On a trip to Mexico, Margaret Trudeau recalled smiling, “All I kept hearing from people was, ‘Your son is so good-looking, your son is so good-looking.’”
She laughed. “I wanted to say, ‘Yes, but he’s smart too.’”
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada. ” data-reactid=”18″>She also laughed merrily when recalling the picture of Melania Trump, taken at last month’s G7 summit, about to kiss her son Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.
In the frozen moment captured by the cameras, Mrs. Trump’s expression, as noted by many on social media, appeared lusty, dreamy. Her husband President Trump stood, stony-faced, to her side.
Melania Gazed at Justin Trudeau in the Perfect Red Dress. The Rest of Her G7 Fashion Was Pure One Percent.” data-reactid=”20″>Melania Gazed at Justin Trudeau in the Perfect Red Dress. The Rest of Her G7 Fashion Was Pure One Percent.
“Angela Merkel looked at Justin in just the same way and there were no pictures of her,” Margaret Trudeau noted.
Still, Mrs. Trump seemed happy to see Justin Trudeau that day.
His mother, today dressed in a white shirt, with knotted scarf, roared with laughter. “He is a tall glass of milk. Everybody likes to look at someone nice. They have met before. They have a friendship. He and Sophie (Grégoire-Trudeau, Justin Trudeau’s wife) like Melania very much. He’s always been my prince charming. But this is real life. He’s not just a pretty face, although that doesn’t hurt. I think he is one of the world leaders who can bring the world around to peace, and talk and work together in a democratic way—and there’s not that many of those kinds of leaders left.
“That photograph was cute, but it was one flash, one moment. A picture tells a story but doesn’t tell the whole story. Donald Trump was right in front of Melania. She was getting ready for a cheek-peck I guess.”
“He’s pretty good-looking,” his mother conceded to The Daily Beast. “He has also lived a full life, he’s also bright. He loves his family, and I love my grandchildren. But I have four children. My second son Sacha (birth name Alexandre; journalist, author, and filmmaker) is more revolutionary, more of a change-maker than Justin could ever be because Justin is trapped within politics, and Sacha is completely free.”
Margaret Trudeau is both diplomatic and mischievous, very open and very discreet. A conversation with her flows, then can stop suddenly. She speaks her mind, but carefully when she must; she was married to Pierre Trudeau, Canada’s charismatic Prime Minister from 1968-79 and 1980-4. She left him in 1977 while he was still in office, scandal swirling after her. She was a first lady determined not to be stifled by the conventions and expectations of that loaded title.
And now her and Pierre Trudeau’s son is Prime Minister, meaning Margaret Trudeau has made history in Canada: the first woman be the wife of one prime minister and mother of another. She notes she is like Barbara Bush in this respect.
Certain Woman of an Age, shows. Having toured other cities to critical acclaim and appreciative audiences, it will play for three days later this week at the Minetta Lane Theatre, where it will be recorded live for Audible Theater.” data-reactid=”39″>Trudeau, 71, is an engaging and expressive storyteller, as her one-woman off-Broadway play, Certain Woman of an Age, shows. Having toured other cities to critical acclaim and appreciative audiences, it will play for three days later this week at the Minetta Lane Theatre, where it will be recorded live for Audible Theater.
The 80-minute show—co-written with Alix Sobler and directed by Kimberly Senior—takes the audience through a triple-mega rollercoaster life. When she was First Lady (she was married to Pierre from 1971-84, though the couple separated in 1977), Trudeau chafed against the restrictive nature of the role. When they married, Margaret was 22, and Pierre was 51.
Studio 54, and notoriously partied with the Rolling Stones. After she and Trudeau separated, she had relationships with men including Jack Nicholson, Ryan O’Neal, and entrepreneur Bruce Nevins (who bought Perrier water to America). She was a favorite subject of the paparazzi, who she claims to have loathed passionately then and continues to loathe passionately today. In her 1979 memoir, Beyond Reason, she detailed her infatuation with Senator Ted Kennedy (he denied they had had a relationship).” data-reactid=”41″>She smoked marijuana, drank, danced at Studio 54, and notoriously partied with the Rolling Stones. After she and Trudeau separated, she had relationships with men including Jack Nicholson, Ryan O’Neal, and entrepreneur Bruce Nevins (who bought Perrier water to America). She was a favorite subject of the paparazzi, who she claims to have loathed passionately then and continues to loathe passionately today. In her 1979 memoir, Beyond Reason, she detailed her infatuation with Senator Ted Kennedy (he denied they had had a relationship).
