With all the articles, court hearings, and, yes, documentaries, there’s still a lot to know about Ghislaine Maxwell.
The repulsive recruiting scheme she used to gratify Jeffrey Epstein’s perversities is the stuff of modern criminal lore, but not much is known of her early life. The new documentary Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?, Premiered Friday on Starz, attempts to fill in some of those gaps. Family friends, acquaintances and her father’s former employees try to find out what drove the bubbly heiress to a life of crime that would turn her life and that of her dozens of victims upside down. There’s plenty of armchair psychology from not-so-close friends, but the most compelling stuff comes in the first episode of the three-part series that follows Ghislaine from childhood through college to New York City, where she allegedly hopped off a limousine to help young girls to give her number on the street.
The essentials of the pyramid scheme, the private island, and the horrific abuse network are covered in much more detail in Netflix Jeffrey Epstein: Dirty rich. Who is Ghislaine Maxwell? works better as an exploration of the setbacks that combined have led an otherwise charismatic young woman down one of the darkest paths imaginable.
Ghislaine is currently in a Brooklyn jail awaiting sentencing. She was found guilty in December of five of the six charges she faced, including one of child sex trafficking, which carries a maximum of 40 years in prison – effectively a life sentence for the 60-year-old ex-celebrity. What follows is a summary of what we learned about her life before bars from the Starz documentary.
She was far wealthier than we knew
We all know that Ghislaine was rich from the start. But did you know how rich? Ghislaine was apparently so wealthy that she had a private jet at her disposal in Oxford. She was also so rich that the superyacht named after her, from which her father fell to his death, sold for $14.5 million in 2017. We hear from her family photographer, Mike Maloney, whose job title tells you everything you need to know. There are paparazzi videos of her getting out of school, proof that she deserved tabloid coverage at the time. Described as a “spoiled brat” and “daddy’s girl,” she is portrayed as the favorite offspring of brash nouveau riche Robert Maxwell, who grew from humble beginnings as the son of Jewish farmers killed in the Holocaust to a media tycoon. The filmmakers do their best to draw a clear line between the high-flying life her father funded and the lows she would sink to, to recreate it after his death.
SHE WAS AN UNLIMITED SOCIAL CLIMBER
She is remembered by friends from college as the embodiment of the phrase “life of the party”. She was charming, alluring, a “queen bee” who “spoke with a low purr” and knew how to throw a memorable dinner soiree. What she lacked in legacy or pedigree, she made up for in smiles and small talk. Here’s a more cynical reading: she was, it seems, an intrepid ladder climber. From promoting the friendships of powerful people to showcasing framed pictures of herself next to them in the private island mansion she shared with Epstein, it’s easy to feel like she wanted to be there — absolutely. She is described as not having a clear sense of direction, evidenced by a defunct ocean conservation non-profit that closed in 2019 without paying a single dollar to her cause. That longing would serve her father, who used her sympathy to show some respect for the Maxwell family name, the documentary claims. It was later manipulated for far more sinister purposes. Things get a bit muddled when you ask yourself: Why does she still feel like an enigma for someone so sociable? Enough people testify to her vibrancy but there are few videos to prove it, leaving that side of her entirely to the imagination. However, there are plenty of images of her doing what she does best: smiling while celebrating famous people like Paris Hilton, Naomi Campbell, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Prince Andrew and Mick Jagger, for whom the documentary claims to recruit some women to have sex through Epstein, according to ex-model Lisa Phillips.
AFTER THE DEATH OF HER FATHER, HER LITTLE MONEY IS LEFT
Maloney described Robert Maxwell as a “bully” who bullied his children. Ghislaine, on the other hand, was the lucky one who is said to have dodged her father’s worst instincts. She was his favorite, so the story goes, and she stayed that way, dressing up his parties with young women he wanted to talk to. He gave her a job at his newspaper empire, where she allegedly made outrageous requests to busy editors. Her self-esteem — and financial support — depended largely on her father. They were like a “team” with “their own language,” said Tim Walker, who worked on one of the family’s titles. Ghislaine moved to New York to help with a new property, the news. A few months later she was greeted by a sea of photographers as she boarded the Lady Ghislaine after Robert’s death. He owed a lot of money and left Ghislaine to complain that she was “broke”. Shortly thereafter, she met Jeffrey Epstein for the first time.
SHE SHOULD BE A SPOOKY PARTYGUEST
Known for being flirtatious and talkative, Ghislaine sometimes crossed the line, like the men and women who knew her decades ago. While hosting a dinner at her family’s home in Oxford, she proposed a party game in which the men would blindfold, caress the women’s breasts and try to match them with the women in the room. Nicola Glucksmann, who was invited as a plus-one, said she was tired and left but the game is believed to have gone ahead as planned. “If a man had suggested it, I don’t think the women would have done it,” Glücksmann said. Writer Jesse Kornbluth says he met Ghislaine in 1992 at a party hosted by Joan Rivers. He claims Ghislaine, with his wife just yards away, suggested the cheeky pick-up line: “If you lose 10 pounds, I’ll fuck you.” ”
HER RELATIONSHIP WITH EPSTEIN WAS HARD FOR PEOPLE TO DETERMINE
There is no doubt that Ghislaine was key to satisfying Epstein’s predatory appetite for young women and girls. Several victims report that Ghislaine also abused them himself. But her personal relationship with Epstein isn’t that easy to pin down. He called her his “best friend” in 2003. vanity fair profile noting that she “seems to organize much of his life.” She told one person that Epstein “keeps [her] to” because they “[does] don’t make mistakes.” She sometimes claimed they were married, according to one victim, who said she felt safe leaving her young sister with them because “we all felt she would be safe with a married couple.”
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