’s done to her own family. The truth would kill her relationship with Prince Harry. Her behaviour is certainly not fitting of a Royal Family member.” She claims that the actress is “narcissistic and selfish,” as well as shallow, hypocritical and calculating. Their family, however, said that Samantha is envious of Meghan’s good fortune. When they were living together as a family apparently the former used to tell visitors that her stepmother Doria was the maid since she is black.

At a wedding in Jamaica this March

In the April issue of Vanity Fair, Meghan takes centre stage in a glossy photo shoot on the Ottawa River, celebrating the 1,300 “exceptional young global leaders of tomorrow” who attended the One Young World Summit in Ottawa last September. On one side of her stands the former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, Pakistani writer Fatima Bhutto, and Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul. British actress Emma Watson, American singer/actress Cher (aged 71), and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, all of whom spoke at the 2016 Summit, are also featured in the photo shoot by American photographer Jason Schmidt. I wonder, had it not been for her association for Prince Harry, whether Ms Markle would have been chosen for such a prominent position. As it is, the story about the upcoming shoot went viral due to her newly found fame.

Chances are very good that Ms Markle will marry the younger Prince; in fact bookies have significantly reduced the odds on their getting engaged this year. Meghan seems a determined woman who knows what she wants and how to get it, is supremely confident despite her family background and knows how to expertly work social media and the PR machine in her favour. Doubtlessly, she’s not letting this Prince go, and there’s another royal wedding on the horizon.

As we were going to press, Meghan Markle announced that she is shutting down her lifestyle blog The Tig after three years. She gave no reason, but it’s widely speculated that she has done so as her engagement to Prince Harry is imminent.

By Mahlia Lone

I first saw Salma Hayek on the big screen in Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado in 1995 starring opposite Spanish heart-throb Antonio Banderas and was blown away by how smoking hot the leading couple was. Their heavily accented English, their tanned good looks, her overtly feminine curves, his Old World machismo—this film made breakout stars of all three, the actress, the actor and the director. It was a precursor to the growing significance and relevance of Spanish-speaking stars in American mainstream movies. While promoting the film, Ms. Hayek appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and said that she had given up a career as a top Mexican soap opera star to make it in Hollywood and recounted how she had driven herself over all the way from Mexico City to Los Angeles and roughed it out there. She appeared peppy, confident, ambitious, exotic and had oodles of star quality and sex appeal. Her self belief paid off. Not only did she make it in Hollywood, but also married one of the richest, most well respected men in France.

Salma Hayek was born in 1966, in the oil boomtown of Coatzacoalcos, Mexico to a wealthy Lebanese descent oil company executive and businessman Sami Hayek Dominguez Hayek and opera singing talent scout Diana Jiménez Medina of Mexican mestiza (white European), Amer-Indian and Spanish descent. Her father was of some standing in the community and even ran for Mayor of Coatzacoalcos. She and her younger brother Sami Jr. were brought up in the strict Roman Catholic faith, but Salma admitted that the two siblings were spoiled rotten by her well off parents. Sami Jr. now lives in LA and designs custom made chairs that have been bought by celebrities such as Jennifer Anniston and Brad Pitt. But he’s mostly known for crashing Salma’s sports car in a horrific accident that killed his friend seated in the front seat next to him.

Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) inspired young Salma to become an actress. Lagging behind in her school work, naughty little Salma at age 12 was sent to the Academy of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans, Grand Coteau, Louisiana, where she was diagnosed with dyslexia, a reading disability, and ADHD, an inability to focus for very long. She also routinely pulled pranks on the poor nuns. One time she set their clocks back three hours, disrupting their routine and was subsequently expelled. However, she was good at languages and grew up speaking fluent Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and English. After school, Salma attended Mexico City’s Universidad Iberoamericana to study International Relations and Drama.

In Teresa, a Mexican telenovela

After graduation, Salma landed the title role in the successful telenovela Teresa (1989) at the age of 23, making her a household name in Mexico. She said she could have comfortably rested on her laurels and been happy being a star in her home country but she had set her sights on Hollywood. So, in 1991, she got in her car and drove to Hollywood where she started taking Stella Adler’s acting class. Though a petite 5.2” curvacious bombshell, she spoke with a heavy accent and was typecast as a mistress, maid or stripper/prostitute in bit roles.

Looking back, Salma said, “I, a rich girl from Mexico, came to Hollywood with my designer clothes. And one day, when I was starving in an apartment in Los Angeles, I looked at my Chanel blouses and said, ‘If only I could pay the rent with one of these.’” Feeling under pressure and unappreciated by white filmmakers, Hayek vented her frustrations in a humorous manner on comedian Paul Rodriguez’s late-night Spanish-language talk show in 1992, which filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and his producer wife Elizabeth Avellan happened to be watching. They had been looking for a Latina actress for their upcoming film Desperado and were immediately struck by this not only obviously good looking but also intelligent and opinionated young woman. Their instincts were spot on! The movie made $25 million and went on to become a cult classic. In 1994, Salma returned to Mexico to star in the film El Callejón de los Milagros (Miracle Alley), which won more awards than any other movie in the history of Mexican cinema. Rodriguez then cast her in Quentin Tarantino scripted From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) opposite George Clooney in a vampy role. In this cult classic, Hayek does a memorable sexy table top dance holding a snake, which got a lot of male pulses quickening. She made some mildly successful but forgettable romcoms in the next few years and her star graph kept steadily rising.

With her mother Diana

With Antonio Banderas in Desperado

Her snake dance in From Dusk Till Dawn

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

In Wild Wild West with Will Smith & Kevin Kline

In Bandidas with best friend Penelope Cruz

With the suave Pierce Brosnan in After the Sunset

With Colin Farrell in the mediocre tear jerker Ask the Dust

The growing distance she felt from Catholicism was highlighted by her next choice of film Dogma (1999), starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, which portrays the Roman Catholic Church in an irreverent manner. She also starred in the summer blockbuster action comedy Wild Wild West opposite Will Smith. The same year her newly formed production company Ventanarosa produced the 1999 Mexican feature film No One Writes to the Colonel (1999) that was shown at the Cannes Film Festival and was selected as Mexico’s official Oscar entry for best foreign film.

 “I wish I knew (when I was younger) that I was going to fall crazy in love with the perfect man. I was so worried, and I dated some people I shouldn’t have dated. You get desperate, and you start seeing wonderful things in, like, the wrong guys. I also found some pretty good guys”

With Edward Atterton

With Oscar de la Hoya

With Edward Norton

With Colin Farrell

Salma at this time was a serial monogamist and looking for “The One!” She admitted in an interview for Allure magazine that she dated people she shouldn’t have because she was “desperate” to find her perfect soul mate. She revealed that when she was younger she was in a hurry to find the person with whom she was going to spend the rest of her life, and because of that desire, she found herself overlooking her previous partners’ shortcomings. “I wish I knew (when I was younger) that I was going to fall crazy in love with the perfect man. I was so worried, and I dated some people I shouldn’t have dated. You get desperate, and you start seeing wonderful things in, like, the wrong guys. I also found some pretty good guys.

But I wish I could say to myself: ‘Hey, chill out. You’re going to get a great husband that’s going to adore you.’ I would have saved myself a lot of personal drama.”

She especially had a soft spot for actors during this phase: she dated English actor Edward Atterton from 1997 to 1999, followed by a brief liaison with Mexican-American boxer Oscar de la Hoya. Then came a serious relationship with American character actor Edward Norton from 1999 to 2003. Good looking actor Josh Lucas applied the salve to her heartbreak in 2003 for a year. In 2004, Irish Lothario Colin Farrell and Salma had a fling during the filming of their below average movie “Ask the Dust” (2006).

She said how she felt about men, “What worries me the most is that most men are so weak. Because of that they act like they don’t care and like machos – because they are too fragile inside. They’re scared of confrontation and afraid of so many things. And because of this they build up their life so they have to deal with their feelings as little as possible. I find feminine men unbelievably sexy. But most men are completely incapable of getting in touch with their feminine side. What am I supposed to talk about with a man who doesn’t know what it’s like to be a woman?”

First wife Dorothée Lepère

Francios Henri Pinault, one of France’s richest and most influential men

So Salma concentrated on her work and poured her passion into her labour of love, the film she co-produced about the life of the legendary Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, whom Salma had been admiring her entire life and whose story she wanted to bring to the big screen ever since her arrival in Hollywood. Frida (2002) has great performances from Salma in the leading role and Alfred Molina as Kahlo’s cheating husband. The cast included many of her friends who wanted to support her, including Antonio Banderas, Ashley Judd, Valeria Golino and Edward Norton. Salma famously sports Frida’s real life one eyebrow for the film. The biographical movie is coloured with the same colour palette that Frida Kahlo used in her paintings and was nominated for six Oscars, including best actress for Hayek, who became the second Latin actress to be nominated in the category. It won the Academy Awards for make-up and original score by Elliot Goldenthal. Salma also won credibility as a serious actress and successful producer.

The next year, she reprised her role in the final of Rodriguez’s Desperado trilogy Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003) alongside her buddy Antonio Banderas. Incidentally, Salma is also godmother to Rodriguez’s children.

She followed this movie up with After the Sunset (2004) opposite Pierce Brosnan. She then starred in a Western about gun toting bad ass female bandits Bandidas (2006) alongside her best friend Spanish actress Penélope Cruz. She also announced her Best Actress Academy Award nomination for Volver (2006) at her ceremony–they are that close. At this time, it’s safe to say that Salma was not broken in any way by her string of unsuccessful romances but chose to be strong and independent, concentrating on her work and friends.

Then 2006, fresh from her fling with Colin Farrell, Salma started dating divorced French businessman Francois Henri Pinault.
She revealed in an interview, “What works in a relationship of very public people is not making the relationship public–keeping it as personal as it can be. It’s the only way it is real. I am suspicious of those who have to let the world know how much they love each other. It’s a little sad when you have to brag about how much you love someone. That kind of declaration doesn’t always reflect the moment of truth between two people who care deeply for each other. When that truth is there, you don’t need others to know it. And when somebody truly loves you, you don’t even need him or her to be affectionate. Affection is fantastic, but it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s love – and the public display of affection is often just a show. When you open a door for others to have an opinion on your relationship, it can be dangerous. Find what you need, not what everyone else wants for you. Women have been taught that in order to have a place in the world, an identity, they must marry and have children. If that’s the life you truly want, great. But for many women, marriage is only about needing the world to know that someone desires them enough to say, ‘Here’s a contract to prove that I love you and will commit to you for the rest of my life.’ For these women, no contract equals no validation – and, thus, no reason for existing.” Salma, as it turns out, was far more traditional than she realized.

“I don’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day,” said Linda Evangelist in her heyday

The Hollywood mansion FHP bought in daughter Valentina’s name to woo Salma back

FHP, as he is nicknamed, was born in 1962 in Rennes, Brittany, France, in the lap of luxury. His father François Pinault founded Kering, a luxury, sports and lifestyle empire estimated at $16.9 billion in March 2017, according to Bloomberg that includes Gucci, Yves St. Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, and many other high end brands.

FHP graduated from HEC School of Management, near Versailles, in 1985 and completed at that time mandatory military service in the French Consulate Economic Expansion station in Los Angeles, during which he studied the American fashion and new technology sectors. On his return to Paris in 1987, he joined PPR (as Kering was then known) as a manager in the buying department. Over the years, working his way up and propelled by being the son of the CEO, FHP strengthened the sports section of the conglomerate by acquiring the German brand Puma and the French Ligue 1 football club, Stade Rennais. From 1996 to 2004, he was married to Dorothée Lepère and has two children from her, François and Mathilde Pinault. In March 2005, he succeed his father as chairman and CEO of Kering.

Newly divorced and surrounded by tall, skinny, gorgeous models, FHP started casually seeing supermodel Linda Evangelista, who had famously said earlier that she doesn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day. The forty year old model’s career lifespan was at its sell-by date, and she was looking around to settle down and have children by this time. Though FHP later said he only spent seven days out of her four months with her from September 2005 to January 2006, she got pregnant. He bolted. At first, he denied the baby was his. Much later did he admit he had asked her to abort as he was not interested in raising the baby with her. With her biological clock ticking, Linda said she would raise the baby on her own. Augustin James Evangelista was born in October 2006. The father did not recognize him, give him his name, nor did he support him financially or in any other way.

Wedding festivities in Venice

Former French President Jacques Chirac & François Pinault arrive at the wedding 

Anna Wintour in Chanel

Ashley Judd

Salma’s ex Ed Norton & girlfriend Shauna Robertson

Salma didn’t merely buy a designer handbag or dress, those she gets for free. She married the man who owns the company,by showing him she doesn’t need his money

The reason FHP was desperate to distance himself from Linda and his son is because it turned out that there was some overlap–he had started seeing Salma at around the same time. She, he was serious about. According to Pinault, it was not until April 2006 that he started dating the fiery actress. The following March, she too was pregnant. However, in her case he was thrilled with the news and immediately popped the question and they got engaged. “It sounds trite to go after men who are nice but when you’ve been hurt a lot it becomes appealing,” Salma said.

While going through a difficult pregnancy, Salma finalized negotiations with MGM on behalf her Latin-themed film production company Ventanarosa of which she is CEO, and the following month, she also signed a two-year deal with ABC for Ventanarosa to develop projects for the network.

Linda with son Augustus Evangelista

The power couple at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute gala benefi

Pinault was also busy safeguarding his interests. He later admitted that he had asked his former girlfriend Linda to delay the process of legally recognising Augustin as his son because Salma was going through a difficult pregnancy. “We were told the baby (Valentina) had Down syndrome until late May 2007,” Pinault said, adding that Salma at 41, almost lost their daughter in a miscarriage that was successfully prevented. Linda was considerate and agreed to delay the process and he was grateful, the New York Post reported when the whole story came out five years later. Salma gave birth to Valentina Paloma Pinault in September 2007 in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles.

We don’t know when exactly Salma found out about his son from Linda that was born the year before her own and if that played any factor in their breakup a year later in July 2008. Salma returned to Hollywood where she was the executive producer of the successful sitcom Ugly Betty that ran from 2006 to 2010. Th endless reruns of the show can be watched here, and it’s based on the hit Colombian telenovela Yo Soy Betty La Fea, the right for which had been officially acquired. Ugly Betty won a Golden Globe Award for Best Comedy Series in 2007.

Back in Hollywood after yet another unsuccessful romance, Salma reportedly had a rebound hookup with the ever willing bad boy Colin Farrell.

“I keep waiting to meet a man who has more balls than I do,” she said resignedly in an interview.

Pinault did not want to let her go so easily. To woo her back, he bought a palatial Los Angeles mansion reportedly worth between $12-$20 million and put it in trust for the baby Valentina. I’m sure he must also have vowed fidelity to Salma! He was successful in winning her back and they got married on 14th February 2009 in Paris, in the Sixth Arrondissement town hall. Two months later, they renewed their wedding vows in the presence of 150 family and friends in a beautiful ceremony at the Teatro La Fenice opera house, Venice. The 42 year old bride looked stunning in a Balenciaga wedding gown by Nicholas Ghesquiere with her hair swept back into a bun covered with a long veil. She carried a bouquet of Orchids and Stephanotis with crystals.19-month-old Valentina and Salma’s 8 year old stepdaughter Mathilde from François-Henri’s first marriage were flower girls. Among those present were actors Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, Charlize Theron and Stuart Townsend, Woody Harrelson, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Lucy Liu, Ashley Judd, Antonio Banderas, Salma’s ex-boyfriend Edward Norton, former French President Jacques Chirac, American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, rock star Bono and fashion designer Stella McCartney. The couple kicked off the festivities the night before in true Venetian tradition with a masquerade-style rehearsal dinner at the 17th century Punta Della Dogana, the canal city’s old custom house.

Red Carpet Looks

She told Allure magazine, “I wish I knew (when I was younger) that I was going to fall crazy in love with the perfect man. I’ve never been apart from my daughter for more than two weeks. And same with François. We don’t separate for long periods of time. Never. I always miss him when we’re not together.”

The story went on, “(Salma) is so enamored with her family that she actually considered giving up her acting career after giving birth to Valentina. However, when she broached the subject with François, he insisted that she go back to work, telling her: ‘We’re not putting up with some lazy girl in the house. That’s not who I married.’

In St Barts

The blended family on holiday

With daughter Valentina

But Salma explained that his seemingly harsh reaction was actually out of love and respect for her passions. ‘He said something so beautiful,’ she said of François, adding that he told her: ‘I don’t want to be deprived of your work. I want to watch it, too. And the world has not seen the best of you yet. So you cannot stop until some of that is put out.’

When he first proposed, she told him that she wanted to remain somewhat financially independent, despite his massive wealth.
‘And he goes, “I know. That’s why I want to marry you,” she recalled. ‘Maybe that’s also part of what works great in my marriage. I still have my independence. But he likes it… And I get a lot of respect from him.”

When FHP first proposed, salma told him that she wanted to remain somewhat financially independent despite his massive wealth. “And he goes, ‘I know. That’s why I want to marry you,’” she recalled. “Maybe that’s also part of what works great in my marriage. I still have my independence. But he likes it… And I get a lot of respect from him”

In 2011, she launched her own line of affordable cosmetics, skincare, and hair care products called Nuance by Salma Hayek to be sold at the drugstore chain CVS in North America.

In late June 2011, just two years into the Pinault’s wedded bliss, all hell broke loose when Linda Evangelista filed court papers that revealed to the world that her son, Augustin James Evangelista, had been fathered by Pinault. In the filing, it was stated that the child “was born out of wedlock to (petitioner) Linda Evangelista, and that (Pinault) acknowledged (her) allegation.
A source told PEOPLE magazine that “This is no Schwarzenegger case. No one was married. There was no infidelity.”

Linda, who is worth $8 million and owns a penthouse in Chelsea, West Side of Manhattan as well as an apartment near her son’s school on the Upper East Side sued Pinault for child-support in the Manhattan Family Court in August shortly after her breakup with another billionaire, Hard Rock Cafe co-founder Peter Morton.

“She willingly paid all the expenses herself at first from her roughly $1.8 million-a-year income, but a big contract with L’Oreal ended in the last year or so, and she now needs Pinault to chip in,” her lawyer, William Beslow, said during the trial.
‘I need to protect him (Augie),” she told Love magazine. She wanted $46,000 per month in child support till the child turns 21. It was reported that if granted, this amount “would probably be the largest support order in the history of the family court.” According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Pinault’s annual salary in 2010 was $5.4 million. In New York, where the court papers were filed, the law requires a father to pay 17 per cent of what he earns in child support, meaning Pinault owed her $920,000 for that year.

A heavily-publicized child support trial began the next year. Evangelista’s attorney claimed that Pinault had never supported the child, while she had spent over a million dollars taking care of Augie that included armed security guards and round the clock nannies. The surprise settlement, revealed by a source to The New York Post, came three days into the court scrap that revealed some of the uglier truths about the former couple’s four-month relationship. Evangelista’s lawyer William Beslow argued that Augie deserved a lifestyle similar to that of Pinault’s four-year-old daughter with Hayek and that he spent $50,000 a month just on the taxes, upkeep and loan payments for the Hollywood house he had bought for Valentina. Taking the witness stand, Pinault admitted he could not remember what he had bought his son or how much he had spent on him. He said, “I bought him a present for Christmas. I bought it online. It was a piano thing. I also bought him a present for his birthday and ,” but could not remember what he had actually bought him.

“You’ve got to take who you are and love who you are and do the best you can with what you’ve got. That goes for the figure, and it goes for everything else. You’ve got to have a sense of humor about who you are and give yourself a break. You’ve got to be kind to yourself. And it’s not easy, you know?”

Pinault criticized Linda saying the $46,000 a month is in fact for ‘mom support.’

“Most of the expenses do not relate to Augie but they relate to Ms. Evangelista,” Pinault’s lawyer, David Aronson said in his opening statement. “It is the classic case of someone trying to bootstrap herself to something that is alimony. Is Mr. Pinault a comfortable man of substantial means? Yes. But in the four years preceding 2011, her average income was $1.8 million. These

people have more money than a lot of people, but our position is that what we understand is being asked for is just ridiculous.”
In a surprise twist, just before Linda was to present her personal testimony in the court, Pinault called her up on the phone and settled out-of-court with her for an undisclosed amount close to the sum she had asked for. Salma probably had encouraged him, so that her husband would be prevented from suffering any more public embarrassment.

Loving couple in Paris

In a rare holiday snap that she herself put on Instagram

Salma said to an InStyle magazine reporter after the trial ended, “You’ve got to take who you are and love who you are and do the best you can with what you’ve got. That goes for the figure, and it goes for everything else. You’ve got to have a sense of humor about who you are and give yourself a break. You’ve got to be kind to yourself. And it’s not easy, you know?”

She believes the secret to her decade long marriage is cutting out extra social engagements and putting each other first she told reporters at a Harper’s Bazaar event. “I married the right guy. That is probably the most important thing. We support each other in everything we do. We want the other one to strive. Makes you happy when the other one strives. And you know what, we don’t have a very strong social life, because we really like to spend time together. So we do spend a lot of quality time together.” She added that balancing motherhood and career isn’t always the biggest challenge for her, but she does find that balancing motherhood and marriage a greater task. “Sometimes the hardest things to balance are motherhood with marriage,” she said, adding that husbands can be a little overwhelming. “They take over, oh my God, they take over everything. You just have to remind yourself that you have that other big kid too to look after. He looks like he’s self-sufficient, but they need the tender loving care too. You have to keep reminding yourself.” Her biggest trick to maintaining balance is to make sure she doesn’t spend too much time away from family. “When it comes to my career, what I do is I only do roles that are shot in a way that I’m never more than two weeks away from my family.”

Gifted actors whose passionate but tragic romance was cut short by death

By Mahlia Lone

Everyone knows that Meryl Streep is the best actress of her generation and that she has been nominated for a record breaking 20 Academy Awards for acting and has won three so far. Gifted with an uncanny ability to mimic accents and with an inherent capability to transform herself into any character, there is another factor that has raised her acting ability above that of her peers. Actors generally tap into the pain in their personal lives to add depth to a dramatic role. Because she lived through a great tragic romance early on in her life before she hit it big as an actress, she was able to bring this combination of vulnerability, fragility, acute sadness and fortitude not only to her next role in Kramer vs. Kramer but also to many others in her career, like The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Sophie’s Choice, Out of Africa, The Bridges of Madison County, etc. This is the story not of her happy marriage, but her earlier tragic romance that changed her forever and contributed to making her the exceptional actress we all adore

The first born of artist Mary Wolf Wilkinson and pharmaceutical executive Harry William Streep Jr., Meryl was named Mary Louise Streep at birth. She was born in New Jersey in 1949 and was followed by two brothers. Her father had German Swiss ancestry, while her mother belonged to a family of 17th-century English-Irish immigrants who were amongst the first to settle and purchase land in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Her direct maternal ancestor Lawrence Wilkinson was one of the first Europeans settlers in Rhode Island. Another ancestor, William Penn was the founder of Pennsylvania. In the U.S. such families of early settlers are looked upon highly and considered “old, landed gentry.”

Mary Louise, a popular but shy girl, appeared in school plays and was the cheerleader at Bernards High School. Meryl recalled her mother encouraging and motivating her by saying, “You’re capable. You’re so great. You can do whatever you put your mind to. If you’re lazy, you’re not going to get it done. But if you put your mind to it, you can do anything.”

An intelligent, driven girl, she attended the prestigious Vassar College where she appeared in the college production of Miss Julie. Her drama professor Clinton J Atkinson said, “I don’t think anyone ever taught Meryl acting. She really taught herself.” She quickly became known for her ability to mimic accents and to effortlessly memorize her lines, a big requirement for an actor. After earning her BA degree cum laude (with honours) in 1971, she started her MFA from the Yale School of Drama.

Meryl Streep was a high school cheerleader

here, she appeared in over a dozen plays in diverse roles varying from Helena in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to an 80-year-old woman in a wheelchair in a comedy. Her first professional job after receiving her degree from Yale in 1975 was at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference during which she acted in an incredible five plays in just six weeks. Armed with a sound background in theatre, Meryl moved to New York City and was cast in Measure for Measure opposite John Cazale, fourteen years her senior and already a respected theatre and film actor.

John Cazale was born and bred in Massachusetts. He had Irish ancestry from his mother’s side and Italian from his father’s. Cazale had also studied drama at Oberlin College and Boston University, after which he moved to New York City and became friends with another aspiring actor, Al Pacino, with whom he lived in a communal house.

Cazale possessed unusual looks – a slim frame, high forehead, prominent nose and sad eyes. Pacino reminisced, “When I first saw John, I instantly thought he was so interesting. Everybody was always around him because he had a very congenial way of expressing himself.”

THE GODFATHER, JOHN CAZALE, 1972

Young John Cazale

Of the six movies Cazale starred in (including through archive footage in Godfather Part III) all were nominated for Best Picture by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and three won, a unique feat on his part

The two friends were cast in Israel Horovitz’s play, The Indian Wants the Bronx, for which they both won Obie Awards, given to off-Broadway productions, for the1967-1968 season. Cazale also played the lead in Horovitz’s Line. In this, he was noticed by a casting director who suggested him to director Francis Ford Coppola for his epic gangster movie Godfather (1972). Cazale plays the feeble-minded older brother Fredo to Pacino’s Michael Carleone. The film later became a cult classic and broke box office records making the newcomer famous overnight.

Al Pacino,Marlon Brando, James Caan, , & John Cazale in The Godfather (1972)

The Godfather Part II

Pleased with the success, Coppola cast Cazale opposite Gene Hackman in his psychological mystery thriller The Conversation, which won the Palm d’Or at the ’74 Cannes Film Festival.

Next, Cazale reprised his role as Fredo Corleone in The Godfather Part II (1974). Film critic Bruce Fretts wrote in Entertainment Weekly, “Cazale’s devastatingly raw turn intensifies the impact of the drama’s emotional climax.”

With Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon

With Gene Hackman in The Conversation

Dominic Chianese who plays Ola in the second installment of the trilogy spoke about the depth with which he inhabited a role: “John could open up his heart, so it could be hurt. That’s a talent few actors have.”

Cazale again starred alongside Pacino in Sidney Lumet’s 1975 crime drama Dog Day Afternoon, for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe award. Lumet said, “One of the things that I love about the casting of John Cazale was that he had a tremendous sadness about him. I don’t know where it came from; I don’t believe in invading the privacy of the actors that I work with, or getting into their heads. But, my God — it’s there — every shot of him. And not just in this movie, but in Godfather II also.”

Michael Schulman relates the story of how Cazale and Meryl met in his biography of the actress, Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep. The 27 year old ingénue met Cazale, the more established and well respected 41 year old actor, during an audition for New York City’s famed Shakespeare in the Park in 1976. They had great chemistry together and she was cast opposite him in Measure for Measure in Central Park. Their instant connection was obvious to their cast mates and director Joe Papp. The relationship became so intensely physical that Meryl’s consistently chapped lips were noticed by the crew on a regular basis.
It was love at first sight for both of them. “Once Cazale was in that play,” actor Marvin Starkman said, “the only thing he talked about was her.”

“He wasn’t like anybody I’d ever met. It was the specificity of him, and his sort of humanity and his curiosity about people, his compassion,” remembered Meryl later.

Though not a huge star, Cazale was considered “a rare talent, in demand among the great directors of the era.” He was known among directors as “20 Questions,” because he wanted a detailed back story of the character he would be portraying.
“Time moved differently for John Cazale. Everything went slower. He wasn’t dim, not by a long shot. But he was meticulous, sometimes maddeningly so.” Pacino described having dinner with Cazale, “I mean, you’d be done — washed, finished and in bed –before he got halfway through his meal. Then the cigar would come out (Cuban of course). He’d look at it, light it, taste it. Then finally smoke it.”

In Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, Central Park, 1976

At the 75th birthday party for the legendary
Lee Strasberg, the father of method acting in America and director of the Actors Studio

Meryl Streep in NYC’s Theater District,1978

Cazale introduced his best buddy Pacino to his new girlfriend whom he raved about. However, Pacino thought his friend was simply infatuated, “I didn’t go see (the play) but I met her with him and she seemed alright, a bit shy.”

According to film critic Bruce Fretts, Cazale “was the walking embodiment of the aphorism, ‘acting is reacting,’ providing the perfect counterbalance to his recurring co-stars, the more emotionally volatile Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.” Cazale was the perfect foil to his fellow actors and brought out the best in them

Cazale was also described as “shy and emotionally sensitive” by those who knew him well. Though he was famous, money was still tight. Cazale would take Meryl to dinner in Little Italy, where restaurant owners that were fans of The Godfather franchise wouldn’t dream of accepting payment from Fredo Corleone.

