Elon Musk is many things—a hoarder of wealth, a buster of unions, a man who reportedly offered a flight attendant a horse in exchange for sex. He is also, apparently, a modest cash cow: Jennifer Gwynne, a woman who dated Musk in college in the 1990s, is selling a collection of vintage photos of Musk taken during their relationship. As of Thursday afternoon, bidding for the individual photos appears to start at around $100.
Gwynne told People she and her husband are trying to raise money for her stepson’s college education, and she “[knows] an Elon Musk fan would enjoy them even more than me.” That sure seems like a diplomatic way to say she knows Musk fans—who, mind you, actually believe this man invented something!—are easily swindled. And Gwynne is right. I truly commend any woman able to convert what I can only imagine are the horrors of dating this man into a paycheck, especially if she exploits his fan base’s slavering idolatry to do so!
The film photos, listed on RR Auction, are a mix of candids and staged shots showing Musk driving, lounging in dorm rooms and kitchens, wistfully gazing at waterfalls, dining with friends who apparently once existed, and even posing along the San Francisco Bay, years before contributing to its gentrification. “I think these items are a snapshot of who Elon was just before he started to conquer the world,” Gwynne said of the collection. “The photos show his less serious side—his silly, come-play-with-me attitude which would pop up now and then.” And, because she knows you’re probably wondering, Gwynne even specified what attracted her to Musk in the first place: his “everyday quiet intensity,” apparently. “I’m a sucker for tall, blonde, and nerdy,” she added.
Gwynne says she and Musk began dating in 1994 when they were both resident advisors at the University of Pennsylvania. She eventually studied abroad in London while Musk moved to Palo Alto to pursue a Ph.D. at Stanford, and they broke up shortly after she returned from London in 1995. In the caption of one photo of Musk, taken during one of her visits to see him in San Francisco, Gwynne wrote, “Talking on the phone seemed like a waste of time to him—NOT what a 20-year-old woman wants to hear. We broke up soon after I left San Francisco and headed back home to Rhode Island.”
Gwynne offered pretty detailed captions for each of the photos she’s auctioning—some, like the caption of a photo of Musk driving his car in California, beaming about his newly acquired tan, are more comical than others: “And look at that Southern California tan he has!” Gwynne wrote. Is this the man she’s referring to??
A handful of the photos have yet to be bid on, and obsessive Musk fans have until September 14, when bidding ends, to stake their claims. Gwynne is also auctioning off a signed birthday card referring to her as “boo boo” and the accompanying 14k gold emerald necklace Musk gifted to her in 1994.
Gwynne, mind you, may be the first of Musk’s exes to seek to profit off the Tesla CEO’s image so directly, but she’s hardly the first to find a muse in Musk. As New York Magazine previously shined light upon, Musk’s exes—who include Talulah Riley and Grimes—seemingly have found no shortage of inspiration for content from their relationships with Musk. The magazine noted that it sure sounded like Riley was referencing Musk in her description of a male character that reads, “His words were creepy, but his eyes seemed kind,” from her 2016 novel Acts of Love. Musk’s other ex-wife, Justine, also a novelist, also seemed to base one of her male characters on Musk in her novel BloodAngel. “Just how wealthy are you?” its female protagonist asks a man who bears a striking literary resemblance to her ex-husband. He responds, “I’ve been in this world for over seven centuries. That’s a lot of time to learn about wealth. How to make it, lose it, make it again.” Cool! Justine, bless her, detailed many horrors in a 2010 Marie Claire essay about her marriage to Musk: On their wedding night, he told her, “I am the alpha in this relationship,” and later told her if she were his employee, he’d fire her.
Meanwhile, fans have speculated that the line, “A man who owns the world needs someone to protect him from what exactly?” in Grimes’ 2019 song “Pretty Dark” is a reference to Musk, the wealthiest man in the world who is perennially being owned on Twitter.com.
Gwynne is just the latest of Musk’s exes to sell art in his likeness, and I, for one, respect the hell out of it. “I’ve been watching Elon’s assent over the past 25 years or so,” Gwynne told People. “I would always tell my sister that someday I was going to sell the card with his signature on it, knowing it would be valuable.” Good on her for trying to turn 25-year-old lemons into lemonade, and knowing from the start that her relationship with this man was but an investment opportunity.