In 2010, Elon Musk said he would “rather stick a fork in my hand than write about my personal life.”
But the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX is a fascinating figure, and over the years, he’s opened up here and there about his childhood, his parents, and his relationships.
Musk got uncharacteristically candid for perhaps the first time in an in-depth Rolling Stone interview by Neil Strauss published in November 2017. He spoke of his breakup with ex-girlfriend Amber Heard, expressing his heartbreak over their parting. Musk also touched upon his estranged relationship with his father Errol, calling him a “terrible human being.”
These days, Musk is dating the musician Grimes — the pair debuted their relationship in May 2018, and had their first child together last spring.
Born in 1971 in Pretoria, South Africa, Musk was the eldest of three children. His mother Maye Musk is a Canadian model who’s appeared on the cover of Time and became a CoverGirl spokesperson at 69. His father Errol is an engineer.
Source: Vanity Fair, Town and Country, Vogue, Forbes
Musk told Rolling Stone he’s struggled with loneliness since childhood. “When I was a child, there’s one thing I said,” Musk said. “‘I never want to be alone.'”
Source: Rolling Stone, Business Insider
Overall, Musk’s childhood was far from idyllic. He was ruthlessly bullied in school, and even ended up hospitalized after his tormentors shoved him down a staircase. Soon after his parents split in 1980, Musk went to live with his father, Errol — Musk told Rolling Stone that they now estranged.
Source: Business Insider, Rolling Stone
Musk is seemingly still close with his brother Kimbal and sister Tosca. All of the Musk siblings seemingly share an entrepreneurial streak: Kimbal is seeking to make the food industry more sustainable and healthy, while Tosca launched the romance film network Passionflix.
Source: CNBC, CNBC, Forbes, CNB
Musk also seems to have a good relationship with his mother. Vanity Fair reported that he gifted Maye with a green Tesla, and she moved to California in 2013 to be closer to her children and grandchildren.
Source: Vanity Fair
He met his first wife, Justine Wilson, at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. Writing in Marie Claire, she recalled that Musk invited her out for ice cream. She decided to stay in to study, but he showed up with “two chocolate-chip ice cream cones dripping down his hands.”
Source: Marie Claire
Musk transferred to Wharton, but kept sending Justine roses. They went their separate ways, but reconnected as Musk started working on his first startup and Justine started working on her first novel after graduation. Justine said Musk wooed her by giving her his credit card to buy as many books as she wanted. The pair tied the knot in 2000.
Source: Marie Claire
The couple moved to Los Angeles and had a son named Nevada, whom they lost to SIDS. They ultimately had twins and triplets — five sons in total. In 2010, Musk called his children “the love of my life.”
Source: Business Insider, Business Insider, Business Insider
The couple split in 2008. After his divorce, the tech mogul began dating actress Talulah Riley.
While Musk and his first wife became estranged, Justine wrote in Marie Claire that she and Riley ended up getting along very well. She even sent her ex-husband’s girlfriend an email saying: “I would rather live out the French-movie version of things, in which the two women become friends and various philosophies are pondered.”
Source: Marie Claire
Riley and Musk married in 2010. Two years later, news of their divorce became public when Musk tweeted at Riley: “It was an amazing four years. I will love you forever. You will make someone very happy one day.”
The couple remarried in 2013. Musk filed for — then withdrew — a second divorce the following year.
In 2016, Riley filed for divorce from Musk, which was finalized in late 2016. The two are still on good terms, however — Riley even made an appearance during Strauss’ Rolling Stone profile of Musk. “We still see each other all the time and take care of each other,” she told People.
Source: Rolling Stone, People
Musk began dating actress Amber Heard in 2016, but they broke up a year later due to their intense schedules.
Source: The Cut, Rolling Stone
Amber Heard in 2020. Image: Getty.
Amid the couple’s second divorce, Musk was linked to actress Amber Heard, who he had reportedly been pursuing since 2012. However, their relationship didn’t last long.
“I was really in love, and it hurt bad,” Musk later told Rolling Stone, reflecting on his split from Heard.
As for his career, things started slowly looking up for Musk after SpaceX landed a $1.5 billion contract with NASA, while Tesla continued to grow. In fact, Musk’s rapid career growth served as inspiration for Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Tony Stark in Marvel’s Iron Man.
In the years that followed, Musk founded several new companies, including OpenAI, Neuralink, and The Boring Company.
But since Musk’s business portfolio and social media presence have grown, he has faced his fair share of controversies.
The now 49-year-old faced significant backlash after joining Donald Trump’s business advisory council. (Musk later quit the role after Trump pulled out of the Paris agreement on climate change.)
Then, in 2018, Musk was criticised after he referred to British diver Vernon Unsworth as a “pedo guy” following his involvement in the Tham Lung cave rescue of a children’s soccer team in Thailand. Although Unsworth filed a defamation lawsuit against Musk, the SpaceX founder was found not guilty of defaming the diver.https://66dd88e09b136ca93275090cd4356945.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlLIFESTYLEZoe Marshall’s “wild” birth story was one chapter in the mayhem that has been her fourth trimester.
In a comment on one of Heard’s Instagram posts, Musk said he and his ex were “still friends, remain close and love one another,” and added, “who knows what the future holds.” He later told Rolling Stone: “I was really in love, and it hurt bad.”
Source: Rolling Stone, The Cut
In May 2018, Musk arrived at the annual Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art alongside Grimes, a Canadian musician. At the time, Page Six reported that the pair had been “quietly dating” for a few weeks.
Grimes and Musk met over Twitter. Musk was planning to make a joke about artificial intelligence — specifically, about the Rococo Basilisk character in her “Flesh Without Blood” video — and discovered she had beaten him to the punch.
Musk later told The Wall Street Journal that he loves Grimes for her “wild fae artistic creativity and hyper intense work ethic.”
Source: The Wall Street Journal
In January 2020, Grimes posted a photo to her Instagram and Twitter accounts that appeared to show her pregnant. She later confirmed she was expecting a baby with Musk.
Source: Instagram, Business Insider
On May 4, 2020, Musk announced the birth of their son, who he and Grimes named “X Æ A-Xii Musk,” seemingly pronounced “X Ash A-12.” “Mom & baby all good,” Musk wrote on Twitter.
Source: Business Insider, Business Insider
In December, Musk said that he had moved to Texas following a months-long fight with the state of California over coronavirus lockdown restrictions. It appears that Grimes and baby X have moved with him, and in March, he shared a family photo taken near SpaceX’s facilities in South Texas.
Source: Business Insider, Business Insider
More recently, Musk has faced controversy for consistently spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic, including claiming that death statistics were manipulated and tweeting misinformation about COVID-19 testing.
Elon Musk and Grimes at the Met Gala in 2018. Image: Getty.
Amid the controversies, Musk began dating Canadian musician Grimes, also known as Claire Boucher, in 2018.
In 2019, Grimes announced her pregnancy, confirming that Musk was the father.
Their son, who was born in May 2020, was named “X Æ A-12”. But after the name was deemed illegal under California law, his name was eventually changed to “X AE A-XII”.
Just last week, Musk joked about his son’s name during his controversial hosting gig on Saturday Night Live.
“SNL is a great way to learn something new about the host,” he explained. “For example, this is my son’s name… It’s pronounced: ‘Cat running across keyboard.'”
Musk’s appearance on the show received backlash across social media as many viewers disagreed with giving the centibillionaire a platform following his comments amid the COVID-19 pandemic.