“They were great to look at, because they were kind of funny-looking, both of them,” said the playwright Israel Horovitz. “They were lovely in their way, but it was a really quirky couple. They were head-turners, but not because, ‘Wow, is she a beauty!’ ”

“The romance moved as fast as John moved slow.” Soon Meryl moved in to Cazale’s loft on Franklin Street, Tribeca. He promised to marry her as soon as he got his first big break. “They were the envy of the New York theater world,” writes Schulman. Both were naturally gifted actors with legendary director Joe Papp as their patron. All was well until one day in May 1977, Cazale, who was starring in Agamemnon, had been feeling ill enough to miss performances. Papp got him an emergency appointment with his own Upper East Side doctor. The doctor called in Meryl, Cazale, Joe and Gail Papp after the tests results came in. Cazale had terminal metastasized lung cancer. Gail Papp recalled, feeling “like you’ve been struck dead on the spot.”
“John fell silent. For a moment, so did Meryl. But she was never one to give up, and certainly not one to succumb to despair….She looked up and said, ‘So, where should we go to dinner?’”

John Cazale, Robert De Niro and John Savage in The Deer Hunter

John Cazale, Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro in The Deer Hunter

While Cazale had to immediately quit the play, Meryl, the consummate professional, who was starring in the musical Happy End showed no sign of anxiety or grief. The show must always go on. Cazale visited her at the theater still smoking his cigars. She didn’t nag or criticize him, but simply made her dressing room off-limits to smokers. The most subtle of hints!

Riding the subway

“She had a kind of tough love,” actor Christopher Lloyd said, “and didn’t let him malinger.” The two lovers tried to keep the severity of his condition between them. Even Cazale’s brother, Stephen, didn’t realize how sick his brother was until one day after the three of them had been lunching in Chinatown, Cazale spat up blood on the sidewalk. Al Pacino took him to radiation treatments and would sit patiently in the waiting room and Cazale would insist he’d get better.

The Gummers

Though mortally ill, Cazale took a role in Vietnam War drama The Deer Hunter, opposite Robert De Niro. Finding out about the extent of his illness, neither the filmmakers nor the production company, EMI, wanted to cast Cazale. It was risky bringing an actor on board who could die on them during filming, his insurance cost would be too high and the film would look dated with a dead star. “I was told that unless I got rid of John, (they) would shut down the picture,” director Michael Cimino said later. “It was awful. I spent hours on the phone, yelling and screaming and fighting.”

In the end, De Niro himself covered the cost of Cazale’s insurance, which the actor has never confirmed or denied. “He was sicker than we thought, but I wanted him to be in it,” De Niro later said.

Meryl also took a role in the film just to be close to her dying boyfriend, though she didn’t think highly of the role of the token “girl” in the movie. Her character was “essentially a man’s view of a woman. She’s extremely passive, she’s very quiet, she’s someone who’s constantly vulnerable,” Meryl said.

They filmed Cazale’s scenes first while he still had the strength and somehow with the actors and director rallying behind him, they managed to get through his part of the shoot. As the shoot wrapped up and the film went into post production, Meryl had no choice but to accept the lead role of a German woman married to a Jewish artist in Nazi era Germany in the nine-hour TV miniseries Holocaust to help pay Cazale’s mounting medical bills. All she really wanted to do was be by his side. But the filming was in Austria and Germany, and Cazale was too weak to leave NYC. Streep never complained, outwardly she was all “cheery professionalism,” but inwardly she quietly agonized. “The material was unrelentingly noble but grim,” she later said. They shot on location at an actual concentration camp, which she found even more disturbing and depressing. The shoot went over schedule and she spent 2½ months in Austria, longer than she’d been told. She felt like that each day they were separated was another day lost forever. “I was going crazy. John was sick, and I wanted to be with him.”

“She was very anxious to do her very last scene and then zip back out,” director Marvin Chomsky said. “I mean, I don’t even think we had a moment to say goodbye.”

When Meryl returned to New York, Cazale was even worse than she had expected. For the next five months, Meryl focused on taking care of Cazale and accompanying him to chemotherapy treatments, morphing from lover to nurse. “Meryl stayed by his side every single moment,” The Deer Hunter director Cimino said. “By her devotion to John, I knew she had great courage.”
During his final days, Meryl stood by his bedside in their Manhattan apartment constantly, performing comedic routines and reading from the newspaper putting on different accents. “She took care of him like there was nobody else on earth,” Joe Papp said of Streep’s commitment to Cazale. “She never betrayed him in his presence or out of his presence, never betrayed any notion that he would not survive. He knew he was dying, the way a dying man knows it. She gave him tremendous hope.” His cancer had spread to the bones, a very painful stage, and he was increasingly weak. She went with him to every doctor’s appointment, every radiation treatment and never betrayed a lack of hope. “She was always a strong-willed, persistent, hopeful person, and I think she just applied all her spirit and strength to taking care of him. She wasn’t one to create drama around it or draw attention to herself. She just bore down and did what needed to be done.” Everyone was astounded by the strength of character, devotion and fortitude such a young woman showed.

“I was so close that I didn’t really notice the deterioration,” Meryl later said that being alone with him helped her cope with what was to be the final parting.

Meryl wrote to her Yale drama teacher Bobby Lewis, of her true emotional state, “My beau is terribly ill and sometimes, as now, in the hospital, he has very wonderful care and I try not to stand around wringing my hands, but I am worried all the time and pretending to be cheery all the time, which is more exhausting mentally physically emotionally than any work I’ve ever done.”

In early March 1978, Cazale was admitted to Memorial Sloan Kettering. Meryl kept vigil at his bedside. “When I saw that girl there with him like that I thought, ‘There’s nothing like that,’” Al Pacino recalled. “As great as she is in all her work, that’s what I think of when I think of her.”

A few days later, one night, his doctor told her softly, “He’s gone.”

“Meryl wasn’t ready to hear it, much less believe it. What happened next, by some accounts, was the culmination of all the tenacious hope Meryl had kept alive for the past 10 months. She pounded on his chest, sobbing, and for a brief, alarming moment, John opened his eyes. ‘It’s all right, Meryl,’ he said weakly. ‘It’s all right.’ Then he closed his eyes and died. Streep’s first call was to Cazale’s brother, Stephen. She sobbed throughout. ‘I tried,’ she told him.”

Actor James Woods, who was in The Holocaust with Meryl, recounted “Cazale was lucky enough to have as the last vision of his life, Meryl’s lovely face.”

Oscar winning actress Meryl Streep is pictured during a photo session in New York in 1983. Standard rates do not apply : fees must be agreed before use. *** Local Caption *** 00/00/1983. Meryl Streep

John Cazale was buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery in his hometown in Massachusetts. The Deer Hunter hadn’t even premiered yet, a film he had fought so hard to work in despite his prognosis.

Pacino sighed, “All I wanted to do was work with John for the rest of my life. He was my acting partner.”

The Boston Globe ran a story about his legend: “Why was Cazale so influential? In part, it was because of his commitment to the craft of acting.” Meryl was quoted saying he was “monomaniacal” where his craft was concerned and this “challenged his co-stars to take their own game up a notch.” Cazale appeared in archive footage in The Godfather Part III (1990), 12 years after his death. The Godfather Part III was also nominated for Best Picture, so every feature film in which he has starred in has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, quite a unique achievement. His image was also used posthumously in the Godfather video game. Broadway’s McGinn/Cazale Theatre was named after him and he was celebrated in the documentary film, I Knew It Was You, directed by Richard Shepard, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

After his death, a grieving Meryl went to stay with a friend in Canada not able to bear the apartment she had shared with him. When she returned, she had to vacate the apartment, so her brother arrived to help her move with his friend sculptor Don Gummer, also a Yale alumni, who gallantly offered his own Soho apartment to stay in while he was travelling. They started corresponding through letters and she realized he wanted to be more than her friend. “Meryl was shattered by John Cazale’s death and I did what I could to help and pretty quickly I realised I was falling in love with her,” Gummer confessed later.

1978 was an eventful year for her career wise as well. Despite not liking her role, the subsequent success of The Deer Hunter not only exposed Streep to a wider audience but also earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for her performance in Holocaust, which 109 million viewers had watched, bringing her greater visibility.

Despite the awards success, she was still not enthusiastic towards her film career and preferred theatre. Hoping to divert herself from the grief of Cazale’s death, she wanted to keep busy. She performed the role of Katherine in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew for Shakespeare in the Park, bringing greater insight and a different interpretation to the role. She argued that Kate was not an independent woman broken by a man but one who learns the deep satisfaction of giving herself over to love. “What I’m saying is, ‘I’ll do anything for this man. Look, would there be any hang-up if this were a mother talking about her son? Service is the only thing that’s important about love. Everybody is worried about ‘losing yourself’ — all this narcissism. Duty. We can’t stand that idea now either….But duty might be a suit of armor you put on to fight for your love,” she told a reporter.
Just six months after Cazale’s death, Don and Meryl were married in the garden of her parents’ home in September 1978. Her friends, family and even her mother were concerned that the relationship was of a rebound nature coming so soon after Cazale’s death. But Meryl was adamant saying, “I haven’t got over John’s death, but I’ve got to go on living and Don has showed me how to do that.” Her instincts were spot on.

Streep was cast in her breakout role Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) at the same time. “Imagine losing the love of your life, then finding your husband and starring in your first big movie role all at the same time. It’s just crazy,” writes Schulman.

“The death is still very much with me. It has forced me to confront my own mortality, and once you do that, you look at things differently,” Meryl said. And she had become profoundly different as global audiences were about to find out.

At the audition, the film’s male lead Dustin Hoffman said he realized that Meryl Streep was perfect for the role of Joanna because he knew she had lost John Cazale only months earlier, and clearly she was still shaken to the core. Here was an actress who could draw on a fresh pain, who was herself in the thick of emotional turmoil. It was Meryl’s weakness not her strength that convinced him.

The film’s director Robert Benton recalled, “She said a few things, not much. And she just listened. She was polite and nice, but it was—she was just barely there. There was a fragile quality she had that made us think that this was Joanna, without making her neurotic. Meryl’s Joanna wasn’t neurotic, but she was vulnerable, frail.”

Streep, however, has a totally different version of events, and told Ms. magazine that she impressed the directors by telling them exactly how to fix the script. Joanna is an unhappily married woman who abandons her husband and child. Meryl thought that the script portrayed the female character as “too evil” and insisted that it was not a true representation of the real women who faced marriage breakdowns and child custody battles. She did extensive research for the role by observing mothers and children interact in the Upper East Side parks since she hadn’t had any children of her own by then. The filmmakers agreed to the script revisions suggested by her and Benton even allowed her to pen her own dialogue in two key scenes, despite Hoffman’s reported objections.

Filming with Hoffman, himself in the midst of separating from his first wife Anne Byrne—a case of life imitating art—posed a challenge for Meryl due to his intense method acting techniques. Schulman elaborates: “On the second day, they continued shooting the opening scene, when Ted follows the hysterical Joanna into the hallway. They shot the bulk of it in the morning and, after lunch, set up for some reaction shots. Dustin and Meryl took their positions on the other side of the apartment door. Then something happened that shocked not just Meryl but everyone on set. Right before their entrance, Dustin slapped her hard across the cheek, leaving a red mark. Always a professional, Streep continued on with the scene without making a commotion, but Hoffman wasn’t done. In a later scene where Joanna tells Ted she’s leaving him, Hoffman took to extreme measures to get the emotion he wanted from Streep. Improvising his lines, Dustin delivered a slap of a different sort: outside the elevator, he started taunting Meryl about John Cazale, jabbing her with remarks about his cancer and his death. ‘He was goading her and provoking her,’ producer Richard Fischoff recalled, ‘using stuff that he knew about her personal life and about John to get the response that he thought she should be giving in the performance.’ Hoffman brought up Cazale’s death again in a courtroom scene and made Streep’s eyes tear up when he whispered her late boyfriend’s name in her ear.”

Dustin Hoffman & Meryl Streep in Kramer vs. Kramer

Mery Streep & Dustin Hoffman both won Oscars for Kramer vs. Kramer

 

 

 

19 Mar 1980, London, England, UK — American film actor Dustin Hoffman shakes hands with Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal premiere of Kramer Versus Kramer, London, 1980. Hoffman won an Academy Award for his performance. (l to r) Dustin Hoffman, American co-stars Meryl Streep and Justin Henry, Norwegian actress Liv Ullman and British actor and comedian Peter Sellers. — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

The stars meet Queen Elizabeth II in a special royal screening of the film in London in 1980

By the time shooting wrapped up, Hoffman admitted, “She’s extraordinarily hardworking, to the extent that she’s obsessive. I think that she thinks about nothing else but what she’s doing.” But the lead pair’s relationship had become so tense and strained during filming that producers feared the movie would be a disaster. As it turns out it was a resounding success, raking in more than $106 million at the box office, even beating out Star Trek. Film critic Stephen Farber raved that Joanna displayed Meryl’s “own emotional intensity” and that she was one of the “rare performers who can imbue the most routine moments with a hint of mystery.” Kramer vs. Kramer got nine Academy Award nominations and won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor for Hoffman and Best Supporting Actress for Streep, which she famously left in the ladies room after giving her speech. A star was born, but at quite a personal cost.

With Jeremy Irons in The French Lieutenant’s Woman

In Sophie’s Choice

Accepting her second Oscar for Sophie’s Choice in 1983

With Robert Redford in Out of Africa

In the next decade, Meryl Streep’s career went from strength to strength. She was featured on the cover of Newsweek with the headline “A Star for the 80s.” In the story within a story drama of The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981) in which she is paired with English actor Jeremy Irons, she puts on a cut glass English accent. She was awarded a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her effort. In Sophie’s Choice (1982), she portrays a Polish Jew at a death camp faced with the unimaginable dilemma of choosing which of her two children lives, only to ultimately lose both. William Styron had written the novel with Ursula Andress in mind for the role of Sophie, but Meryl was determined to play the part. She filmed the harrowing “choice” scene when her character is ordered by an SS guard at Auschwitz to choose which one of her two children would be gassed and which would proceed to the labor camp in one take and refused to do it again, finding it extremely painful and emotionally exhausting. Emma Brockes wrote in The Guardian, “It’s classic Streep, the kind of scene that makes your scalp tighten, but defter in a way is her handling of smaller, harder-to-grasp emotions.” Doubtlessly, she knew how to make hard choices and the feeling of helplessness and acute loss. She won her second Oscar for this tragedy. This was voted the third greatest movie performance of all time by Premiere magazine.

With Clint Eastwood in The Bridges of Madison County

Roger Ebert critiqued, “There is hardly an emotion that Streep doesn’t touch in this movie, and yet we’re never aware of her straining. This is one of the most astonishing and yet one of the most unaffected and natural performances I can imagine.”
Meryl’s next big release was yet another tragedy, Out of Africa (1985). In the film, she stars as the Danish writer Karen Blixen opposite Robert Redford’s Denys Finch Hatton. Director Sydney Pollack was initially dubious thinking she wasn’t sexy enough, and had wanted the much prettier but banal Jane Seymour to play the part. Pollack said Meryl impressed him not with her beauty but with her strength of character and forthrightness: “She was so direct, so honest, so without bullshit. There was no shielding between her and me.” The two reportedly often clashed during the 101-day shoot in Kenya. Meryl had spent much time listening to tapes of Blixen and began speaking in an old-fashioned and aristocratic fashion, which Pollack thought was too affected. However, she was right yet again. The film was not only a box office winner but won the Oscar for the Best Picture as well.

Her third Oscar win for The Iron Lady in 2012

In her acceptance speech when she won her third Oscar for playing Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, Meryl honoured her husband, “First I’m going to thank Don…And I want him to know that everything I value most in our lives you’ve given me”

Critic Stanley Kaufmann wrote, “Meryl Streep’s performance in Out of Africa is at the highest level of acting in film today.” The scene where she had to calmly and in a dignified manner meet a line of servants in the intense African heat was filmed in one long take. After giving her take, to everyone’s surprise she tore off her dress to reveal an enormous insect that had been crawling around inside, such was her dedication, commitment and focus. Her salary went up to $4 million per film after Out of Africa’s critical and commercial success.

Actress Meryl Streep uses her iPhone to get a photo of her and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton following the State Department Dinner for the Kennedy Center Honors gala Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012 at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

With Hillary Clinton, a personal friend

A feminist, staunch Democrat and vocal Trump critic

Her next most successful film was the romance The Bridges of Madison County (1995) directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, who adapted the film from Robert James Waller’s novel. It tells the story of a photographer working for the National Geographic, who has a love affair with a middle-aged Italian farm wife in Iowa. Her strong yet subtle performance was “crucial to transforming what could have been a weak soap opera into a vibrant work of historical fiction implicitly critiquing postwar America’s stifling culture of domesticity,” according to author Karina Longworth. She considers it to have been the role in which Streep became “arguably the first middle-aged actress to be taken seriously by Hollywood as a romantic heroine.” The reason the film touched a chord in middle aged women everywhere is because her character sacrifices her happiness ultimately, but allows herself the luxury of just a single night. You see her tussling with herself over this and you really empathise with her character and the bravery and stoicism she shows. Again, she had delved in her repertoire of personal feelings.

Streep has taken to playing countlesscomedic and a few musical roles in her later career. Perhaps this is due to the fact that she is so happy and secure in her personal life. Despite her “high level of stardom” for decades, Longworth reiterates that Meryl has managed to maintain a relatively normal and stable personal life, being married for nearly 40 years now.
Don has made a name for himself in art circles and they have four creative children: musician Henry (born 1979), actresses Mamie (born 1983) and Grace (born 1986), and model Louisa (born 1991). Their family home is in Connecticut where their vast property even has a 47 acre lake. However, they try to maintain a down to earth manner.

In every role she plays, Meryl Streep honours John Cazale’s memory by emulating his ability to inhabit a role and letting the pain of her loss elevate her performances. She admitted how Cazale’s death profoundly transformed her and will remain a part of her, “I didn’t get over it. I don’t want to get over it. No matter what you do, the pain is always there in some recess of your mind, and it affects everything that happens afterwards. I think you can assimilate the pain and go on without making an obsession of it.”

Accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award at this year’s Golden Globes, Meryl honoured her recently deceased friend the Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher in her acceptance speech by echoing her words, ‘’Take Your Broken Heart, Make It Into Art’’ just as she has done herself.

To be a supportive partner, or worse a second fiddle, is not something most men can sustain given the size and fragility of their egos, especially if the wife happens to be as big a star as Cate Blanchett. For two decades now theatre director, playwright and screenwriter, Andrew Upton has successfully remained in his wife’s shadow without any resentment on his part, making this one of the most solid of any showbiz marriages

With skin as fine as porcelain, an aristocratic carriage combined with self deprecating wit, uber stylish, impossibly intelligent and talented, Cate Blanchett effortlessly counts as the actress’ of her generation. At the same time, she’s the mother to four children and has been married to Andrew Upton since 1997. This is their story.

Born Catherine Elise Blanchett in 1969 in Melbourne, Cate is the middle of three children of a U.S Naval officer and a teacher, who met when his ship broke down while berthed in the city. Texan Robert DeWitt Blanchett Jr. fell in love with June Gamble, quit the Navy and settled down in Australia, working as an advertising executive. Tragically, he died of a heart attack when Cate was only 10. After the death of her husband, June gave up her job as a teacher and got her property developer certification to earn more money and be able to afford her children’s private school fees.

“She was very resilient,” Blanchett said in an interview to Xan Brooks of The Guardian, “and my grandmother lived with us so I grew up in a matriarchal household. As a child, you incorporate those losses, those hurdles, those moments of grief or challenge or whatever it is. We all have them. My life has been relatively privileged, but I think perhaps I developed enormous empathetic connection with my mother because I could see the hurdles – financial and emotional – that she had to get over. But she was determined that we would have a good education, for which I’m incredibly grateful. Not that I did massively well at school, but I had a lot of fantastic experiences there.”

“Part extrovert, part wallflower” during childhood by her own admission, Cate liked to dress as a boy at the Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School and went through goth and punk phases during her teenage years, even shaving her head. “It was deeply uncool to be white, particularly in Australia,” she told a journalist at The Huffington Post. “I was 10 or 11, and I was desperate to have a tan. I would put baby oil on my skin then go out on a tin roof. I would think it was a great day if I came down looking the color of beetroot. One day my mother came up, took the baby oil away, said come down and gave me a talk. She was a big Oil of Olay, moisturise your neck, moisturise your hands type of woman. She said, ‘don’t do it.’ So I became a goth instead. That was the downside of her advice, but I had to find some kind of expression for it.”

As a tomboyish little girl

Cate was a student at NIDA, Sydney

Andrew and Cate got married in their twenties

At the Methodist Ladies’ College, Melbourne, she channeled her creativity into the performing arts, quickly developing a passion. “Our school plays were all devised by the students, and if we were doing Macbeth, then the girls took turns in playing Macbeth as well as Lady Macbeth because they wanted us to have that Shakespearean experience.”

Dropping out of the University of Melbourne after only a year to travel abroad, Cate was by chance offered an extra’s role of an American cheerleader in a boxing movie, Kaboria, while in Egypt, but she said she got so bored on the set that she quit despite needing the money to pay rent and wanting the free falafel that they were serving on set.

Upon her return to Australia, she moved to Sydney and enrolled in the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) from which she graduated in 1992. “Acting had become like this terrible addiction. I felt I needed to give it five years and see where it took me,” she told Brooks. She played the difficult role of Clytemnestra in the classical Greek tragedy Sophocles’ Electra while still a student at NIDA and her performance became one of the most acclaimed at the institute. Right after graduation, she starred opposite the thespian Geoffrey Rush in David Mamet’s play Oleanna for the Sydney Theatre Company for which in 1993 she won the Best Actress award. She also received the Sydney Theatre Critics’ Best Newcomer Award for her performance in Timothy Daly’s Kafka Dances, making her the first actor to win both categories in the same year. Then, she played another challenging role successfully that of Ophelia in a production of Hamlet. Soon she started accepting roles in TV shows. On the set of one TV show in her mid twenties, she met Andrew Upton, three years her senior.

Andrew had grown up in Sydney, the son of a doctor and a nurse and after seeing Harold Pinter’s Betrayal on a school trip at 16 he wrote his first play. “It was called The Plumber, a Pinteresque title, without any of the skill, depth or capacity… I knew I didn’t want to act – I tried it at school and it just wasn’t my bag,” he recounted in an interview for the Independent. At university in Sydney, he joined the drama society, before he formally started studying directing and playwriting in Melbourne. Hitting a “brick wall” career-wise with theatre, he went into film to earn a living, spending a decade working as an assistant editor for films such as the charming children’s film Babe as well as TV shows. He met Cate while working on Thank God He Met Lizzie in 1996 – “I’d already met her socially because the theatre world is fairly small but then the relationship developed.”

Her metamorphosis from a young, romantic Princess to the Virgin Queen is a work of art

“We didn’t like each other for a long time – about 17 years!” Cate said on The Ellen Degeneres Show. “We knew each other socially and we didn’t really get on.” But then one night they bonded over a poker game. When Ellen asked if alcohol had been involved, Cate said, “There wasn’t actually alcohol – oh no, there was alcohol involved—alcohol and gambling. And then we got tattooed.” And that’s how they initially bonded. After just three days of intense dating, Cate knew Andrew was the one – and she realized this while in bed with him. “We were in bed, as you are after three days, and he said, ‘Cate,’ and I thought, ‘S— he’s gonna ask me to marry him and I’m gonna have to say yes.” Luckily, it was a false alarm. “And then he said, ‘No, I’m hungry, do you want to go get something to eat?’” recalled Cate, laughing. But fast-forward less than a month and Upton was ready to put a ring on it. “Then he asked me after about 21 days and I said yes,” revealed Blanchett. It all happened due to her cooking skills, or lack thereof. “I cooked him the worst meal. I somehow decided that to stuff a trout with walnuts and goat’s cheese would be a good idea,” she said. “He ate it and then he asked me to marry him, so clearly he was, I don’t know, hallucinating. He realized I couldn’t cook.” So it was after those three days – and that horrible meal – that sealed the deal. “You give them food poisoning,” she joked. “They’re delirious, and then you’ve got them!”

With Matt Damon in the gorgeous The Talented Mr. Ripley

If her cooking couldn’t warn him off, neither could her choice of underwear, she modestly claimed, “People would be horrified if they could see my underwear drawer. I swear to God, the only reason I take jobs and do photo shoots is so I can get more underpants,” she told Jodi Gugliemi at PEOPLE magazine, laughing. “I still have underpants my mother made me in high school. I just – something about going to the lingerie section, I don’t know what – I get overwhelmed, I never know what to buy. So I have the most embarrassing, embarrassing underwear.”

They developed an instant connection, and married soon afterwards in 1997. “I think marriage is all about timing. Getting married is insanity; I mean, it’s a risk – who knows if you’re going to be together forever? But you both say, ‘We’re going to take this chance, in the same spirit. Getting married is insanity!”

At the time of her wedding, Cate was also making her feature film debut first with a supporting role as an Australian nurse captured by the Japanese Army during World War II in Bruce Beresford’s film Paradise Road, co-starring Glenn Close and Frances McDormand, and then in the lead in the romantic drama Oscar and Lucinda (1997), opposite the hunky Ralph Fiennes, fresh from his success with The English Patient. I remember watching her in these movies, she effortlessly held her own acting-wise and had the screen presence of a bona fide star, so her name and face stayed with me. Her next movie role made her an international breakout star.

Her first high-profile international role was in Shekhar Kapur directed Elizabeth (1998), portraying the Virgin Queen in a powerful performance that showed how the young Queen transitioned from being a girl to a formidable monarch. Her metamorphosis was so masterful that it earned her a Golden Globe Award, British Academy Award (BAFTA), and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. “I was shocked,” she recalled in an interview. “You know, I called my agent after making Elizabeth and said, ‘I think I’ve ended my career before it’s even begun.’ So yeah, I was completely shocked by how that film was received.”

Back in Australia, Cate and Andrew formed their own film production company, Dirty Films, the first project of which was the short film Bangers (1999), part of Stories of Lost Souls, a compilation of thematically-related short stories, which he wrote and directed, she starred in and they jointly produced. She also appeared in the comedy Pushing Tin (1999), co-starring Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie in which film critics remarked that Cate stole the show, but the other two stars hooking up grabbed the headlines. She was a part of the ensemble star cast for Anthony Minghella’s gorgeous remake The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), starring Jude Law Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Then, Cate scored a recurring role in a blockbuster fantasy trilogy, Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning, The Lord of the Rings. The trilogy holds the record as the highest-grossing film trilogy of all time and Cate got a chance to really expand her fan base. In the middle of all this filmmaking, Superwoman Cate gave birth to the couple’s first baby, Dashiell John in 2001 followed by Roman Robert in 2004.

Playing Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings trilogy

In 2005, she won her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her terrific portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator opposite Leonardo DiCaprio’s Howard Hughes, giving her the distinction of becoming the first actor to get an Academy Award for playing an Oscar-winning actor. To support her country’s film industry, she loaned her Oscar statue to The Australian Centre for the Moving Image. That year, talented Cate also won the Australian Film Institute Best Actress Award for playing a very different role, that of a former heroin addict, in the Australian film Little Fish, which was co-produced by Dirty Films and nominated for 13 Australian Film Institute awards. In 2006, she starred opposite Brad Pitt in the multi-lingual, multi-narrative ensemble drama Babel, directed by the Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu that received seven Academy Award nominations, the Steven Soderbergh-directed World War II drama The Good German opposite George Clooney, and the psychological thriller Notes on a Scandal with Dame Judi Dench for which Cate Blanchett received her third Academy Award nomination for her performance.

As Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire

Tobey Maguire, George Clooney & Cate Blanchett in The Good German

With Dame Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal

Film Title: I’m Not There

Playing Bob Dylan in I’m Not There

A bankrupt, alcoholic, bipolar WASP in Blue Jasmine

In Benjamin Button

With Rooney Mara in Carol As Lady Tremine in Cinderella

In her speech at the 2006 Women in Hollywood event, presenting Cate with the Icon Award, Judi Dench, herself an awe inspiring actress, said of her co-star, “When we came to work, I realized of course that Cate has a fierce intelligence, an unbelievable integrity. Her powers of concentration are phenomenal. Above all, she has a great sense of humour which I think is the most important thing to have and she is a phenomenal family person. The fact that she is working on something with an incredible intensity and at the same time can completely switch off and become a member of an incredibly close family with her children and her husband. When I saw her playing Elizabeth, it was one of those rare moments that I forgot I was watching an actress and I believed I was watching a real person who had actually lived and existed in history. I think Cate is the most extraordinary actress and I’m thrilled we did this movie together.” High praise indeed!

Meanwhile, Upton had started to earn a name for himself adapting classics for the stage, such as Maxim Gorky’s The Philistines for London’s Royal National Theatre. After living in the seaside town of Brighton, England for a decade while she established her international film career, the couple decided to return to their native Australia in 2006. Cate said that they wanted a permanent home for their boys, be closer to their family, and contribute to the Australian theatrical community. Perhaps having devoted a decade pursuing her dreams, it was time that the couple focused on furthering Upton’s theatrical career. They chose the upscale Sydney suburb of Hunters Hill where they bought a mansion, which underwent extensive renovations to be made more eco-friendly in line with their ecological beliefs. But Upton’s original play Riflemind, staged at the Sydney Theatre Company, about an ageing rock star planning a comeback tour closed quickly due to a poor response.
In 2007, Blanchett was named as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the world and one of the most successful actresses by Forbes magazine. That year she was on top of her game appearing in two remarkably different roles: reprising her role as Queen Elizabeth I in the sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age, as well as portraying one of six incarnations of Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes’ experimental film I’m Not There, for which she won the Volpi Cup Best Actress Award at the Venice Film Festival, the Independent Spirit and Golden Globe Best Supporting Actress Award for her portrayal of Jude Quinn. At the 80th Academy Awards, she received two Academy Award nominations – Best Actress for Elizabeth: the Golden Age and Best Supporting Actress for I’m Not There – becoming the eleventh actor to receive two acting nominations in the same year, and the first female actor to receive another nomination for the reprisal of a role. Famous film critic Roger Ebert said, “That Blanchett could appear in the same Toronto International Film Festival playing Elizabeth and Bob Dylan, both splendidly, is a wonder of acting”.