Then, as Trudeau discusses on stage, tragedy brought her to her lowest ebb: the death of Michel, her youngest son with Trudeau, aged 23 in 1998 caused by an avalanche, and then Pierre Trudeau in 2000. She contemplated suicide. A diagnosis of bipolar disorder and treatment at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Center helped save her life, and Trudeau is now a passionate mental health advocate.
Trudeau is “so proud” of Justin as a prime minister and father. “He makes time on Sundays for all of us. We go to a lovely country place where we get out the Lego, art, and homework, and there are cuddles and reading and being there together.”
Does she think her son will win a second term? “I don’t know. Who am I to predict?”
“It’s our family life—politics. Pierre Trudeau’s mantra for all of us was, ‘You have to contribute. None of us are businesspeople, none of us are greedy or after money. We are all trying to make the world a better place.’ Justin knew from the time he was small what his destiny was.”
Trudeau said she did not know Melania Trump, and would not know what advice to give her as a fellow first lady who had also not played the conventional first lady role. “But I wish she’d talk to her husband. I think she’s in charge of an anti-bullying campaign. Perhaps she should share some of her wisdom with him.”
What does she think of Trump? Trudeau sighed. “I raised four boys. Boys can be absolute bullies, exaggerators, and liars. But they grow up. I don’t know Mr. Trump. I’ve never met him, but my advice would be: ‘Be yourself. Be honest. Be truthful. Don’t be phoney-baloney. Just tell the truth. Don’t get caught up in lies. They’ll catch you out.’”
In contrast, Michelle Obama is “one of my heroes. Her time as first lady saw her being incredibly pro-active—not only being a fiercely proud mother but also gardening, getting real, and getting down—and getting into people’s hearts. There’s an aloofness and quietness that means we don’t know much about Melania.” Trudeau “cannot imagine” what it must be like to be married to President Trump.
Trudeau recalled attending the state dinner the Obamas threw for her son before President Obama left office, which she also attended. Trudeau was impressed by how “intelligent, bright and fierce” Sasha and Malia Obama were, “just like their mother.” The work the Obamas are doing now they have left the White House is “right and honest, they’re great people.”
The role of the first lady is changing, Trudeau thinks. “Sophie does not have to be at Justin’s side while he campaigns, if she doesn’t want to. It can even be to the husband’s detriment if his wife is by his side,” Trudeau added, referencing Melania seemingly swatting away Donald Trump’s hand.
“We don’t have to be standing next to our husbands beaming. What first ladies have to be is strong women living our own lives, giving support to our partners in terms of being married to them but not being their clone or servant, or responsible for what they are saying. It’s changing. Women have a different role. We’re not just serving. We’re going to be right up there at the frontline.”
As for women in politics, “It would be wonderful if a woman could take the presidency of the United States. It would be the beginning of peace in the country. Maybe it’s far off. I don’t know.” Elizabeth Warren is her favorite candidate.
“Who would not want Elizabeth Warren?” said Trudeau. “I do not have a choice. I do not have a vote. But I think she is honest, forthright, and has good visions of helping women gain equality and pay equity—and good ideas on most levels. I am watching from the outside. I have no stakes in the American election and nobody to vote for. Some of other candidates are great, and who doesn’t love Bernie?” She extended the middle “r” into a little, extravagant roar.
How did Trudeau view about the prospect of a second Trump term?
There was a long pause. “Scary.”
After watching her theater show, women in the audience have told Trudeau she has inspired and helped them by being so open.
Trudeau has left nothing of significance out of the stage play, she insists. “It is honest, no question—every bit of it is the truth, because the story I am telling is about being authentic and realizing what is within yourself when you’re not doing well and then seeking help and getting better. So many people have mental illness, and just cover it up, mask it up, pretend it will go away or they’re smarter than it. No, we’re not.”
Trudeau smiles as she says this, and looks away. She is a natural storyteller, yet also discreet, putting emphatic ends to topics she does not want to elaborate on, and ending answers with sometimes a sweet smile, and sometimes looking very serious, head turned away.
Trudeau grew up with “four mean sisters,” and a “wonderful” father (James Sinclair, a politician and businessman) and mother Doris. “I had a good life. I was never labeled as having a mental illness. I had such a good mom, who made sure we ate, played, had balance.” Now, Trudeau tries to ensure “family legends” are made for her grandchildren through happy camping trips, “so they can look back on them later and say, ‘That was my childhood.’”
