There are two types of socialites, such as Dr. Andrew Solomon, a psychologist and author of “Far From the Tree,” suggests: with them. And there are people who to deserve their place, by constantly bringing people together, and then basking in the reflected glory of those introductions.” Ghislaine Maxwell, he said, was in an “ironic position”. She was born the right way, said Dr. Solomon, but “she had to switch gears and become that other kind of socialite” after her family lost their money.
In either case, however, “socialite” is a term reserved for women. While some men may act the same way, they would never be labeled socialites because men are believed to have an individual identity that extends beyond their social interactions. And because a socialite’s success depends on a set of attributes that are still largely considered feminine: charm, poise, grace, beauty, cultivation, and brilliance.
Ghislaine Maxwell had them all. Born with great wealth, she grew up mainly in England in an Italian mansion and studied at Oxford University. Her father, the newspaper mogul Robert Maxwell, named his yacht after her (the “Lady Ghislaine”). She holds French, British and American passports and speaks four languages. (She was overheard in court and spoke fluent French with her brother.) She is said to have licenses to fly both helicopters and submarines. She has immersed herself in environmental philanthropy. After her family lost everything (in the wake of her father’s death and posthumous embezzlement scandal), Ms. Maxwell moved to the United States and sold high-end real estate for a while – a potentially lucrative choice for a woman of her upper-class manners, fluffy accent and good looking.
As countless photos of her show, Ms. Maxwell has always been dressed and coiffed with an elegant, Parisian understatement. For decades she has worn her dark hair in a tousled, boyish crop and prefers finely fitted clothes in neutral tones: tweed jackets, silk and cashmere sweaters, collared shirts. She wears little visible makeup and only minimal jewelry (earrings, a good watch). Standing next to more elaborately decorated women, she looks no-nonsense and confident.
That kind of uneducated elegance attracts people who are still figuring out how to style themselves or who aspire to learn the cues of a more elevated social world. Mr. Epstein may have been wealthy, but he was a Brooklyn native who sought legitimacy and mobility among the wealthy upper classes. Mrs. Maxwell would have been the perfect guide. And she came through, introducing him to the very highest circles of British society, and most notably introducing him to Prince Andrew. A photo taken at the trial even shows Mr Epstein and Mrs Maxwell relaxing in Balmoral Castle, Queen Elizabeth II’s holiday estate in Scotland – with Mrs Maxwell dressed in a suitably aristo-shabby plaid flannel.