Living the normal life–at an amusement park with her boys

She next gave a villainous turn in Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, becoming Spielberg’s favorite villain from the entire series, and played a ballerina in David Fincher’s Oscar-nominated The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, appearing opposite Brad Pitt for a second time. In 2008, she received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 2008, the couple took over as joint artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company (STC). While Cate took time off to give birth that year to their third son Ignatius Martin, Upton’s theatrical career flourished as a playwright, adapting Hedda Gabler, The Cherry Orchard, Cyrano de Bergerac, Don Juan, The Maids and Children of the Sun, etc. for the STC.  He spoke about their decision to head the company, “We both trained in Australia and we know everyone, it’s a very small world. When you grow up in a country you’ve kind of got an investment in it. Without wanting to sound like a terrible politician, the most important thing that we do is our family. We’ve always worked together in a way. You have your odd, ‘no, no, no, we have to do this,’ but in the end you can say: ‘Oh, all right, I’ll fight for that next year, then.’ That collaborative approach is a really important part of theatre – it’s compromise that adds, not detracts.”

Andrew Upton frankly and humorously discussed living in his wife’s shadow with Alice Jones for The Independent, calling himself “the hand,” so frequently does he find himself perfectly cropped out of red carpet photographs of him with his wife. Being married to an Oscar-winning film star, one of the finest actress’ of her generation and one of the most beautiful women in the world, he has become an expert in taking a back seat. “They (magazine editors) just look and think, ‘he’s not interesting, cut him out.’ You can almost see the scissors,” he roared with laughter.
“To be fair to those ruthless magazine editors, they do make an odd couple: she, ethereal, statuesque, a cool Armani muse, he, a puckish bundle of energy with thinning hair and tired blue eyes. But in real life there’s no separating the couple,” conjectured Jones.
“I’ve never had that level of success,” he admitted. “Having looked through the prism of Cate, you can see across to the people whom that sort of stuff happens to….I’m never followed but Cate is. Her public identity is associated with her work, which I think is good, right and proper because she’s bloody good at it. When her work is coming into focus, people want to see a photo of her carrying shopping bags. I can understand it – people are interested and I’m glad they’re interested otherwise they wouldn’t come to see it.”

Red carpet style icon

DEAUVILLE, FRANCE – AUGUST 31: Cate Blanchett arrives at the premiere of the movie ‘Blue Jasmine’ during the 39th Deauville American film festival on August 31, 2013 in Deauville, France. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)

Cate admitted that it was not always easy working together in such a high-profile way as well as raising a family, it’s all about communication. “We would divvy it up in a fluid way that perhaps only a married couple could. We’ve always talked. He’s the first person I met who I could deeply talk about work with, and I think we’ve kept each other healthy in that way because you can go a bit bonkers. And I’m bonkers enough! We’ve never been competitors, and we’ve never shied away from robust argument.”

She told Brooks that she knew the move was a gamble for her as it risked closing the door at her back. “When I stepped away to run the theatre company, a lot of people said, ‘This is a mistake. You realise you have a certain shelf life and you’re throwing that away.’ But I think it’s made me a better actor. If it hasn’t, I’m a fucking idiot.”

Proud of what they achieved at the STC, putting on 16-19 shows a year over four stages, making the organisation environmentally sustainable, and touring productions internationally, she said, “It was a lot of work, but it was in partnership. And it meant that I absented myself from filmmaking for six years. There were a lot of people who I could tell were thinking, ‘You’re in your late 30s, and the film industry’s not going to be your friend forever. Is this really the time?’ They thought I was having some sort of early midlife crisis, but Andrew and I knew the wealth of talent in Australia, and it’s our creative wellspring. So to return to that community and to be inside it was game-changing for us.”

“It’s been an enormous challenge and enormously gratifying,” she added. “Andrew and I wanted to travel less and the opportunity of living and working in Sydney was irresistible, especially when it came to being able to give our children roots. I also felt drawn to the stimulating kind of environment that the theatre offers in a way that is completely different from film. To direct a company has its own challenges, and there’s nothing like the terror and thrill that comes from performing live in front of an audience. So it’s been a marvellous experience for both of us.”

Blanchett took to the stage in a magnificent performance as Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. Though it has been played numerous times by countless fine theatre actress’ Cate completely made the role her own and played it like it had never been played before. She got rave reviews for her portrayal. The New York Times critic Ben Brantley wrote, “DuBois has been pulled gently and firmly down to earth by Ms. Blanchett. What she brings to the character is life itself, a primal survival instinct … All the baggage that any ‘Streetcar’ usually travels with has been jettisoned. Ms. (Tracey) Ullmann and Ms. Blanchett have performed the play as if it had never been staged before, with the result that, as a friend of mine put it, ‘you feel like you’re hearing words you thought you knew pronounced correctly for the first time.’”

John Lahr raved in The New Yorker, “Blanchett, with her alert mind, her informed heart, and her lithe, patrician silhouette, gets it right from the first beat … Blanchett doesn’t make the usual mistake of foreshadowing Blanche’s end at the play’s beginning; she allows Blanche a slow, fascinating decline … I don’t expect to see a better performance of this role in my lifetime.”

The great Meryl Streep said, “That performance was as naked, as raw and extraordinary and astonishing and surprising and scary as anything I’ve ever seen … She took the layers of a person and just peeled them away. I thought I’d seen that play, I thought I knew all the lines by heart, because I’ve seen it so many times, but I’d never seen the play until I saw that performance.”

Cate won the Sydney Theatre Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role and the Helen Hayes Awards, for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Non-Resident Production award, and the production won for Outstanding Non-Resident Production.She then played Yelena in Upton’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, which traveled to the Kennedy Center and the New York City Center as part of the Lincoln Center Festival. Again, critics were most impressed. The New York Times’ Ben Brantley wrote, “I consider the three hours I spent on Saturday night watching (the characters) complain about how bored they are among the happiest of my theatre going life … This Uncle Vanya gets under your skin like no other I have seen … (Blanchett) confirms her status as one of the best and bravest actresses on the planet.” Again, Blanchett received the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Non-Resident Production, and the Helpmann Award for Best Actress. Clearly the husband wife team was most successful.

Cate told Anita Singh in an interview for The Telegraph about their partnership, saying Andrew allows her unfettered access to his email account and that she runs her household as a “well-oiled machine” by reading all the messages addressed to her husband as “he hates emails,” leaving all his correspondence to her. “We work together and it’s a way of synchronising our lives. I can see what he’s up to – it’s not that I don’t trust him.”

She also takes charge of organising her children’s lives. “I’ve got a whole system going. I know what has to be done by the end of the evening, and what has to be done by the end of the morning. Three lunch boxes, three school bags, three sets of school uniform. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I have to write everything down,” Blanchett said. She has a rule that she will never be away from the children for more than six days; she said there are times when she dislikes the acting profession but “it’s a vocation, something I feel compelled to do. The work is not simple, but I do love it.”

Friends and colleagues said the couple never seem to have any drama, and they work together constantly, especially when they took over the STC.

Lady of the manor

The family’s primary residence is currently Highwell House, East Sussex that was once owned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


Blanchett stepped down from her full-time role at the theatre in 2013, but continued to star in a few STC productions, while Upton carried on as artistic director for another two years. Her film work was still limited. “What prevents me from picking and choosing is my geographical location and my desire not to have someone else raise my children.”

Sheryl Garratt wrote in The Telegraph that Blanchett, who is forthright, funny, exceedingly good company and astonishingly beautiful, reckons “the children keep her honest. They force you to be economical. To choose your roles wisely and then shrug them off as soon as you’re done.” People always ask how she is able to juggle her roles as an actor and parent. “Now, I might be wrong, but I don’t think they put the same question to male actors, do they?” How she has changed since she first got married, “I think Andrew would say I’ve got better at my job that I’ve learned to get out of my own way a bit more. I think perhaps he would say I’m a little less socially awkward. I hope so anyway. I used to be very socially awkward. Walk into a room. Not know what to say. But you do carry that fear with you. When I was getting ready to leave (the company, I did think, ‘Well, I’m in my 40s, I don’t know if I’ve even got a film career to go back to.’ And then Blue Jasmine landed in my lap.”

Her role as the brittle Park Avenue princess fallen on hard times in Blue Jasmine won her a second Oscar. But the experience of shooting it was no bed of roses. She described Woody Allen’s directing style as one of “benign neglect. The first day was brutal. He came up to me and said, ‘This is awful and you’re awful.’ As if he were talking about someone else, some other actress, and that maybe I could go and have a word with her. And then three weeks later it turned out that he didn’t like the costumes, he didn’t like the locations, he didn’t like the scene. He said, ‘You’ve got to help me rescue this movie.’”

She did such a wonderful job that some critics called it the best role of her career, better even than as Elizabeth I. The performance earned her more than 40 industry and critics awards, including the Critics’ Choice Award, Santa Barbara International Film Festival Outstanding Performance of the Year Award, Australian Academy Award (AACTA), SAG award, Golden Globe, BAFTA, Independent Film Spirit Award and the Academy Award for Best Actress. She, thus, became the first Australian to win more than one acting Oscar.

The couple fulfilled their dream when they adopted daughter Edith Vivian Patricia in 2015 because Cate said that she and her husband had wanted to adopt ever since the birth of their first child. Despite their high profile status and wealth, Australian adoption authorities still carried rigorous background checks into their lives before confirming the adoption and handing over the baby girl. Soon after, they sold their Sydney mansion for $20 million in 2015 to a Chinese buyer and moved back to England where Andrew and Cate purchased a seven bedroom, five reception room historic $6.25 million English manor, Highwell House, in East Sussex. Originally built in 1890, the home had fallen into disrepair, but had been extensively renovated and restored by its previous owner to its previous grandeur with bespoke materials and hand crafted finishes. Another celebrity owner in the past had been author of the Sherlock Holmes series Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Variety magazine reported that around the same time the couple also purchased a five-bedroom house in Sydney once owned by drag queen Dame Edna from its last owner for approximately $8 million. Not a bad life!

Late last year, paparazzi clicked photos of Andrew “getting very close” with 27 year old Love Child star Harriet Dyer

To pay for it all, Cate then played Cinderella’s evil stepmother in Disney’s Cinderella in a fun, campy way. On the other end of the spectrum, she starred opposite Rooney Mara in the lesbian relationship film Carol. At the Cannes film festival Variety reporter Ramin Setoodeh asked her if this was the first time she had played a bisexual. Cate cheekily replied, “On film or in real life?” The reporter prodded if she’s had relationships with women. “Yes, many times,” she shot back referring to her countless female friends, family members and colleagues. The resulting story went viral, and eclipsed the movie itself. “Look,” she clarified to Brooks, rolling her eyes at the memory, “I also just played a journalist. No one asked me how long I’d been to journalism school. If I played someone who has an affair, I think a reporter would probably think twice before asking, ‘Ooh, how many affairs have you had?’ It would be a slightly delicate area. But there are no holds barred about asking me whether I’ve had relationships with women. And so I facetiously said, ‘Oh yes, I’ve had many relationships with women’ – because frankly, who hasn’t? Of course I said it in inverted commas. But the inverted commas didn’t make the page.” So try as you may, reporters looking for a story will blow up the minutest detail trying to come up with a sensational, headline grabbing scandal.
Similarly, Andrew too has had his share of over eager press. Late last year, paparazzi clicked photos of Andrew “getting very close” with 27 year old Love Child star Harriet Dyer. The tabloid, Star reported that the two spent the evening at the Strawberry Hills pub in Sydney, while Cate was thousands of miles away in NYC with their children. “Drinks were flowing. Andrew and Harriet’s hands were all over the place,” revealed an onlooker, who watched the pair play a flirtatious game of pool in the company of friends at the local watering hole – just miles down the street from the home he shares with Cate and the kids. “At one point, Harriet rested her head on Andrew’s chest and he wrapped his arm around her, whispering something in her ear. Andrew and Harriet looked uncomfortable with the camera snapping away,” said the spy. “It they hadn’t spotted the photographer, who knows what might have happened? Even if it was innocent, it certainly left a bad impression.”
Australian magazine New Idea reported that “At one point they were holding hands and he had his arm around her before leaving together to hail a taxi. The pair was never far from each other, engaged in ‘close conversation’ and were quite affectionate. Cate recently relocated to Los Angeles with her children for a film.”

According to the magazine, Harriet told a group of fellow Australian actors, “He’s (Andrew) a notorious party boy, everyone knows that.”

On holiday with their four kids in tow

Though the two have worked together in the past at the Sydney Theatre Company, a lot of speculation as to the nature of their relationship took place. Cate, however, appeared confident and unfazed the next day when the story broke. Paparazzi followed her around NYC to capture any meltdown she may have or even a hint of emotion she may show. Everyone wanted to know whether there was any truth to the story. Whether she really trusts her husband that much or whether she’s the consummate actress in real life as well is anybody’s guess. She had herself admitted in an earlier interview, “It’s not whether you can act or not. It’s whether you can act comfortable and relaxed. I’m not comfortable, I’m not relaxed. It’s all down to acting.”
Later the same magazine New Idea reported that Harriet was overheard telling a group of actors at a premiere that she reached out to Cate as soon as the photos were released to ensure she and the children were okay, “I sent through an email to Cate and said: “This is all ‘s***’ We were just having drinks after a show when the images were taken. “ She wrote back, “We’re cool, babe.”

Happily ever after, or as close to it as you can get

Andrew also broke his silence over the incident, insisting his relationship with Harriet was strictly platonic. ‘We’ve been friends for years. She’s a good friend,’ he explained.

Since then, Harriet has begun dating No Activity co-star Patrick Brammall, after calling it quits with Australian actor Ben Lawson late last year, so there was that narrow window when she was footloose and single.

The Mail on Sunday carried a story of Cate Blanchett generously praising Andrew soon after, “I’m incredibly fortunate to have met the intelligent, generous, risk-taking, stimulating man to whom I am married. He’s really amazing. I don’t think it’s more difficult for actors to have a good marriage than anyone. I think in the end a really important component of any relationship is honesty, and it also comes down to luck.”

Andrew also praised his wife, describing being married to her as “a daily thrill.” Damage control or the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Your guess is as good as mine.

Looking back at their twenty year marriage, Cate said, “It’s been a great creative partnership with my husband and also a great love affair. Working together, running a creative company in Australia. It’s all been fantastic.”

If you would like to see Cate perform live and happen to be in the Big Apple, do check out her Broadway debut in Upton’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s play The Present, running now through March 19, 2017.

By Mahlia Lone

From afar it seems that a superstar’s life is perfect. We can neither look inside their homes to see their personal lives, nor assess their mental, emotional or spiritual health for ourselves. The audience is fed a perfectly constructed image. Aamir Khan, who looks like he’s got it all together, battled the demon of depression in the isolation of his home for four years following his separation and subsequent divorce from his first wife; he was rendered unable to work, barely mustering up the will to leave his house. His younger brother has a history of severe mental illness, so weak nerves and a highly sensitive nature may run in the family. But then destiny intervened in the shape of assistant director Kiran Malik who was a ray of the sunshine in his life and Aamir, taking a chance, grabbed on to her and in time wedded her. She filled his life with her radiance and cheery spirits and together they have built a new happy life  

Aamir comes from a film family. He was born in Mumbai on 14th March 1965 to film producer Tahir Hussain and his wife Zeenat, and is the second eldest of four siblings:  Farhat, who lives in New Jersey, Faisal, also an actor, and Nikhat, a film producer. Tahir’s older brother, Nasir Hussain was a film producer, director and screenwriter who produced a string of formulaic but successful films with his core team under the Nasir Hussain Films banner. One such is Teesri Manzil, directed by Vijay Anand, starring Hussain’s favourite stars Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh with R.D. Burman composing the film’s score for the first time. The film’s songs became so popular that they are played to this day and include O Haseena Zulfonwali, O Mere Sona Re, Deewaana Mujhsa Nahin, Tumne Mujhe Dekha, and Aaja Aaja Main Hoon Pyaar Tera. Actor Imran Khan, whom Aamir launched in films, is Nasir Hussain’s grandson.

Aamir Khan with father Tahir Hussain, elder sister Nikhat Khan & mother Zeenat Hussain

Aamir with his mother Zeenat Hussain

Aamir with his struggling filmmaker father Tahir Hussain

The Hussain brothers’ were also related to India’s first Muslim President Dr. Zakir Hussain. On his maternal side, Aamir is the great grand-nephew of freedom fighter, Islamic philosopher, Urdu poet, renowned educationist and India’s first Education Minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, whose birthday is celebrated each year as National Education Day across India. So proud is Aamir of his academic ancestor that he has named his youngest son Azaad after him.
Aamir attended J.B. Petit School, St. Anne’s High School, Bandra, the Bombay Scottish School, Mahim and the Narsee Monjee College, but he said he “was much more into sports than studies,” playing tennis at state level championships. Looking back he said that his childhood was “tough” due to the financial difficulties faced by his father. “There would be at least 30 calls a day from creditors calling for their money.” His father was so hard up financially that he could barely afford his children’s school fees.
Aamir’s first brush with acting was at the age of eight when he first appeared in a song in his Uncle Nasir Hussain’s film Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973). The next year, he was cast by his father in his own film Madhosh. Bitten by the acting bug, at sixteen the budding actor played the lead opposite Neena Gupta and Victor Bannerjee in a teenage experimental production of a 40-minute silent film, Paranoia, which was made on a shoestring budget of a few thousand rupees. His parents were not happy with him wanting to be an actor as they wanted him to have the steady income of a professional, so he did it in hiding. He enjoyed acting and assisting the director so much that he decided to pursue a career in film and, while still a student, worked backstage part time for a theatre group called Avantar. Finally, a year later he started getting acting parts on stage as well.

As a child actor

In Yaadon ki Baaraat

After completing high school, Aamir started working full time as an assistant director for his uncle Nasir Hussain on the set of the films Manzil Manzil (1984) and Zabardast (1985). Meanwhile, director Ketan Mehta offered him a small role in the low-budget experimental film Holi (1984) featuring an ensemble cast of teenage newcomers. As Aamir reached maturity, Nasir Hussain cast him as the leading man in his son Mansoor Hussain’s directorial debut Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988) opposite former Miss India Juhi Chawla in a contemporary take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Aamir plays a cute, “clean-cut, wholesome boy-next-door” college student. The movie was a runaway success, making both the newcomer leads overnight stars. It received seven Filmfare Awards, including a Best Male Debut award for Aamir. But more than Juhi, there was another young, short haired girl in the movie who had already stolen his heart. You can see her in a scene standing cheering in the audience when Aamir is on stage lip-syncing to the popular song Papa kehtey thay bada naam karega.

Wedding

Aamir & Reena with their kids

This girl extra was his childhood sweetheart Reena Dutta whom he had married in 1986 against the wishes of their families when he was only 21.
The couple refrained from having children while Aamir focused on establishing his career. Reena shunned the limelight and stayed in the background because having a wife adversely affected a young romantic hero’s rising popularity. A marriage would be a hindrance to his romantic hero image. Staying home, Reena grew very close to Aamir’s family. Their son Junaid was born after 7 years of marriage and daughter Ira after 12. All the while Aamir’s career progressed steadily.

British journalist Jessican Hines lives as a single mother in London with her son Jaan whom she claims was sired by Aamir while he was still married to first wife, Reena

With Pooja Bhatt with whom he was rumored to have had an on set affair


Then came Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India, a period sports drama, the storyline of which was so gripping when he heard it that Aamir Khan signed on not just as the star but as the film’s producer, starting up his own production company Aamir Khan Productions in the process with Reena at the helm as the film’s executive producer. The story is set in a small village the inhabitants of which are unable to pay their taxes due to drought and are challenged by a British civil servant to a cricket match for a wager over their tax dues, thinking that there was no way the British team won’t win. The starving villagers were desperate enough to accept, but they didn’t know how to play the game and had to learn quickly, quite a riveting story.
Aamir’s company invested $10 million into the film’s budget, the highest for an Indian movie till then. Then being a perfectionist, Aamir, along with director Ashutosh Gowariker and the entire cast and crew left no stone unturned to make their masterpiece. Since the film is set during the Victorian period of the British Raj in a drought-ridden village, they scoured the countryside for a dry and ancient looking village with no modern amenities, like electricity, etc. before deciding upon Bhuj in Gujarat. The antique looking 19th century style tools and equipment were actual ones that the villagers still used, while the musical instruments of that time were collected from around the country. Sparing no expense, Aamir hired a 300 strong crew for six months and rented as well as furnished accommodation for them. The costumes for the cast were meticulously researched and made by Bhanu Athaiya, who had earlier won an Oscar for Best Costume Designs for the film Gandhi.

As a newly married couple


In 2001, Lagaan premiered at the International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA) in Sun City, South Africa to rave reviews. The movie became so popular at Switzerland’s Locarno International Film Festival with some audience members reportedly dancing to its soundtrack in the aisles that it was shown four times and not the usual once. It also won the festival’s Prix du Public award. Doing the film festival circuit, it was shown at the festivals of Sundance, Cairo, Stockholm, Helsinki and Toronto to critical acclaim. Film critic Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the film is “an affectionate homage to a popular genre that raises it to the level of an art film with fully drawn characters, a serious underlying theme, and a sophisticated style and point of view.” The movie was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but didn’t win. Aamir attended the award show clad in a black achkan.
The movie was significant in his life for another reason as well. It was on the shoot of Lagaan that Aamir first met short haired, bohemian-looking young assistant director Kiran Rao, whom one day he was to marry. She came from an aristocratic family as her paternal grandfather was J. Rameshwar Rao, Raja of Wanaparthy, a large estate in Telangana under the Nizam of Hyderabad. She told a reporter later that as a fourteen-year-old she had seen QSQT on the new VCR her family had bought. “I loved him (Aamir) in it but I enjoyed the film more. I was like ‘What a great film, what great music, what acting and what a cute guy!’ The impression of him she came away with was ‘he is one of the few good actors in the industry.’” However, when she accepted the film job, she did not think she would spend any time with the film’s star since she was a lowly assistant at the time.

Reportedly it was his on set affair with Preity Zinta, which was the last straw that broke his first marriage

But destiny had other plans for the two. Akhil Renjith described how Aamir and Kiran met:
“Her first encounter with him was on the bus in which they were travelling to Bhuj for a recce. Though no one imagined Aamir’s company on that journey as the bus was full of technicians and crew members, ‘Aamir Khan, who is a superstar, was also on the bus. But Aamir was not just on the bus, he also made conversation with every assistant, asked their names, introduced himself,’ Kiran said and eventually they talked for the first time. This first encounter with Aamir made Kiran realise that he was a regular chilled out person with no starry tantrums. ‘He had no filmi persona about him at all,’ she revealed. Though he was surrounded by security guards, she found him completely down to earth. She felt there was no snobbery or I don’t talk to assistants kind of attitude in him, which impressed her.

They enjoy a happy & lighthearted camraderie

Aamir remembered their word-building games, which they used to play on the sets of Lagaan. His general impression about her was of a really nice, warm, happy, bright girl who is fun to be with. He also confessed that the earrings which a character wore in Lagaan actually belonged to Kiran, which he borrowed from her. After that they met while Kiran was doing some work on the Goa schedule of Dil Chahta Hai. That is when she reminded him that he owed her a pair of earrings in exchange for the ones he borrowed for Lagaan. Aamir actually went with Reena, his wife at that time, and shopped for earrings from the Taj hotel shop for Kiran.”

Returning her the earrings he had borrowed from her for the actress in Lagaan

Telling body language

After Lagaan, Aamir was busy shooting for Dil Chahta Hai, which co-starred Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna, with Preity Zinta playing Aamir’s love interest. Rumors started flying that Aamir and Preity were indulging in an on set romance. This was certainly not the first time he had been accused of this. Earlier a similar story floated about, linking him with Pooja Bhatt during the filming of Ghulam (1998). Additionally, he had been linked with British journalist Jessica Hines. It was said that the two even moved in together somehow. To her joy, Jessica became pregnant with Aamir`s baby, but Aamir asked her to abort it. When she refused, Aamir broke up with her and distanced himself. She gave birth to a baby boy that she named Jaan. Jessica has raised Jaan as a single mother in London reportedly without any acknowledgment or financial assistance from the father.
Clearly, Reena had put up with a lot and forgiven him for his indiscretions in the past. His affair with Preity was the last straw and the married couple separated formally.


“Both Reena and Aamir have not shared with anyone the issues that broke them up as a couple, so I have no idea what went wrong with those two. There was no bickering, no spate of ugly attacks and no filth that was plashed. Without washing their dirty linen in public, they were divorced. When they decided to part ways, they first explained the situation to their children,” wrote Renjith.
However, Aamir liked being a family man and the security and stability that marriage provides. Things didn’t go so well with him after the separation. He sank into depression. Soon he even lost interest in making films. He isolated himself at home for four years. “Probably the most traumatic period has been my divorce — not just for me but for everybody involved, I imagine. I can’t think of any other significant low. Emotionally, I was very brittle at that point of time,” Aamir admitted.
As luck would have it, Aamir was producing and starring in a commercial for Coke, which also had Kiran working on the set. The two got a chance to spend time together. One day while he was feeling very low, Kiran called him up. The call lasted for half an hour and when he hung up, he found himself drawn towards her, because she had managed to cheer him and make him feel better. He knew she was special at that moment, a keeper. “Slowly I felt that when I am with her, I am comfortable and happy and open to share anything with her. Actually, we were friends first and then lovers. I felt relaxed after years,” he added.
When he confided his feelings about Kiran to his sister Nuzhat, she advised him to stay away from her, as he was too damaged at that time to get involved or commit. But Aamir could not control his heart and took their relationship a step further by asking her to move in with him.

Siblings, Junaid & Ira Khan

Aamir & Junaid Khan vote at a polling station in Mumbai. Junaid is 6’3” to Aamir’s 5’5”

Renjith added, “Both of them, at that time, were not keen on a long-term relationship. But after a few months of spending time with him, Kiran fell in love, though she did not expect anything serious to come out of such a casual relationship. She confessed, ‘I felt like oh… this is someone I really want to spend more time with and this is someone I want to know better. But I fell in love with him quite early…’ a couple of months of spending time intimately with him, she was hooked.
Aamir shared what he loves about Kiran. ‘Her energy; it’s a very vibrant and positive energy which I find comforting and healing. She is a very happy person.’”
When eventually he did commit to Kiran, the two became inseparable. After Aamir got his children’s blessing, the couple married in 2005 in front of their entire families in his Panchgani farmhouse.
Over time Kiran became extremely protective of Aamir and would even defend him and pick fights with anyone who upsets or disturbs his mental equilibrium. She fascinates Aamir with her knowledge of art, music and films. He likes her sense of aesthetic and design, and loves her creative instinct. Kiran finds Aamir’s sensitivity very endearing. His manner is light and teasing with her, making fun of and amusing her, while she fondly calls him “Chhotte!” They keep each other on their toes.
Regarding Aamir’s relationship with his ex, Renjith wrote, “Even now he holds her in high regard and the two have a close and amicable relationship. The two have never spoken about the reasons behind their divorce. They filed it by mutual consent and because of ‘temperamental differences’, which is apparently a thing in India. There were no issues during their divorce, no fighting, and no disagreements. Reena received full custody of their children, though Aamir retained the right to see his kids three times a week, on alternate weekends and for a portion of the summer and Christmas holidays. He is very involved in both his children’s lives and although he speaks rarely about his private life, one gets the impression that he is proud of his children and loves them dearly. Reena didn’t vanish from his life after the divorce. Whilst the two weren’t married anymore, their relationship transformed after the divorce and became one of mutual respect and friendship. Due to their children, they continue to have a close relationship, one that extends to Aamir’s second wife as well, who says nothing but good things about Reena and her step-children.”
After many unfortunate miscarriages, Kiran and Aamir had a son, Azaad Rao Khan, who was born via surrogacy. “Their young son is their pride and joy. Their family is certainly a patchwork family, but it seems to work for everyone involved, including Reena, who is not the ex-wife left behind, but someone, who is still close to her children as well as her ex-husband and his new wife,” Renjith added.

