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Published by libraryptsbcrew02, 2022-07-10 05:24:34

The Times Magazines

The Times Magazines

0 9 . 0 7. 2 2 Magazine of the Year

Why Elon’s not the only one in

the family with a big idea

Richard Branson: dyslexia and me
Giles Coren: my night at Britain’s

wildest restaurant

Eat! 09.07.22 30


5 Caitlin Moran What I wish I had known at 21. 7 Spinal column: Melanie Reid My life in white trainers. 8 Sir Richard Branson The
billionaire says dyslexia is his superpower. By Rachel Sylvester. 16 Cover story Tosca Musk Growing up with Elon, the world’s richest
man. 22 Tall and slim (with amazing views) The rise of the “superskinny” skyscraper. 30 The fall of R Kelly The 20-year investigation that
exposed the music superstar as a sexual predator. 35 Eat! Easiest weekend dinners (including chicken and chips). 48 The model scientist
Meet Dr Daisy Robinton, who wants to stall the ageing process in women. 54 Home special! An Edwardian house bursting with bold
colours. Plus: is your home an Insta-clone? Why booty vases and splatter jugs are all the rage, and all you need for an alfresco lunch.
66 Pout! Men’s special The beauty expert’s guide to the best serums, scents and gadgets. By Nadine Baggott. 68 Giles Coren reviews
Ynyshir Restaurant and Rooms, Powys. 74 Beta male: Robert Crampton My naked panic in the shower.


Available in Handwoven and strong enough Hang between trees or CO, £195 Stripy with matching
sand or black from a wooden stand, priced cushions, £16 each
to support a load of 159kg Padded inner lining for (
( ( £183 ( comfort (


The Times Magazine 3


What I wish I had known at 21.
Don’t panic! Say yes to everything!

S chool is ending, college is your 25th birthday party. And if you only
ending, university is ending. want power, you will only get power – at the
It’s the season for graduations expense of hanging with the other 99.9999 per
and commencement speeches. cent of humanity.

I frequently get invited to If you want to actively get to work on
give these kind of speeches, who you are going to become, then there is
which is very flattering but only one word you need to know: input. You
need to input as many other lives as possible
also entirely inappropriate – because other lives hold the clues for yours.
Everything and everyone has happened
– as someone who was before: the dead billions have done all the
research for you. Read autobiographies,
home schooled, it feels a bit rich for me to watch biopics, talk to people at parties and on
trains. Any halfway decent book will contain
rock up right at the end of people’s academic everything the writer knew, at that time – so
if you eat that book, it will be like you’ve lived
lives, just for the fun bit. Like ducking out of your life and theirs. Eat a second and you have
three lives to choose from now.
being someone’s birthing partner, but texting,
Travel as much as you can – it doesn’t need
“You’re naming the baby after me, right?” to be backpacking around Vietnam. Going to
Leeds is mind-blowing if you’ve lived your life
However, just like “gradually feeling more in Cornwall. Taking a bus to the next town is
exciting if you go down random side streets
sympathy for Darth Vader’s origin story” (he and read the carefully chosen last words on
the gravestones. What is left from someone
was a busy working dad with twins – that will from 1874, paying a shilling for each word
etched into the slate? “A good woman.” “We’re
make you cranky), “wanting to give advice all just walking each other home.”

to young people, whether they like it or not” You don’t need to be broadcasting yet. You
don’t need to fear someone suddenly saying,
is an inescapable part of ageing, and so I would “Tell me everything you think NOW!” Just
ask questions. You’d be amazed how many
like to give my commencement speech here, times someone will later say, “She’s a brilliant
conversationalist,” when all you did was talk
if I may. about them all night. The most useful motto
in life is “Do The Thing, at The Time”. When
Young people. Young, scared, amazing, you’re in a playground, play. When you’re in
love, love. The time now is to absorb and eat:
ridiculously young people – people all younger to fill yourself so full to the brim with ideas
and possibilities and maps and clues that,
than many of the hairs in my moustache. when you finally know what you want to do,
and where you want to go, you will realise,
I know so much of your brain and heartache with a bolt of joyful astonishment, that you
now know a thousand ways to do it. A billion.
over the past few years – choosing which
And that’s what “being you” is: a set
subjects to study, who to kiss, what career to of well-chosen intentions and a bulging
scrapbook of ideas for how to start walking
have – has been caused because you don’t towards them. That’s all anyone can be, right
now. Don’t ever panic if you’re anything “less”.
know if this is the right thing for you. Is this To the sentence, “I don’t know who I am,” you
just need to add one word to be calm: yet.
the kind of thing “you” do? Who am I? Is
And on that note, my last advice: if you’re
this me? Why do I not know who I am? getting blisters on your feet, use deodorant on
them. It’s the sweat that makes you slip that
And I’m here to tell you this: don’t worry. makes you blister. n

Please don’t let this not-knowing make you

anxious – for it is literally impossible for

you to know who you are right now. No

one does, at this age. Because – you haven’t

done 90 per cent of the things that will make

you who you are yet. You haven’t made that

mistake, gone to that place, met that person.

You haven’t done you, yet. As someone who
was home schooled,
Instead, what you are right now is just it seems a bit rich to
rock up to a university
a set of intentions. And these are the only with advice. But I’m
often asked
things you can ever pay attention to or fret

over. What do you intend to be? What’s on

your to-do list? Some intentions really are

better than others. For instance, if you intend

to be very skinny, you will spend a lot of your

life being hungry and sad. If you intend to

be “cool”, you will miss out on a lot of fun,

ROBERT WILSON as you worry about looking foolish in photos.

If you intend to substitute “actual human

conversation” with “going round owning the

libs with your dark humour”, you’ll be amazed

by how few friends you have left to invite to

The Times Magazine 5


After the accident
my feet swelled to
size 10. My life in
white trainers?
It’s been eventful

MURDO MACLEOD T here is no better item from school sport through to punk rock. Go-to Lightweight and as close to feminine as possible.
of footwear than white tall-girl uniform. Long before everyone else, But suited to personal bests, not nights out.
plimsolls. On this, I am I proved white plimsolls went with everything. 9. Shoe Armageddon. After a spinal injury,
an expert. They sharpen 4. Stan Smith trainers, in white leather, with your feet swell at least two sizes. Vanity
any outfit. They are by turn Velcro fastenings. A very Eighties statement disintegrates. In hospital the only thing
witty, comfy and classic. shoe. They were expensive and I treasured them I could wear, every day, was a pair of men’s
They allow tall girls – I barely took them off for a decade. I even size 10 trainers, as big as small boats. I insisted
to flatter small men. bought special leather whitener. They were on white, but the joke was on me. My feet
They embody energy, still in use for dog walking at the millennium. weren’t fun or sporty any more, just tragic.
empowerment and freedom. And I have spent 5. Dunlop Green Flash, as reprised for the 10. Converse All Star. Copying my mentor
my life in them. Nineties. The brand relaunched with a green Annie, I perked myself up with colour. Pink
stripe around the toe, a green panel at the heel ones, gold ones, lime green ones. They are
1. Dunlop Red Flash. I could not believe my and green laces. The coloured laces seemed a fun, peeking from a wheelchair footplate at
luck. They were without question my most bit loud. But I forgave them because they had a black-tie reception, but their heels aren’t
treasured teenage possession. It was 1971 and magic nostalgic properties: putting them on, padded and I spring blisters if I wear them
my mother, very unusually, had succumbed to I shed 20 years. And they were so comfy. more than occasionally.
my begging. They had red soles, a red stripe 6. White canvas pumps, thin-soled, low-cut 11. My Meghan Markles. “Do you want your
round the toe, white laces and a red D at the and always worn without laces, arrived as Meghans on today?” my carer asks. They’re
side of the heel. Day one of a boating holiday a fashion item. I already had multiple pairs. white Veja plimsolls, recycled and sustainable,
with my cousins in Northern Ireland, I was Unlike the Woolies ones, these had no ugly popularised by Meghan in 2018. My pair has
ostentatiously changing into them on deck bumper toes. I got married in them, which the V in red, in tribute to where this lifetime
– hoping someone would be impressed – when people found amusing. The only time I didn’t love affair started, and when I wear them, all
one slipped off the stern. The dreadful vision wear them was in the office, because that summer, I sense the ghost of old me. Time’s
of it sinking, slowly, irrevocably, into the deep particular frontier hadn’t yet fallen. cruel to paralysed shoes, though: the soles
brown water of the marina remains with me. 7. The Noughties was my running decade. are unworn, the canvas uncreased, but the
2. Woolworths’ best. The ones with the horrid I began noncommittally, jogging in a final rubber is yellowed and they look grubby.
vertical ridges round the toe. I could only pair of Dunlop Green Flash. Had I kept them Shoe whitener hasn’t worked; next stop is
conceal the Red Flash disaster from my box-fresh, dammit, they’d be worth a fortune money-saving white emulsion. Remember this,
mother for so long, and Woolies was my on the retro trainers market, because after fashionistas: when it comes to white plimsolls,
punishment for such carelessness. selling 25 million pairs, Dunlop discontinued I’m always ahead of the curve. n
3. Dunlop Green Flash, Seventies model. them. There’s a cult following and the only size
Green soles, green lining. A discreet green D still available new is a three. @Mel_ReidTimes
at the heel. White laces. I had two consecutive 8. Nerdy running trainers. I got serious with Melanie Reid is tetraplegic after breaking her
pairs and wore them to ribbons; they took me the 10ks and bought (white, always white) Asics. neck and back in a riding accident in April 2010

The Times Magazine 7

Richard Branson, 71,
photographed by Erik Tanner


Richard Branson felt a failure at school. Misunderstood by his teachers, he dropped
out at 15. Now the billionaire is convinced that his dyslexia was the reason he
took risks – despite not knowing the difference between net and gross until he
was 50. He tells Rachel Sylvester that businesses must embrace neurodiversity

Branson in 1984, when Virgin Atlantic was founded

S ir Richard Branson has a ‘I’M KNOWN AS DR YES. BEING AN OPTIMIST IS
knighthood, a Caribbean island, A LOT MORE FUN THAN BEING A PESSIMIST’
a rocket and several billion pounds
PREVIOUS SPREAD: ERIK TANNER/NEW YORK TIMES/REDUX/EYEVINE. THIS PAGE: GETTY IMAGES to his name, but he still thinks of In 2006 with his parents, Eve and Ted, children Holly (in purple) and Sam and wife Joan
himself as a bit of a rebel. Once,
when I went to interview him in his may not live for ever, but the cautious do not “Virgin” was not the most appropriate name to
Swiss chalet, Britain’s best-known live at all.’ I’ve lived by that mantra ever since.” have emblazoned above the door of the female
entrepreneur padded down the sleeping quarters. “I heard nothing more from
steps to meet me in his socks. Branson admits that things could have him for another ten years, and then he said
This time, we speak by Zoom turned out very differently. On the day he left how much he regretted not just saying yes. He
and the 71-year-old is wearing a faded orange Stowe – the independent boarding school he was good enough to acknowledge that the boy
T-shirt that looks identical to one my teenage attended until he was 15 – the head teacher had done OK. There’s much that needs to be
son owns. He is in Morocco at his kasbah told him he would either end up a millionaire done so that schooling can be adapted to the
in the Atlas Mountains – tanned, of course, or in prison. That turned out to be an accurate individual rather than the ‘one size fits all’
and with hair bleached by the sun. When he prediction. By the age of 22, he had not only approach that currently happens.”
turns his camera off he sounds exactly – eerily set up his magazine but had also opened a
– like Tony Blair. He is definitely more Cool chain of record stores, Virgin Records, and Despite making billions from business over
Britannia than Little England. founded the empire that would make his name. more than 50 years, Branson points out that
he would still be considered a failure by an
Branson may have 400 companies in his A few years later the headmaster sent him education system that defines success purely
Virgin group, running everything from gyms a letter asking him to sponsor a new girls’ in academic terms. He is severely dyslexic but
to planes and even a bank, but he has never dormitory at the school. “I wrote back saying, was not diagnosed until his twenties, long
been a suit-and-tie kind of businessman. ‘Yes, if you name it after my company,’” after he had left school. Once, when he was
In the Seventies, his record company signed Branson tells me. The school decided that
the Sex Pistols and he is happier leaping from
planes or hanging out with supermodels than
staring at numbers in the boardroom. Having
dropped out of school at 15, he lived for years
on a houseboat because he couldn’t afford
a house – he called it “the Duende”, which
means “the power to attract through personal
magnetism and charm”.

