Margaret Trudeau is a Canadian icon, celebrated both for her role in the public eye and as a respected mental-health issues advocate. From becoming a prime minister’s wife at a young age, to the loss of both her son and her former husband, to living with bi-polar disorder, Margaret tirelessly shares her personal stories to remind others of the importance of nurturing the body, mind, and spirit.
In an expansive profile for the December issue of Vanity Fair, we get a look at some of the events that shaped Trudeau’s life and made her the source of inspiration she is today. Here’s a taste of that article:
Margaret doesn’t tell the O’Neal story in the speeches she now makes. But she tells others, many just as shocking and scandalous and embarrassing. She’d rather not, of course, but she knows she has to. Because she has to be authentic, she has to tell the truth, she has to get people to listen, to understand that what happened to her is happening every day to other people whose foibles never make it into the Daily Mail.You can call it a crusade, or, if you’re a cynic, you can call it Margaret Trudeau giving a narrative to her past bad behavior under the guise of being a mental-health advocate. She doesn’t particularly care. She knows that she hasn’t always done the right thing but that she’s doing the right thing now.
“I’ve had the biggest shame of all,” she says. “I’ve been locked away in a psych ward. I lost my mind. I’ve been humiliated like nobody’s been humiliated, everybody talking about it and laughing about it and joking about it. Just because of that, and that alone, means I’m the one to talk about it. Because they can’t throw anything more at me.”
. . .
Margaret Trudeau, at 69, seems remarkably calm—all the time. She speaks with the lilting, comforting cadence of a bedtime-story teller. She has a head of wavy chestnut hair and wears bright-orange sandals, her toenails painted to match. Her sparkling eyes are sea blue, full of life and mirth and sadness. She can be effortlessly charming and yet pleasantly evasive, like a child who pretends not to hear when you insist it’s time for bed. Her brand of freedom looks forward, not back. You get the sense that she has done the work, much of it brutal, and come out the other side. But she also knows she will never again be completely who she was, who she might have been.
And who was Maggie Trudeau? An adventurous young woman, who, at the age of 22, married a politician of 51 and found herself wildly unprepared for the fishbowl that came with being the wife of a national leader; a wild child who traded that restrictive existence for a glittering jet-set life that almost killed her, and for affairs with some of the most powerful and notorious playboys of the 1970s: O’Neal, Jack Nicholson, Ron Wood, Ted Kennedy, Perrier-water heir Bruce Nevins, and countless others, including a notorious cocaine dealer. And yet she never completely lost her wide-eyed wonder. Diane von Furstenberg, who socialized with Margaret in those heady days, recalls her as “beautiful, fun, vulnerable.” Indeed, von Furstenberg says that when she first met Margaret’s son—Canada’s new prime minister—”I had to hug him, this compassionate, powerful head of state. Because he reminded me so much of his mother.”
No one knew just how vulnerable Margaret had been. Because for much of her life she’d hidden a terrible secret, even from herself: that she was suffering from bipolar disorder, undiagnosed and untreated. She would spiral into depression only to zoom up into mania. The outside world saw the dervish—the poster girl for the 70s’ louche free-for-all as she sipped champagne at the Savoy, roared through shopping sprees at Chloe, Ungaro, and Charles Jourdan, and sought love and sex from powerful men.
“Self-loathing is the biggest hurdle you have to get over,” she says on the lanai, taking a sip of tea. “When I was living it up, no one could have told me I was as mad as a hatter. Clearly, I was beyond reason—I wasn’t thinking with a rational mind. That is the essence of mental illness: not being able to access the reasoned, judgment part of your brain.”
Read the full story here.