Younger brother Faisal Khan

Once he was happily married, Aamir came back to Bollywood with a vengeance after a four year hiatus with Ketan Mehta’s Mangal Pandey: The Rising (2005) playing the title role of the real-life sepoy and martyr who helped spark the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The film garnered great reviews and was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. Next he starred in Rang De Basanti (2006), one of the year’s highest-grossing films, which also won the BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language in the U.K. He co-starred in and produced his directorial debut venture, Taare Zameen Par (2007) in which he plays a teacher who befriends and helps a dyslexic child, a different choice of topic for a Bollywood film. It opened to rave reviews including for his acting. Amongst other awards, Aamir notably received the Filmfare Awards for Best Director and Best Film of 2007, as well as the National Film Award for Best Film on Family Welfare amongst others. Both Mangal Pandey and Taare Zameen Par were India’s official entries for their respective years at the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Film category. Aamir came to be known as a discerning filmmaker, a cut above the rest.
Meanwhile, Aamir’s younger brother Faisal who was suffering from a serious mental condition suffered from a psychotic breakdown, accusing Aamir of locking him up and went missing for two days in 2007. It became a big story with their father being awarded custody by court order of Faisal. However, Tahir Hussain died of a massive heart attack in 2010. Faisal is said to have recovered enough to have signed a couple of upcoming movies.
Secure in his domestic life, Aamir went from strength to strength with a hat-trick of top Bollywood grossers of all time starting with Ghajini (2008), followed by 3 Idiots, which earned $30 million nationally and $25 million internationally. In Yash Raj Films’ Dhoom 3, in which he is said to have played the most difficult role of his career broke the record set by the previous two in the preceding two years.

There are many insecurities in the actor`s life. This is the reason Aamir Khan’s family have named Captain Caution. Negative thoughts swirl in his mind. Losing his family members and his loved ones are the biggest fears in his life. Aamir is always cautious about the security of all his loved ones. At the same time, he also has insecurity relating to his work. He thinks that at some point he might lose his job or his creative instinct, but he may  remain unaware of it or be the last one to know about it. Thus, he takes criticism seriously. Whenever, Aamir hears something about his work, he rectifies it immediately. His family and work have primary importance in his life. However, he never fears losing stardom, according to Renjith.

September 11, 2010 STARTIFF- Aamir Khan (right) and Kiran Rao talk about their movie, Dhobi Ghat at the Toronto International Film Festival.
TIFF
(Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star)

In 2008, Aamir also launched his nephew Imran Khan in the film Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na made by his production house. 2011 saw the release of Kiran’s dirctorial debut Dhobi Ghat. The same year, Aamir co-produced English language Black comedy film Delhi Belly starring Imran Khan. Aamir himself played an alien in Rajkumar Hirani’s satirical science fiction drama PK (2014) opposite Anushka Sharma, and with Sanjay Dutt in a supporting role. This became the fourth of his films that became the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time. Film critic Raja Sen called the film a “triumph….Aamir Khan is exceptional in PK, creating an irresistibly goofy character.” And yet again, for the fifth time, Aamir’s turn as a wrestler in real life sports hero movie Nitesh Tiwari’s Dangal became the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time. Aamir also won his third Filmfare Award for Best Actor for his portrayal.

Junaid, Ira & Reena Dutta

Aamir Khan with his mother performing Hajj

Aamir avoids most film award ceremonies and does not readily accept any popular Indian film awards. Though nominated many times, Aamir does not attend any Indian film award ceremonies, saying “Indian film awards lack credibility… I won’t attend it either. Apart from the National Film Awards, I don’t see any other award ceremony that I should give value to.” He has also famously refused to give his consent for his wax statue to join those of other Bollywood superstars at Madame Tussaud’s.”
However, with other Bollywood heavyweights appearing on their own TV shows, Aamir sought to strengthen his connection with his audience by making his television debut with the social issues talk show Satyamev Jayate. This highly anticipated show made Aamir the highest paid host on Indian TV up till 2012. In her review, Ritu Singh said, “Aamir Khan deserves applause for bringing up such sensitive issues and presenting them in a hard hitting way. The amount of research Aamir and his team have put into the show is clearly visible with the facts and figures presented. Every aspect of the issues is covered with great diligence.”
An observing Muslim, Aamir performed Hajj with his mother in 2013. Recently, he has turned vegan following his atheist wife’s example. He believes in a balanced, tolerant, live and let live approach. So when in 2015, Aamir spoke up against intolerance in India at a newspaper event in New Delhi, saying that he had considered “moving out of India,” his words were taken out of context by the Shiv Sena. He was harassed by the party and on social media. A lawsuit was filed against him and Kiran. Many stars spoke out in his support and he was forced to explain that he had no intention to emigrate ever.

All this time, Reena remained close to his family and is often seen at family occasions, participating both in the happy as well as unhappy moments. It helps that Aamir’s sister and Reena’s brother, who live in New Jersey, are married to each other. According to Aamir, though his relationship with Reena has undergone a change after the divorce, the bond that he shares with her will never end. He still has a lot of love and respect for her and she will always remain an important part of his life. “I really value the 16 years Reena and I spent together. I have the highest respect and love for her. I will always have that,” he told the Hindustan Times.
‘She has immense strength of character and patience. She is a valuable part of my life. Our relationship may have altered, but nothing and no one can take away what we have shared,’ he said in an interview to Femina magazine.
Kiran also enjoys a wonderful rapport with his children from his first marriage. She praised them in an interview, “I love them and they are just lovely kids and I think Reena has done a spectacular job of bringing them up the way she has. They are warm, affectionate, intelligent and grounded kids.”

Aamir Khan with Kiran Rao & son Azad Rao Khan in Meghalaya

Aamir’s eldest Junaid, who surprisingly stands at six feet three inches tall towering over his father’s more modest five feet five inches, is presently assisting Raj Kumar Hirani in the upcoming movie, Peekay with Aamir and Anushka Sharma in the lead.
Aamir has his priorities in order and gives kudos to the women who have supported him along the way and helped make him the man he is. Giving credit where it is due, Aamir Khan said that the three most respected women in his life are his mother, his ex-wife, Reena Dutta and his present wife, Kiran Rao.

 

 

The reigning King & Queen of Bollywood

King Khan wasn’t born a Prince with blue blood in his veins or a silver spoon in his mouth. He was born in an average family in New Delhi to a Muslim emigre from Pehawar who tried his hand at many business ventures including a small restaurant while housing his family in a succession of rented flats. The baby was named Shahrukh at birth, which was later updated to Shah Rukh when he went into acting. His father, Hindko speaking Meer Taj Mohammed Khan, was a pro Mohandas Gandhi supporter and follower of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan of the All Indian National Congress, in Peshawar. According to Shah Rukh, his paternal grandfather, Jan Muhammad, was an ethnic Pathan from Afghanistan. However, Shah Rukh’s cousins who still live in the Shah Wali Qataal area of Qissa Khawani Bazaar in Peshawar claim that the family is of Hindko origin from Azad Kashmir, not Pathan, and also contradict the claim that his grandfather was from Afghanistan. So Khan’s tweet claiming his ethnicity is a mix of “half Hyderabadi (mother), half Pathan (father), some Kashmiri (grandmother)” may very well be a partial reinvention of his true ethnicity, perhaps to fit in with the traditional Bollywood Pathan heirarchy.

After Partition, Meer moved from Peshawar, now in Pakistan, to the Punjabi refugee neighbourhood of Rajendra Nagar, central Delhi, since he was pro-India. There he married a Hyederabadi girl, Lateef Fatima, in 1959. Their first born was a daughter named Shehnaz Lalarukh, who now lives with Shah Rukh permanently. Shah Rukh spent his primary five years in Mangalore, where his maternal grandfather, Ifthikar Ahmed, served as the chief engineer of the port in the ‘60s while it was being built. After this, Meer moved his family back to Delhi where the head of the household tragically succumbed to cancer in 1981.

His parents, Meer Taj Mohammed & Lateef Fatima Khan with elder sister, Shahnaz Lalarukh

Baby Shah Rukh

Shah Rukh attended St. Columba’s School, New Delhi. Because he excelled academically as well as at sports such as hockey and football, he received the school’s highest award, the Sword of Honour. More importantly for his future career, he acted in stage plays and was known as a teenager for his imitation of Bollywood actors like Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan and, funnily enough, Mumtaz. Amrita Singh, who became a top Bollywood actress in the ‘80s, was one the teenage friends with whom he acted.

In high school

One evening in 1984, when Shah Rukh was 18, he met 14 year old Gauri Chibber at a party where the boys and girls stood separately. She was the daughter of Punjabi-Brahmin Hindu Colonel Ramesh Chandra and Sarita Chibber, residents of the South Delhi suburb of Panchsheel Park. She attended first the Loreto Convent and then the Delhi Modern School. Boldly, Shah Rukh mustered up his courage and crossed over to the girls’ side and asked Gauri to dance.

Shah Rukh Khan confessed in an interview, “I am very shy in my personal life. I had never asked a girl out. I danced with her, she was very good. I asked for her telephone number and she was the first girl with whom I had danced or asked for their number. I felt that she is the one for me, as she had not said ‘no’ to me up till now.” He promptly asked her for a date the next day to have a soda. She assented and soon they started dating regularly.

At their wedding

Gauri was not entirely happy with Shah Rukh’s decision to join Bollywood. She even secretly wished his films would flop so they could return to Delhi where he could work for her father. “When I went to become an actor, she didn’t like it, because actors have such a reputation and also ours was an inter-religion marriage,” SRK said on The Anupam Kher Show 

Meanwhile, Shah Rukh got his Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Hansraj College in 1988, simultaneously studying at Delhi’s Theatre Action Group (TAG) under the mentorship of renowned theatre director Barry John. Gauri also got her Bachelor’s degree in History from Lady Shri Ram College and then took a six months course in fashion design and tailoring from the National Institute of Fashion Technology to join her father’s garment business.

Shah Rukh began his professional acting career in the late ‘80s by appearing in several television series, in which he started making a name for himself as critics compared his look and acting style with that of Dilip Kumar, the film thespian. But where Gauri was concerned, Shah Rukh was an insecure and possessive boyfriend who did not even like her keeping her hair open, let alone talking to other boys. He said in his defense, “I don’t know whether I am a nut but I am very intense about my love for Gauri. She’s a part of me.”

However, Gauri got fed up with this attitude. Only her mother knew of her relationship with a Muslim boy, that too a struggling actor, as she was too scared to tell her father. So when she was invited by friends to a trip to Mumbai, she left without even telling him. Suddenly, Shah Rukh felt abandoned by her and realized he didn’t want to let go. He told his mother about Gauri and his mother asked him to go and search for her. Armed with INR 10,000, Shah Rukh drove to Mumbai in his trusty, old Fiat in search of his errant girlfriend with no idea of her exact whereabouts. After much searching, in true filmi fashion, he headed to the beach knowing she would definitely visit there. There, he spied her and ran towards her. The moment the two met, they flung themselves upon each other in an embrace and started crying, realising the depth of their love.

Shah Rukh recalled in a TV interview, “I had a Fiat back then and I was dropping her home. That is when I asked her if she will marry me and went off, I didn’t even wait for her to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”

Gauri added, “my parents were obviously not for it because we were so young and then to take a decision to get married to a person who was going to join films and also from a different religion.”

But her brother supported her decision after warning Shah Rukh, “Don’t do anything hanky panky with my sister!” 1991 turned out to be an eventful year in his life. Shah Rukh’s mother died that year from complications from diabetes. Then, in April, he moved from Delhi to Mumbai and was signed by Hema Malini for the film Dil Aashana Hai that she produced and directed opposite Divya Bharti, in addition to signing three more films. Alone and back in New Delhi, his sister Shahnaz sank into depression. Shah Rukh and Gauri remained in touch, but found the long distance relationship hard. Gauri decided that either they should get married or break up for good. After much cajoling, she finally convinced her strict Hindu, vegetarian father to let her marry Muslim boy Shah Rukh and managed to get his blessing. They got married on 25th October, 1991 in a Hindu ceremony.

Shah Rukh Khan bought his mumbai mansion, Mannat, for just INR 15 crores (US$2.5 million) in 1995. a tourist landmark, it’s now reportedly worth a whopping INR 2000 crores (US $333 million). He was also gifted one of the most expensive homes in Dubai, a villa on Palm Jumeirah, worth US$65 million. In addition, He also owns a palatial bungalow in Delhi and a GB£20 million flat near the Dorchester on Park lane, mayfair, London. The second richest movie star in the world, SRK is worth…wait for it…$600 million

Shah Rukh reminisced on fellow actor Anupam Kher’s TV chat show, “I started shooting in June and in October we got married. Our honeymoon was on the sets of Dil Aashana Hai.” The young couple set up home in a small, rented apartment in Mumbai.
Shah Rukh’s debut film turned out to be Deewana, releasing in June 1992, in which he was a supporting actor. The film’s leads were Rishi Kapoor and Divya Bharti. It became the second highest grossing film of the year, launching his film career. He was awarded the Filmfare Best Male Debut Award for his performance. The same year, he also starred in Chamatkar and the comedy Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman opposite Juhi Chawla, a hit pairing. The roles he played were similar in that they were full of energy and enthusiasm. Film critic Arnab Ray of Daily News and Analysis wrote that Shah Rukh brought a new kind of acting “sliding down stairs on a slab of ice, cartwheeling, somersaulting, lips trembling, eyes trembling, bringing to the screen the kind of physical energy … visceral, intense, maniacal one moment and cloyingly boyish the next.”

The next year, he played villainous anti-hero roles in the hits, Darr, in which he plays an obsessive lover, and Baazigar, in which he plays a murderer. In Yash Chopra’s Darr, which was the first of his many collaborations with the filmmaker and his company Yash Raj Films, Shah Rukh’s stammering portrayal and the use of the phrase “I love you, K-k-k-Kiran” became memorable and popular with audiences. He received a nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Performance in a Negative Role, also known as the Best Villain Award, for this role. In Baazigar, Shah Rukh plays an ambiguous avenger who murders his girlfriend, shocking Indian audiences and turning the standard Bollywood film formula on its head. In The Cambridge Companion to Modern Indian Culture, Sonal Khullar called the character “the consummate anti-hero.” Cast for the first time opposite newcomer Kajol, he won his first Filmfare Award for Best Actor. The Shah Rukh-Kajol pairing has been so successful over the years, that two decades plus later, they are still playing the leads in films together. They have starred in nine films together to date.

With his star in the rise, in 1995 Shah Rukh starred in a total of seven films, the first of which was Rakesh Roshan’s melodramatic thriller Karan Arjun. Co-starring Salman Khan and Kajol, it became the second-highest-grossing film of the year in India.

Aryan has dated Amitabh Bachchan’s granddaughter  Navya Naveli Nanda

The highest grossing film of the year and one of the most successful Indian films of all time is the romcom, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) opposite Kajol. Written and directed by Aditya Chopra, Yash’s son and later husband of actress Rani Mukherjee, the film’s plot revolves around two young non-resident Indians (NRIs), who fall in love during a vacation through Europe with their friends. Though Shah Rukh was initially hesitant to portray the role of a lover, the audience loved him in this film as a “romantic hero” so much that it became the longest-running film in the history of Indian cinema. It won a record of 10 Filmfare Awards, the most for a single film at that time, including the second of Shah Rukh’s Best Actor Awards, as well as winning the National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment. Its soundtrack also became one of the most popular albums of the ‘90s. Film critic Raja Sen said, “Khan gives a fabulous performance, redefining the lover for the 1990s with great panache. He’s cool and flippant, but sincere enough to appeal to the [audience]. The performance itself is, like the best in the business, played well enough to come across as effortless, as non-acting.”

After Gauri’s brief foray into show business with her hosting gig on weekly Hindi music countdown show, Oye, for MTV India behind her and with Shah Rukh’s star status secure, the couple decided it was finally time for them to start a family and in 1997 their son Aryan was born.

Aryan, now 19, is a mini-me of his famous father. He graduated from the prestigious Sevenoaks School, Kent, half an hour from London. In his own right, he has won the Maharashtra Taekwondo competition in 2010 and was presented with the black belt, the highest achievement level in the martial arts. He is also a budding actor. While Shah Rukh won for best dubbing voice male animation, for Hum Lajawab Hai, the dubbed Hindi version of the Oscar winning cartoon feature movie The Incredibles, Aryan won the award for best dubbing child voice artist male for it in the children’s category. He is also rumored to have dated Amitabh Bachchan’s granddaughter Navya Naveli Nanda. Aryan is currently enrolled in the University of Southern California where he is studying filmmaking. His godfather is fittingly Karan Johar.

Red hot in an Herve Leger bandage dress, Suhana can’t wait to be a Bollywood star

Suhana in a Manish Malhotra ghagra choli attending the Bachchan’s Diwali bash

Shah Rukh’s next big blockbuster was the song and dance vehicle Dil To Pagal Hai (1997) with Madhuri Dixit and Karisma Kapoor, the highest grossing Indian film of the year worldwide, followed next year by Karan Johar’s directorial debut Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) Shah Rukh’s fourth film opposite Kajol and a coming of age romcom drama. The third highest-grossing Indian film of the year, it’s the first Bollywood film to enter the UK cinema top ten.

In 2000, the couple had their daughter Suhana. Now 16 and enrolled at Dirubhai Ambani International School, she is a pint sized fashionista, standing at 5’2”, a footballer, playing football tournaments for her school, and even captaining the U-14 team. She loves dancing, and performed in the Pop video of Shiamak Dawar’s Summer Funk show. She also enjoys writing, winning an award at Katha national story writing competition. Shah Rukh has proudly stated in many interviews that Suhana is desperately waiting to finish her studies and join films. She too has her father’s looks, especially his distinctive nose. Shah Rukh plans to send her to the U.S. for college to study acting.

Next Shah Rukh starred opposite Amitabh Bachchan in Aditya Chopra’s Mohabbatein (2000), and Karan Johar’s family drama Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), which SRK cites as a turning point in his career, as he held his own against the veteran actor who stars in both films. Amitabh’s role in both is that of an authoritarian figure, the movie shows ideological struggles between the two men. Shah Rukh was awarded his second Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor for Mohabbatein, while Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, also starring Kajol remained the top-grossing Indian production of all time in the overseas market for the next five years.

2001 brought a reversal of fortune for SRK. Shah Rukh’s production company Dreamz Unlimited produced Santosh Sivan’s historical epic Asoka, a partly fictionalised account of the life of emperor Ashoka, starring Shah Rukh in the titular role. The film was screened at the Venice Film Festival and the 2001 Toronto International Film Festival, but despite opening with much fanfare, it performed poorly at the box office. So heavy was the loss incurred that Shah Rukh was forced to close srkworld.com. Then in December, Shah Rukh suffered a spinal injury while performing an action sequence for a special appearance in Krishna Vamsi’s Shakti: The Power. He was diagnosed with a prolapsed disc, which caused him severe pain during shooting. His condition worsened to the point that he finally had to undergo the complicated anterior cervical discectomy and fusion surgery at Wellington Hospital, London in 2003. After this, Shah Rukh has reduced his workload and limited the number of film roles he accepts per year.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s remake of period romantic tragedy Devdas (2002), the most expensive Bollywood film ever made at the time, starred Shah Rukh in the title role of a rebellious and love lorne alcoholic opposite Ashwariya Rai and Madhuri Dixit. The film became an instant classic and earned numerous awards including 10 Filmfare Awards, with Best Actor for Shah Rukh and even a BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language.

 “That she is stylish, enigmatic, and poised is known, but at the shoot we saw another side of her. Even in the frames she shares with Shah Rukh, she holds her own impressively” wrote Priya Tanna, editor of Vogue India

Karan Johar’s Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), a comedy-drama set in New York City, starring Shah Rukh, Jaya Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, and Preity Zinta, became the second-highest-grossing film domestically and the top-grossing Bollywood film in external markets that year. His tear jerker portrayal of a man with a fatal heart disease won over the sentimental audience and critics alike. In the 2003 edition of the Encyclopedia of Hindi Cinema, it was written that Shah Rukh “defied the image of the conventional hero in both these films and created his own version of the revisionist hero.”

Then, conflict broke out between Shah Rukh, Juhi Chawla and Aziz Mirza, all partners in Dreamz Unlimited over the failure to cast Juhi in their 2003 production of Chalte Chalte instead of the much younger Rani Mukherjee, and they parted ways, despite the film’s success. Dreamz Unlimited was disbanded and gave birth to Red Chillies Entertainment with Gauri emerging as producer (uptill now the production house has released nine films). In the company’s first production, he starred in choreographer Farah Khan’s directorial debut, the action comedy masala film Main Hoon Na opposite Sushmita Sen, a fictionalised account of India–Pakistan relations. The film is the story of Indian army Major who becomes embroiled in the events to ensure that “Project Milap,” the releasing of civilian captives on either side of the border of India and Pakistan, can take place as a sign of trust and peace between the two nations. Perhaps because of his familial links with Pakistan, the film consciously moves away from the stereotypical portrayal of Pakistan as a villainous country and shows the Indo-Pakistani conflict from a neutral point of view. In Yash Chopra’s romance, Veer-Zaara, Shah Rukh plays an Indian Air Force pilot who falls in love with a Pakistani woman, played by Preity Zinta. The film, screened at the 55th Berlin Film Festival to critical praise, was the highest earning film of 2004 in India, while Main Hoon Na was the second-highest earner. So Shah Rukh was ruling the box office with both the highest and second highest grosser. Is it any surprise then that he became the reigning King of Bollywood?

AbRam was born via surrogacy

Shah Rukh’s third collaboration with Karan Johar was the romantic drama Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006), the story of two unhappily married people in New York City who begin an extramarital affair. The film, featuring an ensemble cast of Amitabh Bachchan, Preity Zinta, Abhishek Bachchan, Rani Mukherji and Kirron Kher, was India’s highest-grossing film in the overseas market. His role in this as well as in Don, a remake, earned him Best Actor nominations at the Filmfare Awards, though critics negatively compared his portrayal to that of Amitabh Bachchan in the original film.

Shah Rukh Khan bought his mumbai mansion, Mannat, for just INR 15 crores (US$2.5 million) in 1995. a tourist landmark, it’s now reportedly worth a whopping INR 2000 crores (US $333 million). He was also gifted one of the most expensive homes in Dubai, a villa on Palm Jumeirah, worth US$65 million. In addition, He also owns a palatial bungalow in Delhi and a GB£20 million flat near the Dorchester on Park lane, mayfair, London. The second richest movie star in the world, SRK is worth…wait for it…$600 million

In 2007, Shah Rukh revisited his hockey skills for his portrayal of a disgraced hockey player who coaches the Indian women’s national hockey team to World Cup success in Yash Raj Films’ semi-fictional Chak De! India. Critic Bhaichand Patel stated that Shah Rukh essentially portrayed himself as a “cosmopolitan, liberal, Indian Muslim.” For this, he won another Filmfare Award for Best Actor. Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN critiqued that his performance was “without any of his typical trappings, without any of his trademark quirks,” portraying the character “like a real flesh-and-blood human being.” Filmfare magazine included his performance in their 2010 issue of the Top 80 Iconic Performances.
Shah Rukh starred alongside Arjun Rampal and Deepika Padukone, in her debut role, in Farah Khan’s reincarnation melodrama Om Shanti Om, in which he plays ‘70s junior artiste who is reborn as a 2000s era superstar. The film became the highest grossing Indian motion picture of 2007. Khalid Mohammed, film critic for Hindustan Times wrote, “the enterprise belongs to Shah Rukh Khan, who tackles comedy, high drama and action with his signature style—spontaneous and intuitively intelligent.”

Receiving his honorary degree from University of Edinburgh, Scotland

In 2008, Shah Rukh bought ownership rights for the Kolkata Knight Riders team in the Twenty20 cricket tournament Indian Premier League (IPL) in partnership with Juhi Chawla and her husband Jay Mehta for USD 75 million. The team’s performance improved over time, and they finally became the champions in 2012 and 2014. To enhance the team’s brand, Shah Rukh himself performed at the opening ceremony of the 2011 season, dancing to Tamil songs. In 2013, he entertained the crowd alongside Katrina Kaif, Deepika Padukone and Pitbull at the cricket staduim.

Gauri also remained in the spotlight by appearing in a TV commercial for the home furnishings brand D’decor along with Shah Rukh in 2013. The next year, the couple walked the ramp together for Karan Johar’s debut fashion sown at the HDIL India Couture Week 2009.

Celebrating Kolkata Knight’s IPL win with Shoaib Akhtar

My Name Is Khan (2010), Shah Rukh’s fourth successful collaboration with Karan Johar and his sixth with Kajol, is a true story about the prejudice against Islam in the U.S. after the 11 September attacks. His character is a Muslim suffering from mild Asperger syndrome that sets out on a journey across America to meet the country’s president. Shah Rukh spent several months researching his role by reading books, watching videos and talking to people affected by the condition. My Name is Khan became one of the highest grossing Bollywood films of all time outside India and earned Khan his eighth Filmfare Award for Best Actor, equaling Dilip Kumar’s record of most wins in the category. Jay Wiesenberger wrote in Variety how Khan portrayed the Asperger’s sufferer with “averted eyes, springy steps, [and] stuttered repetitions of memorized texts”, believing it to have been a “standout performance sure to receive the Autism Society’s gold seal of approval.”

Furthermore, over the years, Shah Rukh has systematically played roles that “present NRI identity in global Bollywood,” earning him a billion fans the world over. ”

Shah Rukh and Gauri’s lavish neo classical Bandra bungalow, Mannat has been done up by Gauri in a myriad of styles. While the formal entertaining area of drawing and dining rooms are Louis XIV inspired with much use of gilt and heavy, ornate curtains, the lounge has exposed brickwork displaying Art. You can tell that for better or for worse no expense has been spared and the house is meant to impress the viewer. In the home, notably the Quran can be seen lying next to the statues of the Hindu deities.

Emboldened by her questionable success in doing up her own splendid home, in 2010 Gauri partnered with Hrithik Roshan’s ex-wife Susanne Khan to design exclusive interior projects. Their first project was a 60,000 square foot mansion Vadodara. In 2012, they launched a line of furniture at Susanne’s home store in Mumbai – The Charcoal Project. In an interview with Vogue India, she said that she chose interior design because of her interest in art, “I started off as an artist in school with various sketches. I continued that as a hobby for many years, and I think that is where my designs come from.”

Shah Rukh’s third child AbRam was born in 2013 via surrogacy, since Gauri was well over 40 by this time. The birth mother is not known and, to quell public curiosity, Shah Rukh is most protective of this child who was born premature and spent a lot of time in the hospital after birth. All three kids have been brought up practicing both their parent’s religions.

After this, SRK starred in the hits Chennai Express (2013) Happy New Year (2014), his own production Dilwale (2015) yet again opposite Kajol, and Fan (2016) in which his grand mansion Mannat appears. Raees (2017) is this year’s upcoming release opposite the charming Mahira Khan. He has appeared in more than 80 Bollywood films to date, and won 14 Filmfare Awards. In terms of audience size and income, he has been described as one of the most successful film stars in the world. For his contributions to film, the Government of India honored him with the Padma Shri, and the Government of France awarded him both the Ordre des Arts et des Letters and the Légion d’honneur. He also has countless endorsement deals, earning him the nickname, Brand SRK. His philanthropic efforts include health care and disaster relief, and he was honoured with UNESCO’s Pyramide con Marni award in 2011 for his support of children’s education. In 2015, he received an honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Shah Rukh is one of the wealthiest celebrities in India, topping the Forbes India’s Celebrity 100 List in 2012, 2013 and 2015, his wealth being estimated at US$600 million. He owns several properties in India and abroad, including a GB£20 million apartment in central London, and a villa on the Palm, Jumeirah in Dubai. He was named by Newsweek as one of their fifty most powerful people globally in 2008. His wax statue is at six of the Madame Tussaud’s museums around the world.

Speaking of his success, Shah Rukh said in an interview, “Such great things have happened to such a normal guy like me. I am a nobody who shouldn’t have been able to do all this but I have done it. I tell everyone that there’s this myth I work for; there is this myth called Shahrukh Khan and I am his employee. I have to live up to that … I’ll do it, I am an actor. But I can’t start believing in this myth.”

“We have known each other for so long, we have surpassed a stage,” he said regarding his relationship with Gauri on Koffee with Karan. “One of the stages that we have passed is that we don’t need to sit under a moonlit night. I think just passing each other across from the bedroom to the living room is romantic. Love is in the air. We have wonderful children who are a proof that we have a wild, loud, screaming romance going on in the house all day long.”

They sure seem like a rock solid couple at least outwardly despite their starry life with its myriad of hazards and pitfalls.

By Mahlia Lone

Young, rich, famous, good looking, and in love…life is good 

Bradford bad boy/boy bander, Zayn Malik has countless nubile young female fans the world over, but his number one fan would have to be his girlfriend, supermodel and Victoria Secret Angel, Gigi Hadid. In December, he even proposed to her, and while she has asked him for time before she even begins contemplating settling down, let’s look back at their fast paced year long romance.

Zain Javad Malik was born on 12th January 1993 in Bradford, Yorkshire, to working class Pakistani-British Yaser Malik and his English/Irish wife Tricia, who converted to Islam upon their marriage. The couple also has three daughters: Doniya, Waliyha and Safaa. All four have declared themselves Muslim, speak Urdu and can read Arabic.

Despite the band’s massive popularity, Zayn became the target of anti-Muslim slurs, forcing him to delete his Twitter account in 2012. During the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, he posted “#FreePalestine” on Twitter, for which he received condemnation and death threats. Now he wisely keeps his political views private

Zain grew up listening to his father’s urban music collection of R&B, hip hop and reggae, as well as Bollywood songs. As a teenager, he took performing arts courses and appeared in school productions. He also boxed at varsity level and enjoyed writing, which is why he wanted to pursue an English degree at university.