He has always been a brand as much as a
businessman – a disrupter who loves to “tilt
at big companies”, as he puts it. He still thinks
of himself as an outsider rather than part
of the corporate establishment and tells me
that he has learnt over the course of his long
business career that “it is possible to be a
David versus a Goliath and pay the bills at
the end of the year”. Last week, he visited
Ukraine and met Volodymyr Zelensky – the
epitome of the plucky underdog – and saw
some of the sites of Russian attacks since
Vladimir Putin’s “appalling invasion” began.

Branson prides himself on taking up new
challenges and is always pushing himself to
the limit, whether flying around the world
in a hot-air balloon or beating Elon Musk
into space. “I hate saying no; I’m known
as Dr Yes,” he explains and he is convinced
that his positivity is one of the secrets of his
success. “I think being an optimist is a hell
of a lot more fun than being a pessimist. As a
leader, it’s so much better to look for the best
in people, to praise people and generally be
positive. That brings the best out of people.”

There have, he admits, been some close
shaves. He has almost died 75 times as result
of his daredevil escapades, and flirted with
financial ruin on more than one occasion.
“But life has been a hell of a lot more fun
because I’ve said ‘yes’ rather than ‘no’. When
I was 16 I brought out a magazine called
Student and on the back I printed, ‘The brave

The Times Magazine 11

PA, REUTERS, ALAMY about eight, he did an IQ test and recalls with At the launch of a Tony Blair entrepreneurship initiative in in the world, how good they are going to be at
amusement, “I don’t think I filled in anything.” 2000, with Lord Sugar and Stelios Haji-lannou motivating and inspiring people.” His children
His earliest memories of education are “looking Holly and Sam (with his second wife, Joan,
at a blackboard and just seeing mumbo jumbo Virgin Galactic starts trading on the New York Stock to whom he’s been married since 1989) have
and relegating myself to the back of the class, Exchange, October 2019 set up a charity, Big Change, to campaign for
so I could at least try to look over somebody education reform.
else’s shoulder to see if I could get some ‘WE NO LONGER ASK
marks, but having no understanding of what PEOPLE FOR EXAM Branson does admit that there was one
was going on and longing for breaktime so RESULTS. OTHERS time when his dyslexia almost killed him. “I
I could go out and play”. He remembers the SHOULD DO THE SAME’ had to learn to skydive when I was trying to
frustration of struggling to read and write. fly around the world in a hot-air balloon. I
This was the late Fifties, before dyslexia was On Necker Island, 2006 jumped, and in a very typical dyslexic way,
widely recognised. “I would jumble things up. Islands a hundred years ago, then recently I pulled the lever that got rid of the parachute,
People just assumed that we [dyslexics] were reintroduced, and how if a scarlet ibis breeds not the one that opened the parachute.” Luckily,
stupid. I was definitely bottom of the class.” with a white ibis you get a pink ibis. Then we there was somebody else coming down beside
moved on to flamingos and giant tortoises. him. “He had watched where my hand was
There were some moments of real We were just getting out and about looking going, and he did a little bit of a Superman
cruelty and humiliation. “I got beaten for at things that are relevant and exciting. And dive in, and managed to pull the spare chute,
not performing. In those days it was pyjama sadly the conventional school educational so saving me.”
bottoms down and a stick. Those are unpleasant system doesn’t really do that.”
moments for any kid, but for me, it was Nor has he ever been very good at company
strangely the best thing that happened to me. He insists that schools should recognise accounts. “I was 50 years old when I was
It meant that at 15 I decided that the world different qualities and talents in children. “We having a board meeting, and by then we had
needed a magazine run by young people, aimed need an education system where every young maybe the largest private group of companies
at young people, that could say we don’t want person is set up to thrive in life, and not just in Europe, and I asked the question, when
to waste our time just having a completely thrive as a result of having good exam marks. somebody gave some figures, ‘Is that good
exam-orientated society – we should be taught The Virgin Group no longer asks people for news or bad news?’ One of the directors took
things that are relevant and interesting.” exam results and I think other companies me out of the room and said, ‘Richard, I’ve
should do the same. One should talk to people known you for years now, I’ve never really
For years, Branson believed that his about their personality, about what’s going on dared ask you, but am I right in thinking you
differently wired brain was a disadvantage don’t know the difference between net and
but now he see his dyslexia as a “superpower” gross?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ve never been able
that has given him an edge in business and to admit it, but yeah, that’s the case.’ He pulled
in life. “If something really interests me, out a sheet of paper, and he had some crayons
I can excel at it,” he says. “The fact that I was and he coloured the piece of paper blue and
dyslexic meant that, from a very young age, he said, ‘That’s the sea.’ Then he put a fishing
I found fantastic people to surround myself net and some fish in the net, and he said, ‘The
with. It taught me to delegate. I think that, fish that are in the net, that’s your profit at the
by and large, dyslexics are more creative and end of the year, and the rest of the sea is gross
good at seeing the bigger picture. We do think turnover.’ I have name-dropped net and gross
slightly differently to other people.” ever since. I realised that Virgin’s net worth is
nowhere near as big as I thought it was.”
As an employer, Branson actively seeks
out other dyslexics, and he is working with Yet, Branson is convinced that his dyslexia
the charity Made By Dyslexia to encourage has made him a better businessman because he
other businesses to understand the benefits has an original perspective, is more innovative
of neurodiversity. Around 40 per cent of and willing to take risks. “I’ve never seen
top-earning CEOs are dyslexic, according myself as an entrepreneur; I’ve seen myself as
to a 2019 survey, and LinkedIn recently added a creator. I’m not really interested in making
“dyslexic thinking” to its recognised list of money per se; I’m interested in the things that
skills. Within days, more than 10,000 people I create surviving. It doesn’t really matter if
had included it in their profile. “I have a you failed elementary maths, as I did at school
grandchild who’s just been diagnosed as dyslexic all those years ago. Somebody else can add up
and I was able to ring him up and celebrate the figures. I’ve just got to deliver a product
and say, ‘It’s something that you and I have that exceeds expectations. Take Virgin Atlantic
got that the rest of the family doesn’t have,’” – 38 years ago we flew with one second-hand
Branson says. “What I tell parents is, work out 747 across the Atlantic. Everybody thought we
what your child is really good at and let them were mad. We were taking on British Airways
follow that path, and the rest will catch up. with 300 planes… If I’d gone to the accountants
Let them excel at the things they enjoy.” and asked them to do some figures to see
whether it was a good idea to go into the
During the pandemic he spent time on airline business, they would have told me,
Necker Island, his Caribbean home, giving his ‘You’ll never survive.’”
grandchildren the kind of education he wishes
he’d had. “We said, ‘There’s a scarlet ibis over Branson was born in 1950 in Blackheath,
there,’ and then we went on the internet and southeast London, the son of Ted, a barrister,
found out all about the scarlet ibis and how and Eve, a former actress, ballet dancer and
they’d been wiped out in the British Virgin air hostess. His mother, who died last year

The Times Magazine 13

REX FEATURES from Covid at the age of 96, was an enormous Meeting Zelensky in Kyiv, June 29, 2022 In over five decades as a businessman,
influence as well as his first investor. “She Branson has been to Chequers and had dinner
found a necklace and handed it in to the ‘SEEING RUSSIA IN with at least eight prime ministers. He has
police, but nobody claimed it, so she sold it for UKRAINE,’ SAYS always avoided being tied to a particular
£100 and gave me the money to help me get BRANSON, ‘MAKES political party or tribe – he was Margaret
the magazine up and running.” From an early ME WANT TO WEEP’ Thatcher’s “litter tsar” in the Eighties and was
age she encouraged her son to be independent. put forward for his knighthood by Tony Blair
“She shoved me out of the car aged five or six the story? And he said, ‘Look, I happen to be in 2000 for “services to entrepreneurship”. But
and told me to make my own way to Granny’s a priest myself. Would you like me to wear my he clearly finds the lack of long-term thinking
house, which was four or five miles away. She dog collar?’ So we had this linguistics expert in in Westminster frustrating. “It’s tough being a
would have got arrested today, but I survived his dog collar, and the judge reluctantly found politician, I mean really tough – you’re in your
and I’m grateful to her for making us stand on us not guilty.” The Sex Pistols were “charming” job for two or three years, you’re minister for
our own two feet from a young age.” to the priest. “John Lydon and the others were education for a couple of years, then you’re
just nice lads having a really fun time.” minister of something else, and so by the time
Even as a schoolboy, Branson had an you’ve learnt it, you seem to be moved on. I’ve
entrepreneurial zeal, although his first Branson admits there is a very thin line been 55 years travelling the world in business
business ventures were a disaster. “I had heard between success and failure and there have and I’ve learnt an incredible amount in that
that budgerigars bred enormously quickly, and been some occasions when he came very close time, so I think businesspeople can sometimes
so I bought a few pairs of budgerigars, and to being on the wrong side of that dividing see situations more clearly… Politicians need
you could buy 1,000 tiny little Christmas trees line. Does he think he is just very lucky? “I to be receptive and good listeners. That’s a
for £3, and if you waited 5 years, when they think it’s partly personal resilience, it’s partly very important skill for any leader to have.”
were 6ft tall, you could get a good return. The just surrounding oneself with fantastic people,
Christmas trees got eaten by bunnies, and and if you have a great group of people, you There are rivalries in business as well as in
somehow or another rats got in and ate the can enjoy the good times and you can help politics. Last year Branson was caught up in a
budgerigars – or my mother let them out, each other get through the bad times together. “battle of the billionaires” race to space with
because she got fed up with feeding them Obviously, Covid was a torrid time, we were in Elon Musk, but he insists they are on good
when I was away, I’m not quite sure. They all the wrong businesses, but having a fantastic terms now. “He’s a friend. When I woke up
were both abject failures.” But, he insists, “We group of people just putting our heads down, to go to space that day, he was there with
need to embrace failure. There are so many determined to prove the critics wrong, all the his baby in the kitchen, which was very sweet.
entrepreneurs who failed once or twice before Virgin companies came out ahead.” Rivals should be friends in the evening but
they went on to become really successful, and competing hard in the day.” Going to space
you learn an enormous amount from failure.” The economic situation is looking even was, he says, “the most extraordinary day of
rockier now. In many ways, it is back to the my life, the biggest ‘pinch me’ moment. Every
His record stores thrived and he used the Seventies, with widespread disruption caused second was [the fulfilment of] a dream which
money to found a music label. The Sex Pistols by strikes, and flares back in fashion. “It’s I’d had since being a teenager, watching Neil
were one of the first bands he signed and he obviously sad to see what’s happening in Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and standing
admits that the recent re-release of God Save the world right now,” Branson says. “I fought there, looking up at the moon, and realising
the Queen for the Platinum Jubilee made him hard against the Vietnam War and the they were standing on the moon, as a kid it
nostalgic for his rock’n’roll days. “I don’t look Iraq war and the Libyan war… Seeing Russia was just extraordinary.”
back a lot, but the Sex Pistols really propelled in Ukraine makes me want to weep. And the
Virgin from being a hippy company into effects of that have been devastating on the Three of his five grandchildren were there
being a punk company that then attracted the price of oil for everybody, and therefore to watch him blast off. “All the grandkids had
Rolling Stones and Peter Gabriel and Genesis. the cost of living.” But he warns that there incredible things to say. Etta [who is 7] thinks
It was a brief whirlwind of a time with the Sex is another factor which is making things I was once a pirate dumped on Necker Island
Pistols involving everything from court cases particularly tough in the UK. “Obviously, years ago by other nasty pirates, and she
for Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Brexit’s had a negative effect, and not being pulled me down to her and whispered in my
Pistols to rides down the Thames where the part of the common market is going to affect ear just before I went, ‘Papa, do you know
police raided the boat, and lots of headlines people in Britain much more than they realise. you’re going to be the first pirate ever to go
attacking the Pistols, which of course played It’s already affecting people enormously in into space?’ Lola, who’s three years old, said,
right into their hands, and their record sales Britain. Our companies overseas are doing a ‘Papa, you come back for me.’ It was just too
soared. It taught me a lot about the promotion lot better because they can trade more freely magical. I’m a Peter Pan fan and to be floating
and marketing of a product.” with Europe.” in space looking back at this incredible Earth
that we live on was mind-blowing.” Branson
There is, he realised, no such thing as bad will turn 72 this month but the boy who never
publicity. When Virgin was prosecuted for grew up has no plans to retire. “I’ve been
displaying the word “Bollocks” in a Nottingham incredibly blessed – blessed with dyslexia,
record store window, Branson mounted an blessed with faults, blessed with positive things
ingenious defence. “I rang up Nottingham as well. Not everything has worked out how I
University’s linguistics expert and told him the planned it, but I can’t think of anything that
problem and he said, ‘What a load of bollocks. I would want to change. I’m just learning all
They obviously think that bollocks is a the time and life is so fascinating as a result.” n
derivative of balls. It’s nothing to do with that.
Bollocks was the nickname given to priests in Listen to an interview with Richard Branson
the 18th century, so the album really should on Past Imperfect on Times Radio tomorrow
mean, “Never mind the priests, here’s the Sex at 7pm. It will be released as a podcast on
Pistols.”’ I couldn’t believe my luck and said Monday morning
would he mind coming along to court to tell

