Some people hate him, many see him as a role model. He can change trends with a single tweet. And while he’s among the most creative, trendy, and of course the wealthiest businessman around, he’s much more than just a brutally successful entrepreneur: Elon Musk is without doubt the pop icon of our time.
An unhappy childhood
It may be hard to imagine today, but according to Musk, he had a difficult childhood. After his parents’ divorce, he moved around South Africa from the age of eight until he decided to move away at 17 to start a new life in Canada and later the United States. Although his parents were extremely wealthy, he chose to live on just $1 a day, which he spent on hot dogs and oranges.
At the University of Pennsylvania, he befriended Silicon Valley entrepreneur Adeo Rosi, who moved into a ten-bedroom house with him and earned a little extra by throwing impromptu parties on weekends. These parties were attended by up to 500 students at a time, and Musk was probably the only sober person who didn’t like the taste of alcohol.
Musk loved watching James Bond as a kid. When Musk bought the famous James Bond Lotus Esprit car from the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me for almost $1 million, he imagined driving the car off the pier, pressing a button and it would turn into a submarine underwater. He was disappointed to learn that it couldn’t really transform.
Musk’s role model is not Einstein or Churchill. When asked who has inspired him throughout his career, he most often mentions singer Kanye West, Broadway icon Fred Astaire and, of course, Iron Man. There are undoubtedly parallels between the character of Tony Stark and Musk: Robert Downey Jr. turned to Musk for help in portraying the character, and as we know, 2008’s Iron Man set off a cultural phenomenon and laid the groundwork for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Musk’s exceptional enthusiasm for technology and his desire to push the boundaries of his capabilities is deeply embedded in the character of Stark, who has become much more complex than just a billionaire arms dealer for Marvel.
Musk has not only guest-starred on The Simpsons (in the episode “The Musk Who Fell to Earth”, Musk’s ideas were poked fun at), but he also appeared on The Big Bang Theory, where he volunteered at a soup kitchen. He was seen in South Park, but also appeared alongside Miley Cyrus on Saturday Night Live.
Now two years old, X Æ A-12 is the firstborn child of Musk and singer Grimes. A He explained the meaning of the “name” on Twitter: the X stands for “the unknown variable” and the “Æ” is the “elvish spelling” of “Ai”, which could mean artificial intelligence or “love” in Chinese. And “A-12” is a simple homage to their favourite: the A-12 reconnaissance aircraft of the mid-1960s. “No weapons, no defences, just speed”, Grimes explained of the A-12, which in its heyday was capable of speeds of more than 2,000 miles per hour. “It was great in battle, but never violent”.
When questioned about his vast wealth and comparatively small taxes, Musk argued that his “personal consumption” was very low, he had no yacht, no holidays, and no home. This can be attested to by his ex, Grimes, who spoke in an interview about the spartan conditions and basic necessities she had to live without while living with the billionaire.