In 2010, he changed the spelling of his name to the more contemporary sounding Zayn and auditioned as a solo artist for the British television music competition The X Factor. Though he was eliminated as a solo singer, he came back as part of the boy band One Direction with Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson. Zayn’s wide tenor vocal range with his belting and falsetto singing techniques ensured that he hit the high notes and, thus, became the band’s strongest singer. The pretty boy group quickly became popular all over the UK and finished in third place. Seeing this, the show’s executive producer Simon Cowell contracted them to a £2 million deal at his label Syco Records. While in North America, the band signed on with Columbia Records.

One Direction gained immense popularity amongst female tweens. Their book, One Direction: Forever Young (Our Official X Factor Story), licensed by the band, released in February 2011, topped The Sunday Times’ Best Seller list. Simultaneously, the boy band went on The X Factor Live Tour in the UK performing for 500,000 people in total. At the end of the year, they dropped their debut studio album Up All Night, which topped the charts in 16 countries. The lead single What Makes You Beautiful reached number one in the UK and number four in the US; it went platinum four and six times in the US and Australia, respectively. After a year, they released their second studio album Take Me Home, which sold 540,000 copies in its first week in the US and went on to the number one position in 35 countries. The album’s lead single Live While We’re Young became One Direction’s highest ranking song in many countries and recorded the highest one-week opening sales figure for a song by a non-US artist at the time. When One Direction’s third studio album, 2013’s Midnight Memories’ debuted on Billboard 200 they became the first band ever to have their first three albums all debut atop the Billboard 200. With their fourth album, aptly entitled Four, they had a record of four consecutive number one albums. By March 2015, the band had sold more than 50 million records globally.

Despite this tremendous global success, after five years of being a part of the band that made him famous, Zayn quit on 25th March 2015, citing stress. He was feeling burnt out and perpetually exposed. He said he wanted to live as a “normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight.” He denied rumors of any trouble with the other members, explaining that they were understanding and supportive of his decision.

In December ’16, Zayn reportedly popped the question, but Gigi replied that she is not ready to settle down and asked for more time. She’s also hesitant and wants to proceed with caution after her mother’s two messy divorces

“He was one of the more accomplished vocalists of the group, exhibiting the widest range. He mostly inhabited a silvery, full-bodied tenor, similar to but more sharp and precise than Harry Styles’ smoky warble,” wrote Brad Nelson in The Guardian, adding that his departure would leave “a void of vocal agility.”

Zayn had started dating Perrie Edwards in May 2012. She came from a similar background, was exactly the same age and was also discovered in the same way. She is a member of the all girl band Little Mix that was also discovered on The X Factor. In fact, Little Mix is the only band to ever have won on the show. The couple got engaged after a couple of years together. Scandal broke out in mid 2015 when an English fan claimed in the tabloids to have hooked up with Zayn when his band was on tour in Thailand. She met him and his band mates when they were partying at a nightclub in Patong, Bangkok. Though Perrie stuck by him through the scandal and he promptly returned to London to be at her side, clearly his heart was no longer in the relationship.

In his autobiography, entitled Zayn, he writes when he decided to leave One Direction: “It was March 2015. I had been in a bad place for a while and I didn’t see myself getting out of it unless I made a change. My relationship with my fiancée, Perrie, was breaking down. To make matters worse, there were so many crazy stories flying around in the newspapers about us, and it felt like such an invasion of privacy, it made me just want to disappear for a while.”

Despite taking time off his music to work on the relationship, Zayn couldn’t make it work. Perrie became insecure and controlling and finally Zayn sent her a break up text in August 2015. In Little Mix’s  new book Our World, Perrie reveals, “It was horrible, the worst time in my life. A four-year relationship, two year engagement ended by a simple text message. Just like that.”

His good looks, naughty, juvenile peccadilloes, cheating scandal, body covered tattoo graffiti, including Perrie’s image that he subsequently got altered, trendy hairstyles and last but not least his singing and songwriting talent had garnered Zayn a substantial fan following. Billboard editor Joe Lynch described him as “the quiet one in the group, never the one to grab the spotlight during interviews. He typically saved his words for the songs, not for media sound bytes.” And after much speculation regarding  his career as a solo artist, Zayn signed a solo recording contract with RCA Records in 2015. That year he also met Gigi Hadid.

Jelena Noura Hadid, known popularly as Gigi, was born on April 23rd 1995 to a wealthy Beverly Hills real estate developer Mohamed Hadid and his model wife Yolanda. After her, came her younger siblings who are also models now, Bella and Anwar.

Mohamed Hadid is a Jordanian-American who was born in Nazareth and is of Palestinian parentage. On his mother’s side, he can trace back his ancestry to Dasher Al Omer, Prince of Nazareth and Sheikh of Galilee, the mid-18th century Arab ruler of northern Palestine who withstood the might of the Ottoman Empire.

Hadid immigrated to the U.S. to make his fortune and started out by restoring and reselling classic cars in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. He then moved to a Greek island where he opened a nightclub. The club flourished and with the profits, he started developing real estate in the U.S. In the ‘80s, he bought the Ritz-Carlton hotels in NYC and D.C. for US$150 million; he also famously outmaneuvered Donald Trump to buy the Ritz property in Aspen, Colorado; then he focused on Beverly Hills residential property, developing a luxurious mansion Le Belvedere that sold for $50 million in 2010; in 2012, he developed Le Palais, a 48,000-square-foot limestone fronted mansion built on an acre plot next to the Beverly Hills Hotel, currently listed for sale at $58 million.

A competitive man with a type A personality, at the age of 43 on the encouragement of his friend Austrian Olympic skier Franz Weber, Hadid competed in speed skiing at the 1992 Winter Olympics, representing Jordan. Not only was he the only member of the Jordanian delegation, but he also remains the only person to have represented the country in the Winter Olympics to date.

Though Hadid does not consider himself a devout Muslim, he has abstained from drinking alcohol. However, this did not stop him from investing in a 5,000-bottle wine cellar, including some from his own Beverly Hills winery that he runs as a business venture.

Born Yolanda van den Herik, Gigi’s Dutch mother herself worked as a Ford model for fifteen years.  In 1994, she quit modeling when she married the divorced millionaire businessman Mohamed, sixteen years her senior who had two daughters, Alana and Marielle, from his previous marriage to an American. After having her children, Yolanda gained fame on the reality show Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, on which her good looking progeny regularly appeared, propelling their own modeling careers. Yolanda divorced Hadid in 2010 and married musician, composer and producer David Foster, who himself already had five daughters, but the marriage only lasted five years due to her ongoing battle with Lyme disease. After her second divorce, she changed her last name back to Hadid to match the name of her famous children.

Now Gigi was a really pretty child and growing up in a Beverly Hills mansion with well connected parents who were proud of her looks, she had been modeling since age two for Paul Marciano’s  brand Baby GUESS. She stopped to concentrate on school plus get through the awkward stage and, in 2011, went back to work for GUESS as a teen model.  In 2013, she graduated from Malibu High School  where she had been captain of the varsity volleyball team as well as a competitive horseback rider. She moved to NYC to model and attend The New School, where she started studying criminal psychology. But her modeling career took off and she quit college and signed with IMG Models working full time. She made her New York Fashion Week debut in February 2014. By the end of the next year, Gigi had made it, shooting to the Top 50 Models ranking at Models.com. She has graced magazine covers such as those of Vogue (U.S., Paris, Italy, Britain, Japan, Spain, Australia, Brazil, the, Germany, Italy, China), Allure, W Magazine and Teen Vogue as well as WSJ Magazine, Elle Canada, Dazed and Harper’s Bazaar (USA, Malaysia) among many others. By May ‘15, Gigi had walked for such premiere designers as: Marc Jacobs, Chanel, Michael Kors, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Max Mara. In December, Gigi’s dream of becoming a Victoria Secret model came true when she walked in her first Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show along with her bff Kendall Jenner, of the Kardashian-Jenner clan. For the lingerie show, she trains and body sculpts by boxing.

For two years, from 2013 to 2015, Gigi dated musician Cody Simpson and also appeared in the music video of his song Surfboard. Following their split, she dated Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers for five months. Clearly, she liked pop stars. Gigi, along with fellow models Kendall and Hailey Baldwin, daughter of actor Stephen Baldwin of Hollywood’s Baldwin brothers, became American celebrity It girls. Gigi also became a part of American pop star Taylor Swift’s girl squad. She appeared in Swift’s Bad Blood video and also in Taylor’s then boyfriend Calvin Harris’ video How Deep Is Your Love.

By November, Gigi was dating Zayn. They announced their fledgling relationship via her Instagram account when she posted a photo of them holding hands together. In an interview with Sirius XM’s The Morning Mash Up, Zayn talked about the beginning of his relationship with Gigi: “Yeah, I just asked her out. It was pretty straight up. I just asked her if she wanted to go out. I was in New York…We met and we spoke, and we went on a date.”

“We were both talking about the fact that we’d never actually been on a first date until each other,” Gigi told a reporter of the TV show Entertainment Tonight. “I met him once before and he is obviously so gorgeous, but really the way we could have conversations and kind of just…we’re really interested in the same things, so it was really easy. So that was amazing.”

On the 12th of January ’16, Gigi celebrated her boyfriend’s 23rd birthday by gifting him a customized Z pendant. At the end of the month, fans got to see their chemistry for themselves with their hot makeout scene in his Pillowtalk video. When asked during a radio interview if it was easier to makeout with his girlfriend, he replied in the affirmative, confirming their relationship and, hence, a new power couple was formed.

Zayn’s debut studio album Mind of Mine released in March 2016. The album and its lead single, Pillowtalk reached number one in several countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden, with Zayn becoming the first British male artist to debut at number one in both the UK and US with his debut single and debut album. He debuted atop the US Billboard 200 earning 157,000 equivalent album units in its first week, with 112,000 coming from pure album sales. Zayn also topped the Billboard Artist 100 chart, replacing Justin Bieber at his peak and surpassing One Direction’s number-two peak on the chart. He had proved his naysayers wrong, those who had doubted his ability to succeed on his own, just like Justin Timberlake did after leaving NSYNC. Philanthropically minded, he is also an official ambassador of the British Asian Trust charity group, contributing to improving the lives of disadvantaged people living in South Asia.

In April, the genetically blessed couple featured in a romantic spread for Vogue, ala Kim and Kanye West. They also made a sensational red carpet debut at the Met Gala looking very much loved up.

But then in June came news that left fans reeling. Horror of horrors, they had broken up after an explosive fight on her birthday. Apparently, they had been fighting quite a bit recently, and so decided to take a time out. Stress had taken its toll on Zayn’s fragile nerves. Anxiety had crippled him and he had to pull out of concert appearances. He even cancelled his performance at London’s Capital Summertime Ball, saying he was “suffering the worst anxiety of my career.”

E! channel reported a source saying, “They got through a rough patch that Zayn was facing personally and it started to put a dark cloud on their relationship. Gigi was there for him when he needed her the most and that brought them closer than ever.” Gigi and Zayn stayed in touch through this period and she played the role of a supportive friend. He began relying on her more and more and she was determined to be his rock.

Gigi tweeted her support for him, “Z – I’ve seen the battles you go through and the way you fight to get to a place that allows you to get up there for your fans. Your bravery in those times makes me proud, but your honesty last night proved what you’re all about, being real … Your talent and good heart will never lead you wrong. Love you and so proud of you always.”

After they got back together, they took a romantic trip to Tahiti, which the paparazzi managed to photograph as the couple snoozed on the beach and kayaked together like regular beach goers.

When in September, she was pounced on by a prankster in Milan and picked up from behind, she elbowed him ferociously and said he should be thankful her boyfriend wasn’t there or he would have really been in trouble!

The show must go on and indeed her shows did.  Gigi walked for: Versace, Chanel, Elie Saab, Fendi, Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui, Miu Miu, Balmain, Diane Von Furstenberg, Tommy Hilfiger, Fenty x Puma, Isabel Marant, and Giambattista Valli during 2016 despite the drama in her personal life. She signed lucrative endorsement deals, becoming the global brand ambassador for Tommy Hilfiger, fronting many of the brand’s campaigns plus launching her own clothing line Gigi by Tommy Hilfiger; similarly, she put out a boot collection for Stuart Weitzman, the Gigi Boot and she became Reebok’s brand ambassador. (Incidentally, Zayn has also just come out with a boot collection this year for Giuseppe Zanotti.)

Two of Gigi’s most high profile gigs of the year were the 2016 iHeartRadio Much Music Video Awards and the American Music Awards both of which she hosted, injecting her youth, beauty and sex appeal into the proceedings. For the first she received favourable reviews but her comedy skits in the second were panned by viewers. She followed this up with getting her VS wings at this year’s show where she was joined by younger sister, Bella. To cap it all off at the end of the year, Gigi won the award for International Model of the Year at the British Fashion Awards, presented to her by Donatella Versace, beating out all the other top supermodels, like Cara Delevingne and Kendall.

On the down side, Gigi was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease involving the thyroid. In time, sufferers develop goiters, gain weight and may even develop thyroid lymphoma. Though incurable at the moment and degenerative, the disease can be managed with medication.

Gigi’s growing stature as a model can be gauged by the fact that out of all the models she has the highest number of Instagram followers—26 million by the end of 2016, over only 10 million the year before. Zayn’s social media followers across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Pandora are an eye-watering 47 million. Moreover, he was voted the “World’s Sexiest Asian Man” in Eastern Eye’s worldwide poll yet again.  Together they make quite a formidable power couple at such a young age. However, they are quite a low key couple in private, preferring to stay in and cook than party the town red. “He makes a brilliant curry. Butter chicken is his signature dish,” Gigi said in an interview to ES magazine.

Asked in an interview what makes their relationship tick, Zayn said: “She’s super intelligent. I think that’s why it works so well. She knows how to carry herself. She’s quite classy and that. She’s not, like, arrogant in any way, she’s confident. She carries it well. She’s cool. And we do the same type of job, so we get that with each other.”

Gigi added, “I would say his brain. For the first time, we are both in a relationship where we have similar interests outside of work, and that is really important. We cook a lot together and do art together, and we’re each other’s best friends. We both feel we can talk about anything and learn a lot from each other.”

In December ’16, Zayn reportedly popped the question, but Gigi replied that she is not ready to settle down and asked for more time. She’s also hesitant and wants to proceed with caution after her mother’s two messy divorces.

Meanwhile, the Mirror reported a source saying, “Zayn and Gigi have moved in together in LA and he’s busy furnishing and buying paintings to change it up and make it more of a couple’s pad. They cherish every moment together and make sure they’re never apart for longer than 10 days so it made sense for her to move in officially. The couple also share Gigi’s New York apartment when they are on the East coast and couldn’t be happier… Zayn prefers a quiet night with Gigi than showbiz parties so it’s important she feels comfortable.”

Here’s wishing the couple good luck. We don’t know if they will be together for the rest of their lives, but for however long it lasts, at least they bring out the best in each other and make each other feel secure.

“Zayn sees how much Gigi is there for him,” said a source close to the couple. “They’re mutually passionately in love.” It doesn’t get much better than that.

By Mahlia Lone

Known in political circles as Hillary Clinton’s “body woman,” “shadow” and “mini me,” Huma Mahmood Abedin was born in 1976 to Indian/Pakistani parents in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Her parents, both born pre-Partition in British India, highly religious, scholarly college professors, founded the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs in 1978; an Abedin family run organization devoted to the study of Muslim communities in non-Muslim societies around the world. For this, the family received regular funding from Muslims the world over, especially Saudi Arabia. In fact, her father Syed Zainul Abedin (1928-1993) relocated the family to Jeddah upon receiving a lucrative teaching post there when Huma was only two. She was enrolled at a British all girls’ school in Jeddah and learnt Arabic. Her younger siblings, sister Heba and a brother were born much after her. Their mother Saleha Mahmood Abedin is currently, an associate professor of sociology and dean at Dar Al-Hekma College, Jeddah.

Huma returned to the U.S. for her higher studies and got a BA from George Washington University in Washington D.C. with a major in journalism and a minor in political science. She wanted to be a serious political journalist like her first idol Christiane Amanpour and wanted to work in the White House press office. In 1996, while still at university, she began working in the East Wing of the White House as an intern to the First Lady Hillary Clinton. Another famous intern, Monica Lewinsky started working in the West Wing, the President’s section, at the same time. Highly intelligent and efficient, Huma got a full time job at the White House following graduation and served as the back-up to Hillary’s personal aide. When Hillary ran for the Senate in 2000, her older White House aides moved on. But Huma went with her and officially took over as Clinton’s primary aide and personal advisor during her successful 2000 U.S. Senate campaign in New York.

“Huma is a very, very religious person — she doesn’t smoke, drink or swear, always very polite,” a Clinton insider told Newsweek

In 2001, Anthony Weiner the Jewish Democrat, then in his second term as a Congressman from Queens, New York, and 12 years her senior first saw Huma. “I was like, ‘Wow, who is that?’ ” he told The New York Times Magazine’s Jonathan Van Meter. Weiner represented New York’s 9th congressional district from January 1999 until June 2011, winning seven consecutive terms and never receiving less than 59% of the vote; he was a popular politician who got the job done. On paper, it was a match made in heaven. At a Democratic Party retreat at Martha’s Vineyard in August, Weiner asked Huma out for a drink. She replied that she had to work, but Hillary promptly gave her the evening off. Huma waved her arms at her boss and shook her head no. But Hillary encouraged them, “Of course all you young people should go out.”

On the date, Huma, a teetotaler, ordered tea and then retreated to the bathroom for a long time. “She ditched me,” Weiner said crestfallen.

The two kept running into each other in D.C. but Huma wasn’t interested. She thought he was “a brash, outspoken, ambitious, camera-hogging New Yorker.” Very slowly opposites began to attract. Weiner finally won Huma over in January 2007, when he sat between Hillary and her rival for the Democratic nomination, then-Senator Barack Obama, at President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address. “I appreciate you looking out for my boss,” Huma texted him. They went out for coffee and romance blossomed.

During Hillary’s unsuccessful 2007 bid for the Democratic nomination, Rebecca Johnson wrote in a Vogue article that Huma is “Hillary’s secret weapon” and that her motivation is not the details of policy or political horse-racing, but “the way that politicians are uniquely invested with the power to help individuals—as with, say, the woman whose legs were badly broken by a piece of plane fuselage on 9/11”, whom Huma visited with Hillary in the hospital. Huma said, “To me, that’s one of the blessings of this job. In some tiny, tiny way I am part of history, but I am also able to help people.”

“I’m not sure Hillary could walk out the door without Huma,” Clinton adviser Mandy Grunwald told Johnson. “She’s a little like Radar on M*A*S*H (TV show). If the air-conditioning is too cold, Huma is there with the shawl. She’s always thinking three steps ahead of Hillary.” That year Huma went with the grand doyenne of fashion and publishing, Vogue’s Anna Wintour to Paris for a $1,000-a-person fund-raiser at the home of James Cook, an American businessman. It’s pertinent to note that Huma cuts a stylish figure herself, rarely repeating an outfit and always perfectly accessorized. Her go-to red carpet look is designer wear that is polished with splashes of colour and flashes of metallics. Plus she is high powered and rubs shoulders with all the American bigwigs.

In July 2008, a New York Times article stated that Weiner is one of the most intense and demanding of bosses, often working long hours with his staff, requiring them to be in constant contact via their cell phones, frequently yelling at them, and even throwing office furniture when irate. As a result, he had one of the highest staff turnover rates of any member of Congress, including, at one point, three chiefs of staff in 18 months. He admitted to pushing his aides hard but said that this was just his style of working.  Some of his employees praised him for “his intense involvement in constituent concerns and readiness to fight for New York City.”

“The couple framed it as a sex scandal without actual sex, a narrative that made sense, stated a NY Times story”

Meanwhile, Huma started serving as the deputy chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from 2009 to 2013. In 2010, Huma made TIME magazine’s 40 under 40 list of a “new generation of civic leaders and rising stars of American politics.” Hillary sought Huma’s advice on Middle East affairs. Senator John McCain commented at this time, “She is a person of enormous intellect with in-depth knowledge on a number of issues—especially issues pertaining to the Middle East.” So Huma was a rising star in the D.C. political firmament.

In 2010, Huma and Weiner tied the knot in a ceremony officiated by Bill Clinton. She wore an embellished Indian-inspired Oscar De la Renta gown with polki jewellery that spoke of her ancestry. The designer favoured by First Ladies Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush told Vogue that designing the embroidered, cap-sleeved gown for Huma “was like dressing Scheherazade, the beautiful queen from One Thousand and One Nights.” The lavish wedding cost a cool $250,000.

In her wedding toast, Hillary said fondly of the bride: “I have one daughter. But if I had a second daughter, it would be Huma.” Saleha, Huma’s real mother said Hillary may as well be Huma’s mother as she got to see her daughter far more than she (her mother) did.

In May 2011, Abedin accompanied Hillary and Obama on an official trip to London that included a state dinner at Buckingham Palace. Huma wrote to her husband from her “spectacular” room at the palace, “I cannot believe what an amazingly blessed life that we live, these incredible experiences we’ve both had.”

Just days later the perfect life came crashing down. Weiner hastily called and left a message for his wife, who was in Washington, the ominous words, “My Twitter was hacked.” In fact, Weiner had mistakenly tweeted a photograph of his crotch meant for a 21-year-old Seattle college student to his 45,000 followers. It was a full blown sordid sex scandal. Huma who was pregnant at the time accompanied by Weiner hid from the reporters at a friend’s house in the Hamptons. Only when they were packing up the car to return to New York City, Weiner had the guts to confess, “It’s true. It’s me. The picture is me. I sent it.”

“It was every emotion that one would imagine: rage and anger and shock,” Huma recalled to the Times later. Calling a news conference, Weiner came clean. He admitted he had sent explicit messages to six women during the previous three years, but had never actually met any of them. One State Department official said that many blamed Huma for driving Weiner to sexting because she “was never around. She gave so much to Hillary Clinton, what did she have left for him? It was politically incorrect, but we did wonder.”

Huma sought refuge with Hillary who had herself lived through Bill’s extramarital escapades while in office that had resulted in a scandal on a much bigger scale. The next day after the press conference, Huma returned to work at the State Department. “My compass was my job. It was where I could go and life was normal,” she said.

“Huma didn’t really want me to resign, frankly. Her frame was: ‘We’ve got to get back to normal somehow,’ ” Weiner told Van Meter. But he didn’t really have a choice. He resigned his office and gave up his $174,000 salary. Huma was making $155,000 from her State Department salary. The Clintons stepped in to help Huma financially. Not only did Weiner have to sell his Forest Hills condominium for $430,000, but Huma also sold her Washington condominium, for $620,000, at a slight loss. They moved into one of longtime Clinton supporter and New York developer, Jack Rosen’s buildings at 254 Park Avenue South. They were hardly slumming it in the sunlit, 12th-floor, 2,120-square-foot, four-bedroom $3 million apartment, the monthly rent of which was at least $12,000. In Dec 2011, Huma gave birth to a baby boy, Jordan Zain Weiner. Life was better than normal.

Weiner started a consulting firm, Woolf Weiner Associates, to pay the bills. To help her favourite, Hillary signed off on Huma’s request to become a special government employee (S.G.E.) at the State Department, so she could work from her New York City home while taking care of her newborn. Huma acted as a consultant with expertise that no other person could supply on a “myriad of policy, administrative and logistical issues,” according to her application for S.G.E. status. She became an S.G.E. by mid 2012 and was paid $62.06 per hour. She was also acting as a consultant to Teneo Holdings, a global strategic-consulting and investment-banking firm co-founded by her friend and colleague Douglas Band, Bill Clinton’s right hand man. For the seven months she worked at Teneo, she was paid $105,000. Additionally, Huma was hired as a consultant to the William J. Clinton Foundation to help plan for Hillary’s “post-State philanthropic activities.” Getting four different paychecks at once, the potential for conflicts cropped up immediately, according to William D. Cohan who tallied up her salaries in a Vanity Fair article. Together the couple reported a combined income of $496,000 for 2012. Politics sure is a lucrative career!

That summer, Huma, Weiner, and six month old Jordan posed for People magazine in their gorgeous apartment. They were happy. Huma is quoted in the article, “Anthony has spent every day since (the scandal) trying to be the best dad and husband he can be. I’m proud to be married to him.”

Weiner was running for the 2013 NYC mayoral elections, but again he was caught sending graphic messages this time using the cheesy pseudonym Carlos Danger to a 22 year old woman named Sydney Leathers, an Indiana native who on social media had first expressed her disapproval of his extramarital behaviors. The story broke right after the sunny People story appeared. Weiner admitted that he had continued to send sexually explicit messages to at least three women in 2012. One recipient of his messages said that Weiner described himself to her as “an argumentative, perpetually horny middle-aged man.”

Despite demands for Weiner to drop out of the mayoral race, he doggedly and penitently held a press conference with his wife beside him in which he announced that he would continue his campaign. He apologised, “I said that other texts and photos were likely to come out and today they have…I want to again say that I am very sorry to anyone who was on the receiving end of these messages and the disruption this has caused.” Not surprisingly Weiner lost the mayoral primary, winning only 4.9% of the vote. But the repercussions went far beyond New York, dragging Hillary’s name into messy headlines about pornographic pictures and Weiner’s descriptions of his carnal appetites.

“The Clintons put him in exile,” one longtime Clinton insider said. They had no choice but to distance themselves not from Huma, but her errant husband who had become a political liability.

Weiner and Huma had allowed filmmakers full access to his “circus-like” mayoral campaign for a documentary called Weiner that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016. The film’s co-director Elyse Steinberg told The Daily Beast reporter: “Just as Anthony was reduced to a caricature and a punch line, so was Huma. Our hope is that you get to see a different side of her: as a wife, as a mother, as a person with a very important job and you also get to see the judgment that was placed against her. Huma is one of many women whose husbands did something wrong or embarrassing, and they were criticized for staying in the marriage. Our job was to question those judgments.”

“In the documentary, the filmmaker asks Weiner, ‘Did Huma want you to go back into politics?’ Without hesitation he responded. ‘She did. She was very eager to get her life back that I had taken from her,’ reported Tara McKelvey for BBC News. “The marriage survives. But Abedin’s role changes. She goes from being a devoted wife to someone who places her bets, at least politically, on Clinton – not her husband. The metamorphosis of Abedin from a committed wife to a cautious one, hedging her bets, takes place gradually during the film. It’s expressed in a subtle manner—more through gestures than words. In a political ad that’s shown early in the film, she smiles at her husband while he talks about his candidacy for mayor. Later at an event in a New York apartment, she stands up and says: “I’m usually in that room as far as possible from the microphone.’ Then she makes the case for why New Yorkers should vote for her husband.

Weiner is skinny and wiry–a coiled fury. He also has Faustian appetites. He’s slouched on a couch. She’s standing on the side of the room, with her arms crossed. ‘The level of guilt,’ he says and puts his hand on his heart. She practically rolls her eyes – and leaves the room. She loves him, but the scandal has pushed her almost to a breaking point. Later he says he wants her to go with him to the polls on Election Day to show her support for his candidacy. While he talks, she’s standing in a dark hallway with her arms crossed. One of Clinton’s advisors, Philippe Reines, who served as a spokesman when Clinton was Secretary of State, appears as a dark force in the film—unseen but powerful. Reines wants Abedin to stay away from her husband during a key moment in his mayoral campaign. Apparently, he thinks it could damage her reputation. She listens to Reines—not her husband. Weiner was committed to politics. But he became a punch line. In the end, his wife distanced herself from his campaign. She didn’t go with him to the polls on Election Day. The film shows that in political theatre, sometimes it’s smart to stay off stage.”

Neither of the couple watched the documentary.

In 2013, a stage production The Weiner Monologues premiered at the Access Theater. Directed by Jonathan Harper Schliemann, the play was based on media coverage of Weiner’s sexting scandal.

Meanwhile, Hillary had started her bid for the 2016 Presidential Election with Huma as the vice chairwoman of her campaign and considered by many as the most powerful person in the campaign organization. This was not surprising as Huma had remained  Hillary’s closest confidante. Annie Karni wrote on the Politico.com site that Abedin was “the only official channel to Clinton” and was hence “elevated to the most senior member of Clinton’s old guard. Huma is occupying a perch overseeing the campaign operation.”

“Just knock on the door to the bedroom if it’s closed,” Hillary would tell Huma.

“A lot of times, Hillary would snap her fingers and go, ‘Gum.’ And Huma would fetch it,” a Clinton insider told Newsweek. Huma was so dedicated that when she heard Hillary had been forced to carry her own bag up a staircase, she almost cried.

“Whatever the title, the job she performs for Hillary has always been essentially the same: confessor, confidante, and constant companion. It’s safe to say that over the years Abedin and Hillary have spent more time together than either has with her husband. A former adviser to Bill Clinton describes her as ‘a mini Hillary.’ Wherever Hillary goes, Abedin goes,” Cohan wrote.