14 The Times Magazine

‘He said to me, “If I give you advice
you need to take it, otherwise I will
never give you advice again’’’


She’s the sister of the world’s richest man, the billionaire
CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. But Tosca Musk is an
entrepreneur in her own right, with a female-friendly
streaming platform. She tells Helena de Bertodano
how they both overcame their difficult childhood

Tosca Musk, 47, photographed by Barry J Holmes
at the Hotel Shangri-La, Santa Monica. Opposite:

siblings Elon, Kimbal and Tosca Musk with their
mother, Maye, at Kimbal’s wedding in Spain, 2018

PREVIOUS SPREAD: KIMBALMUSK/INSTAGRAM. STYLING: SHEENA ANNIKKI TEMPLETON. HAIR AND MAKE-UP: LOUISE I f your last name is Musk, there’s a Musk says that people wrongly associate Kimbal, Elon and Tosca Musk in 1988
MOON FOR CLOUTIER REMIX USING ORIBE AND CHANEL MAKE-UP. SUIT, JONATHAN SIMKHAI; SHIRT, CAMI NYC; SHOES, fairly good chance you’re related to the “passion” with what she calls “the other
STUART WEITZMAN. THIS SPREAD: MAYEMUSK/INSTAGRAM, GETTY IMAGES, TOSCAMUSK/INSTAGRAM billionaire inventor-entrepreneur Elon P word”: “There is no passion in porn.” She ‘IT’S NOT LIKE
Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, aka finds it tiresome that critics sometimes dismiss ELON’S CUTTING ME
the richest person in the world. Which the films as “not real art”. “I feel like it’s very CHEQUES. WE’RE
brings with it a lot of baggage. disrespectful towards the romance genre.” DIFFERENT PEOPLE.
“I have a very familiar last name,” I’M VERY FRUGAL’
says Tosca Musk, Elon’s younger sister, It is not too fanciful to say that her
a film-maker and director who runs the dedication to the genre perhaps springs from Tosca Musk with her twins, Isabeau and Grayson, in 2018
streaming platform Passionflix, which the lack of romance in her own life. Her of] everybody in our family. If we say we’re
adapts romance novels for the screen. Her parents’ marriage was worse than miserable going to do something, just believe us we’re
name is both a liability and an advantage, she and she says she has never had a truly going to do it.
says when we meet in the Santa Monica hotel meaningful romantic relationship herself.
where she is staying while she edits her latest She had her two children, nine-year-old “A lot of people will say things are not
television film, Gabriel’s Rapture: Part 3, which twins Isabeau and Grayson, via sperm donor going to work because they aren’t used to
premieres on August 12. and IVF. “I didn’t want to have children taking risks. With us, it’s like, well, no one’s
with somebody I didn’t want to spend the done it before. Doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”
“I don’t like that my kids watch YouTube rest of my life with… And have to be attached
and there are jokes about my brother; it makes to [that person] and have them make decisions She says she has a similar response if
them feel a little uncomfortable. And they about my children and my life ultimately. anyone asks if her brother will go through
don’t understand why people would say And I certainly didn’t want to go through with his purchase of Twitter. (Two and a half
[negative] things about him.” brutal divorces.” months ago Elon offered $44 billion for the
social media platform – but later put the deal
Because he’s just Uncle Elon to them? She seems almost too rational to have “on hold” while seeking information about
“Exactly. And I’m incredibly proud of my older a platform for romance movies. “I’m very the number of fake and spam accounts on the
brother. He is a phenomenon. He’s exceptional practical and very rational,” she agrees. “But
in so many ways and his goals to help I do think that I’m also a romantic and maybe
humanity are beyond anything that anybody the practicality and the rationality is a little
can imagine. So there’s no taint at all.” bit of an armour against being as romantic
as I could be.”
Has she ever thought about changing her
surname? “No!” she says, appalled. “I love my One downside of the surname Musk is that
name. I don’t have an issue with it.” people assume she is wealthy. “That’s really
annoying. I don’t have tons of money. [Elon
Tosca Musk, 47, is forthright, to say the and I] are not the same person. Also it’s not
least. Three years younger than Elon, she like he’s cutting me cheques. We’re two
is close to both him and her other brother, different people.” In fact, she says, “I’m very
Kimbal, a successful restaurateur and frugal. I love a good coupon.”
entrepreneur. “Kimbal’s goal is to solve the
obesity crisis in America. He’s just so human- Although Kimbal and their mother, Maye
forward as well.” – a dietician and model who at 74 was recently
on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit
So while Kimbal, 49, solves the obesity – were small angel investors in Passionflix,
crisis and Elon, 50, saves the world, Tosca is Musk will not say if Elon was involved
dedicated to bringing happiness to humankind financially. I would assume not, as funding
– specifically to women, who make up 98 per seems to be the biggest hurdle for the
cent of Passionflix’s audience. “I’m a very platform, still a slim operation with just
strong advocate for positive storytelling,” says six employees. Musk prefers to go it alone
Musk. “I think we need more stories about anyway. “If the idea is good, I should be able
love and hope. We have enough sad and to raise the money to do it.” She says that
depressing movies out there. I hate violence.” Elon occasionally helps in other ways. “He
said to me, ‘I will give you advice. But if I give
As well as adapting romance novels, many you advice you need to take it. Otherwise I’ll
of them directed by Musk herself, Passionflix never give you advice again.’ I was like, ‘If you
also licenses romance films from studios. For give me advice, I will take that advice.’”
$5.99 a month, subscribers have access to five
different film categories ranked according to a So what was the advice he gave you? She
“barometer of naughtiness” – from the Oh So answers vaguely: “It was just early on in
Vanilla category through Mildly Titillating to the starting of Passionflix, more about an
Not Safe for Work. But make no mistake, this ongoing experience.”
is not an erotic platform: in her own movies
Musk does not include any frontal nudity Does she ever think his advice is wrong?
below the waist – and rarely even above – and “No, he’s never wrong. Not even a little bit.”
she objects to any description of the site as
“soft porn” or “a guilty pleasure”. “I’d rather Many people told her Passionflix would be
portray a connection – the love and passion a failure. “They still tell me all the time that
and lust between two people – than show it won’t work. And we’re still here.” Like her
gratuitous nudity. We don’t have to spend all brothers, she is not easily put off an idea,
of our time looking at breasts.” however ridiculous the rest of the world
might deem it. “I think that’s probably [true

18 The Times Magazine

Tosca with her mother, Maye, in 2021 the state’s generous tax credits for filming. remembers the fights too. “I got chased
Born in Pretoria, South Africa, Musk and around and tied up and a dirty sock stuffed in
platform.) “If he says he’s going to do it my mouth. All the things that boys do to their
I would believe that he’s going to do it.” her siblings grew up in Johannesburg. Her younger sisters.” Her mother’s twin sister had
mother suffered both physical and mental three sons – and the two families spent a lot
She tells me how Elon once described to abuse at the hands of their father, Errol, an of time together. “So it was five boys and me.
her the difficulties of landing a rocket. “He’s engineer. When she eventually summoned up I had to learn how to spit really far.”
like, ‘Tosca, it’s like taking a pencil. And there’s the courage to divorce him, he chased her
an eraser on the one side and I want you to through the streets with a knife. In her book Elon, she says, loved playing Dungeons
throw it up in the air and I want you to land A Woman Makes a Plan, Maye writes that Errol and Dragons and would always win. “I would
it on that eraser.’ I was like, ‘You can’t do that.’ would hit her in the children’s presence: “I beg to play with him. Within minutes I would
But he did it.” remember that Tosca and Kimbal, who were roll the dice and die.”
two and four respectively, would cry in the
One of her brother’s stated goals with his corner, and Elon, who was five, would hit him I ask her what her strongest memory is
SpaceX rocket company is to build a full-size on the backs of his knees to try to stop him.” of Elon as a child. She thinks for a while. “I’ll
city on the surface of Mars, with the first tell you a story of childhood. When we were
people arriving there in 2029. Will she go? Musk says today that she doesn’t recall younger, we went to Sun City [a resort in
“If my kids want to go I will go to Mars. But much about those days. “I don’t remember South Africa], and Elon ate everything in the
other than that, I don’t think I will go.” [the abuse] when we were living together. But buffet and on the way back, he vomited all
I remember it as I was growing older. It was over me. And I couldn’t move because we
She is easy, convivial company, blunt but more against [my mother] than against me.” didn’t want to get the vomit on the plane
ready to laugh. We start the interview by seats. So I had to hold the vomit until we
sitting in the almost empty bar at the hotel. In the early days of her childhood, landed. And then I was washed off. Pineapple
The bartender offers us a drink: “Perhaps there was plenty of money. Musk – named chunks,” she says in disgust. “I mean,
something virgin without alcohol?” Musk Tosca after the Puccini opera by her father pineapple chunks. On me!”
looks at the bartender in amazement. “I’ll – remembers “a lovely big house in Pretoria”.
have something with alcohol. Vodka please.” But everything changed after her parents’ He’s going to really thank you for that
divorce in 1979, when she was five. “I don’t memory, I say. She shrugs and laughs.
During the photoshoot she is relaxed and know what happened to my father’s money.
low maintenance. “It takes me two seconds to Good question…” She hated school. “Is anybody happy at
change,” she tells the photographer, proving it. school?” When she was a teenager, the family
Her children lie on the bed, which they will She feels that their childhood is sometimes moved to Canada. School was even worse
all share together tonight. Grayson is playing misrepresented. “Some people spew hate there. “It was horrible. The kids were mean.
video games and Isabeau is watching language towards us because they think we They all had their cliques; I was cliqueless.
YouTube. Their dog, Jane Snuggles, a grew up with a silver spoon and were given I didn’t know how to dress because in South
maltipoo, leaps around them, yapping. everything – which is so far from the truth. Africa we wore school uniforms. Also we had
They have flown in today from Georgia, When I was growing up it was just a matter no money at all. We lived in a rent-controlled
where Musk moved them last year – to “a of survival.” apartment and we bought our clothes off
magical forest town” – to make the most of whatever discount rack there was at the
Musk says she derives her strength from discount store.”
her mother. “I think Tosca’s stronger than me,”
says Maye, when I speak to her a few days So Musk decided to speed up school by
later. “She really says it as it is and takes no studying twice as hard. “I did day school, night
nonsense. Whereas I can accept nonsense for school and summer school and finished two
a while – and then suffer for it.” She says that years early.”
Tosca became her receptionist at the age of
five. “From the age of eight she was typing my Somehow she also found time to work
doctor’s reports for me.” – first at a fast food outlet, then in a grocery
store. Drawn towards film, she bought a video
It was her mother who introduced Musk camera when she was 17 and started making
to romance novels: Judith Krantz, Danielle short movies. She went on to study film at the
Steel et al. Maye explains, “When I was University of British Columbia, then worked
married I read romance books. They just give for Canadian entertainment company
me some hope in life.” Mother and daughter Alliance. “It took her 15 years to pay off her
would watch the screen adaptations. “On a student loan,” says Maye. In 2001 she wrote
Sunday we would watch them together and and directed her own feature film, Puzzled,
eat ice cream,” says Musk. “That would be with Elon as an executive producer.
our treat.”
She co-founded Passionflix in 2017.
The three children were close but Musk Presenting it at a romance novel conference,
she invited fans of the genre to come on board
‘I REMEMBER THE as founding members. Some 3,000 women
ABUSE AS I GREW paid $100 to become members with set-visit
OLDER. IT WAS privileges. She listens to their advice and gives
MORE AGAINST MY some of them roles as extras. Indeed, it was
MOTHER THAN ME’ a fan who suggested the lead actor Giulio
Berruti for the Gabriel series – an adaptation
of an erotic romance novel published under
the pen name Sylvain Reynard, which is one
of the platform’s biggest draws.

