His methods are sometimes questionable, his values are often inconsistent and keeping abreast of his outlandish views is absolutely exhausting – but Elon Musk is nothing if not productive. Over almost 30 years in business, he has turned his inventive mind to everything from electric cars to rockets, futuristic satellite systems to quite rubbish-looking submarine things.
But while inanimate inventions are all well and good, an overlooked string to the world’s richest man’s bow is the old fashioned art of procreation: an almost Johnsonian ability to conjure unexpected children every few years, often with different mothers and invariably having more than one child at a time.
The latest Musk Jnrs (Musklings? Muskettes? Muskovites?) are perhaps the most surprising of the 10 we so far know about. This week Business Insider reported that Musk had twins in November 2021 with Shivon Zilis, a top executive at Neuralink, his neurotechnology firm.
To say it sounds like a complicated situation would be like saying Musk’s madcap Hyperloop transport system is a fairly straightforward idea. A month after the twins were born, Musk had a second child with his former partner, the Canadian singer Grimes, via surrogate.
He and Grimes were “semi-separated” at the time, but they were in a relationship from 2018, meaning the cross-over with Zilis is… eyebrow-raising. But this is Elon Musk, and nothing in his life – be it business or personal – follows norms. So while some awkward conversations are had, it’s a fine time to look back over the cadre of progeny he’s created – and with whom.
Shivon Zilis (Twins)
The world may never have found out about Musk and Zilis’s twins (or relationship, if it got that far), but this spring, the pair filed a petition to change the name of their newborns to “have their father’s last name, and contain their mother’s last name as part of their middle name”, Business Insider reported, citing court documents.
We know the children’s names end in “Zilis Musk”, then, but regrettably the first names haven’t been reported. Musk’s naming precedent is wild, however: the full gamut from “X AE A-XII” to “Damian.”
Recently, Zillis, 36, has been touted as one of the people Musk could ask to run Twitter Inc, after his $44 billion acquisition. Previously she worked at Tesla, as well as serving as a board member at Musk’s artificial intelligence research firm OpenAI.
Unlike many of his former romantic partners, which include the British actress Talulah Riley and Johnny Depp’s ex-wife Amber Heard, Zilis is fairly unknown. She was born in Canada, has a degree from Yale and first started working with Musk’s companies in 2016.
Grimes (Two children)
Before their separation last year, Musk and Grimes (whose real name is Claire Boucher) were perhaps the oddest celebrity couple since Cher dated Tom Cruise. He was a slightly mad inventor whose world domination sometimes verged on Bond villainy; she was a remarkably eccentric and often lauded musician whose work has been described as “the kind of music you imagine a group of vampires would listen to”.
As one viral tweet in May 2018, after they went public, had it: “What do Grimes and Elon Musk even talk about? I bet they just sit around the dining room making squirrel noises and drinking glasses of rocket fuel.”
It turned out that they were up to a bit more than that. In January 2020 Grimes announced she was pregnant, posting a nude photograph on Instagram, shown belwon, in which a growing foetus could be seen illuminated in her midriff like a biology diagram from the Nineties. A son was born five months later and they named him X Æ A-12 Musk, or “X” for short.
He was a doting father, telling the New York Times: “Well, babies are just eating and pooping machines, you know? Right now, there’s not much I can do. Grimes has a much bigger role than me right now. When the kid gets older, there will be more of a role for me.”
After reportedly living apart, they separated, ish, in September 2021, but six months later Grimes confirmed they’d secretly had a second child, a daughter via surrogate, in December of last year. Named Exa Dark Sideræl, or “Y” (obviously), the baby was only revealed after a journalist heard a baby crying while she was interviewing Grimes at the singer’s home.
And there may be more children, because “we’ve always wanted at least three or four”, Grimes told Vanity Fair in April. “We’re very fluid. We live in separate houses. We’re best friends. We see each other all the time.…We just have our own thing going on and I don’t expect other people to understand it.” Correct, we do not.
Justine Wilson (Six children, five living)
There isn’t much that Musk’s exes have in common (besides a rare tolerance for him), but being Canadian is a pretty strong theme. His first Canadian wife was Justine Wilson, who married a “struggling 20-something entrepreneur” in 2000, and had no idea he’d later become a multi-millionaire thanks to the success of his first company, PayPal.
They had their first child, Nevada Alexander, in 2002. He died of sudden infant death syndrome 10 weeks later. Via IVF, they then had twins, Griffin and Xavier, in 2004. Xavier recently filed a petition for a name change to Vivian Jenna Wilson, declaring: “I no longer wish to live with or wish to be related to my biological father in any way, shape or form.” The petition included having her gender officially recognised as female.
Musk has previously tweeted that “pronouns suck”, and has made various pronouncements on gender that have drawn the ire of LGBTQI campaign groups. Incidentally, Grimes identifies as “gender neutral” and has said that she doesn’t want to gender her children “in case that’s not how they feel in their life”.
Wilson, who still goes by the name Musk, is now a successful novelist. Two years after their twins, they had triplets, Kai, Saxon and Damian. Two years after that, they divorced.
“Elon’s judgment overruled mine and he was constantly remarking on the ways he found me lacking. ‘I am your wife,’ I told him repeatedly, ‘not your employee.’ ‘If you were my employee,’ he said just as often, ‘I would fire you,’” Wilson once wrote in Marie Claire.
They constructively dismissed one another in 2008, divorcing just as Musk’s relationship with Riley started. And now it’s not clear how well they get on or indeed what’s fully behind Vivian’s public rejection of her father.
But we do know that Musk loves children. “I always try to reserve time for my kids because I love hanging out with them,” he once said. “Kids are really great. I mean, 99 per cent of the time they make you happier. Of anything in my life, I would say kids by far make me the happiest.”
On that basis, we simply cannot rule out more. Where does he find the time?