LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — She’s gracing the covers of magazines, walking glamorous runways around the world, and landing national modeling contracts — and at age 71, the South African-Canadian supermodel is only getting started.
Meet Maye Musk, mother of engineering genius Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX.
“Within three months I had a billboard in Times Square, a billboard in Madison Square Gardens,” she said. “I flew to Montreal for a cover, I did my first editorial. I mean suddenly I was this hot white-haired woman!”
She says she is proud of the accomplishments of all of her children and their diverse endeavors.
Her son Kimbal runs the thriving nonprofit Big Green, which teaches children to plant and nourish gardens that provide produce to their communities.
Daughter Tosca is head of her own production company, Passion Flicks, where she turns bestselling romance novels into empowering movies — and she’s empowering employees.
Long before the Musk children found success, Maye’s career was already in gear, but it wasn’t an easy journey.
She says over the years women have turned to her for advice so she decided to share it in a book, with the encouragement of her children.
“I stayed in bad situations for too long because you think you can change people,” she said.
Musk’s parents instilled adventure in their five children.
“We were so happy as children and we’d go across the Kalajari desert with a compass. There were no maps. We mapped it out for them. So there’s a Maye pen and a Maye hill,” she said. “And the cattle patrol would be ready to find us if we didn’t get to the other side of the desert in three weeks.”
Musk says she grew up feeling unwanted, but at the age of 15, she began modeling.
By 22, she was rushed into a marriage with her high school boyfriend, who became the father of Elon, Kimbal and Tosca.
“I was beaten up but the thing is you know there is a saying in South Africa, ‘When you get divorced you stop falling in the shower because every time you’re seen with bruises, you fell in the shower’,” said Musk.
After nine years of marriage, she made a plan and left her husband to raise her kids on her own. She lived frugally, taking modeling jobs while working on a science scholarship at the university.
“So then they paid me $300 a month while I was doing my studies and working, and they charged me $77 for me and my kids to eat there and stay there, so I was winning,” she said. “I had no need to spend money.”
Musk earned a Ph.D. in nutrition and worked as a dietician out of an office in a modeling agency where she also taught her craft of modeling.
“After my divorce, I met this guy. He just wanted to marry me the first day he met me,” she said.
Musk says six weeks into their engagement, he got another model pregnant.
“I took my engagement ring off, and I ate my way through that one!” Musk recalled.
Years later, Musk continues to book high-profile modeling jobs and carry her story of perseverance wherever she goes.
“I think what they’re aiming for is the market,” she said. “The market shows that women my age you know, 60s and 70s we like to look good, and why not?”