The Times Magazine 19

The next day I join her and her head of were very brief. Certainly there were those investing in your company because you will be
post production, Margie Goodspeed, for a childhood crushes.” married to them for ever.’”
sound editing session of Gabriel’s Rapture:
Part 3. We watch Gabriel (tall, dark and Has she been unlucky or does she just Although Passionflix is now available in
handsome – of course) rapturing Julia as the have very high standards? “I think that I have 150 countries and dubbed into 9 languages,
rain pours down, thunder rolls and lightning standards. High or not. I expect to be treated subscriber numbers are relatively modest. “Six
flashes. Musk wants more thunder. “We are in a very specific way and I would treat people figures” is as specific as Musk wants to get. In
milking this whole scene,” laughs Goodspeed. the same way. I never got that treatment.” the next decade she hopes that the platform
“Oh yes,” says Musk. “I love to milk. We like will become a household name and that she
to luxuriate in the moment.” She becomes Not that she has ever been badly hurt. can start making major movies. “I would love
momentarily wistful: “But it is beautiful.” “It was more of a ‘meh’ sort of experience to make the $50 million or $100 million epic
Does she get very caught up in it while in dating. I’m very fortunate that I have a romance films – I could make a movie like
directing? Goodspeed answers for her: very fulfilling family and life. I’ve never felt The English Patient or Shakespeare in Love;
“She’s sometimes crying.” I can’t go [somewhere] because I need to have those are within my genre. And I’m not going
somebody else with me. I’ll go to weddings on to shy away from an Academy award.” She’s
In the next scene, a similar-looking man is my own. I prefer my own company to having joking but it would be foolish to underestimate
telling the same woman how much he loves to bring somebody who is uncomfortable and her. She is, after all, a Musk.
her. “Choose me and I’ll give you a happy makes me spend all my time with them. I have
life. You’ll never have to cry yourself to sleep a somewhat intimidating family. You don’t The siblings remain close. “I don’t know if
again.” Hold on, I ask, is that the same man? want people being intimidated. [Although] they’ll agree with me – but I think we share a
Musk laughs. “Similar size pecs,” explains Kyle, I think some people put it on themselves. lot of characteristics. We certainly enjoy each
the sound engineer. “Different man.” My family is superchill.” other’s company… We try to see each other as
often as possible. Kimbal’s a chef so he’ll cook
Back in Musk’s real, practical life – where Even these days, her favourite activity dinner. Normally we’re just hanging around the
tall, dark, handsome, kind men are vanishingly is reading romance novels at home. “On a table and having a chat and laughing.” Even
rare – she decided, aged 37, that it was time to Saturday morning I will get my cup of coffee
have children. “I rationalised the entire thing.
If I meet somebody today, we date for a year; ‘I DON’T WANT A DATE WHO’S INTIMIDATED
now I’m 38. We move in together; now I’m 39. BY MY FAMILY. THEY’RE SUPERCHILL’
We decide we’re going to get married; now I’m
40 because it takes for ever to plan a wedding. and I will go and sit on my chaise longue, Elon occasionally cooks. “He once made
At 41, we try to have children. Oh, now we which has a beautiful view of the forest. I will exceptional cinnamon buns.” From scratch?
can’t. So I’m going to go through all the drugs sit there for hours and read a book while “Probably not. But it was more than putting
and hormones that you have to go on in your drinking coffee. And the kids pitter-patter them on a plate. There was some doughy
forties to try to have children. That’s just around. It’s beautiful.” thing he had to do. They were delicious.”
going to end the marriage right there: that
massive amount of stress. So the likelihood of Later in the day she will switch to a glass of She hasn’t ruled out a partner in her future.
me being able to have children – had I even wine. “Or a bottle. Depends on the day.” She “There’s no reason why I can’t meet somebody
met somebody at 37 – just didn’t make sense.” has even launched a Passionflix wine – with and get married now. My brother Kimbal
the slogan “Toe Curling Yumminess” – and actually says I’m a great catch. Because I don’t
Her family could not have been more has plans to expand the range. want anything from anybody. I’ve got a great
supportive. “I told my eldest brother first and family, a great company, a wonderful home.
he said immediately, ‘I think that’s a good So far she has raised almost $22 million for I don’t need anything. The only thing I need
idea. You’d make a great mother. I support the platform and is hoping to raise a further is a really great person. And I don’t even
you in that.’ My mum was like, ‘Ooh, that’s $10 million. It’s the most complex part of the need them.
fabulous. So how do we choose a sperm business. For a start, “[People] couldn’t invest
donor? Do we all just get drunk and spin in the company because they thought they “I am not on dating sites,” she continues.
a bottle?’” In fact a “matchmaker” helped would have a close connection to my brother.” “[But] I would be open to a relationship.”
her sift through potential donors. “My Second, the movie industry is still a male- Realistically, though, she says she will probably
matchmaker recommended that I choose dominated world. “We would normally pitch wait until her kids are older. “Right now my
somebody that looks like me: tall, blond, in a room full of men who would be like, kids are such a wonderful age. They want to
blue-eyed, square-jawed – because then my ‘Haha, fantastic, tell me more about the [she hang out with me. My understanding is that
kids will always look like me.” adopts a leery voice] romance genre.’” She had that’s going to change. When it does, it would
dinner with one potential investor. “He said, be a great time for me to date somebody. So
She has never looked back. “It was the best ‘OK, I’ll give you three [million dollars] but if anybody knows anybody who’s perfect, who
decision I ever made. I can’t even imagine life I’ll own 50 per cent of the company. And let’s could be my Harlequin lover… [She is referring
without my children.” discuss this up in my room.’ I was like, ‘No, to the Harlequin romance series.] No one lives
I don’t need to go to your room because we’re up to those Harlequin men. Men should read
Their childhood is very different from hers. sitting here. Also, you’re not going to own them and take some tips.”
“I don’t have the struggle and abuse side of 50 per cent of my company, because that’s not
things. So that’s somewhat better… [Also] what I’m offering.’ And he goes, ‘Well, where The most important qualities in a potential
I raise my kids more like a team member. I else are you gonna get the money?’ partner are “honesty, laughter, kindness”. And
include them in decision-making.” it goes without saying that if she ever married,
“Actually,” she continues, “this is one of she would never take their name. “Never in a
She says there has been no one significant the best pieces of advice that I got from my million years. Why couldn’t they take mine?
in her life since she had children. “There brothers: ‘You should pay attention to who is I have a great name.” n
wasn’t anybody significant in my life before
I had children either.” Not even in her
twenties? “No. Never. All [my relationships]

20 The Times Magazine



Will Pavia and his children on
the 43rd floor of the Steinway
Tower, New York, photographed
by Aaron Richter. Opposite: the
building overlooks Central Park


‘Superskinnies’ are controversially changing
urban skylines and the Steinway Tower in
New York is the slimmest (so far), with a
height-to-width ratio of 24:1. The views are

staggering, as you would expect for
$26 million an apartment. Will Pavia and

family, left, try the high life

W hen I first got to New York just One entire wall of the
over a decade ago, there was a apartment is a glass
party game that began with the window 60ft wide
question, “What is the nicest
used to play it together, telling
PREVIOUS SPREAD: DAVID SUNDBERG. THIS SPREAD: AARON RICHTER, ALAMY stories of tenuous connections Kong (20:1). The Steinway Tower, which my wife can come too. What about the
that got them, for a few opened in April at 111 West 57th Street, is 24:1. kids, I ask, because you haven’t really lived
moments, into a famous It is so slender that each floor is a single flat. somewhere until you are consumed with
building on Park Avenue or a soaring It is all penthouse. the terrifying certainty that your children
penthouse downtown. will break something.
As they rose, changing the skyline of
They were a ragtag group: artists, TV New York, the flats inside the superskinnies “How old are the kiddos?” a representative
writers, journalists, lawyers. Over the years, as were being bought for up to $100 million for the building asks. The truth is they are
their careers took off, the stories got better. (£82 million). Not as homes, mind you, but all boys aged eight, six and three, and in
by billionaires looking for somewhere safe what you might call the wrestling stage of life.
I think of the party game now, standing in to house their money after the shocks of the But the six-year-old is actually a very old six,
a lift as it rises with ear-popping speed up an financial crisis. These were not places where, I say. He’s about to be seven. I’m not sure if
impossibly thin skyscraper and stops halfway in the manner of the party game, you were this is persuasive but, after a pause, I am told
up, at the 43rd floor. It opens into the hallway likely to know someone who knew someone they can come.
of a home. We turn right, towards a pair of who lived in one. Unless you happened to
double doors that have been flung open onto know an enormous pile of cash. Which, of I go to the tower alone at 2pm on a sunny
a room with a view. course, only heightened the fascination. What afternoon, entering through a stone arch
would it be like to live in one? guarded by two very large men in suits.
“Oh my God,” I say. Beyond them, along a twisting corridor, there’s
“Exactly,” says Michael Stern, the developer To answer this question, and after some a lobby dominated by two enormous white
behind the Steinway Tower, as it is called, negotiations, I am told that I will be allowed urns, out of which sprout gold plants with fans
which reaches 1,428 feet into the sky two into a flat in the Steinway Tower and that of spiky gold leaves. A concierge stands at a
streets south of Central Park. “That’s the
reaction we’re going for. You come in, and it’s
just…” He gestures into the great sunlit beyond.
The Steinway Tower is the slenderest of
a new line of superskinny skyscrapers that
have risen above 57th Street. It’s also the most
striking. It looks from afar like a thin blue
chisel. Nearly halfway up it begins to set back
in wafer-thin steps on the south side until it is
so skinny that you can see through it.
The superskinnies have been made
possible partly by advances in technology:
concrete that is stronger and more flexible,
more accurate modelling of what the wind
will do to a building, and something called a
“tuned mass damper” – an 800-tonne weight
like a giant ball bearing that sits on hydraulic
struts at the top of the superskinny and shifts
to counteract swaying.
The first of them, 432 Park Avenue, the
roof of which is higher than the top (though
not the spire) of One World Trade Center, aka
the Freedom Tower, was considered almost
dangerously thin when it opened in 2015, with
a height-to-width ratio of 15:1. A whole line of
superskinnies then began rising above the
same street, like kudzu vines or some other
leggy invasive species brought over on the
global trade winds from Dubai. Cycling to
work through Central Park each morning
I would see builders dangling at terrific
heights from cranes that leant off the tops of
these structures. They made the Empire State
Building look short and rather fat.
The pencil-shaped 432 Park Avenue was
surpassed in 2019 by 220 Central Park South,
at a waif-like 18:1, second at the time only to
the fabulously spindly Highcliff tower in Hong

24 The Times Magazine



ÅÅ Steinway Tower,
111 West 57th
Street, New York
(435 metres,
84 storeys)

booth in one wall. Soft piano music plays. “They… make the building perform better.” 18:1 20:1
It’s all very Twenties, or like a scene from Squinting into the bright sunshine, we
the science fiction film Gattaca. ÅÅ Central Park ÉÉ Highcliff,
can see the spike of a black crane extending Tower, New York Hong Kong
A middle-aged lady sweeps through in a sideways off the top of the tower, with cords (472 metres, (252.4 metres,
long dress, talking into her phone, trailed by dropping through the void to a rectangular 98 storeys) 72 storeys)
several people who might be estate agents or basket holding two maintenance workers. They
personal assistants. “Well, I’m coming back in must be about 1,000ft up. I wonder how they 18:1
the autumn,” she says. feel about the building’s performance.
ÉÉ 220 Central
Now here comes Stern, the developer. The “Those guys have balls of steel,” says Stern. Park South,
man behind the superskinny is stockily built We go back down to the lobby and into New York
and has the face of a bruiser: a wide nose, flat another elevator that ascends, at 1,650ft a (290 metres,
cheekbones, a forehead like a battering ram. minute, up to the 43rd floor and into the room 70 storeys)
But his voice is soft. He whisks me outside with the view. It’s a kitchen and living room
and across the street so that we can throw and the far wall of it is a glass window 60ft
our heads back as far as they will go to try wide, as large as a cinema screen. Central Park
to take in all of his tower. is spread out beneath us; it’s a bright June day
and the greens of the grasses and the trees
At the bottom of it is Steinway Hall, a seem to glow in the sunshine.
beautiful limestone building constructed for This view, and the flat that comes with it,
the famous piano company, 16 storeys high will set you back $26 million (£24.4 million),
and capped with a crown that resembles a plus “maintenance” fees for the upkeep of the
Greek temple. Stern was all set to develop building that come to $8,745 a month and
a small parcel of property next to the hall property taxes of $7,010 a month.
when he learnt that it might be available “I didn’t come from money,” Stern says,
too, along with its unused “air rights”: the sitting down at the end of a white sofa. He
right to build to a certain height, which came from Long Island and an Orthodox
can be transferred to a neighbouring landlord, Jewish enclave on the edge of Queens where
allowing them to go even higher. This, his mother was a nurse and his father owned
essentially, is the reason for all the a garage. From the neighbourhood you could
superskinnies on 57th Street: there was a lot of see the skyscrapers of Manhattan “beckoning
spare air that could be bought by developers and calling you”. After a stint in Florida, doing
to build towers overlooking Central Park. up and selling houses, he landed in New York’s
outer boroughs, building single family homes,
At the top of Steinway Hall there’s a terrace hundreds at a time. “Not architectural gems,”
where you can see the western flank of the new he says.
tower emerging from the old limestone building Then he moved towards Manhattan and
and shooting up, dizzyingly, into the blue. It is his buildings got higher. His breakout success
lined with terracotta pilasters – vertical stripes came with the development of a fortress-like
of stone that seem to undulate as they rise. edifice that had belonged to a phone

They are shaped to “cheat the wind”
that buffets the top of the tower, Stern says.

