Leadership

How Elon Musk’s mother Maye raised a family of successful entrepreneurs

Maye Musk is a model, nutritionist, dietician and full-time fan of her three entrepreneurial children Elon, Kimbal and Tosca Musk.

While Elon works on launching rockets and digging urban tunnel systems, Kimbal is pioneering a sustainable food movement and Tosca is making moves in the film industry with her streaming platform PassionFlix, the Netflix for romance movies.

Maye, whose own mother worked until she was 96, says she is "just getting started" at age 69.

In a new interview with Natasha Loder for The Economist's 1843 magazine, Maye shares the parenting style that allowed her to raise a family of entrepreneurs.

Growing up, Maye says her parents may not have been wealthy, but their home sparked an early interest in nutrition thanks to all the surrounding fruit trees.

Maye considered herself to be a "science nerd" in grade school, so much so that teachers asked her to teach math to classes of older children, she tells Loder. As a result, she would get bullied until her twin sister Kaye fought the other students off.

In her adolescence, Maye helped her father with his chiropractor clinic, working as a receptionist and putting client newsletters together, according to Forbes. She began modeling at 15 and by 21, earned her bachelor's degree and a spot as a 1969 Miss South Africa finalist.

Similar to her father, Maye later had her children doing clerical work for her private practice as a dietician, a business she ran out of her home. The Musk siblings all helped out and Tosca remembers writing letters for Maye and answering the phone, according to Loder.

"It really helped us to get a sense of independence as well as understand work ethics," Tosca says.

At 31, Maye divorced her engineer husband of nine years and left South Africa with her children for North America.

As a single mother raising her kids with help from Kaye, Maye continued modeling on the side. At the time, the Musks couldn't afford small luxuries like eating out or going to the movies and Maye, to save money, gave the kids haircuts, manicures and pedicures.

Maye tells Loder that her kids were well-behaved because "I wouldn't allow them to be brats, I couldn't afford that."

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"She wasn't, like, watching me. I was off making explosives and reading books and building rockets and doing things that could have gotten me killed," Elon told Rolling Stone last year.

Thanks to their mother, Kimbal says he and his siblings "felt very independent as children," Loder reports.

The Musk siblings also have their mom to thank for teaching them at a young age the importance of creating your own opportunities.

"They grow up knowing you work hard, and the harder you work, the better you do and the luckier you get," Maye told Vanity Fair in 2015. "They also had to be responsible for themselves, because they had to help me."

Kimbal, Tosca, and Elon Musk (Right) pose with their mother, Maye, before school in a childhood photo.
Maye Musk |
Kimbal, Tosca, and Elon Musk (Right) pose with their mother, Maye, before school in a childhood photo.

Maye continues inspiring her family as a champion of inclusion and diversity in modeling while advancing her career. In 2016, she signed with agency IMG Models, which represents runway icons like Miranda Kerr, Gisele Bündchen and Karlie Kloss.

Maye's penchant for keeping optimistic and working hard appears to be inherited from her father, as she wrote on her Twitter and Instagram recently: "'Keep Smiling' was my Dad's motto. #happyfamily."

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