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The Unstoppable Force of Maye Musk

Though she's 74, my mother won't (can't?) slow down.
Maye Musk was photographed by Yu Tsai in Belize. Swimsuit by Cali Dreaming. Coverup by PatBo.

Maye Musk was photographed by Yu Tsai in Belize. Swimsuit by Cali Dreaming. Coverup by PatBo.

My mother, Maye Musk, wasn’t like the other mothers I knew growing up. Lots of mothers worked, but mine worked double—as a model on nights and weekends, and as a dietitian during the day. She even ran a side business as a modeling coach out of our garage in Johannesburg, South Africa. (When I was little, I always knew which colleagues were coming over: There were the reliable ladies in navy blue, and then there was the other, much more glamorous bunch, with Miss World contestants among them.)

She differed from the other moms I knew, too, in that she was doing it all herself. My parents divorced when I was little, and my brothers, Elon and Kimbal, lived with my dad. But for most of my early life, it was just us.

My mom is 74 now. In her years on this planet she’s earned two master’s degrees in nutrition science, won awards in the dietetics field, has been in countless fashion shows and editorials, and she’s even appeared in a Beyoncé video. She is an uncontainable force, and she’s the most fearless woman I’ve ever known.

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Reinvention, especially of oneself, isn’t easy. But my mom has done it over and over again. She left an unhappy marriage to my dad and never looked back. When I was a teenager, she agreed to abruptly abandon both of her successful careers and move with me from our spacious home in South Africa to a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto, to start our lives over near where my brothers had recently relocated. (Being 15, I thought it would be a great idea to sell almost everything in our Johannesburg house while she was in Canada getting ready for our move. She managed to take it in stride—a feat of parental patience I hope I never have to match.)

In Canada, she started booking modeling gigs and doing research at the University of Toronto almost immediately. In the following years, she kept tearing it all down and starting fresh: She moved both of her careers to San Francisco to support my brothers when they went into business together. She relocated to Los Angeles when I had twins. At 73, she struck out on her own to New York City.

What my mother has never lost, though, is her adventurous spirit—one Halloween, she visited me at college and went with me to a party dressed as Kurt Cobain—and her fierce commitment to supporting us. She always told us to do something important, to find a mission for why you do what you do. My goal is to empower women. My oldest brother, Elon, is all about humanity, making sure we survive. My middle brother, Kimbal, is all about food transparency, making sure people understand their own health. I think my mom inspired us to do all those things. Today, she still rarely misses an opportunity to fly in and support us in person at our events across the globe.

My whole life, I’ve seen my mom do everything. As a result I think I’ll always expect her to be able to do everything. Sometimes I wonder whether it’s time I start limiting those expectations, as she gets older. But then I look at her again, still unstoppable, and I think, Not yet

You can view the 2022 photo shoot for Maye Musk here.