The Times Magazine 25

GETTY IMAGES, JOHN GOLLINGS company and was “one of the ugliest buildings 16:1 agents who showed her round “were almost
in New York”, he says. They punched new surprised when I said I wanted to buy an
windows in the thick walls, added seven floors ÅÅ Collins House, apartment for living purposes”, she told me.
and renamed it the Walker Tower, after Ralph Melbourne “They would say, ‘Don’t worry, you are never
Walker, the long-forgotten architect who had (190 metres, going to meet your neighbours.’”
designed it. He also commissioned a book 60 storeys)
titled Ralph Walker: Architect of the Century. Stern says he doesn’t see the problem with
15:1 this. There are, in his tower, “plenty of pied-à-
It became a hot property: its flats selling terre buyers. Let’s call a spade a spade,” he
for twice the price, per square foot, of those ÉÉ 432 Park says. “There are primary residents too.” But
in neighbouring buildings. Stern now lives Avenue, New York the people who buy the flats “are going to pay
there too. He has two children, a daughter (426 metres, hefty real estate taxes… And this population
who is 18 and a son who is 8 (he is divorced 96 storeys) tends not to use public services in the same
from their mother). way others do. So they’re paying their full
15:1 freight, yet they are not taking from the
Pulling out his phone, he shows me a system. They are only putting into the
picture his nanny sent him of his son standing ÅÅ Selene, New system… They won’t burden the school system;
in Central Park looking up at the Steinway York (217 metres, they won’t burden public transportation.”
Tower. It really is the most spectacular of the 61 storeys)
superskinnies, some of which look no better When he leaves, I wander the 4,000sq ft
than office buildings stretched skyward. I ask 13.2:1 apartment with the Times photographer Aaron
him about the problems reported in the first Richter. It’s quite something to be able to walk
of them, 432 Park Avenue, where residents ÉÉ The Phoenix clean through a skyscraper, from one view
filed a lawsuit last year complaining that their Apartments, to the next. Richter says that if he lived here
building swayed in the wind, causing the lifts Melbourne he would lose hours of his day staring out
to shut down and raising a cacophony of (88.5 metres, of the windows. He would get really cross
“creaking, banging and clicking noises”. 28 storeys) if the glass wasn’t absolutely clean, he
says. He would be calling the concierge to
THE VIEW HERE IS ALMOST complain. “I didn’t spend $26 million to have
AN ESSENTIAL AMENITY, AS dirty windows,” he would say. The view here is
CRUCIAL AS WATER AND WI-FI almost an essential amenity, as crucial as the
water and the wi-fi.
Stern says the problems there have been
exaggerated. It was “a pioneer. They really Some of the superskinnies are glazed on
went first,” he says. Once they had figured all sides. Stern had told us that, under certain
out their tuned mass damper, the giant ball conditions, you can look across at the chap in
on hydraulic struts, they solved a lot of the the superskinny up the street and see what
swaying problems. “We haven’t had any of kind of underwear he is wearing. He put walls
those issues,” he says. on the east and west sides of his for privacy,
and also so the flats feel more like homes.
Some feel the superskinnies represent a Another thing he had to do was lower
spectacular waste of space in a city with an the ceilings in the bedrooms. Otherwise
acute housing shortage. The urban geographer they would have looked a bit “Alice in
Samuel Stein complained that the Steinway Wonderland”, he says. Too tall by half.
Tower could fit 442 normal-sized New York
flats instead of 60 enormous ones. I tell the photographer about my own
place, which is 700sq ft, long and narrow, the
Stern says you could never build a kids sleeping in bunks along one wall like
superskinny full of affordable homes. “The sailors. It is so cramped and cluttered that
maths doesn’t work,” he says. “I have a friend when Andi Schmied’s coffee-table book about
who is an affordable housing developer and he life inside luxurious superskinny skyscrapers
actually said to me the other day, ‘Yeah, was delivered, I had nowhere to put it. There
I build affordable housing; you build was no free counter space. In the end I had to
unaffordable housing.’” But buying up all balance it on top of a pile of clothes at the end
the air rights for this place funded affordable of our bed. It felt like quite the irony.
housing elsewhere in Manhattan, he says.
My phone starts to ring now and it’s my
What about the other criticism: that no one other half saying she’s somewhere down there
lives in them? A Hungarian artist named Andi on the street beneath our feet with the kids.
Schmied managed to get inside New York’s I rush down, wondering how clean they are
superskinnies by posing as an astronomically and if the smallest one has had a nap, and
wealthy European shopping for an apartment, intercept them as they come barrelling down
and produced an amusing coffee-table book the corridor from the front door.
about her experiences called Private Views:
A High-Rise Panorama of Manhattan. Estate By the lifts there’s a glass bench, thick
and see-through. The middle son walks
around it and then gets down on the floor
and slides under it, so that his head looks
massive beneath it. I have to pull him out
from under it when the lift arrives.

The Times Magazine 27

Don’t touch anything, I say, as we 13:1 upstairs to borrow some milk would require
disembark. But as they step into the living going down to the lobby and arranging to
room, the giant window calls to them like a ÅÅ Madison Square travel, from there, back up into the tower.
television screen and they filter between the Park, New York At which point the concierge would probably
glass tables and the clean white sofas to press (237 metres, offer you a selection of the finest oat, soya
their faces up against it. They’re mesmerised. 65 storeys) or grass-fed cow’s milk.
And I think it’s going to be all right.
12:1 At 6pm we must leave Superskinnyland,
Of the three of them, I think the middle because the elevator operators need to clock
one is the most likely to live in a superskinny. ÉÉ 53W53 (MoMa off. Apparently this is only temporary, because
The eldest reads books, the youngest likes to Tower), New York a key-fob system is still being installed.
throw things, but the middle guy is the money (320 metres,
man. He gathers up the change I leave around 77 storeys) When the lift guy arrives we look around
the house, and from inside my wallet, and for the middle child, who keeps disappearing
puts it in a jar beside his bed. He’s always 12:1 CGI image into the flat. Once I find him staring at
telling me we should move somewhere larger. an enormous nickel bath. Now I see him
Occasionally I catch him looking around the ÅÅ 211 Broad Street, silhouetted in front of the giant window. He is
$26 million flat and nodding to himself, as if Birmingham rolling about on the floor beside it, like a cat,
to say, yes, this will do. (116.5 metres, and he has pinched my phone and is taking
37 storeys). Will be pictures through the glass. “One more,” he
The genial PR guy for the building has completed by 2024 says. “One more.”
brought him a chocolate cake, because it is his
ALAMY, GETTY IMAGES birthday. I carve it into slices and we eat it at 10.5:1 “I don’t blame him,” the lift operator says.
the kitchen island. There are hanging shelves Down in the lobby, there’s an east Asian
suspended above it. “I love the fact that, even ÉÉ 56 Leonard, woman in a £3,000 hot pink dress by Louis
in a $26 million apartment, you still have to New York Vuitton, orbited by an interpreter and at least
get a little creative with your kitchen storage (250 metres, three other assistants.
in New York,” my other half says. 60 storeys) I ask the kids what they made of the
place. “I liked the cake,” says the smallest.
YOU WON’T SEE MUCH OF YOUR The middle one says he would like to buy
NEIGHBOURS. EACH RESIDENT the flat. “And all the ones above it,” he says.
HAS THEIR OWN FLOOR You could never live in all of them at once,
I say. But perhaps he has grasped the point
After the cake, the kids start to loosen up. of them after all.
I did worry this would happen, particularly Back in our own cluttered home, a vision of
with the three-year-old. It feels like bringing the room with the view keeps flashing up in my
a bull into a china shop and then giving the mind’s eye. It was really spectacular. It would
bull some cocaine. Once I look up to see win the “What’s the nicest flat you’ve been
him diving head-first over the back of a white inside?” party game. Although the game doesn’t
sofa. I pick him up and make him sit on a work any more. It has been broken by the
hollow metal chair beside the lifts, where superskinnies, by these insular megatowers.
he begins slapping the sides of it with his My friend says the last time they played
palms and then with his heels, so that it it was about ten years ago, when one of the
booms like a drum. gang was house-sitting for the owner of
a penthouse in a glass tower at the corner
I wonder if it was a good idea to bring of Central Park, a precursor of the
the children. I thought it might make the superskinnies. He invited the whole group
experiment more real. But if we did live in a over for a party there so that they could all
$26 million flat, I don’t suppose we’d spend win the game together.
too much time worrying about our children. You wouldn’t get into one of the
We’d have people to do that for us. superskinnies like that, not in the normal
order of things. At the same time, you can’t
“The population of young children here avoid them. They cast long shadows over
will not be enormous,” Stern had told me. Central Park; they alter the skyline. This must
Once, on a trip down to the lobby, I spy a lady, be why so many New Yorkers get so cross
casually dressed, pushing a pram. Aha, I think. about them. Who do they think they are?
But when I look closer, I see that the pram Stern says it was just like this in the
has netted sides and a roof and inside there Twenties, when the first great skyscrapers
is a tiny dog. I’m not even sure if the lady is were being built. “People hated it: ‘It’s too tall.
a resident; I think she might be a dog sitter It’s too big.’” Now they are loved, he says. In
taking the furry one out for some air. the decades that followed, the city built a lot
of fat, blocky office buildings. “This is just a
You wouldn’t see much of your neighbours resetting of a new skyline – taller, but back to
here. As each resident has their own floor and that more romantic, more slender tower.”
the lifts open directly into their homes, going It feels rather like the Gilded Age, I say. I
don’t quite mean this as a positive, but he nods
enthusiastically. “It does to me,” he says. n

The Times Magazine 29

R Kelly flanked by Lady Gaga (left)
and Taylor Swift at the American
Music Awards in Los Angeles, 2013


The singer, now 55, during a hearing in Chicago

For more than 20 years Jim DeRogatis
investigated the rumours that R Kelly, one
of the world’s biggest-selling R&B artists,
was sexually exploiting under-age girls. Here
he reveals how the man behind the single
I Believe I Can Fly and 100 million record
sales was finally unmasked – and given a
30-year prison sentence last month

