This is a small extract from our latest episode of Extremes: a VICE podcast exclusive to Spotify. You can listen to the full story here
Back in 1980, I was a 20-year-old model working in Paris. I was never a supermodel, but I spent a year there, slowly climbing the Parisian fame ladder. It was hard work but eventually I began appearing on magazine covers, which was a kind of reward, I suppose, although I didn’t feel any different than the way I had before. I didn’t feel fulfilled or satisfied. What I needed, I thought, was a relationship.
One day in late summer, my agent asked me to come with her to Monte Carlo for the weekend. Knowing there was always a catch in the modeling business, I asked her the cost of tickets and hotels. “No, no” she said. “This one is free!” I knew that sounded suspicious, but decided to go anyway because I was in need of a vacation. So along I went.
After arriving at the hotel, we spent a day poolside drinking fancy drinks, talking with new friends, and taking in the gorgeous view. That evening, my agent took me by limo to a pirate-themed party overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It was a big outdoor event with a bonfire and live gypsy music.
I wasn’t long before I noticed an older man watching me. That might sound a bit pervy, but the man seemed safe for some reason. Then he came over to me and we started dancing on the sand. The bonfire roared and we threw our champagne glasses into the flames, along with a few wooden chairs. Then, when we sat down next to each other at the big party table, and he looked into my eyes and pushed my shirtsleeve up exposing my forearm and wrote “ I love you” in his own blood. Apparently, he’d cut himself smashing glasses. I had no idea who he was but I liked him a lot.
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Later, I learned the man was named Adnan Khashoggi, He was a Saudi arms dealer and one of the richest men in the world. He owned businesses, property, and mansions all over the globe and he was known for his luxurious toys—the world’s largest private plane and a yacht named The Nabila.
Now, you have to remember this was 1980 and the Internet didn’t yet exist. I couldn’t just Google him, so I went in blind and put the pieces together as I went along. And in the process I discovered that dating a billionaire wasn’t as amazing as you’d think. But I had to learn the following lessons to realise that:
Money Makes You Weird
I saw Adnan the next day, and then a few weeks later he flew me to Spain where he asked me to become one of his wives. I gave him a very tentative yes, and that’s how I became a chess piece in his inner world.
At first the wealth and excess felt new, strange, and intriguing. But over time, I began to expect it. One time in Kenya, Adnan tried to give me a huge 20-carat diamond ring. I refused his gift because it was too shocking and overwhelming. But over time, I saw other women wearing those kinds of excessive jewels and I began to want one too. Couture gowns had become my normal dinner attire. I ate delicious, healthy, chef-prepared food. I was ushered around in limos and private planes.
Slowly, I began to crave this lifestyle even when I was away from Adnan. When I was at home in Los Angeles working as a model, I looked for excuses to go fine dining. None of my girlfriends could afford it, so I’d go with a male doctor friend of mine. I needed to wear couture and be fancy and eat by candlelight in dimmed dining rooms with white linen tablecloths, served by waiters in white uniforms. I got so sucked into it yet was completely unaware of what had happened to me. When I spent time with my close girlfriends, at times, I craved being my fancy self.
Extreme Wealth Means Never Being Satisfied
About a year into our relationship, I started getting severe anxiety. No matter what I did, I couldn’t stop my head from spinning. I was becoming more like Adnan, who was always chasing the next high: the next big toy, the next beautiful woman, the next incomprehensibly lucrative deal, or the next line of cocaine.
Like him, I became obsessed with trying to fill the gap inside my soul. The problem is that when you have infinite options, it kind of feels like you have no options and it fucks with your head. What was it all for if I could have anything? All my old goals of working hard to gain financial success suddenly meant nothing.
The Ultra Rich Are Surrounded By People Who Want Something
I never felt jealous in the beginning of our relationship. I knew I was his favorite woman because he spent all his spare time with me. But then I started attending the super demanding Fashion Design College in LA, and my workload kept us apart for longer stretches of time. In my absence, Adnan began spending time with other, less accomplished women. Some of them seemed desperate, some were addicted to cocaine, and all were after his money. I wasn’t like them, I told myself.
But then one night a group of us women were at a concert in Las Vegas, and one of them showed me a ring Adnan had just given to her. It was the exact same kind of ring he gave me! It felt like a punch in the gut and I began to see things for what they really were. It was the beginning of the end for us.
Money Can’t Buy Happiness
We broke up not long after that night in Las Vegas and it was mostly a relief. I’d discovered that chasing happiness via wealth is like running after your own shadow. I realized there was no magic object or amount of money that makes a person feel whole and at peace. Peace isn’t found in objects, power, status, or riches. Long lasting peace can only be found inside and getting there is a very personal journey. I’ve gotten better at accepting my own faults and mistakes, and I’m far more grateful and compassionate and less judgmental these days. I find fulfillment through the love of my friends and family and by creating art using my unique talents and gifts. Most of all, I’ve done a ton of healing and can finally say that I actually really know how to listen to, and respect, my inner voice.
This is a small extract from our latest episode of Extremes. You can listen to Jill's full story of love and riches here, only on Spotify
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