“Abedin’s near constant presence by Clinton’s side for decades has made her a source of fascination and, in recent years, a paparazzi-stalked celebrity in her own right. Fans at rallies stop her for selfies; she has been photographed multiple times for Vogue, even by Annie Leibovitz; she hobnobs with movie stars at Paris Fashion Week; and she has the distinction of being the only Clinton campaign staffer who has been singled out by Donald Trump for attack (he used her marriage and recent separation from former Rep. Anthony Weiner to question Clinton’s judgment),” he added.

In her turn, after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States, Huma wrote an open letter to Clinton supporters calling her “a proud Muslim” and criticized Trump’s plan as “literally writing racism into our law books.”

Further public humiliation was in store for Huma when in August 2016 the New York Post printed excerpts from a Twitter conversation between Weiner and an unnamed woman. Weiner had again sent a picture of his crotch, this time with his four year old son sleeping on the bed beside him. He also told the woman he’d dreamed about her, and invited her to meet him in New York.

Before the story broke in the press, Hillary was asked by reporters what she thought about the latest whiff of scandal but she dismissed it as “rumours.” Several of Mrs. Clinton’s friends and allies suggested she distance herself from Huma. Hillary is very loyal, but she’s also pragmatic.

The two women’s closeness had caused envy in those who sought to curry favour because Huma speaks for Hillary, and people adept at getting access to Hillary knew it. “Everybody fights to be at the center and Huma controls a lot of that dynamic,” a former advisor to Hillary said. Mrs. Clinton steadfastly refused to give up Huma.

The New York Times reported the next day that Huma had finally separated from her womanizing husband. She announced, “After long and painful consideration and work on my marriage, I have made the decision to separate from my husband. Anthony and I remain devoted to doing what is best for our son, who is the light of our life. During this difficult time, I ask for respect for our privacy.”

*NO NEW YORK DAILY NEWS OR NEW YORK POST*

EXCLUSIVE: Huma Abedin and her Husband Anthony Weiner go for brunch on Father’s Day and take their son to a park for some family fun in New York. Abedin was dressed down in jeans and flat shoes with a floral print shirt and was enjoying her day off whilst Hillary Clinton was in Hospital celebrating the birth of her grandson. Weiner was having fun with his son in the park going on a slide and swings. Weiner went for some trendy green shades in the blistering New York sunshine.

When asked whether Ms. Abedin would step down from the campaign, Hillary’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta answered, “Huma is a terrific leader. She’s multifaceted, has a great strategic sense, and she’s a wonderful colleague. She’s an integral part of the team, and her competence is only exceeded by her humility. We of course stand by her.”

“There is a long list of usually chatty Clinton surrogates and supporters who went gone mute on the subject of Huma Abedin,” wrote Cohen. “The ones who didn’t get the memo, or chose to ignore it, stuck close to the prescribed script. Michael Feldman, the managing director of the Glover Park Group, a communications consulting firm, said that after 20 years Abedin has become part of the ‘institutional memory’ and now occupies ‘a really important and unique place in the organization.’

Bob Barnett, the lawyer who brokered the Clintons’ multi-million-dollar book deals, says Huma is ‘now one of the key glues that holds Clinton world together…. She knows everyone and everyone knows her. She knows their strengths. She knows their weaknesses. She knows the roles they’ve played, and that history is priceless to a person in public life.’”

Then horror of horrors, in September the Daily Mail published an article claiming that Weiner had engaged in a months long sexting relationship with a 15-year-old girl. The troubled teenager claimed he asked her to dress up in “school-girl” outfits for him on video messaging app Skype and persuaded her to engage in “rape fantasies.” They also sexted through the app Confide specifically designed for confidentiality, automatically deleting messages and images after the first time they have been read or viewed. However, the girl took screenshots of a few of the lurid messages and images, including him bare-chested in the bathroom, which he had sent her that she shared with the Dailymail.com.

Devices owned by Weiner were seized as part of the investigation into this incident. He gave a statement to DailyMail.com in which he said: “I have repeatedly demonstrated terrible judgement about the people I have communicated with online and the things I have sent. I am filled with regret and heartbroken for those I have hurt.”

The father of the teenager called him “a monster.” He told the Daily Mail that Weiner’s conduct was “absolutely criminal,” and that it has been “gut-wrenching” to watch the impact it has had on his daughter. “I hope I never come in contact with him, I’ll be in jail if I do.”

Still the Clintons never publicly criticized Mr. Weiner.

 

FBI director James Comey went public with the latest investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, after he announced that the FBI was investigating emails found on a laptop seized during the investigation into Weiner. Freedom of Information Act requests from a conservative organization have made many of Clinton’s staff’s emails sent during her State Department tenure public. Huma was involved in many of the sensitive emails that were scrutinised. In one email dating back to the time when Clinton was Secretary of State, then-Clinton Foundation executive Doug Band asked Huma to facilitate a meeting between Hillary and the Crown Prince of Bahrain.

Hillary to her credit did not fire Huma regardless of what her husband’s indiscretions had cost her.

But what is wrong with Weiner? And why has he ruined his life? Jaffe, a UCLA-trained addiction expert said, “If someone’s life is repeatedly negatively affected by this behavior and they are unable to stop it, they need help.”

A NY Times story on Weiner stated that the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health estimates that 6 to 8 percent of Americans are sex addicts. Awareness of sex addiction, an intimacy disorder, has gone mainstream thanks to celebrities like Tiger Woods, David Duchovny, Russell Brand, etc. “Those commonly afflicted are 30- to 50-year-old men, upwardly mobile, successful men, type-A, pillar-of-the-community, CEO-type personalities who usually have a problem connecting to other people and generally have some sort of trauma in their past.”

The Post recently photographed Weiner horseback-riding through the woods at a $25,000, 35-day, all-male sex rehabilitation program at the Recovery Ranch in Nunnelly, Tenn. In-patient rehab is considered a last resort for sex addicts. The patients greatly benefit from having the seclusion the all-male treatment center provides without all the triggers that women can create. Upon entering the facility, electronic devices are immediately confiscated and for the first two weeks patients can’t even receive phone calls.

As we all know, Hillary Clinton lost the general election. Her email server scandal may have been a contributing reason. Huma was seen in tears after her boss’ loss. She now works as Hillary’s personal assistant.

“I’d call Huma one-in-a-million,” Clinton staffer Philippe Reines told a NY Times reporter. “She is truly one of a kind, one in a billion. We are all in awe of her poise, grace, judgment, intellect and her seemingly endless energy.”

Talented mega stars, Omar Sharif and Barbra Streisand’s scandalous affair during the filming of critically acclaimed box office hit Funny Girl made headline news globally due to the Israeli-Egyptian Six Day War breaking out at the same time in June 1967. First Sharif nearly got fired by the film’s Jewish financiers, then when a poster of the two stars kissing came out the following year, the Egyptian government nearly revoked his citizenship since  Jewish Barbra was such a vocal proponent of Israel. However, their hot affair only lasted the duration of the filming and the two stars went on to love countless others

Omar Sharif, internationally recognized actor of such classic epics as Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, playboy, gambling addict and loner, was born Michel Demitri Chalhoub, a Catholic of the Greek Orthodox denomination and of Lebanese descent, in Alexandria, in 1932. His father, Joseph Chalhoub, was a prosperous precious woods merchant who moved to Cairo when his son was four. Chalhoub became even wealthier when he started salvaging barbed wire left behind by the British during the Second World War in the desert, and turning it into nails. His  wife Claire, a glamorous socialite, and notoriously flamboyant gambler, soon came to the attention of King Farouk, as the only woman who could match the King’s high stakes. Claire relished her connection with the King, and becoming part of the elite.

in Funny Girl

According to Sharif, his father’s business was very successful during that time through “dishonest and immoral ways.” In a 2012 interview to Rachel Halliburton for the Independent, Sharif recalls, “My mother used to play cards with King Farouk. He believed she brought good luck to him – she was his mascot. He often came round to our house. I was around 10 years old at the time – if I came home and realised he was there, I would just sneak into bed. My mother used to sit up all night.” He laughs. “By night she would play cards, by day she would give me the slipper. She hit me on my backside every day till I was 14. She was an extraordinary woman – she lived till 1998. I was very close to her, even though she beat me all the time!”

At age 10, the chubby Chalhoub boy was sent to the elite Victoria College boarding school, where he demonstrated a flair for languages. He spoke Arabic, English, Greek, French, Spanish and Italian fluently, which later benefitted his acting career. At school, while playing the title character in his first production, The Invisible Duke, though he was concealed in a box on stage for most of the play, the acting bug bit him and he got hooked onto the thrill of performing. Though Michel graduated from Cairo University with a degree in Mathematics and Physics, he dreamt of becoming an actor, but his father wouldn’t hear of it. The young man reluctantly joined the family business and subsequently staged a suicide bid, slashing his wrists to scare his father. Michel was also fast becoming a ladies’ man, selling his possessions to take girlfriends to dinner if his parents refused to give him extra money. Finally, after much cajoling and threatening, the rebellious young man left for London to study acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).

In an Arab language film at the start of his career In an Arab language film at the start of his career With his first wife, top Egyptian actress Faten Hamama and their son Tarek With his first wife, top Egyptian actress Faten Hamama and their son Tarek With good friend Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) that Sharif later said modestly was just shots of men riding camels With good friend Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) that Sharif later said modestly was just shots of men riding camels

After King Farouk’s deposition in 1952 during the Egyptian Revolution, wealth changed hands in Egypt under President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalisation policies and Chaloub’s business “took a beating,” according to Sharif. In 1954, Michel landed a part in an Arab language film The Blazing Sun opposite popular actress Faten Hamama. Faten had never been kissed on screen before, but she was so instantly smitten with the young actor that she made an exception for him.  The kiss became a national sensation, the two fell in love and quickly got married. Michel converted to Faten’s religion, Islam, taking on the name Omar Sharif, meaning nobleman, which also became his screen name to save his father the embarrassment of seeing his son go into showbiz. Over the next seven years the starry couple made more than a dozen movies together and had one son Tarek, born in 1957, who appeared age eight in Doctor Zhivago playing his father as a child.

In1962, Sharif, who at this time was unknown outside of Egypt, was cast by director David Lean in Lawrence Of Arabia as Sherif Ali Ben El Kharish, in what is now considered one of the “most demanding supporting roles in Hollywood history.” Historian Steven Charles Caton notes that Lean insisted on using ethnic actors to make the film authentic.

Starring opposite Julie Christie, whose proposition he turned down citing her fondness for fried egg sandwiches as the reason Starring opposite Julie Christie, whose proposition he turned down citing her fondness for fried egg sandwiches as the reason This epic film is set during WW I and the subsequent Russian Revolution. The war drama and its fallout is seen by the audience unfolding through the main protagonist's eyes This epic film is set during WW I and the subsequent Russian Revolution. The war drama and its fallout is seen by the audience unfolding through the main protagonist’s eyes

Omar Sharif and Julie Christie in Doctor Zhivago, 1965 (-3)

Additionally, Lean chose Sharif “for his liquid brown irises — a perfect contrast to the star Peter O’Toole’s glittering blue eyes. Sharif’s first appearance, shimmering out of the desert haze, won countless admirers,” writes Halliburton.  “Despite the rebelliousness and towering ego, Sharif seems extremely malleable when it comes to those he respects.” Lean made him grow the moustache for the role that he kept for most of his life. “At some points, to hear him talk you’d think life began for Sharif only once Lean took him out of Egypt.”

Peter O’Toole, who played the titular role of T.E. Lawrence considered Sharif’s name ridiculous and insisted on calling him “Fred.” The pair soon became best buddies and used to take off for Beirut in the short breaks they had once a month while filming in the Jordanian desert.

“We’d drink without stopping for 48 hours … we went hunting girls in every bar, every nightclub,” Sharif writes in The Eternal Male, his in your face chauvinistic and machismo Seventies autobiography. Their hard-partying lifestyle landed them in jail the night before the film’s Hollywood premiere, when they accompanied comedian Lenny Bruce as he shot up with a hypodermic syringe. “The producer Sam Spiegel got us out of jail,” Sharif told Halliburton. “He arrived with six lawyers. Of course we were completely terrified.”

The awkward looking girl who the other kids said had “a big beak” and who described herself as “a real ugly kid”
The awkward looking girl who the other kids said had “a big beak” and who described herself as “a real ugly kid”
“I hadda be great….I always knew I hadda be famous and rich—the best. Beautiful I'm not and never will be”
“I hadda be great….I always knew I hadda be famous and rich—the best. Beautiful I’m not and never will be”

"My desires were strengthened by wanting to prove to my mother that I could be a star" “My desires were strengthened by wanting to prove to my mother that I could be a star” With first husband actor Elliot Gould, with whom she split because his career couldn't keep pace with hers With first husband actor Elliot Gould, with whom she split because his career couldn’t keep pace with hers

 

In later life, Sharif claimed to be baffled by the film’s success, saying it was just shots of men riding camels. He is reported to have said modestly, “I think it is a great film, but I am not very good in it. I also never thought anyone would go to see the film – three hours and 40 minutes of desert, and no girls!” Lauded for his mesmerizing entrance, Sharif’s turn in the classic earned him an Academy Award nod for Best Supporting Actor, as well as Golden Globe wins for Best Supporting Actor and New Star of the Year.

So pleased was Lean with Sharif’s performance that he cast him in the title role of his epic love story Doctor Zhivago (1965). The classic film was adapted from Boris Pasternak’s 1957 novel that was banned in the USSR for 30 years and is set during World War I and the Russian Revolution. Sharif plays the role of Yuri Zhivago, a poet and physician. Film historian Constantine Santas writes that Lean portrayed the period in a poetic and lyrical manner with powerful cinematography capturing the landscape accompanied by a haunting musical score by French composer and conductor Maurice Jarre, with whom he was also collaborating again. Jarre notably won Academy Awards for the “grand, sweeping themes” for both films. Sharif’s role is largely “passive” and his eyes are “the mirror of reality we ourselves see.”

Scenes from Funny Girl Scenes from Funny Girl

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Decades later Halliburton was reminded of the visual Sharif presents in the film when she meets him as a cheeky octogenarian, “the cheekbones like ridges along cliffs, the taunting imperfection of the gap-toothed smile, those eyes whose glittering fury was captured so strikingly by Lean in the scene from Doctor Zhivago where he watches the Cossacks slaughter peaceful demonstrators.”

During filming, the actor reportedly went through a daily routine of hair-straightening and skin-waxing to disguise his Egyptian looks and later said that the film left him on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Sharif was awarded a Golden Globe for Best Actor for his intense and yet subtle portrayal.

When the film’s leading lady Julie Christie prpositioned him, Sharif turned her down, citing her fondness for fried egg sandwiches as the reason. But the slavish attention (from actresses and fans alike) destroyed his marriage. Convinced that he would not have the strength to remain faithful, he told Faten that he wanted a divorce—while she was still young enough to remarry. They separated in 1965. He always described her as ‘the love of my life’ and often declared that no other woman ever won his heart. Faten was not so romantic or self-destructive — she married again, to a doctor,” writes Halliburton.

Premiere of Funny Girl in 1968 Premiere of Funny Girl in 1968

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Moreover, travel restrictions imposed by President Nasser in the form of exit visas forced Sharif to start living in Europe year round for the sake of his career and the subsequent estrangement sealed the fate of the marriage. The couple eventually got amicably divorced in 1974 and remained on good terms till the end.

Sharif found himself at a crossroads in his life at this point, going from a family man to a committed bachelor living in European hotels for the rest of his life. “From the age of 31, I have lived in hotels,” he said. It was at this point that he was cast in Funny Girl opposite singing sensation Barbra Streisand in her first film role.

Barbra was born in the now hipster neighbourhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, in ‘42 to Emanuel Streisand a high school teacher who died when she was only 15 months old. Barbra had a painful, poverty stricken and traumatic childhood. Her mother Diana raised her and her older brother, Sheldon, by working as a school secretary. The were in such dire stratits financially that they had to move in with Barbra’s grandparents’ cramped three room apartment to make ends meet. The two children would crawl under a table to avoid being beaten by their irascible grandfather. It was a deprived childhood and Barbra played with a hot water bottle, pretending it was a doll. One summer when she was away at Jewish camp in ‘49, she returned to find out that her mother had married Louis Kind, a divorced used-car salesman. A half-sister, Rosalind, was born in ‘51.  Barbra was lonely and continuously taunted by her step father who called her “beast” and Rosalind “beauty” and the other children also rejected her because she was so plain looking, skinny, cross eyed with a big hooked nose and acne.

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With Don Johnson With Don Johnson

Barbra attended the Jewish Bais Yakov School, where she sang in the choir and then Erasmus Hall High School where she met her future collaborator, Neil Diamond. The awkward looking girl who the other kids said had “a big beak” and who described herself as “a real ugly kid” was never asked out for a date neither on New Year’s Eve nor to the prom, so to get attention and prove a point, she rebelliously dated a black boy. Additionally, “her voice got her attention when she sang on the stoop of the apartment building or in apartment hallways,” writes Caroline Howe for the Daily Mail.

“I hadda be great….I always knew I hadda be famous and rich – the best. Beautiful I’m not and never will be,” Neal Gabler quotes her in his biography Barbra Streisand: Redefining Beauty, Femininity and Power. “I know if I had a father, I would probably be happily married and have two or three children,” she said.

While still in high school, Barbra would take the bus to Manhattan to study acting where, at the age of 15, she met Anita and Alan Miller of the Cherry Lane Theater in Greenwich Village. Wiley Barbra negotiated a deal with the couple, babysitting in exchange for acting lessons. After graduation, at only 16, she moved to Manhattan in ’60, working in menial jobs and sleeping on cots randomly at friends’ apartments. When hungry, she would go home for a home cooked meal. Her mother horrified by her daughter’s “gypsy-like lifestyle,” begged her to give up trying to get into show business, saying she didn’t have the looks for it. But she burnt with a desire to prove her mother wrong.  “My desires were strengthened by wanting to prove to my mother that I could be a star,” biographer Karen Swenson quotes her.

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Tennis star Andre Agassi said, “So what if she’s twenty-eight years older? We’re simpatico, and the public outcry only adds spice to our connection…. Dating Barbra Streisand is like wearing Hot Lava”

Howe writes: “One theatre company owner said, ‘She’s very talented, but God, she’s so ugly. What are we going to do with her?’ She worked hard but was described as being voracious, wary, distrustful and self-interested.

“She didn’t have time for civility and never expressed gratitude even when someone cast her in a play,” said actor Barry Dennen. Dennen and his partner, both Jewish and gay, taught her how to dress, use makeup and eat with proper table manners. She learned how to cover up her insecurity on stage by studying the flamboyance of drag queens. More importantly, Dennen exposed Streisand to his vast record collection of chanteuses like Billie Holiday and Édith Piaf. He is responsible for developing her peculiar brand of mezzo soprano operatic voice combined with a pop singing style. Barbra realized that in order to achieve her dream of becoming an actress, she would first have to gain recognition being a singer, a formula Madonna adopted decades later.

Ladies’ man & legendary lothario Ladies’ man & legendary lothario

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Holding the Venice Film Festival Career Golden Lion Award Holding the Venice Film Festival Career Golden Lion Award

When Omar Sharif
started losing consistently, at times more than $1 million in a single night, he stopped playing bridge, thinking he had dementia, but it turned out to be a worse degenerative disease, Alzheimer’s

According to biographer Christopher Nickens, Barbra began creating different emotional characters when performing, going from singing with a dramatic voice to a lighthearted one. She worked on her stage presence and started conversing with the audience between songs, ala Frank Sinatra, and even injecting humor into her performance. Her cabaret act became quite popular, especially with audiences at gay clubs who understood what it was to be different and identified with her. Barbra started being compared to widely adored Judy Garland. As Barbra became more famous, she dropped Dennen and never even acknowledged his help. Dennen said later that she had a habit of “cutting out of her life people who were not directly relevant to her success.”

Her first manager, Ted Rozar also said bitterly, “If you were of no value to her, that little switch went off in her head and she treated you like s**t.”

She worked upstate theatres in the summer and returned to New York to sing about being “the girl the guys never looked at her twice, the invisible woman.” She became a Broadway star playing “an outsized Jewish mieskeit” (ugly person) in ’62, making it there with the help of “the Jewish entertainment mafia.” The Barbra Streisand Album released in ’63 and is now a classic. Overnight she became the top-selling female vocalist in the U.S. The album became a Top 10 Gold Record and received two Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. At the time, she was the youngest artist to receive the honor. It was the turning point in her career “when she went from being a New York phenomenon to a performer with a national reputation.”

“When I’m good, when I’m pleased with my performance, I feel powerful. I forget about being an ugly duckling,” Barbra said.

She started living with actor Elliott Gould. He was twenty-three to her nineteen. “She scared me but I really dug her. I think I was the first person who ever did,” Gould said. They wed in ’63 and had a son together, Jason. But Gould’s career couldn’t keep up with her meteoric rise and they divorced in 1971 after a two-year trial separation. Gould loved Barbra unreservedly, but he thought he seemed desperate. “One side of Barbra needed men. The other was disdainful of men and competitive toward them,” later adding that she didn’t know how to love.

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Additionally, she suffered from debilitating stage fright, which is why she avoided concerts and preferred Broadway performances, starring in Funny Girl for more than two years on Broadway and in ’66 at the Prince of Wales Theater, London. So successful were the runs that she made her big-screen debut in the film version of the play, starring as singer Fanny Brice, while Sharif plays her gambler husband Nicky Arnstein.

Sharif admitted later that he did not find Barbra at all attractive when he first met her, but her appeal soon overwhelmed him: “About a week from the moment I met her, I was madly in love with her. I thought she was the most gorgeous girl I’d ever seen in my life…I found her physically beautiful, and I started lusting after this woman.”

Streisand said the romance of the film went to her head, “It’s hard to stop loving someone when the director yells cut. Fact and fiction got mixed up, and I think we both lost our heads for a while.”

The affair lasted for only four months, the duration of the filming. “I realised that I couldn’t have been in love, because it didn’t hurt when the relationship finished,” Sharif recalled.

A blog post in Retroculturati describes the affair: “Of his wives and lovers it was his affair with Barbra Streisand that would cause by far the biggest global stir.

At a London Gala in November 2014

“Starring alongside each other for the first time on the musical Funny Girl in 1967 in a production by Columbia Studios in which all of the investors were Jewish along with production staff that was pro-Israeli and a media heavily biased towards Israel, the two became romantically involved despite a huge protest from both of their home countries. Even though his own government banned his film the producers stuck by him and he completed the film. In June of 1967, the Israeli-Egyptian Six Day War broke out and in the midst of the huge political and military fall-out came a publicity still of the Egyptian Omar Sharif kissing the Jewish Barbra Streisand. This incensed governments, the public and worst of all perhaps, the wrath of Streisand’s Jewish mother!

“When Sharif met Streisand they were both married. Her marriage to fellow actor Elliot Gould was shaky and despite Streisand’s apparent appalling prima donna behaviour on set she and Sharif hit it off and began an affair, which lasted as long as the making of the movie. The backlash from the movie and their affair should not be underestimated. Streisand blames her not performing on stage for twenty seven years after this because of the stress at the time that caused her to forget the lines to three of her songs at a concert in front of 150,000 people in Central Park. She had been guaranteed a heavy police presence because of the furor of the movie and her affair but a surprise visit by Soviet politician Alexei Kosygin reduced the protection from three hundred officers to thirty making her feel extremely uncomfortable.

“The end of filming marked the end of the affair. Streisand later said that given the charged atmosphere of making the film it was difficult to put those feelings to one side once the day’s filming had ended. Sharif was always very complimentary about Streisand but soon got over the break-up by dating his next co-star, Catherine Deneuve followed by Barbara Bouchet after her semi-naked appearance in Playboy.”

Despite the tense political atmosphere, the film went on to become a huge hit. Barbra won the 1968 Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her performance and was named Star of the Year by the National Association of Theater Owners. Her perfectionism had paid off and the highly charged sexual tension between the stars and the ensuing controversy only fuelled the ticket sales.

Other mega hits in which Barbra has starred include The Way We Were, A Star is Born, Yentl based on a short story by Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer, which she also directed, as she did The Prince of Tides based on a Pat Conroy novel. From ‘69 to ‘80, she appeared in the Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll, the annual motion picture exhibitors poll for a total of 10 times, often as the only woman on the list. Streisand is the highest selling female recording artist of all time, and has won awards and acclaim in every medium that she’s worked in. She has recorded 50 studio albums with Columbia Records and has had No. 1 albums in each of the last four decades, the greatest longevity for any solo recording artist, and has sold a combined 250 million records worldwide. She is the only artist to have earned honors from all the major award institutions, including two Academy Awards, one Tony Award, five Emmys, 10 Grammys, 13 Golden Globes, a Cable ACE Award, the University of Georgia’s George Foster Peabody Award and the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama and has been a staunch and vocal Democrat, as well as working for Jewish causes, fostering Jewish-Arab relations, equal rights for African Americans and HIV fundraising through her sporadic but  sold out concerts.

For a plain, indeed self proclaimed “ugly kid” she has had relationships with some of the world’s hottest men including pro football quarterback Joe Namath, countless leading men such as Ryan O’Neal, Warren Beatty, Kris Kristofferson, Liam Neeson, Don Johnson, news anchor Peter Jennings, Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau (father of PM Justin Trudeau) who wanted to make her Canada’s First Lady, and even tennis champion Andre Agassi. In his 2009 autobiography, Agassi writes: “We agree that we’re good for each other, and so what if she’s twenty-eight years older? We’re simpatico, and the public outcry only adds spice to our connection. It makes our friendship feel forbidden, taboo – another piece of my overall rebellion. Dating Barbra Streisand is like wearing Hot Lava.”

Christopher Andersen in his new book, Game of Crowns: Elizabeth, Camilla, Kate and the Throne, writes that Prince Charles as a young man had an immense crush on Barbra Streisand. Even at Cambridge University he had a poster of the star on the wall of his room. In 1974, Charles even visited the set of the movie Funny Girl where he spent 20 minutes with her. Flash forward 20 years, he was back in Los Angeles and they had a secret rendezvous at the Bel Air Hotel that no one knows about, except Diana, who knew all about it.

Quite a roster of lovers for an awkward girl with a large Jewish nose from Brooklyn that even her mother had difficulty loving! Whoever said persistence doesn’t pay off should take a page out of Barbra Streisand’s book.

Barbra said that 1980s onwards she wanted a break from showbiz and just wanted to live like a house wife and a real woman. She sought therapy for her demons and the havoc that her traumatic childhood had wreaked on her self image and romantic relationships. Then, one night while dining with friends at hotspot Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills in 1996, she met actor James Brolin (father of actor Josh Brolin), who is now 75 plus. They sat down and started talking. “After ten minutes I was a goner, and after two hours, I knew we’d get married someday,” Brolin said. Within two years, they were married. The couple are very happy and contentedly and live together in her Malibu dream estate that is made up of four buildings—the mill house, the barn, Grandma’s house and the main house—on three acres of property.

Sharif was not so lucky.  In his heyday, he indulged in a string of short lived romances with such beauties as Ingrid Bergman, Ava Gardener, Sophia Loren, Anouk Aimee, Catherine Deneuve, Julie Andrews and Tuesday Welds, among countless others. He was quite the lothario! However, he never remarried, stating that he never fell in love with another woman again after Faten.

Though “his striking good looks won him many admirers and lovers but towards the end of his life he lived alone with his gambling addiction. Whilst he had his own family, he chose not to settle in a relationship and always insisted it was through personal choice,” writes Halliburton.

 In the late 90s, Sharif began declining film offers, and sadly said that he had lost his “self-respect and dignity.” Sharif said about his Hollywood career, “It gave me glory, but it gave me loneliness also, and a lot of missing my own land, my own people and my own country.”

Christopher Stevens writes in an article for The Daily Mail: “The story of Egyptian actor Omar Sharif is perhaps the saddest, loneliest tale in all of movie history. But it has also been a life overflowing with wealth, adoration and affairs with the world’s most desirable women. Sharif squandered his good fortune — with divorce from the only woman he ever truly loved, an illegitimate child he refused to acknowledge, millions lost at the gaming tables, a glittering career abandoned and outbursts of violence….It always appeared as if he had the most enviable existence. After decades spent living alone in luxury hotels in Paris or London, staying up till 5 a.m. every night at the casino or the bar, the actor has now returned to Egypt. But this is no homecoming: he still lives in a hotel, at a Red Sea tourist resort. His life, it seems, is as rootless and lonely as ever.”

His most demanding mistress of all proved to be his gambling addiction that took hold of him. Stevens writes, gradually, “all Sharif cared about was pocketing fees for roles, however dire, so he could pursue his twin passions — playing bridge and breeding racehorses. ‘I don’t think I could live without a deck of cards in my hands,’ he declared, when asked on BBC Radio’s Desert Island Discs in 1978 what luxury he would need most as a castaway. But the cards and the casinos were bankrupting him.

“After losing £750,000 in one night at roulette, he was forced to sell his house in Paris, and announced: ‘I don’t own anything at all apart from a few clothes. I’m all alone and completely broke. Everything could have been so different if only I had found the right woman.’