She wanted to be an actress or foreign correspondent, because she thought it meant “getting into a plane and recording exciting things in Paris and Berlin. I was so unfinished when I was picked by Pierre Trudeau. I was very, very young. I had no idea where I was going.”
When they met in the ocean off Tahiti in 1968, she was not attracted to him.
“Goodness no. No, he was the same age as my mom. I was much more interested in the young water ski instructor. I did not have that kind of attraction to Pierre Trudeau. He grew on me. He was a beautiful man, so intelligent. We dated for three years before marriage, but secretly. I never had any desire to be in the public eye before marrying him.”
She was almost 30 years his junior, and not a traditional first lady. She was from “a feminist generation, with a mother who had raised all her daughters to have their own opinions, exercise their own choices, and be in charge of our bodies and futures. We did not have to ask the churches or our fathers how we should live.” Trudeau did not want to be, as she famously put it, “a rose in my husband’s lapel.”
She was also part of the anti-Vietnam War hippy generation, whose “gentle kindness” she appreciated.
“I didn’t know how to do it,” she said of being first lady. “I tried my hardest. I did my best. I learned how to do it. You just do. I didn’t feel comfortable in my skin. I felt phony. I didn’t know what support to contribute. I knew I was supposed to be quiet, I knew I wasn’t respected because I was so young. I knew my opinions didn’t matter. These feelings kept coming again and again, and they were wrong feelings. That isn’t the way I was raised.”
She left the marriage because she wanted to be “a whole person” for her children, “not part of a person.”
Her husband thought he could mold her, she said. “He underestimated me.” She is adamant that their marriage was not open; she only met other men once they separated. She knows she was judged as a parent and person with her affairs and partying. She seemed to relish the fame and flashbulbs. Apparently not, she claims today.
“People were not me, living my life,” she said sharply. “They were voyeurs. They don’t have it right. I don’t like people to be judgy. Everybody has to find their truth and struggle to be real, happy, and complete. The British paparazzi are the worst, the Americans second worst. We have never had any of that in Canada. I hated it. I hated them. They were invasive, rude, provoking. Greedy.”
If the impression was that Trudeau was reveling in being the “it girl” of the moment, that was not the case, she said.
“I wanted out. I didn’t want to be the person to be pushed, pulled, and hit by cameras. I was not allowed to be. I valued my privacy more than everything. I’m absolutely a freedom fighter, to be used, exploited, and abused. It offended every one of my sensibilities. I knew that beauty was the price of admission for that world, and learned much more as I got wiser about the meaninglessness of that world.”
Her marriage to Pierre broke down, she said, because “he was 30 years older. He worked 14 hours a day. We had one hour together every day. I was alone all the time. I was struggling with undiagnosed mental illness. I also had three children in six years. As First Lady I was mostly either pregnant or nursing. My life was not as anyone imagined it was. We weren’t in the same place, not at all Pierre and I.”
Trudeau felt “neglected,” but insists Pierre was a “gentleman,” who had a choice between leaving office to be with her or staying doing the job he was elected to do. “What choice is that? He had a big important job, which he was certainly not going to give up and come live with me. He carried on being prime minister for another eight years after I left him.
“When you marry someone so young and your brain hasn’t stopped developing you grow out of each other. I impressed upon all my children to be teenagers until they were 30, to not have children till they were 30 have all the fun they could in their 20s.”
Her truly wild years came after she left Trudeau. “I had left my husband so my life was in turmoil. I had to leave him.” As she has said before, 24 Sussex (the Canadian Prime Minister’s official residence), was “the crown jewels of a penitentiary,” and in New York she was “learning to be an actress” with Wynn Handman, artistic director of the American Place Theatre.
“People saw paparazzi shots of me in a pretty dress and my hair well done. That took one minute. Most of my life I was struggling to find balance and purpose, to try find the truth of who I was and what was going on. It took a long time. I lived for 25 years in denial of my mental illness.”
Trudeau said of her affair with Jack Nicholson that she liked how free he seemed. They’re no longer in touch, but “I love Jack. I love his movies. He was a very sweet person and I’m sure he still is.”
Studio 54 was “amazing really incredible. I used to go late at night, and dance for a few hours. Everyone was free to be themselves, express themselves. There were a lot of drag queens, a lot of great music, a lot of action, and a huge mixture of people form every walk of life. Then it was wiped out with AIDS. You turned around and everyone was gone: Halston, Way Bandy. Actors, artists, gone, gone, gone. It was the worst thing.”