Jocelyn Wildenstein, 76, is as well known for her immense divorce settlement as she is for her looks.
But despite the Swiss-born socialite being awarded $ 2.5 billion (£1.7 billion) from her former elite art dealer and horse-racing husband Alec in the late 1990s in one of the biggest divorce settlements in history — she claimed over the last week that she is broke.
But the initial bumper payout was not the only thing that got her worldwide press attention — her penchant for surgery to make her face more “feline,” allegedly to please her ex-husband, has been widely reported.
Meanwhile, in December, her 14-year relationship with French designer Lloyd Klein also came to an end after reports of domestic violence from both sides — which they both strongly deny.
There is more than meets the eye, though. Wildenstein is an accomplished hunter and pilot, and she has a love for art and “decoration.”
This is her crazy life:
Jocelyn Wildenstein was born as Jocelynnys Dayannys da Silva Bezerra Périsset on August 5, 1940, in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Not much is known about her upbringing in a middle-class family in Switzerland other than that she was the daughter of a struggling department-store buyer.
At the age of 17 her life changed — she started dating Swiss movie producer Cyril Piguet. She told New York magazine that after two years they moved to Paris together. “My life changed then,” she said. “Lausanne is very plain, but I began meeting exciting, glamorous people.”
She told New York magazine she had never intended to pursue a career, instead she had a “different talent.” “I never worry for my career. I am very good at decoration. I am maybe extremely good at decoration.”
She later dated European filmmaker Sergio Gobbi for five years and spent a lot of her time exploring Africa, a continent she fell in love with. “Africa is a paradise. You meet people who look at life differently. They love the adventure,” she said to New York magazine.
Her life as a socialite let her move in elite circles across the world. She met Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi — pictured here with his wife — through her love of hunting. He introduced her to her future husband, Alec Wildenstein, in Africa.
In 1977, Wildenstein met Alec while on safari with friends in Kenya. Alec Wildenstein came from a family of art collectors and horse-racing experts. She told Vanity Fair that “on their first day together, they rode motorcycles to a hilltop and shared their first kiss.” Here is Alec’s brother Guy on the left at a Monet exhibition.
On April 30, 1978, Alec and Jocelyn eloped in Las Vegas. But at their second wedding ceremony in Lausanne afterward, Alec’s father, Daniel, was absent. “He was against marriage in general,” Alec Wildenstein told Vanity Fair. “My father checks things out. My father tried to warn me.” They eventually went on to have two children, Diane and Alec Jr.
After one year of marriage, Jocelyn started to use her wealth for extensive cosmetic surgeries. She and Alec got “his and her eyelifts.” According to a number of biographies, she continually changed her appearance to look more “feline.”
According to the Daily Mail, she spent £2 million on surgeries to please her husband, who loved big cats. She kept a Lynx as a pet, telling Vanity Fair “the lynx has perfect eyes.”
Alec Wildenstein told Vanity Fair: “She was crazy. I would always find out last. She was thinking that she could fix her face like a piece of furniture. Skin does not work that way. But she wouldn’t listen.”
In 1997, Wildenstein says, she found her husband in bed with 21-year-old Russian model Yelena Jarikova, which led to an altercation in which Alec allegedly pulled a gun on Jocelyn and spent the night in jail. Alec left Jocelyn that year, and divorce proceedings started immediately.
The divorce was messy and dragged out for two years. Alec told Vanity Fair there were rumours Jocelyne had worked for Madame Claude, the Parisian bordello owner, as a courtesan at one point.
According to details in a long report by Vanity Fair, the divorce caused a rift between Alec and his children after he cut off Jocelyn’s phone and credit cards, slashed her monthly allowance of $ 150,000 to $ 50,000, and fired her accountant.
The press coverage of the case was bad for Jocelyn, which centred on her looks. Tabloids dubbing her “The Bride of Wildenstein” and “Catwoman.” In response, she hired Republican campaign consultant and advisor Edward Rollins to handle her PR.
Eventually, Jocelyn was awarded a $ 2.5 billion divorce settlement and $ 100 million each year for 13 years afterward. However, the judge stipulated that she could not use any of her divorce payments for further cosmetic surgery.
In 2001, Alec inherited half of his father’s business empire, estimated at $ 10 billion. It included one of the world’s largest private collections of art. It helped fund his alimony payments. Seven years later, however, Alec died at 67.
Since the divorce, Wildenstein has kept a low profile and is rarely seen in public.
The only time she is pictured is when she attended her French designer boyfriend Lloyd Klein’s fashion shows. He designs clothes for music artists such as Nicki Minaj and Pink. They started dating in the early 2000s.
However, in December 2016, their relationship came to an abrupt end after a violent fight between the pair erupted in her apartment.
Wildenstein was first arrested for allegedly clawing Klein across the face and slashing him with scissors in a fight. Klein claimed he was forced to put Wildenstein into a walk-in closet to stop her attack him before the police arrived. Later that month, Daily Mail obtained a video showing her hitting him with a tray while he urged her to calm down.
However, just a few days later, Klein was arrested for allegedly grabbing and pushing Wildenstein to the ground when he returned to the apartment to collect his belongings. Klein’s representative told People magazine he was arrested “after patently false allegations were made to the NYPD by Mrs Wildenstein alleging a physical altercation with Mr Klein” and that they are fully cooperating with authorities to “clear Mr Klein of these allegations and expect this matter to be dismissed shortly.”
Klein still awaits to hear whether he has been charged with assault, as well as robbery, grand larceny and criminal mischief, according to the Daily Mail citing a police source, after Klein also allegedly took an iPhone, another mobile phone, a Swiss ID and a credit card without Wildenstein’s permission.
Meanwhile, Wildenstein at the end of December told executive producer Daphne Barak in an interview that she is allegedly “broke” after her ex-husband’s family trust have cut her off from her annual maintenance.
She said her last monthly payment of $ 111,000 (£90,000) came in March 2015 and then “then they stopped coming. I wasn’t ready for it.” Without that income, she says she is unable to travel or even buy food.
Her statement falls in line with what Klein told the press, just days before the alleged altercation in her flat that led to his arrest. The Daily Mail reported that he said: “Jocelyn needs help. She doesn’t have a penny. I have been paying all her expenses the last year and a half. I can’t anymore, I am not Wildenstein. I am not that rich.”
Both Wildenstein and Klein have not discussed any further developments in their cases. However, Klein has spent the remainder of the holiday season with friends, including long-time friend and model Lauren Foster.
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