“His gambling addiction, he admitted, was madness, but he could not stop. He blamed boredom, and the loneliness of living out of a suitcase. His agent became used to Sharif’s desperate calls, demanding work so that he could pay urgent debts. Often, the actor even had to reverse the call charges. But however many shoddy movies he made, he was always ‘one film behind my debts’.
He hated the roles. Though he could act in six languages — English, French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and Greek — he had an accent in all of them, and so was always cast as a foreigner: a Sultan, a Spanish priest, a Mexican cowboy, or Genghis Khan. He doted on his son Tarek and adored his grandchildren, whose mockery of his dreadful films made him ditch acting in the mid-Nineties.

“Gambling was not so easy to renounce. After losing more than £20,000 at the Enghien-les-Bains casino in Paris in 2003, he head butted a policeman and was given a suspended prison sentence. It wasn’t the first time he had been threatened with jail for his temper: he was arrested in Greece for smashing up a restaurant. At a hotel car park in Beverly Hills, he brawled with an attendant, while four years ago he lashed out at a female fan who was badgering him for a photograph. But his womanising was over. He had quit a 100-a-day cigarette habit, too, following a heart attack in his hotel room in 1994: as he collapsed on the bed in Paris’s George V hotel, in agony, he was unable to think of anyone he could call for help.”

Halliburton writes, at one time, “he was one of the world’s top 50 bridge players – the Omar Sharif Bridge Circus played exhibition matches all over the world – and he once received a late-night invitation to play with the Shah of Iran and his wife.” Sharif even authored books on the subject, like Play Bridge With Omar Sharif (1990) and Omar Sharif Talks Bridge (2004). “Does he play now? ‘No,’ he says soberly. ‘I stopped six years ago when I stopped being good enough.’ (He says speaking of his violent incident.)  He has also cheerfully acknowledged that he has made a lot of films he wasn’t proud of to help finance his bridge habit. He’s had many strong friendships throughout his life, not least with Hosni Mubarak’s wife, Suzanne. ‘I thought it was right that Mubarak went,’ he says, ‘but I always found his wife very intelligent and interesting to talk to.’”

In the new millennium, Sharif’s career enjoyed a brief resurgence with Monsieur Ibrahim (2003), in which he portrays a Muslim shopkeeper who befriends a Jewish youth in ‘60s Paris for which he won France’s César Award. The same year, he received the Venice Film Festival’s Audience Award and the Career Golden Lion prize for Achievement in Film. The following year he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Dubai International Film Festival.

“He still had a reputation as an insatiable lover but the truth, he said, was more mundane: usually, he preferred to go for a walk,” writes Stevens. “In 2012, he turned 80. He slipped into a melancholy routine: sleep till noon, bathe and walk the streets of Paris on his own. ‘I have no friends in Paris,’ he said last year. ‘I want someone to take me out in the evenings.’”

He spent his last days with Tarek and his two grandsons Omar, also an actor, and Karim. When Faten died, aged 83, Tarek was forced to admit that Sharif suffered not from dementia but Alzheimer’s. In his final years, in Egypt, Sharif remembered he was an actor, but could no longer distinguish one film from another. When he did remember he deprecatingly said that most of them were “rubbish.”

Omar Sharif followed his beloved Faten to the grave, dying of a heart attack less than six months after her in July 2015 at a hospital in Cairo, aged 83. Befittingly, his funeral was held at the Grand Mosque of Mushir Tantawi in Cairo, attended by family, friends and Egyptian actors. His casket was draped in the Egyptian flag on top of a black shroud, and he was laid to rest at the El-Sayeda Nafisa Cemetery.

Looking back on their whirlwind affair, Barbra said, “He was one hell of a guy.”


BEHIND THE CAMERA ON FUNNY GIRL

By Andrea Passafiume

For Turner Classic Movies (TCM)

William Wyler, Herbert Ross and the cast of Funny Girl rehearsed for weeks during the summer of 1967 at Columbia Studios in Hollywood. Almost immediately Omar Sharif found himself at the center of a controversy that nearly got him replaced in the film. In June the Israeli-Egyptian Six Day War broke out, which according to William Wyler, “sent jitters through Hollywood’s Jewish community.” As Omar Sharif elaborates in his 1976 autobiography, “All the investments in the production were Jewish. The atmosphere of the studio was pro-Israeli and my co-star was Jewish. Most of the newspapers backed Israel. And I was an Egyptian.”

Panic gripped the studio over the politics of the situation. Some people wanted Sharif removed from Funny Girl. Others thought that Sharif should issue a public statement condemning Egypt. Even Barbra Streisand’s mother made her feelings against Sharif known. “My daughter isn’t going to work with any Egyptian!” she said according to Sharif. Producer Ray Stark was ready to break Sharif’s contract when William Wyler, who was also Jewish, stepped in as the voice of reason. “We’re in America, the land of freedom,” he said according to Sharif, “and you’re ready to make yourselves guilty of the same things we’re against? Not hiring an actor because he’s Egyptian is outrageous. If Omar doesn’t make the film, I don’t make it either!” Sharif kept his job.

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Just prior to shooting, Barbra Streisand took a short break in June to fly back East to perform her famous concert in New York’s Central Park. In July, Funny Girl was ready to roll. Everything was going smoothly until a publicity photo of Omar Sharif and Barbra Streisand kissing was released to the newspapers. With the emotions of the Six Day War still running high, the Egyptian press began a campaign to get Sharif’s citizenship revoked over the kiss. The Egyptian headline read: “Omar Kisses Barbra, Egypt Angry.” When asked to respond to the controversy, Barbra Streisand tried to make light of it. “Egypt angry!” she said. “You should hear what my Aunt Sarah said!”

The controversy eventually died down, but the chemistry between Streisand and Sharif did not. Though both were married at the time, the two began an affair while making Funny Girl that lasted for the duration of the production. “Barbra Streisand, who struck me as being ugly at first,” said Sharif, “gradually cast her spell over me. I fell madly in love with her talent and her personality. The feeling was mutual for four months – the time it took to shoot the picture.” With Streisand’s husband Elliott Gould back in New York to take an acting job, the two were free to share romantic evenings and weekends together. Though their relationship didn’t last, the affair would ultimately contribute to the breakup of Streisand’s already shaky marriage to Gould. William Wyler, who knew about the affair, tried to channel their real-life chemistry into their performances.

Those involved with Funny Girl said that she alienated with behavior that was often described as “controlling,” “rude” and “demanding.” There were reports that Streisand was chronically late and that she constantly kept everyone waiting. Some said that she would ask to re-shoot scenes that were already done and try to control every aspect of the production from the lighting design to what sort of shot was needed to who did her hair. “Here was this young whippersnapper,” said Assistant Director Jack Roe, “telling a very noted director how to do his job.” The majority of the extended cast and crew reportedly found her aloof, self-absorbed and inconsiderate. “I thought she was rude during the whole shoot,” said Roe. “I didn’t like the way she treated people, from Wyler and (cinematographer Harry) Stradling all the way to her personal maid, Gracie.” According to some, Harry Stradling threatened to walk off the picture unless Streisand stopped trying to dictate how he should photograph her. Screenwriter Isobel Lennart famously described working with Streisand as “a deflating ego-crushing experience.”

“With me she worked desperately hard on her part. She kept trying to improve herself; she worried about how she looked; she would come on the set in the morning and ask if we could do a scene over again. She was totally dedicated. She trusted me, and I trusted her.” Adding to that Wyler later said, “I’d much rather work with someone like Barbra, a perfectionist insisting on giving her best at all times and expecting it of everyone else, than a star who doesn’t give a hoot.”

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I think I knew more about Funny Girl than Mr. Wyler. I had played it a thousand times and had read all the revisions of all the scripts…But once we started…well, it couldn’t have been a more creative relation…We tried different things and experimented and so forth. It was stimulating and fun and good things came out.” She added later, “He was never threatened by my ideas. After Funny Girl, I was thrown by any director who ever was threatened because Willie used to get a kick out of them. He’d use them, not use them, laugh at me, not laugh at me. I mean, he was a wonderful person to collaborate with.”

In fact, Wyler’s professional relationship with Barbra Streisand was such that he allowed her unprecedented access to his directing process, often letting her watch dailies with him to see how her performance was shaping up. Co-star Anne Francis found this aspect of the director-star relationship threatening. “Every day, Barbra would see the rushes,” said Francis, “and the next day my part was cut or something else was cut. Barbra ran the whole show…She had the Ziegfeld girls’ scenes changed – one day she told Wyler to move a girl standing next to her because she was too pretty, and the girl wound up in the background. Eventually, the Ziegfeld girls’ scenes were eliminated altogether.”

Challenging as she was, several on the set also agreed that many of Streisand’s instincts were good ones, and that she was often right about things. Her perfectionism, some believed, was merely the result of insecurity. If she was demanding of everyone around her, she was twice as demanding of herself. “She fusses over things,” said Wyler, “she’s terribly concerned about how she looks, with the photography, the camera, the makeup, the wardrobe, the way she moves, reads a line. She’d tell the cameraman that one of the lights was out – way up on the scaffold. If the light that was supposed to be on her was out, she saw it. She’s not easy, but she’s difficult in the best sense of the word – the same way I’m difficult.” Herbert Ross, who staged the film’s musical numbers, added to that. “We spent hours shooting her to test her in different lights, different make up, different hairdos,” he said. “I was with her the day she saw the first set of dailies. She was terrified – it was the first time she’d ever seen herself on film. Well, onscreen she looked a miracle. How could anyone have known that her skin was going to have that brilliant reflective surface that she was going to look radiant – that was just a wonderful plus.” Omar Sharif explained, “You have to understand, she’s a kid from Brooklyn…She didn’t just think she was plain – she thought she was ugly. So no wonder that insecurity…Those weren’t rumors that she caused trouble during the filming of Funny Girl. There was trouble – in wardrobe, in makeup, and so on. But when the whole film sinks or swims on you, you’re in trouble.”

For the last scene in the film where Fanny sings “My Man” after she has been told goodbye by Nicky Arnstein, William Wyler did something unusual. Normally, actors in musicals lip-synched to pre-recorded music for their singing scenes. Streisand had tried to do that for “My Man”, as she did with the other numbers in Funny Girl, but the scene, which was supposed to be emotional and heartbreaking, wasn’t working. He and Streisand decided to have her sing live in order for her to truly be in the moment. During the scene, Wyler had Omar Sharif stand behind a nearby curtain and talk to Streisand between takes. Their affair was ending as the Funny Girl shoot came to an end, and Wyler knew that Sharif’s presence would have an effect on her performance. “He wanted him around to help build up her sadness,” said Robert Swink. “They must’ve done at least ten takes. Willie shot the thing live and recorded it live. It was pretty emotional for her.”

Shooting wrapped on Funny Girl in the Fall of 1967. At the wrap party William Wyler gave Barbra Streisand a director’s megaphone, according to William Wyler’s 1973 authorized biography, “in mock recognition of her devotion to every aspect of filmmaking including directing.” Streisand gave Wyler an 18th century gold watch inscribed “TO MAKE UP FOR LOST TIME.” The two parted ways with a mutual respect. “I was very fortunate to have Willie as my first director,” said Streisand. “What was amazing is that when he showed me the first cut of the movie, I would say ninety-five percent of the moments I had picked in my head was in there. It was extraordinary. He just knew when it was right. He used the right moments all the time.”

Funny Girl premiered on September 19, 1968 at the Criterion Theater in New York. With everything that Barbra Streisand had riding on the film, she couldn’t have asked for a more smashing debut. Funny Girl was a huge hit – the highest grossing film of 1968 – and the reviews were unanimous that Barbra Streisand was a superstar. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actress. On April 14, 1969 Barbra Streisand took home the Oscar® for her performance, tying with Katharine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter (1968). Taking the stage in her now infamously see-through black Arnold Scaasi outfit, Streisand looked at the Oscar® and said, “Hello, Gorgeous!” mimicking her famous first line in Funny Girl. Streisand was indeed a movie star.

By Mahlia Lone

The Muslim world is proud of such a moderate, poised and progressive couple as King Abdullah and Queen Rania of Jordan who did not anticipate ruling Jordan, as Abdullah was chosen by King Hussein for succession just a fortnight before his death. The royal couple has not let their sudden rise to power and prominence go to their heads and neither do they indulge in affectations or pretentions like many commoners. We can all learn from that. Additionally, King Abdullah is the only Jordanian monarch to date that has only married once. This is the story of the couple’s true love, enduring marriage and working partnership

Now known by friends and colleagues as “the epitome of modern royalty,” Rania al-Yassin was born on 31st August 1970 in Kuwait to average, middle class Palestinian parents Dr. Faisal Sedki al-Yassin, a paediatrician, and Ilham, a home-maker. Rania led “an anonymous and normal life” with brother Majid and sister Dina up till her marriage. The al-Yassins had family in the West Bank that they would frequently visit. She attended the New English School in Kuwait, then received a degree in Business Administration with straight As from the American University in Cairo, where Rania was also voted as the most beautiful student by her college newspaper. Though only 5’4” she received a modelling offer, but her parents were reluctant to trust the modelling agent. At the start of the 1991 Gulf War in 1991, her family, along with hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians, was forced to flee Kuwait as Palestinians were accused of supporting Saddam Hussein during the conflict. They relocated to Amman. Half of Jordan’s population is in fact of Palestinian descent. In Amman, she and 200 other applicants took a Citibank entry exam, which she topped and got the job. Just five months later, Rania took a different job marketing computers for Apple Inc. Around this time, she is reputed to have gotten a nose job and suddenly went from pretty to beautiful.

Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, born 30 January 1962, is King Hussein’s eldest son from his British-born second wife Princess Muna al-Hussein (nee Antoinette Avril Gardiner). Although Abdullah was named Crown Prince shortly after his birth, King Hussein took the title away from the three old toddler and bestowed it on his own brother, Prince Hassan bin Talal, for reasons of political stability in 1965. Oblivious to these changes, young Abdullah began his schooling at the Islamic Educational College in Amman and was sent first to St Edmund’s School, Hindhead, in England and then the U.S. to attend Eaglebrook School and Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusetts. He loved his time at the Deerfield Academy so much that decades later when he became King, he created the King’s Academy, a sister institution, in Jordan. He hired Deerfield Headmaster Eric Widmer to lead it, along with many other Deerfield staff.

The happy couple

Rhinoplasty: Before & After Abdullah was a career soldier before suddenly becoming King

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In 1980, Abdullah attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was subsequently commissioned into the British Army as a Second Lieutenant, serving for a year as a troop commander in the 13th/18th Royal Hussars. In 1982, Abdullah enrolled at Pembroke College, Oxford University, for a one-year Special Studies course in Middle Eastern Affairs. He returned to Jordan after that and joined the Royal Jordanian Army, serving as an officer in the 40th Armored Brigade, and undergoing a parachuting and freefall course. In 1985, Abdullah attended the Armored Officer’s Advanced Course at Fort Knox, and in 1986, he was made a Captain and commander of a tank company in the 91st Armored Brigade. He also served with the Royal Jordanian Air Force in its Anti-Tank Wing, and was trained to fly Cobra attack helicopters. Finally, in 1987, Abdullah attended the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.

Prince Abdullah had a reputation for being a real ladies’ man. A general in Jordan’s Army, he was quite the daredevil, jumping out of planes, flying helicopters and driving fast cars, while Rania was a focused, bookish girl who wanted to have her own business. In January ’93, a new colleague took 22 year old Rania to a dinner party hosted by Prince Abdullah’s sister where their eyes met across a crowded room. Sparks flew and the connection was instant. “The minute Rania walked in, I knew it right there and then,” said Abdullah in a 2005 interview to People magazine. “It was love at first sight.”

“Rania was more circumspect. ‘I knew he was King Hussein’s son, and I was a bit wary of that,’” she said.

A whirlwind courtship began, the Prince took Rania on motorbike rides across the desert, waterskiing on the Red Sea and flying in hair-raising helicopter rides. Friends said that the soldier Prince seemed to bring Rania out of her shell and she seemed to tame his wild ways. In an interview to 60 Minutes, she said she was attracted to her husband’s sense of humor and down to earth nature despite him belonging to the Royal Hashemite family that can trace back its lineage 2000 years and has descended from the Prophet’s (PBUH) line.

King-Abdullah-Rania-al-Yassin-Bride-Rania-al-Yassin-who 64ef40a44a63c7128313e7208b697662 wEDDING 1

On 24th January 1999 just two weeks before his death, King Husseing named Abdullah Crown Prince (heir to the throne).  Unlike in Europe where the law of primogeniture exists whereby a fiefdom, estate or kingdom is passed from father to son, in Jordan the monarch appoints his own heir apparent….This was an unexpected turn of events that nobody had foreseen. Abdullah and Rania had been living in an apartment gifted to them by the King on their wedding and no thought of the throne had crossed their mind

“I think he was quite interested, pursued it and it happened,” recalled Rania. She says her own commoner’s background allowed the romance to blossom naturally: “Nobody knew who I was, which was good.” King Hussein himself reportedly drove the 31 year old Prince to the home of Rania’s parents so he could propose just two months after their first meeting. With the King and her family looking on, she accepted. Three months later the pair married on June 10. “It was quick,” said Rania.

Their wedding was a glittering affair with royalty flying in from around the world to attend. Rania chose British designer Bruce Oldfield to make her two wedding gowns. Reportedly inspired from the embellishments on Syrian formal dresses exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Oldfield added heavy gold detailing to the gown, made a matching hair band and gloves that she wore to the ceremony. The 80s power suit style dress, reminiscent of the American TV show Dynasty, had exaggerated gold embroidered lapels, short sleeves, and a large belt. The skirt was voluminous and ended in a train at the back. A long veil covered her face during the Nikah ceremony. Her towering hairdo was so tall that she had difficulty getting in and out of the car. On top of that, she wore a crystal headband rather than a borrowed tiara. For the reception, Rania changed into a sleeveless v-neck, low back gown that was also embellished and made another elaborated up-do. The Prince wore his Army ceremonial uniform.

Content to serve in the Army, Abdullah assumed command of Jordan’s Special Forces the same year as his wedding and became a Major General in ’98. King Hussein had occupied the throne since his 21st birthday in ’53 for nearly half a century before dying of cancer in 1999. On 24th January that year just two weeks before his death, he named Abdullah Crown Prince (heir to the throne).  Unlike in Europe where the law of primogeniture exists whereby a fiefdom, estate or kingdom is passed from father to son, in Jordan the monarch appoints his own heir apparent. Until then, Hussein’s brother Prince Hassan had been next in line, but the latter’s Pakistani born wife Princess Sarwat (see older issue of GT: volume 12, issue 4, February 16th 2016) went about redecorating the Palace in anticipation of the King’s death while he lay in hospital in the U.S. much to the ailing monarch’s disgust. She also didn’t get along with the King’s American born wife Queen Noor, who wanted her son Prince Hamzah to eventually succeed to the throne. The King thereby asked Abdullah to name his half brother Prince Hamzah as his heir. This was an unexpected turn of events that nobody had foreseen. The couple had been living in an apartment gifted to them by King Hussein on their wedding and no thought of the throne had crossed their mind.

King Abdullah’s accession to the throne was on June 9th, 1999 Wearing the same accession gown in 1999 & 2009 after her style makeover With Queen Letizia of Spain

On 7th February 1999, upon the death of his father King Hussein, a few hours after the announcement of his father’s death, Abdullah went before an emergency session of the Jordanian National Assembly wearing a red-and-white keffiyeh and the reign of King Abdullah II began. Abdullah is not merely a figurehead as many European monarchs, but is the head of a constitutional monarchy, wielding substantial power. In 2016, he was chosen as the most influential Muslim in the world by Muslims Top 500 listing.

The accession was formally celebrated on June 9th ‘99. The new King and Queen rode through the streets of Amman in the same vintage limo that they drove in on their wedding day (and had also carried the King’s parents on their wedding day) to arrive at Raghadan Palace where the rest of the royal family was waiting. The King, resplendent in his ceremonial military uniform, reviewed a Guard of Honor outside, before greeting dignitaries in front of his throne. He awarded Rania the Al Hussein Ben Ali Medal, the most prestigious medal in Jordan. For the occasion, she wore an embellished gold gown by Elie Saab and Queen Alia’s (King Hussein’s third wife) Cartier tiara on top of a back combed up-do that had her towering over the diminutive King. Because half of Jordan’s population is of Palestinian descent, while the other half have descended from Bedouin tribes, the new couple was seen to consolidate the two cultures and unite the country, and the people rejoiced.

The new King made it his priority to embark the country on an aggressive economic liberalization program to stimulate the economy and raise the standard of living. He successfully increased foreign investment from the West and Persian Gulf countries, improved public-private partnerships, and established five free trade zones and Jordan’s flourishing ICT (Information Communications Technology) sector. Incidentally, the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, is married to Abdullah’s sister Haya bint Al Hussein. In the next decade, Jordan’s economic growth doubled to 6 per cent annually. King Abdullah II also negotiated a free trade agreement with the U.S., the first for an Arab country. Jordan’s foreign debt to GDP percentage fell from more than 210 per cent in 1990 to 83 per cent by the end of 2005, a substantial decrease that was described as an “extraordinary achievement” by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In 2008, Abdullah launched his Decent Housing for Decent Living campaign to provide housing with amenities like health, education and recreation for all citizens. However, despite his best efforts, Jordan is still heavily reliant on foreign aid.

Daytime professional & polished looks Evening glamour Traditional Jordanian clothing

The Queen in her turn has set up child abuse counseling centres under the Jordan River Foundation banner, worked for eradicating honor killings in the country, pushed for better school facilities and mandatory English classes as well as promoted micro-funds for small scale entrepreneurs. In 2000, in recognition of her commitment to the cause of children and youth, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) invited Queen Rania to join its Global Leadership Initiative and work alongside other world leaders, including former South African President Nelson Mandela, to improve the welfare of children. In 2007, she was named UNICEF’s first Eminent Advocate for Children and in  2009, she became Honorary Global Chair of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI). Moreover, she has also travelled the world to promote cross cultural and interfaith dialogue to foster greater understanding, tolerance and acceptance. She has used her status to foster understanding in the West about the Arab world, speaking at such high profile forums as the Jeddah Economic Forum, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the Skoll Foundation, UK. For this, she received the North-South Prize from the Council of Europe in 2009. Forbes magazine ranked her as one of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2011.

At the coronation, Rania became the world’s youngest Queen at only 28. A smart, savvy woman, she quickly invested in herself, upping her style quotient to keep up with her high profile position. As a Princess, she looked very typical ‘Arab’, but as Queen she came into her own, toned down her makeup, opted for simple, youthful blow dried hair and a killer designer wardrobe and looks similar now in style to Queen Letizia of Spain. Queen Rania’s daytime style has transformed from business casual to elegant and proper. Following the ‘less is more’ sartorial philosophy, she looks like an affluent European professional mother. In the evenings, she dons only couture by designers, such as Giorgio Armani and Elie Saab with a bit of Hollywood flair thrown in. Her wardrobe has even gotten her a special spot in Vanity Fair magazine’s Top 10 Most Fashionable First Ladies list. Queen Rania was also ranked as the Most Beautiful Consort (or First Lady) by Harpers and Queen magazine in 2011. This helped her gain an audience in the West when she speaks as she is seen as being enlightened and modern. When Queen Rania re-wore her accesion gown ten years later to celebrate the anniversary, the change in her personal style was marked. Not only had she toned down the hair and makeup, but also scaled down the pomp and glitz. Instead of an order and tiara, she wore a crystal belt and pretty headband. She looked approachable, fresh and modern.

Raghadan Palace

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The royal couple said that they have worked to remain as grounded as monarchs can be. Abdullah and Rania have become ambassadors for a war torn and battle weary Middle East and advocates for peace and for promoting a progressive social and economic agenda. Her carefully crafted image reflects that. She has received criticism though for trying to fight poverty while wearing designer clothes and boasting a jet-set lifestyle. Queen Rania has stated that she is not opposed to women choosing to wear the hijab of their own volition as long as it is not compulsory and they have not been pressured by other orthodox Muslims. She said, “we should judge women according to what’s going on in their heads rather than what’s on top of their heads!”

Additionally, Rania is warm and connects well not only with Jordanians but all types of people the world over. The Queen was one on the first royals to use social media to connect with the people.“She has a natural ability to reach out,” said Abdullah in an interview, “We really work as a team. She covers areas to which I am unable to dedicate much time.”

Rania said she relies on her background to connect to common Jordanians. “I understand where they are coming from,” she said. “I am a product of this society and I can relate to them.”

“The King chose as a bride someone he considers an equal,” said Prince Zeid bin Raad, a childhood friend of Abdullah’s to a People magazine interveiwer. “He listens to her ideas. They feed each other’s intellectual curiosity. They’re a perfect match, two people that are very comfortable together, who think along the same wavelength.”

At the SOS Village, Aqaba A Jordan River Foundation skills learning centre Wearing a parachute

In an interview to Caroline Laurent for Elle magazine, Rania said, “The King has the executive and the political and economic power. I work mostly through civil society organizations. But, like in any partnership, in any marriage, you sit over dinner and you talk about your day, and he tells me what he has done and is doing, and sometimes I show him a speech that I have. We always say that we’re each other’s biggest fans and also biggest critics, which is a good partnership!”

She also spends plenty of quality time with her four children: Prince Hussein who has replaced Hamzah as Crown Prince and has just graduated from Georgetown University in the U.S., Princess Iman, who is currently studying at the same University and who travels with her mother to royal weddings and other high profile events, Princess Salma and Prince Hashem, who are both still in school. “I make it a point and find comfort in tucking them into bed at night, reading them their favourite bedtime stories and reciting verses from the Koran to them as they sleep,” she said in the same interview. Though she has a full time nanny and tutor for helping the kids with their homework, Rania likes to prepare simple meals for her children herself with the girls helping her, while Abdullah barbecues. Having given the old Palace to Queen Noor for her use, though she mostly lives abroad now, the couple have made a new Palace for themselves, which Rania has had done up in a contemporary style. The family favourite holiday destinations are London and the Jordanian resort of Aqaba, but her priorities are family and work. “It is a constant juggling act. Achieving that balance is about keeping some of the balls up in the air most of the time,” she said.

Relaxing in Aqaba on the Red Sea Abdullah is a keen motorbiker

“We make sure to go to restaurants or go catch a movie somewhere and drive our own cars,’ said Rania, who often picks up her children from school driving a Mercedes SUV with a security detail trailing her. Safety issues are always a concern as the late King Hussein, who faced opposition for his moderate views, survived several assassination attempts but “it’s not something I think about on a day-to-day basis,” she said.

“I definitely make a point of having a relationship with my children, and building trust. Especially as they get older, it’s important that they feel that they can come back to me if they have any issues; I really want to have that bond, not lose it. For me, it’s a top priority, because even if I succeed in everything else, and I fail at raising my children, then I feel that I’ve failed, you know? So, at the end of the day, my children are my top priority, and that’s why I try to make it, as much as I can, a natural upbringing. For the most part, at least, I try to keep our home a sanctuary. And that’s where I can sort of make sure the environment is as normal as can be.

“I always say about the veil: when I choose something to wear, I realize that I’m not just dressing for myself, especially when I am abroad, I’m representing my country, I’m representing my people, so I have to always make sure that, I’m representing them the best way I possibly can. And also, sometimes I’m also representing a cause or I’m going for a particular purpose so I have to be dressed appropriately for that purpose. Whether I am going to visit a Bedouin village or whether I’m attending a speech and a conference in France you always have to think of the purpose.

At Crown Prince Hussein's recent graduation from Georgetown

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King Abdullah & Prince Hashem have the same birthday

“’We have the culture of protectiveness of women— that you always have to protect the women, and sometimes this leads to dependency, so we have to basically encourage our children, our girls especially, to be more confident, more courageous, you know, to take strides. We should not only encourage it, we should expect it from them. There’s a saying that ‘A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.’ You have educated women, but they’re not working. You invest so much in educating them and you don’t reap the benefits of your investment,’” advises wise and intelligent Queen Rania. Who would not like to emulate this beautiful, stylish, intelligent, savvy and wonderful wife, mother and Queen!

By Mahlia Lone

The Shah had three wives, but only one compelling love: power 

The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Century Pahlavi Dynasty of Iran

Iran’s Pahlavi dynasty was not an ancient royal house; it was specifically created by Great Britain after World War I, to halt Bolshevik Russia’s influence in Iran and to safeguard British interests in India. In fact, Reza Shah Pahlavi, the first Shah of Persia (as it was then known), was born in a village in 1878. His mother was a Muslim from Georgia, and his father was a Major in the 7th-Savadkuh Regiment of the Persian Army and fought in the Anglo Prussian War in 1856. Reza too became a soldier, like his father, and in 1921 was promoted by British General Ironside to the rank of Brigadier General to lead the Persian Cossack Brigade, thus becoming the last and only Persian commander of the brigade. His mission was to march on Tehran to prevent the Red Army that had already penetrated the countryside from taking over the weak Qajar dynasty’s government in Tehran. Reza became the Commander-in-Chief of the Persian Army after he was successful in wresting control of Tehran. By 1923, the British wanted Reza Shah to create a centralized power base in the country. He was thereby appointed Prime Minister by Persia’s Constituent Assembly in 1925 after amending the country’s 1906 Constitution and became the de facto ruler. Ahmed Shah Qajar, the previous ruler, fled the country and eventually died in exile. Impressed with Kemal Ataturk, Reza Shah was tempted to emulate him and declare the country a republic, but being dictatorial, he decided to establish a constitutional monarchy with the help of Shia clerics. On 15th of December that year, at the age of 47, he took his oath and became Iran’s first Pahlavi Shah. His son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was proclaimed the Crown Prince at Reza Shah’s coronation on 25th April 1926.

