Elon Musk’s Personal Life: A Profile in Intensity and Chaos

How many times has Elon Musk been married? With whom has he fathered children?

In business, Elon Musk seeks out intensity and chaos. Biographer Walter Isaacson says that the same is true in his personal life. In his book Elon Musk, Isaacson discusses Musk’s family life and its messy atmosphere.

Keep reading to learn about Elon Musk’s personal life, according to Isaacson.

Elon Musk’s Personal Life

The tumult in Elon Musk’s personal life matches the energy, passion, and frustration that he expresses in the boardroom and on the factory floor. He has had turbulent relationships with the author Justine Musk (née Wilson), the actress Talulah Riley, and the musician Grimes. He has fathered 11 children whom he dotes on save for one from whom he’s publicly estranged.

Justine and Musk were acquainted in college, but they reconnected and married around the time of the sale of Musk’s first business. According to Isaacson, Justine was attracted to Musk because he was passionate about solving problems more than making money. She enjoyed fighting as much as Musk did. But, after the sudden death of their infant son, Musk shut down all displays of emotion and berated Justine when she expressed hers. The couple had five more children through in vitro fertilization, but over time Justine felt that Musk used their fights as a substitute for personal connection, and she filed for divorce in 2008.

(Shortform note: Isaacson barely mentions Justine Musk’s career. Justine is the author of several novels, including the BloodAngel fantasy series and the young adult thriller Uninvited. Writing about their divorce in 2010, Justine said that Musk’s attitude toward marriage had been influenced by his upbringing in male-dominated South African culture. She described herself as a “trophy wife” who’d sacrificed much of her self-image to live up to Musk’s expectations.) 

Shortly after his first marriage ended, Musk met the actress Talulah Riley, and within two weeks they were engaged—though they wouldn’t marry for two years. Isaacson says that Musk was self-aware enough to let Riley know that life with him would be hard. Nevertheless, while their marriage lasted, it was one of the few stable things in Musk’s life. Despite Musk’s often unfeeling exterior, Riley says that inside, Musk feels things quite strongly and retains a boyish excitement for the things that bring him joy. Their first marriage lasted until 2012, but they quickly remarried and stayed together until 2015, when they split for good.

(Shortform note: Though Isaacson suggests that Riley put her acting career on hold during the time she was married to Musk, she played many supporting roles in those years, including appearances in Thor: The Dark World and the television series Doctor Who. During this time, she also directed and starred in the movie Scottish Mussel, which was nominated for the Audience Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. After her split with Musk, Riley has landed recurring roles in the TV series Westworld and Pistol.)

During 2018, which was a rough year for all of Musk’s business ventures, he met the musician Claire Boucher, known as Grimes. The two shared many common interests, and like Musk, Grimes was attracted to chaotic relationships. However, Isaacson writes that Grimes possesses a streak of kindness that had long been missing from Musk’s life. Though the two ended their romantic relationship in 2021, they remain involved with each other as friends and co-parents of their children.

(Shortform note: Though Isaacson doesn’t cover her career in detail, Grimes is perhaps the most professionally accomplished among those with whom Musk has been romantically involved. Her 2012 album Visions received acclaim from The New York Times and NME, while also winning the Juno Award for Best Electronic Album of the Year. Grimes is known for speaking openly about her struggles with mental health and social anxiety. In 2022, she announced on Twitter that, like Musk, she’s on the autism spectrum and has difficulty reading other people’s emotions.)

Musk’s Children

In total, as of this book’s publication, Musk has fathered 11 children—six with his first wife, Justine Musk, three with his partner Grimes, and two with business executive Shivon Zilis for whom he served as a genetic donor. His first child, Nevada, died in 2002 from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. His first child with Grimes—a boy named X—was born in 2020 and was almost inseparable from Musk during the time that Isaacson spent with him. According to Isaacson, Musk is very vocal about the need to keep population numbers up to preserve human consciousness in the face of growing artificial intelligence, and that he’s just doing his part to maintain the species.

The only child with whom Musk’s relationship is strained is his transgender daughter Jenna, who Isaacson reports has disavowed her connection with Musk due to her perception of his anti-transgender views and because of her anti-capitalist political beliefs.

Elon Musk’s Personal Life: A Profile in Intensity and Chaos

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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