Last month in New York, R Kelly was sentenced From left: at the Billboard Music Awards in 1994; with Aaliyah, then 15, in 1994, the year they married; Aaliyah in 2000
to 30 years in prison for sex trafficking and
PREVIOUS SPREAD: CHRISTOPHER POLK/GETTY IMAGES, ANTONIO PEREZ/ racketeering. Once named by Billboard as the KELLY ‘WAS MESSING WITH I was familiar with the accusation about
CHICAGO TRIBUNE VIA AP. THIS SPREAD: REUTERS, GETTY IMAGES most successful R&B artist of the past 25 years, A 13-YEAR-OLD GIRL WHO Kelly in the letter and, though it included
he sold more than 100 million records, released HE TELLS PEOPLE IS HIS details that were new to me, I set it aside,
17 solo albums and won 3 Grammys. But he has GODDAUGHTER’ adding it to a pile of press releases, artists’
repeatedly been accused of sexually abusing biographies and angry letters from readers
young women and teenagers. Chicagoans fight segregation and racism. Kelly aggrieved about one of my reviews, all stacked
had made it and he’d stayed. He was beloved. in a wire bin filled to overflowing on the
The accounts date back to the start of his corner of my desk.
career, when at 27 he married the 15-year-old There was a rumour about him, though,
singer Aaliyah. He was charged with making child that was whispered by publicists and recording But the following Monday, I made a special
sexual abuse videos in 2002 but was acquitted. engineers, radio programmers and concert trip back to the office to read the fax again.
Then in 2017 came fresh allegations that Kelly promoters, critics and fans. Kelly, they said, A few things about it had gnawed at me over
had trapped six young women in an abusive “sex had “a thing for young girls”. People said he’d the long weekend, and there was one line in
cult”, in which he brainwashed and abused them married his 15-year-old protégée, Aaliyah, in particular that had stuck with me: “I’m telling
physically and emotionally after they approached 1994, though both of them denied it. you about it hoping that you or someone at
him for help with their music careers. your newspaper will write an article and then
On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Robert will have no choice but to get help
Despite the accusations, his career marched 2000, I made my weekly trip to the office and stop hurting the people he’s hurting.”
on. The tipping point came in 2019 when women to show my face to editors, file my expenses There was something about the compassion
revealed the abuse they had suffered in a and sort through the postal bins full of in that passage; this letter did not seem to
documentary, Surviving R. Kelly. Two weeks promotional CDs that had piled up since my have been written by a person who was
after the programme was broadcast, Kelly was last visit. It was a painfully cold Chicago day, merely out to get someone.
dropped by his record label. and I was still thawing out when an editorial
assistant handed me a fax that had been I made a photocopy of the fax and I
Lawyers for Kelly have said he will appeal sent to the newsroom. It was one page, single highlighted specific claims. The letter said that
his verdict, but he still faces charges relating to spaced. “Dear Mr DeRogatis,” it began, “I’m a young girl named Tiffany Hawkins had filed
child pornography and obstruction of justice in sending this to you because I don’t know a lawsuit against Kelly four years before, and
Chicago, where a separate trial is set to begin in where else to go.” The letter mentioned a that he’d eventually paid her $250,000 to
August. Upon announcing Kelly’s sentence last review I had written of Kelly’s latest album, drop the suit. It seemed unlikely to me that
month, Judge Ann Donnelly said he had an I had admired a lot of the music a lawsuit filed against a major star would fail
“indifference to human suffering”. on the singer’s first five releases, albeit with to get reported, but I could check. The letter
reservations. In the review, I’d noted that also said that Kelly was now “messing with
E arly in my newspaper career, an Kelly, like Marvin Gaye, Prince and Al Green a 13-year-old girl who he tells people is his
editor once told me, “Sometimes before him, had showed that sex and prayer, goddaughter”, and that the girl’s parents were
you choose your stories, and under the right circumstances, can be the “turning a blind eye because Robert hired her
sometimes your stories choose same thing – but that Kelly’s lyrical shifts from father, who is a bass player”. It alleged that
you.” In 1990, I got a job covering church to boudoir were so jarring that they the Chicago police had investigated, and it
music for a now defunct magazine could give you whiplash. “Well, I guess Marvin recommended that I call “Sgt Chuziki of the
in Minneapolis called Request, and Gaye had problems too, but I don’t think Chicago police. She’s the one who was in
two years later the Chicago Sun- they were like Robert’s,” the letter went on. charge of investigating Robert.”
Times offered me a position as “Robert’s problem – and it’s a thing that goes
its pop music critic. A critic, I’ve back many years – is young girls.” I called the main switchboard at the
always thought, has to know where music Chicago Police Department and asked for
comes from, the circumstances in which it’s Chuziki. The operator couldn’t find a listing,
created, the factors that bring some people and I almost said goodbye before wondering
forward and leave others behind, although aloud if any investigator with a similar name,
I never expected that the skills I’d honed as
a specialist and investigative reporter would Continues on page 44
prove to be as important as listening to and
thinking about the music.

When I started at the Sun-Times, in 1992,
R Kelly had only recently risen from busking
for change to becoming the biggest star on his
label, Jive Records. A few years later I took a
job at Rolling Stone, but I returned to the paper
in 1997; by then, Kelly had established himself
as the dominant R&B voice of his generation.
He was on his way to selling more than
100 million records, including those he crafted
for other artists. Chicago embraces local
heroes with a singular devotion. Many future
stars begin their careers in Chicago and then
decamp to the coasts, prompting a mixture
of pride and insecurity that is amplified on
the city’s South and West sides, where black

The Times Magazine 33


FANCY Recipe, page 42




STICKY HONEY AND • 1.5kg new potatoes, halved (use with salt and pepper and drizzle the cider or apple juice, scraping
MUSTARD PORK CHOPS Jersey Royals when in season) with 1 tbsp olive oil. Toss together. off any bits stuck to the pan.
WITH CRISPY ROAST Roast for about 35 minutes until Bring to the boil, then stir in the
POTATOES • 2 tbsp olive oil crispy, golden and tender. Give honey and mustard mixture.
• 500g asparagus them a stir after 20 minutes, 6. Reduce the heat to medium
Serves 4 • 3 tbsp honey adding the asparagus (with the and simmer for 5 minutes until
• 3 tbsp wholegrain mustard woody ends snapped off) to the the pork is cooked and the liquid
The cooking time will vary • 300ml cider or apple juice tray for the last 15 minutes. reduced by half. Stir in the
depending on the thickness of the • 2 tbsp cornflour mixed with 3. Mix together the honey and cornflour mixture to thicken the
pork, so be confident when you’re mustard in a small bowl. sauce if needed.
cooking and check as you go. Just 2 tbsp water (optional) 4. Heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive 7. Divide the potatoes, asparagus
cut into the chop towards the end oil in a large nonstick frying pan and pork among plates. Drizzle
– if it’s still really pink in the 1. Remove the pork from the over a medium heat and fry the over the sauce and serve.
middle, give it a little more time. fridge 20 minutes before cooking. pork for 3-5 minutes on each side
Trim the rind and some of the fat until golden. Then use tongs to
• 4 pork chops, about from around the edge. Kitchen stand up the pork on the fatty
2.5cm thick scissors work well for this. Season edge for 1-1½ minutes to help
the pork with salt and pepper. crisp it up.
• Salt and pepper 2. Preheat the oven to 200C 5. Turn up the heat and pour in
(220C non-fan). Put the potatoes
on a large baking tray. Season

The Times Magazine 37

PHOTOGRAPHS Haarala Hamilton
Serves 2

If you are looking for a salad
that’s big on flavour, this is it.
The peanut dressing is so easy
to make and packs a real punch.

• 2 skinless chicken breasts or
leftover cooked chicken

• Salt and pepper
• 2 limes
• 5 tbsp olive oil

For the salad
• 1 Baby Gem lettuce,

finely shredded
• Half a cucumber, finely diced
• 1 large carrot, grated
• 2 spring onions, finely sliced
• 75g sugar snap peas,

finely sliced
• 1 small bunch of coriander,

finely chopped

For the dressing
• 4 tbsp smooth peanut butter
• 2 tbsp sweet chilli or

sriracha sauce

For the garnish
• Handful of salted

peanuts, crushed
• 1 red chilli, chopped (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 180C
(200C non-fan).
2. Put the raw chicken on a baking
tray and season with salt and
pepper. Add 100ml water to the
tray. Bake for about 25 minutes
until the chicken is cooked with
no pink remaining; to check, cut
into one of the breasts. Roughly
shred the chicken using two forks.
3. While the chicken is cooking,
prepare the salad. Toss together
all the ingredients in a large bowl
with the juice of half a lime and
1 tbsp olive oil. Set aside.
4. For the dressing, mix together
the peanut butter and chilli sauce
with the zest and juice of half a
lime, remaining 4 tbsp olive oil
and a pinch of salt until smooth.
Adjust the flavour by adding more
lime, chilli, oil or peanut butter.
5. Divide the salad between plates.
Top with the shredded chicken,
then drizzle over the peanut
dressing. Scatter with peanuts and
chopped chilli and squeeze over
more lime juice to serve.

38 The Times Magazine

Serves 4

Everyone needs a good chicken
traybake recipe. Chuck it all in
the tray, then whack it in the
oven. Once it’s cooked, don’t
forget to pop the sweet roast
garlic out of its skin. Any
leftovers are delicious cold
the next day and will last for
two days in the fridge in an
airtight container.

• 1.2kg skin-on, bone-in
chicken thighs (about
8-12 thighs)

• 1kg new potatoes, halved
• 800g cherry tomatoes
• 1 garlic bulb, unpeeled
• 8 thyme sprigs
• 400g tin cannellini

beans, drained
• 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar,

plus extra to serve
• 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• Salt and pepper
• Seasonal greens, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 180C
(200C non-fan).
2. Place all the ingredients
in a roasting tin and season
generously with salt and pepper.
Mix together to coat everything
in the oil and vinegar.
3. Arrange the chicken skin-
side up on top of the potatoes.
Cover with foil and roast for
45 minutes.
4. Remove from the oven, give
it a stir and use a spoon to
baste the chicken in any juices.
Keep the chicken on top, skin-
side up. Return to the oven for
a further 30-45 minutes until
the chicken is cooked through
and the skin is crispy.
5. Squeeze the soft roast garlic
from its skin, then serve up
with a drizzle more balsamic
and some seasonal greens.

The Times Magazine 39


Serves 4

Crispy tortillas, creamy avo, crunchy
slaw, juicy prawns in a lime and
coriander marinade with chilli sauce
– what’s not to like?

• About 360g raw king prawns
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 2 avocados
• 2 limes, 1 cut into wedges
• 8 small tortillas
• Chilli sauce

For the marinade
• 2 tbsp lime juice
• 2 garlic cloves, grated
• Half a small bunch of coriander,

finely chopped
• 1 tsp ground cumin

For the slaw
• Quarter of a red cabbage,

finely sliced
• 1 large carrot, grated
• 4 spring onions, chopped
• 1 red chilli, finely chopped

and deseeded if you prefer
a milder taste
• Juice of half a lime
• 1 tsp caster sugar
• 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• Half a small bunch of coriander,
finely chopped
• Salt and pepper

1. Mix together the slaw ingredients
in a bowl, season and set aside.
2. In a bowl, mix the prawns with
1 tbsp oil and all the marinade
ingredients, reserving half of the
coriander. Set aside for 5 minutes.
3. Mash the flesh of the avocados in
a small bowl with a squeeze of lime
juice, season and set aside.
4. Heat a dry nonstick frying pan
over a high heat. Toast the tortillas
for about 30 seconds on each side
until lightly golden and crisp.
Remove to a plate and cover with a
clean tea towel or foil to keep warm.
5. Put the pan back over the heat and
add the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil.
Stir-fry the prawns for 2-3 minutes
until pink, then remove from the
heat. Add the remaining coriander.
6. Spread the avocado over the
toasted tortillas. Top with the slaw
and prawns. Drizzle with chilli sauce.
Serve with a wedge of lime to
squeeze over the top.

The Times Magazine 41


Serves 4 (page 35)

CHEESY CHILLI LEEK AND • 150g frozen peas, defrosted A sticky, sweet and spicy spin on chicken
PEA FRITTATA • 5 eggs, lightly beaten and chips – unexpected but delicious.
Serves 2 • 75g cheddar, grated, or Spatchcocking a chicken is a great way to
speed up the cooking time and get a nice crispy
A really simple, fresh recipe you can have on 75g goat’s cheese, crumbled skin. It’s perfect for a Sunday roast, served
the table in just 20 minutes. Try swapping the with a big salad or your favourite greens.
peas for asparagus when it’s in season – just 1. Preheat the oven to 180C (200C non-fan).
chop it into bite-sized pieces. This is lovely with 2. Melt the butter in a small ovenproof frying • 1kg Maris Piper potatoes,
a handful of rocket or watercress on the side. pan over a medium heat. Fry the leek and cut into chunky wedges
chilli with salt and pepper for 5 minutes until
• 1 tbsp butter softened, then add the peas. • 1 large chicken, roughly 1.7kg
• 1 leek, finely sliced 3. Stir in the eggs and half the cheese. Cook • 3 tbsp harissa paste
• 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped on the hob for 1 minute, then scatter the • 3 tbsp honey
• Salt and pepper remaining cheese on top and finish cooking • Zest of 1 lemon
in the oven for about 10 minutes until the eggs • Juice of half a lemon
are set and the cheese is golden on top. • Salt and pepper
• 1 small bunch of coriander, chopped
• 6 spring onions, sliced
• Salad or greens, to serve

For the dip
• 4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
• Squeeze of lemon juice
• Squeeze of honey

1. Preheat the oven to 180C (200C non-fan).
Put the potato wedges in a large roasting tray.
2. To spatchcock the chicken, lay it down
on a board, breast down. Use sharp scissors to
cut all the way up each side of the backbone,
then discard the bone.
3. Flip the chicken back over so it’s breast-side
up, then press down using the heel of your
hand until you hear a crack. Then open out
the legs of the bird so it’s flat on the board.
4. Place the chicken on top of the wedges in
the roasting tray.
5. In a small bowl, mix together the harissa,
honey, lemon zest and juice and season
with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over
the chicken and wedges and mix with your
hands to coat.
6. Cook in the oven for about 1 hour
depending on the size of the bird or until
the skin is crispy and the chicken is cooked
through with no pink remaining. After
40 minutes, remove from the oven, turn over
the wedges and baste the chicken in the juices.
7. Mix together the ingredients for the dip.
8. When the chicken is cooked, scatter over
the coriander and spring onions and serve
with the dip and a salad or greens. n