The Shah sits on the Peacock Throne on his Coronation

At the age of 11, Mohammad Reza had been sent to Switzerland to study at the Institut Le Rosey boarding school, becoming the first Iranian prince to be sent abroad for education. However, he returned to Iran after four years to attain his high school diploma, after which he attended Tehran’s military academy, and qualified as a pilot. On Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s suggestion to the Shah on a visit to Turkey, a strategic marriage was arranged between Mohammad Reza and Princess Fawzia, daughter of King Fuad I of Egypt and Nazli Sabri, sister of King Farouk I of Egypt. The marriage took place by proxy in 1939 at the Abdeen Palace in Cairo. Reza Shah did not even participate in the ceremony. It was a brief marriage that ended in divorce after Mohammad Raza ascended the throne, though the couple had a daughter together, Princess Shahnaz Pahlavi.

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A young Shah Son, a young Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi

Reza Shah spent the next 16 years modernizing his country, including replacing the name Persia with Iran. At the advent of World War II, the Shah declared Iran’s neutrality and the Allied powers were not pleased. They needed Iran as a transport corridor to Russia. Its geographical significance is illustrated by the name “The Bridge of Victory” later given to Iran by British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. The Shah felt that Britain and the Soviet Union had opportunistic and exploitative policies towards Iran. He cancelled the contract with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) to extract, refine and export Iran’s oil. After much negotiation a new contract was signed in 1933 that was also heavily tipped in APOC’s favour, barring Iran to sign a more lucrative contract with another company. On top of that, Germany had become Iran’s largest trading partner prior to WWII. Germany had even consented to sell Iran a steel mill that the country urgently needed. For these reasons, Britain and Soviet Union that had fought over the country less than two decades ago, now joined together to invade it in 1941. Iran’s army barely put up any resistance, leaving Reza Shah no choice but to accept a forced abdication in favour of his son, Mohammad Reza. He was issued a politely worded command by the British stating, “Would His Highness kindly abdicate in favour of his son, the heir to the throne? We have a high opinion of him and will ensure his position. But His Highness should not think there is any other solution.” And just like that again one Shah was summarily dismissed and replaced by another.

Untitled-1 Princess Fawzia bint Fuad of Egypt Princess Shahnaz Pahlavi Princess Shahnaz Pahlavi, Fawzia & Mohammad Reza’s only child

Love struck the new and by now divorced Shah. Beautiful, emerald eyed Soraya Esfandiary-Bakhtiari was half German half Irani and the only daughter of Khalil Esfandiary, Iranian Ambassador to West Germany, and his wife, Eva Karl. Soraya had been brought up more as a German under the tutelage of her governess Frau Mantel, followed by a stint at a Swiss finishing school in Montreaux. While she was studying English in London at the age of 16 in 1948, she was befriended by the Shah’s younger sister Princess Shams. A relative of Soraya’s showed her picture to the Shah who became smitten with her. After his very first meeting with her, the Shah asked her father for her hand in marriage. Soon they were engaged and the Shah presented Soraya with a whopping 22.37 carat diamond ring. But his choice of a part Teutonic, liberal minded and Western educated bride was not popular with conservative Iranis. By her own admission in one of her two memoirs, she writes, “I was a dunce—I knew next to nothing of the geography, the legends of my country, nothing of its history, nothing of Muslim religion.”

As early as 1949, an assassination attempt was made on the new Shah that was attributed to the pro-Soviet Tudeh Party, resulting in the banning of that party. It is claimed that the attempt was actually made by a religious fundamentalist member of Fada’iyan-e Islam as the new Shah was considered too Western and too secular. The Shah’s reaction was to expand his constitutional powers and become even more powerful.

Untitled-3 copy Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran with his bride, Princess Soraya Esfandiary Bakhtiari

Soraya's massive engagement ring
22.37 carat diamond engagement ring

Untitled-4 Princess Soraya wore an emerald and diamond parure and tiara to match her green eyes

The Shah married Soraya in 1951 at the Marble Palace that his father had had built. The wedding had been delayed because the bride had been ill from typhoid. She wore a Christian Dior Couture gown from his New Look collection. It had 37 yards of silver lamé studded all over with tens of thousands of pearls, 6,000 diamonds, and 20,000 marabou feathers. It weighed a staggering 44 pounds (20 kilograms). Because she was still weak, the bride had difficulty walking in the heavy dress. Seeing her totter, the thoughtful Shah ordered a lady-in-waiting to cut the petticoats and train to lighten her load. Additionally, the strapless dress had a fitted long sleeve waist length jacket and veil for the Nikkah ceremony. Because the wedding was in Februaury, a full-length white mink cape kept the bride warm in the non-heated palace and she secretly wore woolen socks on her feet, which were hidden by the voluminous skirt. In the evening, for the 2000 people reception, the jacket and veil came off and an emerald and diamond parure from the crown jewels that matched her green eyes added even more sparkle. 5 tonnes of orchids, tulips and carnations had been flown in from Netherlands to do up the palace and the entertainment included a Roman equestrian circus. The couple received such lavish wedding gifts as a mink coat and a desk set glittering with black diamonds sent by Soviet head Joseph Stalin, a Steuben glass Bowl of Legends sent by U.S. President and Mrs. Truman, and silver Georgian candlesticks from King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

Though the new Queen headed Iran’s charity association, she was very much pampered and even had a pet seal, which she kept in the palace fountain. Just two years later, in 1953, the royal couple fled Tehran for Iraq and Italy after a failed revolution attempt in Iran, but they returned soon after.

Untitled-5 The wedding ensemble consisted of a feathered and jewelled gown, fitted, long sleeved, waist length jacket and mink coat all by Christian Dior

Seven years into the marriage, the royal couple was faced with a dilemma. They had come to a crossroads due to Soraya’s inability to have children, a fact confirmed by American doctors. Even the famous American fertility expert Dr. William Masters wasn’t able to help them. Their joint consultation with him has been immortalized in an episode of the TV show Masters of Sex. Though he was very much in love with Soraya, the Shah desperately needed a male heir. Under the Persian constitution, if the Shah had no heir, then the royal line would end. He tried to convince her to let him take a second wife, but Soraya was adamant. In an interview to the New York Times Soraya said that she did not want “the sanctity of marriage” violated and decided that “she could not accept the idea of sharing her husband’s love with another woman.” She added it was with a heavy heart and because he had no choice that the Shah reluctantly divorced her.

At that time of their separation, Soraya issued a statement to the Iranian people from her parents’ home in Germany, stating, “Since His Imperial Majesty Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi has deemed it necessary that a successor to the throne must be of direct descent in the male line from generation to generation to generation, I will with my deepest regret in the interest of the future of the State and of the welfare of the people in accordance with the desire of His Majesty the Emperor sacrifice my own happiness, and I will declare my consent to a separation from His Imperial Majesty.”

555 Moments 44 Photo courtesy LIFE magazine

On 21st March 1958, Iranian New Year’s Day, the Shah announced his divorce to the Iranian people in a TV and radio broadcasted speech that was broadcast, adding he would not remarry in haste. His voice shook with emotion, clearly he had been crying.

The Shah still loved his ex-wife; he granted Soraya the title Princess of Iran and made sure she received a monthly $7000 payment from the State of Iran. They continued to meet in Europe after their divorce, even though Sorarya had started a film career. She had always harboured a fantasy to be a film star. Despite taking acting lessons, she only managed to appear in two films. Through her new connections, she met the married Italian director Franco Indovina and they started a love affair. Unfortunately, this too ended prematurely with his tragic death in a plane crash only five years later.

Heart-broken Soraya relocated to Paris and bought an apartment on the posh and happening Avenue Montaigne, which sold at her death for $3 million. Soraya travelled, was fond of frequenting the Plaza Athenee Hotel near her home, attended parties thrown by the aristocratic feminist and woman of letters Edmee, Duchess de La Rochefoucauld, who kept a famous salon. She also made friends with her celebrity hair stylist Alexandre Zouari who introduced her to the young, glitzy crowd. But still lonely and depressed, she was called the “Princess with the sad eyes” by those who met her. In 1991, she wrote her second autobiography, Le Palais Des Solitudes (The Palace of Loneliness). She died in 2001 at the age of 69 in Paris. Her body was found by her cleaner.

Untitled-11 copy Soraya appeared in two European films after her divorce from the Shah

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Princess Soraya bequeathed her £50 million fortune, including her engagement ring, a 1958 Rolls Royce, countless furs and costly paintings that were all auctioned off to her younger brother and only sibling, Prince Bijan Esfandiary, but he too died only a week later at his home in Cologne. Since they had no living relatives and he had made no will, the entire fortune went to the German state government (and not Iran) where it was used to pay for street lighting, rubbish collection and other public amenities in North Rhine Westphalia where the Prince lived at the time of his death. Perhaps the Irani people were right when they claimed their Queen was more German than Irani.

Meanwhile in 1951, Mohammad Mosaddegh had been elected Prime Minister of Iran; in a bold move, he immediately nationalised the country’s petroleum industry after getting a unanimous vote authorising this from the country’s Parliament. The industry had been controlled by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), APOC’s new name, which had been an extremely lucrative venture for the British and also gave them a lot of regional clout. Together the American CIA and British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) funded and led the covert Operation Ajax to depose Mosaddegh with the help of the Irani military, led by General Fazlollah Zahedi, who the CIA bribed with $1 million in cash. The Shah was in on the conspiracy and had agreed to dismiss the patriotic Mosaddegh as Prime Minister and replace him with a candidate backed by the British and Americans. As with subsequent American involvements in the country, the coup d’etat failed. The Shah with Soraya fled Tehran first to Baghdad and then Rome. However, a second coup attempt was successful, Mosaddegh was deposed, arrested and tried and the ‘merciful’ Shah commuted his sentence to three years followed by life in exile. Zahedi became the new puppet PM.

Coronation Day
Coronation family portrait

Attracted to European women, the two times divorced Shah’s eye next lit on the blonde Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy, daughter of the deposed Italian King Umberto II and Marie José of Belgium, known as the “May Queen” due to her brief month long tenure as Queen. But the Princess was a Roman Catholic. First meeting 19 year old Princess Maria during a skiing holiday in Switzerland in 1958, the Shah proposed shortly after. According to Dr. Abbas Milani and Amir Taheri, who wrote Mohammad Reza’s biography Majestic Failure, she accepted the proposal conditionally, depending on the consent of her father and the Pope. The Shah returned to Tehran to pave the way and clear any legal hurdles to the marriage, as the Iranian constitution at that time stated that King must take a Persian Muslim as wife. He hired a team of French genealogists to prove her distant Persian connection and asked the Princess to convert to Islam. First her father, though privately a homosexual but a conservative Roman Catholic where his daughter was concerned, withheld his consent. After the Shah offered to pay him handsomely for his consent, Umberto II left it up to the Pope who was asked to issue a special dispensation for the marriage. Pope John XXIII promptly vetoed the match. Horror of horrors, a marriage between a “Muslim sovereign and a Catholic princess,” was called “a grave danger” in an editorial in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. Under the 1917 Code of Canon Law, a Roman Catholic was barred from marrying a divorced person on pains of excommunication and this threat was conveyed to the Princess. The Shah himself went to the Vatican in 1959, and the Pope plainly told him that he would sanction the marriage on the condition that Mohammed Shah convert to Catholicism. The engagement was mutually called off. Princess Maria went on to become a published historian and married a fellow Italian after more than a decade.

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Then
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Now

Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy

Untitled-13 copy The Shah & Farah Diba on their wedding day dsfdsfds Farah in a coat worn over a gown, designed by YSL for Dior

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Harry Winston was commissioned to make the Noor-ol-Ain tiara especially for the wedding. The tiara gets it name from the central 60 carat pink diamond. With its sister stone, the 180 carat Darya-e-Noor, both were once a part of the Great Table Diamond from Golcanda brought back by Nader Shah

After this debacle, Princess Shahnaz stepped in to arrange a suitable marriage for her father, the Shah, so he could produce a male heir. In the Irani Embassy in Paris, a young Farah Diba was introduced to him in the summer of ‘59.

Farah was born in Tehran, the only child of Captain Sohrab Diba, of Irani-Azerbaijani descent, and his wife, Farideh Ghotbi. Captain Sohrab belonged to an affluent and noble family, his father had been the Persian Ambassador to the Russian Romanov Court. The Captain, a graduate of the prestigious French Military Academy at St. Cyr, served as an officer in the Imperial Iranian Armed Forces, but he died suddenly leaving his wife and daughter badly off financially, who were then forced to leave their large Tehran villa and move to the cramped apartment of Farideh’s brother. Farah Diba attended the Italian School in Tehran, then the French Jeanne d’Arc School and later the Lycée Razi. A sporty girl, she was the captain of her school’s basketball team. On a State scholarship, she went to Paris to studying architecture at the École Spéciale d’Architecture. The Shah frequently met State-sponsored students studying at Irani Embassies whenever he was travelling abroad. In February, at the Embassy in Paris, he met the pretty 21 year old Farah. Things moved fast. On her summer trip to Tehran, Farah was formally courted by the 40 year old Shah, as orchestrated by Princess Shahnaz, and within months an engagement was announced.

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The marriage took place swiftly at the end of the year. The bride chose Yves Saint Laurent, then the designer for Dior, to make the all important wedding gown. The dress had a modest scoop neck, and matching coat. The ensemble had Persian motifs embellished in sequins, imitation pearls, and silver thread. The train had a fur-lined hem with blue sewn in the hem for good luck. Farah had her pick of the crown jewels. On her head rested the 2 kgs. (more than 4 lbs.) Noor-ol-Ain tiara that has the sixty carat pink Noor-ol-Ain (Eye of Light) diamond as the centrepiece. This had been cut from the Great Table Diamond, mined in Golcanda, India, and has a sister diamond, the 180 carat Darya-e-Noor (River of Light). The Golcanda diamond had been brought back to Persia by Nader Shah in1736 after he plundered Delhi as part of payment for him to return to Tehran. The Shah commissioned Harry Winston to design a tiara around the Noor-ol-Ain. The platinum tiara was set with 324 pink, yellow, and white diamonds, all larger than 14 carats. Today, this tiara and the Iranian crown jewels collection are on display at the National Treasury of Iran in the Central Bank in Tehran.

Within the year, Farah produced the much awaited male heir, Crown Prince Raza Pahlavi born in 1960, and the marriage was deemed a success, followed by Princess Farahnaz Pahlavi of Iran, Prince Ali Reza Pahlavi and Princess Leila Pahlavi of Iran. Initially, the Queen was engrossed in producing her children, but once that was accomplished she became much more actively involved in government affairs, particularly in women’s rights issues and cultural development.

Untitled-17 copy Moments Untitled-18 copy On a skiing holiday

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Due to its massive oil production, Iran’s oil revenues soared during this time and the Shah became Middle East’s pre-eminent leader, referring to himself as the “Guardian” of the Persian Gulf. Autocratic, he famously said in 1961 “when Iranians learn to behave like Swedes, I will behave like the King of Sweden.”

A second assassination attempt was made on the Shah in 1965 when a soldier shot his way through the Marble Palace, but was killed before he could reach the royal quarters, after he had killed two civilian guards. According to former KGB officer Vladimir Kuzichkin, the Shah was also allegedly targeted for his pro-West stance by the Soviet Union, using a TV remote control detonated bomb hidden Volkswagen Beetle that failed to detonate.  Apparently, the Soviets made many failed assassination attempts on his life during the height of the Cold War. However, the Shah proved to be like the proverbial cat with nine lives.

26 years after his reign began, on 26th Ocotber 1967 the Shah, in an elaborate coronation ceremony,  took the ancient title of Shahnshah (Emperor), the Queen was crowned as the first Shahbano (the Empress) and Crown Prince Raza was designated as the successor officially. The reason the Shah gave for waiting so long for the coronation was because he said there was “no honour in being the Emperor of a poor country,” which in his opinion Iran had been up till that time. Rich heraldry was incorporated to symbolize the Pahlavi reign and ancient Persian heritage. The imperial crown image was included in every official state document and symbol, from the badges of the armed forces to paper money and coinage. The personal standards for the Shahnshah, Shahbanu and Crown Prince had a field of pale blue, the traditional colour of the Iranian Imperial Family, a central heraldic motif of the individual. The Imperial Iranian national flag was in the top left quadrant of each standard. The appropriate Imperial standard was flown beside the national flag when the individual was present in a building. All this pomp and circumstance was due to the fact that the Shah was very conscious of the fact that his father came up the ranks and was a “self made monarch.”

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The glamorous Shahbanu
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Moments

In the ‘60s, the Shah introduced a series of economic, social and political reforms, which were collectively known as the White Revolution. The goal was to transform Iran into a global power, modernize the country, nationalise certain industries, grant women suffrage, push for universal education and increase the national income. To win mass popularity and simultaneously curtail the power of ancient elite feudal families he expropriated large estates and gave them to more than four million small farmers. He also gave factory workers shares in the mills in which they worked. However, the wealthy land owners and middle income merchant class of the bazaars felt defrauded. Due to rampant corruption, much wealth found its way into the pockets of the extended royal family, their psychophants and government officials, not the poor.  The White Revolution was said to be “shoddily planned and haphazardly carried out,” its main aim to centralize power. The Shia clergy also resented Iran’s pro-Western stance and friendly relations with Israel.

A U.S. Embassy dispatch stated, “The Shah’s picture is everywhere. The beginning of all film showings in public theaters presents the Shah in various regal poses accompanied by the strains of the National Anthem….The monarch also actively extends his influence to all phases of social affairs…there is hardly any activity or vocation which the Shah or members of his family or his closest friends do not have a direct or at least a symbolic involvement.”

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With Nusrat Bhutto on a visit to Pakistan

But the Shah still paid lip service to a two-party democratic process and said, “If I were a dictator rather than a constitutional monarch, then I might be tempted to sponsor a single dominant party such as Hitler organized.”

The Shah realized that to modernize his country, education was key. Starting from the ‘60s new elementary schools and literacy courses were set up in remote villages by the Imperial Iranian Armed Forces, which became known as the “Army of Knowledge.” By 1966 the school attendance of urban seven to fourteen year olds was estimated at 75 per cent and this further rose in the ‘70s. A government program provided free of charge meals to school children. Islamic theologians were formally established as clerics after passing special exams. A quarter of the scientists working in Iran’s nuclear program were women that had been sent abroad to study along with their male counterparts. The Armed Forces were also called on to build infrastructure projects throughout the country. Several steel, power and automobile plants, telecommunications and petrochemical facilities, as well as dams were established to expand the country’s industrial base. The Aryamehr University of Technology was founded to fuel the country’s technological prowess.

Untitled-24 copy The Pahlavi clan in their Greenwich, Connecticut home in happier times

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Untitled-26 copy Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi with his wife & 3 daughters

Unfortunately, Iran’s labour market could not keep pace with the new graduates swelling the ranks of the labour force. In 1966, high school graduates had “a higher rate of unemployment than the uneducated.” The number of educated but unemployed and frustrated youth kept growing, providing manpower for the coming Revolution. To be fair, national rose dramatically in this period, but this is in part due to the soaring oil price in the ‘70s.

In ’71, the celebration of the anniversary of 2,500 years of continuous monarchy since the founding of the Persian Empire by Cyrus the Great took place to further consolidate the monarchy’s power. Controversially, the Irani calendar was changed from the hegira to the beginning of the Persian Empire, measured from Cyrus the Great’s coronation. The New York Times reported that $100 million was spent on the celebrations. A tent city covering 160 acres was erected next to the ancient ruins of Persepolis (ceremonial capital of ancient Persia), including three huge royal tents and fifty nine smaller ones arranged in a star-shaped design. French chefs from Maxim’s of Paris prepared breast of peacock entrees for royalty and dignitaries who flew in from the world over, which the guests ate off Limoges porcelain, washing it down with champagne in Baccarat crystal glasses. Interior design firm Maison Jansen, which had been contracted by U.S. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy to redecorate the White House, redecorated the buildings that received the dignitaries.

Untitled-27 copy Princess Leila Pahlavi of Iran was a Valentino model Untitled-28 copy Prince Ali Reza & Queen Farah Pahlavi at Leila’s funeral Untitled-29 copy Farah Pahlavi is still sophisticated, elegant & well maintained

Next to this ostentatious and flamboyant display, the poverty in nearby villages stood out in stark contrast. University students went on strike in protest. The Shah kept the exorbitant cost of this extravagant celebration under wraps, which he justified by claiming it would bring in new investments to Iran, establish its importance and give the country more regional clout.

The Empress had also kept herself busy by focussing on culture and the arts. Though historically a culturally rich country, Iran of the ‘60s was empty of much of its heritage. Many of its artistic treasures lay in foreign museums and private collections. The Empress decided it was high time they were brought back. She secured permission and funds to buy back a wide selection of Iranian artifacts and contracted brother antique dealers Houshang and Mehdi Mahboubian, who helped her locate and attain these treasures from ‘72-78. Following the model of Britain’s National Trust, several national museums were founded to house these repatriated acquisitions, including the Negarestan Cultural Center, the Reza Abbasi Museum, the Khorramabad Museum housing the Lorestan bronzes, the National Carpet Gallery and the Abgineh Museum for Ceramics and Glassware. The Empress had a staff of 40 to assist her in the patronage of 24 educational, health and cultural organizations in all. She also carried out humanitarian work, travelling to far flung poor areas of Iran where she gained popularity in the early ’70s.

One legacy of the Empress, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art proved a conundrum for the anti-West Islamic Republic government that replaced the Shah’s regime. The Empress, using State funds, had shrewdly amassed a priceless Western Art collection during the depressed Art market of the ‘70s. Irani sculptor and Cultural Adviser to the Empress, Parviz Tanavoli said that the collection had been bought for “tens, not hundreds, of millions of dollars.” Approximately, 150 masterpieces of artists including works by Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, George Grosz, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, and Roy Lichtenstein were bought and displayed at the Museum. It became one of the most significant collections of Modern Art in the world, excluding Europe and the U.S. Today, the value of this collection is estimated at US$2.8 billion. After the ’79 Revolution, the collection lay for nearly two decades in the Museum’s storage vaults. After much public speculation about the fate of the priceless masterpieces, the collection was briefly displayed in an exhibition in Tehran in ’05.

Untitled-30 copy The family now lives in Washington D.C.

 Under the Empress’ patronage, the  Shiraz Arts Festival for the performing arts was held every summer from 1967 until 1977, featuring live performances by both Iranian and Western artists performing  music, dance, drama and poetry. The festival program also showed films held symposia and debates in Shiraz, Persepolis and many other locations. The avant garde festival became increasing controversial and unpopular amongst conservative, orthodox Muslim Iranis.

By 1975, the Shah abandoned all pretense of even a two-party system of government. Only the Rastakhiz (Resurrection) State-sponsored political party was recognized, while the Communist Tudeh party was banned.  Political dissidents were jailed by the thousands. The Shah said, “We must straighten out Iranians’ ranks. To do so, we divide them into two categories: those who believe in Monarchy, the Constitution and the Six Bahman Revolution and those who don’t….A person who does not enter the new political party and does not believe in the three cardinal principles will have only two choices. He is either an individual who belongs to an illegal organization… in other words a traitor. Such an individual belongs to an Iranian prison, or if he desires he can leave the country tomorrow, without even paying exit fees; he can go anywhere he likes, because he is not Iranian, he has no nation, and his activities are illegal and punishable according to the law.”

The Shah’s words, “he has no nation” held an ominous tone and those words ironically applied to him in just a couple of years. Was it Karma at play?!

As resentment seethed at home, the Shah’s regime also lost the favour of the American President Jimmy Carter’s administration due to the former’s role in jacking up the oil price through his leading role in the Organization of the Oil Producing Countries (OPEC). To keep the national income high, the Shah was instrumental in fixing the high price of OPEC oil in the ‘70s that daily poured millions of dollars into the government’s coffers. The American public blamed their own government for failure to take charge of the situation, which turned to Saudi Arabia, its new ally. The American government and media started publicly criticizing Iran’s human rights records. Sensing that the Shah was being abandoned just as his father was before him, street demonstrations increased in size and frequency and the political situation snowballed out the government’s control.

In ’77, the first militant anti-Shah demonstration numbered only a few hundred after the death of Shia cleric and political opponent Ayotollah Ruhoallah Khomeini’s son Mostafa. By next year, well organized national strikes paralyzed the country. Then, on 8th September 1978, a day that is remembered as “Black Friday,” though Martial Law had been imposed, thousands had gathered in Tehran’s Jaleh Square for a religious demonstration. The soldiers opened fire on the unarmed demonstrators. This marked “the point of no return” for the regime. To calm the situation, in early October, the Shah allowed exiled political dissidents to return, but it was too little too late. In December, 6 to 9 million strong demonstrators, more than 10 per cent of the citizens, were marching on the streets. Public statues of the Pahlavis were being defaced and “every sign of the Pahlavi dynasty” was destroyed by the angry demonstrators. In February, pro-Khomeini revolutionary guerrilla and rebel soldiers had taken over the street fighting. The military stepped to the side and, on the evening of 11th February 1977, the Shah’s reign was over. The revolutionaries had won. The Iranian monarchy was formally abolished, and Iran was declared an Islamic Republic led by Khomeini, who took over the reins of power.

The Revolutionary government in Iran ordered the arrest (and later execution) of the Shah and the Shahbanu. The Shah and his family had already fled into exile to Egypt on 16th January 1979, as Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and First Lady Jehan Al Sadat were personal friends. However, Iran started pressing for extradition. Over the next 14 months, to keep trouble at bay, one by one countries around the world shut their doors on the royal family. After Egypt, the Pahlavis stayed briefly in Morocco as guests of King Hassan II. In the article Little pain expected in exile for Shah published in The Spokesman Review, it was estimated that the Shah had a personal fortune of $1 billion. Despite this wealth, the family had nowhere to go.

The Pahlavis headed to the Caribbean, where they were granted temporary refuge in the Bahamas on Paradise Island, which the Empress recalled as the “darkest days in her life.” The Shah tried to buy the island for $425 million, but his offer was rejected. Next stop was South America. Mexico issued them a short visa and they moved into a rented villa in Cuernavaca near Mexico City. The stress took a toll and the Shah’s long-term illness of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system, rapidly got worse. They got permission to seek medical treatment in the U.S. Iranis became incensed with the U.S. government for harbouring the Shah and they attacked the American Embassy in Tehran. The bungled attempt by the U.S. to rescue the  Americans Embassy staff and citizens that were held hostage for 444 days became known as the Iran hostage crisis. Again, the Shah and his family became a liability to the host nation and were asked to leave. This time, they headed to Contadora Island, Panama.

Learning that, succumbing to Irani pressure, the Panamanian Government wanted to arrest the Shah and extradite him to Iran, Farah pleaded with Jehan Al Sadat to let them return to Egypt. There three months later on 27th July 1980, the Shah mercifully died. In just over a year he went from being a powerful monarch to a beaten and tired, old, sick man with nowhere to call home. He was buried at Al-Rifa’i Mosque, Cairo.

With that chapter closed President Sadat gave the widow the use of Koubbeh Palace in Cairo, but he too was assassinated in October 1981. President Ronald Reagan stepped in to rescue the family and informed them that they were welcome to the U.S. where they finally settled in the upscale town of Greenwich, Connecticut. You would think that the disgraced royals family’s trouble were finally at an end, but this was not to be.

It turned out that the younger two children had been so traumatized by the upheaval in their lives that they grew up to suffer acute depression and both committed suicide, one after another. Princess Leila was a very pretty girl, full of promise; she was a graduate of Brown University and worked as a model for Valentino. But she also had a dark, tortured side, suffering from anorexia nervosa as well as a drug addiction. She flitted aimlessly between Paris and Greenwhich,  anorexia wasting away her good looks. In 2001, she was found dead in a London hotel room from an overdose of tranquilizers and cocaine. She is buried in the Cimetière de Passy, Paris. Members of the French royal family and the late French President François Mitterrand’s nephew, Fredric attended her funeral along with her family.

Ali Reza was extremely close to his sister and her death had a profound effect on him. He had gotten his Bachelors from Princeton and Masters from Columbia, as well as was studying for his Phd at Harvard and had been called “one of the world’s most eligible princes.” With everything to live for, in January 2011, handsome and dapper Ali shot himself to death in his Boston apartment at the age of 44.

Abbas Milani, director of Iranian Studies at Stanford University, and author of a biography of the Shah, said the Pahlavis have a record of depression, “Sadly, the Shah did have a propensity for depression. In nearly every major profile of him prepared by the CIA, or British and American embassies, there is some allusion to this brooding, melancholy t