Extracted from Easy:
Simply Delicious Home
Cooking by Chris Baber

(Ebury, £16.99)

42 The Times Magazine

R Kelly Continued from page 33

REUTERS, GETTY IMAGES but perhaps a different spelling, worked in group Public Announcement. He paid her Confronted by one of his accusers, Jerhonda Johnson, 2008
the sex-crimes division. The operator groaned, $300. She earned $1,500 for work as a “back-
then scrawled through what seemed to be a up rapper” on Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, team. But his attorneys seemed to want to
long roster before connecting me to someone. an album that Kelly wrote and produced win a public relations battle, not a legal fight.
A woman picked up: “Chiczewski, Special for Aaliyah. Hawkins also frequently visited When we searched the Nexis news database
Investigations.” I told her that I was a reporter Kelly at home, according to her lawsuit, which for stories mentioning both Kelly and Hawkins,
from the Sun-Times and that I was inquiring alleged that Kelly kicked Hawkins out of the we got two hits: both were gossip column items
about the investigation into R Kelly. “Oh, recording studio whenever she didn’t want to that were clearly planted by Kelly’s high-priced
I was wondering how long it would take have sex. The suit explained that she agreed publicity firm, Dan Klores Associates. No
before somebody called about that. I can’t to some of the acts that he demanded in the other publications picked up the story. The
talk to you,” she said, and hung up. studio and at his homes, including threesomes voluminous case folder ended with a one-page
with other under-age girls, and it claimed that notice that was filed on January 23, 1998. The
Fax in hand, I walked across the third she travelled with Kelly and had sexual contact case had been settled out of court.
floor and into the city editor’s office, and told with him on his tour bus in Ohio, Pennsylvania,
him that I might have a story that belonged Wisconsin, Indiana and Washington DC. We called the office of Loggans, Hawkins’
in the news pages, not the entertainment attorney. An assistant told us that there
section. Don Hayner was a calm and paternal Pallasch went to check the newsroom’s was a confidentiality agreement and that
presence in the often chaotic newsroom; small legal library. Illinois prohibits adult she couldn’t discuss it. We talked to a lawyer
he’d gone to law school before journalism men from having sex with girls under 17, but for Kelly, the Los Angeles-based Gerald
beckoned. He read the letter the way that he prosecutions for statutory rape at that time Margolis, who acknowledged that there was
read everything: slowly and carefully. “You had to be brought within three years. The a settlement but said that he would never talk
make some calls to the people mentioned in statute for criminal charges had not expired about it. We called Tiffany’s mother, Sheila
the fax, and I’ll have Abdon Pallasch check when Hawkins filed her lawsuit, in 1996, Hawkins. She told us that the terms of the
Cook County circuit court to see if a lawsuit but the state’s attorney in Illinois, in which settlement forbade her or her daughter from
was ever filed,” he said. “Let’s start there.” Chicago sits, generally avoided these cases, talking to the press. A few days later we went
Pallasch said, because of the difficulty of to Sheila’s home in south Chicago to see if
I had previously only shared collegial nods proving them when it came down to “he she’d talk in person, if only for background.
with Pallasch; the legal affairs and pop music said, she said”. The sexual contact between We rang the bell and the door opened a crack;
beats didn’t often overlap. When we started Hawkins and Kelly continued for almost three then a middle-aged woman in a nurse’s
working together he could sing the first two years, according to the suit, and ended four uniform snapped the deadbolt shut.
bars of Kelly’s hit I Believe I Can Fly, but he months before her 18th birthday, in October
confessed utter ignorance about the rest of the 1994. The suit said that, two months later, Pallasch and I logged a lot of miles on the
singer’s catalogue – and most soul, hip-hop Hawkins attempted suicide and spent time South and West sides of Chicago during the
and R&B, for that matter. “Who is Curtis at Chicago’s Trinity Hospital. She sought next month. We also rang doorbells in the
Mayfield?” he asked me at one point. $10 million in damages and named, as black suburbs of Maywood and Bellwood and
co-defendants, Kelly, his manager, Barry in the suburban village of Olympia Fields.
Pallasch and I huddled in the newsroom Hankerson, who was also Aaliyah’s uncle, As soon as people realised that the awkward,
and read the fax together. He jotted down and Jive Records. Hawkins’ filings included mismatched white duo on the porch weren’t
names and dates in his notebook and set off a list of 22 witnesses who “presumably will cops, social workers, missionaries or salesmen,
in search of the case file. The filing system testify” or had already promised to do so, they invited us in, and they shared stories
for Cook County circuit court, at the Daley among them Aaliyah, Hankerson, Kelly’s A&R about and photos of friends and relatives who
Center in Chicago, was, by reputation, the man at Jive, several others in Kelly’s orbit and they said had been wronged by Kelly. Not
most archaic for any big-city court in the many of Hawkins’ friends. a single person seemed surprised when we
United States – inaccessible by computer, with asked about under-age girls. Some were eager
legal papers often disappearing, never to be Why had none of this been reported? to talk, saying that no one had wanted to listen
found again. But Pallasch unearthed a file six Pallasch told me that all of the competing before. Often, I was able to break the ice by
inches thick for a case initiated by Tiffany reporters who regularly checked the bin of talking about music – Curtis Mayfield, Mavis
Hawkins through her attorney, Susan E legal filings at the Daley Center were white, Staples, Common, George Clinton, all people
Loggans, in late 1996. He photocopied more and they might not have recognised the name whom I’d interviewed and whose music I loved.
than 200 pages and brought them back to the Robert Sylvester Kelly or even known who
newsroom, where we read them late into the R Kelly was. Plus, the plaintiff’s attorney One night, we pulled up to an address
evening, scrawling questions in the margins, filed late in the day on Christmas Eve; most in northwest Chicago. A source had led us
posting sticky notes next to potential leads. reporters went home early for the Christmas
break and didn’t return until the new year.
The lawsuit claimed that Kelly “had We soon learnt that Kelly’s lawyers, who were
a propensity to have sexual contact with notified of the forthcoming suit on December 5,
minors” and that he began having sexual had filed a five-page lawsuit of their own
contact with Hawkins in 1991, when she was hours before Hawkins’ claim was filed. Kelly
15 and he was 24. He initially met her on a sought damages of $30,000, charging that
visit to Kenwood Academy, a prestigious high Hawkins had demanded “substantial sums of
school on the South Side that he attended for cash” and a recording contract or she would
one year before dropping out. He visited often “widely publicise the false allegations” that he
to see a woman he called his “second mother had fathered her child. The hundreds of pages
and mentor”, a choir teacher named Lena in her file made no mention of a paternity
McLin, the niece of the legendary Thomas claim, and the accusation of blackmail did
A Dorsey, the godfather of gospel music. not appear in any subsequent filing by Kelly’s
Kelly hired Hawkins to sing backing vocals
on Born into the 90’s, his first album with his

44 The Times Magazine

With his lawyer, Nicole Becker, 2019 mornings from the neighbourhood where she and mentioned other minors,” with hours of
lived with her single mum, who was studying graphic detail, he said. The sworn testimony
NO OTHER NEWS OUTLETS to be a nurse. She was starstruck when Kelly stunned everyone who heard it.
PICKED UP THE STORY. visited Lena McLin’s class. He was about to
BUT KELLY’S FANS LOUDLY release Born into the 90’s and he sang a song In exchange for $250,000, Hawkins signed
CONDEMNED OUR WORK in the classroom that day, just for them. A few a nondisclosure agreement (NDA), barring
weeks later, Hawkins and a friend saw Kelly her from talking about any relationship or
to believe that the anonymous fax had come cruising near the school in his luxury SUV. settlement with Kelly. The Kenwood classmate
from “an older church lady” who had quit her They waved him down and gushed about believed that Hawkins had settled with Kelly
job in Kelly’s office, disgusted by his behaviour his visit to their class. He invited them to for so little because “she just got tired of the
and frustrated that he refused to address “his the city’s most prestigious studio, Chicago case”, since it had dragged on for two years.
problem”. We thought that we’d found her Recording Company, to watch him work. She kept two thirds of the money after legal
home during a search of drivers’ records but, Hawkins began hanging out in the studio; fees, and she promptly squandered all of it, my
instead, we found a Mail Boxes Etc store [a after she had contributed to some of Kelly’s sources said. “Tiffany just jumped once they
PO Box equivalent]. The next morning, the sessions, she believed that he would make her started talking that money,” Smith added. But I
manager told us that we couldn’t leave a note a star. One of Hawkins’ classmates said that always wondered if there was more to the story.
because the box had been closed with no she had sexual contact with Kelly before
forwarding address. We later heard that the Hawkins did, when she was 16. She had seen The Sun-Times published the first story by
older church lady, who may or may not have Kelly “messing with” Hawkins, “playing with Pallasch and me on December 21, 2000. In
been my anonymous correspondent, had left her breasts and rubbing on her”. Once, she addition to charting the course of Tiffany’s
Chicago. We never succeeded in tracking her had sexual contact with Kelly while Hawkins lawsuit, we revealed what had really happened
down. To this day, I don’t know for certain watched “and he played with her”. with Aaliyah – a source had slipped me signed
who sent the fax. documents concerning both a settlement and
The classmate broke down in tears several the annulment of the marriage, which had
Pallasch and I divided tasks: he called times when she talked about Kelly. “I’m gonna been sealed by the courts in Illinois and
the lawyers and investigators and I called be honest with you – I still love R Kelly’s her native Michigan. We also reported that
everyone else, including all the names on music,” she said. “I don’t hate him. It’s a love/ Chicago police had been investigating Kelly
Hawkins’ witness list. Among them were two hate kind of relationship. He kind of reminds for months for sexual contact with another
of Hawkins’ close friends from when she was me of a boyfriend who hurt you that you still under-age girl, the “goddaughter” mentioned
15. They were now in their early twenties love. I’m not trying to down him because, in the fax. We thought that this might trigger
and were willing to talk to me. One of them, really, honestly, I think it has to be a sickness. a wave of new reporting, but no other news
Jovante Cunningham, went public years The attraction he had to the girls I seen him outlets picked up the investigation. The
later when she appeared in the documentary with – he likes skinny, malnourished-looking loudest response we got was condemnation
Surviving R. Kelly. The other, who attended little girls.” She paused again, sobbing. of our work from Kelly’s fans.
Kenwood Academy with Hawkins, remains “Looking at the pictures of how me and
off the record to this day. Hawkins and Tiffany were when we were freshmen, we Two weeks after our first story, a videotape
Cunningham were members of a posse with were ugly little girls compared with what he arrived at the Sun-Times via Federal Express.
Aaliyah that they called Second Chapter, and could have had.” There was no note; the delivery slip claimed
they all had big dreams of making it in the that it had been sent by me, to me. Whoever
music business. With their help, and input Kelly told both teenagers that he would sent it paid cash at a drop-off centre, a FedEx
from four other sources, I was able to piece make them stars, the classmate said, but he spokesperson told us; he couldn’t say exactly
together a fuller picture of what had allegedly added that, if they were serious about music, where it originated based on the tracking
happened between Hawkins and Kelly. “You gonna have to be at the recording studio number, other than “somewhere in Los
and not at school, because school ain’t gonna Angeles”. A two-and-a-half-minute clip
Hawkins enrolled at Kenwood in the make you a millionaire.” Both she and Hawkins showed Kelly receiving oral sex as he leant
autumn of 1991. She took the bus most dropped out of Kenwood. “That was the on a counter set against a wall of rough-hewn
biggest hurt to me,” Hawkins’ classmate beams. There was no time stamp indicating
said, “and to this day, I feel that I could when the recording was made, and there was
be something else if I stayed in school.” no immediate way of determining who Kelly’s
sexual partner was, or her age. We spent two
Other sources provided details about weeks trying and failing to learn more, and
Hawkins’ settlement. A former associate then we met with several of the paper’s top
of the singer said that it was agreed to the editors to discuss what we should do next.
day after Hawkins gave a seven-and-a-half-
hour deposition to Kelly’s attorneys, Gerald The conversation with our editors
Margolis and John M Touhy. The case file was not especially lengthy or fraught with
did not include a transcript of the deposition; disagreement: we all agreed that turning
although it was public record, the deposition over the tape to authorities was the ethical
had disappeared and I never found it. A thing to do. We wouldn’t be betraying a
source said that it had been “hair-raising source, because the anonymously delivered
stuff about a predatory relationship based tape was evidence, not a source, and we had
on perverted sexual acts”, including nothing to report about it, because we didn’t
threesomes with under-age girls. Demetrius know what it showed. If it did depict an
Smith, Kelly’s longtime road manager and under-age girl, it was child pornography and
personal assistant, who had had a falling-out the girl could be in danger. (We would also
with Kelly, confirmed this description. “That have been committing a crime if we held on to
deposition told the story of their relationship it.) Ultimately, investigators never identified

The Times Magazine 45

GETTY IMAGES, REUTERS the second person on the tape; her age and show, Sound Opinions, years before, and Kelly inside Leighton Criminal Courthouse, 2019
identity have never been reported. I wrote for several websites and magazines.
Kelly thrived in the years after his indictment, after law enforcement declined to act. More
That decision set a precedent when another and I continued to write about his career than two decades of predatory behaviour
videotape, this one longer and more disturbing, and to investigate his behaviour outside the might have been stopped there, in 1996.
was dropped anonymously in the mailbox spotlight. In July 2017, after nine months of
at my home a little more than a year later. reporting, I published a story on BuzzFeed Alexander said that Hawkins had asked
This tape was 26 minutes and 39 seconds, about six women whom Kelly housed as part of him to set up a meeting with me. On a Sunday
and it depicted Kelly sexually assaulting a what numerous sources called “a cult”. Women afternoon, the three of us met in a coffee shop.
14-year-old girl we had already identified as who said that they were victims of Kelly kept Two inches of snow had fallen the night before,
his “goddaughter”. Prosecutors later said that coming forward, including some who told me and it was melting under a bright winter sun.
it was shot in the same location as the first that Kelly had sexual contact with them when Alexander arrived first, then Hawkins. She
tape we had received, in Kelly’s home on the they were under age. He met one of them, gave him a big hug. They’d kept in touch over
North Side of Chicago. The Sun-Times gave the Jerhonda Johnson, at his 2008 trial. the years, sporadically trading greeting cards,
second tape to the police hours after I received emails and pictures of the kids. “She’s different
it. Pallasch and I reported its existence a week Three months after the BuzzFeed story, than a lot of my clients,” Alexander said.
later. Three months after that, in June 2002, The New York Times and The New Yorker “I don’t feel this way about all of them.”
the state of Illinois indicted R Kelly on ran bombshell exposés about the Hollywood
21 counts of making child pornography. producer Harvey Weinstein, helping to After Hawkins hugged Alexander, she
trigger widespread attention for the #MeToo smiled and hugged me. I didn’t know how
After the second videotape was revealed movement. Eventually, this new surge of to react. Pallasch and I put her name in the
to the public, it became fodder for late-night activism found its way to Kelly. paper on December 21, 2000, reporting what
hosts and other comedians – Dave Chappelle a man had done to her when she was 15, and
joked about the urination depicted on the Earlier this year, I got a direct message on noting that she’d taken his money and signed
tape without seeming to recognise that the Twitter from a Chicago attorney named Ian a nondisclosure agreement. She had never
tape was horrifying documentation of what Alexander, who had, he said, long followed talked about any of it, not when we called
prosecutors called a statutory rape. Celebrated my reporting. His first job out of law school, or rang her doorbell, and not when television
by critics who glossed over or ignored his he explained, was at Susan E Loggans & producers working on Surviving R. Kelly dug it
alleged crimes, Kelly flourished. He was never Associates. Tiffany Hawkins had been up again and asked her if she would participate.
more successful than during the period when introduced to the firm by Demetrius Smith, (She declined the invitation, although she is
he awaited his day in court. Kelly’s former road manager. Loggans did a lot mentioned in the documentary, and a
of radio and television interviews and she photograph of her appears in it.)
The case took six years to go to trial. When seemed to get results.
it finally did, the goddaughter, her mother and Hawkins was not eager to revisit that part
her father did not testify, although the state When Smith brought Hawkins to the of her life. She’d lost a lot and she’d done
called 15 witnesses who identified the girl office, Loggans didn’t want the case. “Who’s things she was ashamed of. She regretted
and spoke about her relationship with Kelly. R Kelly? It’s not like he’s Frank Sinatra,” she all of it. Alexander informed her that, as her
Through that long wait for the trial to start, said. Alexander, who was 25 and loved music, attorney, he had to advise her that telling me
Pallasch and I continued reporting – we insisted that the singer was a big deal. Loggans what happened to her from 1991 to 1993, or
shared 33 bylines between our first story, in allowed him to take the case, and he did all the talking about the lawsuit she filed in 1996 and
late 2000, and the verdict in 2008. Our stories work on the first legal claim accusing Kelly settled in 1998, would break her NDA, placing
included accounts of two additional lawsuits of having sex with under-age girls. Loggans her in legal jeopardy. Hawkins gave a quiet,
filed by other under-age girls, as well as a never even met Hawkins, she admitted later, nervous laugh, then flashed a wide smile, and
claim by a dancer who said that she’d had and she didn’t think highly of Alexander. we began to talk.
sex with Kelly and that he had surreptitiously “I thought he was a schmuck,” she told me.
videotaped her without her consent. Those I’d had some assumptions for almost
claims, like Hawkins’ lawsuit, were settled The ill will was mutual. “I was definitely two decades that turned out to be wrong.
out of court, with cash provided in return for a schmuck by virtue of the fact that I worked I thought she’d struggled in her classes, since
nondisclosure agreements. But the jury in the for her and let her sell out these poor girls,” she eventually dropped out of high school, but
child-pornography case never heard about Alexander said. “That’s something that I’ll Hawkins had been a straight-A student who
those lawsuits, or the marriage to Aaliyah, have to live with.” got into Kenwood Academy through a special
or any of the other evidence that prosecutors,
the police and the Sun-Times compiled about Alexander says that he yielded to pressure
Kelly’s alleged pattern of predatory behaviour. from Loggans to settle the case as soon as
The judge insisted that, because Kelly Kelly’s lawyers made their first offer. Pallasch
had been charged only with making child and I had never thought to call any of the
pornography, the videotape that had been left attorneys working for Loggans, though
in my mailbox was the only evidence that he’d Alexander’s name appears on many of the
allow in court. Jurors later said that they could pages in Hawkins’ legal file. We kick ourselves
not find Kelly guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for that now, though Alexander said he
because they never heard from the victim on couldn’t have talked to us anyway, because
the tape. Kelly was acquitted of all charges. of attorney-client confidentiality. He was still
reluctant to address Hawkins’ case, but he
I left the Sun-Times two years later to accept did tell me that Hawkins had initially wanted
a teaching position at Columbia College to press criminal charges. On her behalf,
Chicago, but I never stopped doing music Alexander contacted the office of the Cook
criticism or journalism. I had started a radio County state’s attorney at the time, Jack
O’Malley, but the state chose not to pursue
the case. Hawkins only filed her civil claim

46 The Times Magazine

Tiffany Hawkins, I interviewed, Hawkins said that she loved that believe the story about how he’s the
who filed a lawsuit him and she thought he loved her. “I was reason I live in a decent home, drive nice cars
against Kelly in 1996 really pissed off that he wouldn’t take that and am able to travel frequently. Not! I just
test, and the whole spiel he gave me, you made the decision not to let my past define
‘THE MORE MONEY AND know, the mind tricks he tried to pull on me,” my future. I made my life what it is now,
POWER HE GOT, THE WORSE she said. “I remember he was on tour with because I wasn’t going to let anyone else
HE GOT. BUT I LOVED HIM. Toni Braxton. I’m on the phone with him and do that for me.”
I WANTED TO BE NEAR HIM’ I can hear the crowd waiting for him. The
crowd is roaring and roaring. And I asked him With her own money, not his, Hawkins
Jovante Cunningham after the sentencing to take the test and, you know, he’s like, ‘No.’ went to college, “with the baby with me”, and
He goes to me, ‘You and me better both know then to a prestigious university, where she
selection process. She’d been credited on Age that that is not my baby.’ He said he didn’t earned a degree in radiology. She got a
Ain’t Nothing but a Number as a rapper, but want to hear anything else about it. Then he master’s degree online in management. She
singing had always been her passion and her said, ‘Now tell me you love me.’” runs a hospital’s ultrasound department.
strongest talent. When I went back and spoke Understandably she doesn’t want to say where,
to some of her classmates again, they said Hawkins told me about the deposition and she has a different surname these days.
that she had a voice like Whitney Houston’s, that she gave to his attorneys, and about the She’s been happily married for going on six
powerful and beautiful. Hawkins toured as invasive and insulting questions they asked years and she has two children. “My son is
one of Aaliyah’s backing vocalists, performing her – about lying, sleeping around, trying to grown and gone and I have a daughter, who
across the United States and also in London, shake down their client, spreading sexually is awesome,” she said. Her daughter is almost
Paris and Amsterdam. She and Aaliyah transmitted infections. She also told me about as old as she was when she met Kelly.
became best friends, two teenage girls seeing the things that she said in the deposition. “He
the world for the first time, part of a great used to call me ‘Madam’ and ‘the Cable Girl’, “For a long time, no matter what I was
adventure, a new chapter in their lives – the because I used to hook him up, bring him doing, if I heard Robert’s music or saw him
Second Chapter, as they called their posse. girls, bring my friends,” she told me. “And you on TV, my stomach would drop. It would be
know what? That’s exactly what I was at the like, I don’t know, reliving a nightmare. It was
Hawkins split with Kelly after she got time. I’m not even going to lie to you. It was, something for a long time that I couldn’t get
pregnant. She was 18. She asked Kelly to take like, I wanted to be around, and I knew what past, because his music was everywhere. And
a paternity test, because she wasn’t 100 per I had to do in order to stay around, you know? every time I had to hear it. For a long time,
cent sure who’d fathered the child she was And I didn’t want to do it, but there were girls I could not get away from him.”
carrying. He refused. The father, it turned out, who didn’t mind doing it. So it was kinda like,
was another boyfriend, but the fact that Kelly ‘OK, cool. All right, let’s go.’” One hundred million albums sold.
wouldn’t take the test infuriated her. Every Billions of dollars generated. The voice of
girl I interviewed had a different trigger that Hawkins said that she brought six under-age a generation, ubiquitous and untouchable.
prompted her to leave and, like every girl girlfriends into Kelly’s circle of intimates. She’d She finally began to tune it all out, to mute it.
actually been the last of the seven teens to have She didn’t just survive; she thrived. “I think,
sexual contact with him. “It got progressively maybe… I don’t know… I’m stronger than
worse. The more money and power he got, most?” she said.
the worse he got. But I loved him. I wanted
to be around him, you know? I looked at him As we got ready to leave, Hawkins gave
in awe. You know, we would be in the studio me another big hug. I had cried, and she had,
and he’d be writing something and singing, and Alexander had too. We’d all laughed too,
and I would just be like, ‘This man!’ You because sometimes you just have to. She’d
know? ‘I get to be around this genius!’” already told me that she doesn’t sing any
more. “I tried, later on, several years after that,
Kelly asked Hawkins to cut off all her hair. but the passion just wasn’t there,” she said.
He asked her – well, he asked her to do a lot I thought of one more question as we were
of things and we don’t need to get into all of trading email addresses and phone numbers
them. She began her sexual contact with him and taking iPhone pictures. This question
at the age of 15, when she was neither legally didn’t come from the journalist or the critic. It
nor emotionally able to consent. After she came from the inner teenager who fell in love
split from him she tried to kill herself, taking with a song about a life saved by rock’n’roll,
a handful of pills. “I was at home, and my who created a fanzine called Reasons for
mother was there. She wound up taking me Living and who still lives to listen to music.
to the hospital and I had to have my stomach After all the evidence I’d compiled of damage
pumped. And that was really hard.” done and young lives robbed, of all the painful
and horrible things I’d heard and seen,
I asked if she’d been disappointed that the Hawkins’ answer to the question still breaks
state’s attorney declined to pursue criminal my heart every time I think about it.
charges. “I don’t think it was disappointment…
more like what I expected. I was a young I know you can’t listen to him, I said, but
black girl. Who cared?” She had, in fact, can you find joy in any music now?
quickly squandered the money she got from
the settlement. She cashed her cheque – for “No,” she said. “Not really. Not very
two thirds of $250,000, minus costs – and much. No.” n
immediately went shopping at the mall. “The
money… I wish I had done better with it,” she Jim DeRogatis’s book Soulless: The Case
said. “However, I still have people to this day Against R. Kelly was published in 2019 by
Abrams Books, with a new and expanded
paperback edition available from June 2022

The Times Magazine 47


Dr Daisy Robinton is a molecular biologist who runs
a Californian start-up that focuses on the massive
impact the ovaries have on how women age. Her goal?
A radical improvement in the health of 51 per cent of
the population. Interview: Julia Llewellyn Smith

Dr Daisy Robinton, 35,
photographed by
Heather McGrath

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