With a face like hers, Margaux Hemingway was born to be a model…but she also inherited a much darker legacy from her ancestors. The granddaughter of infamously volatile writer Ernest Hemingway, Margaux and her entire family were plagued by the so-called “Hemingway Curse” running through their veins. Many of them met tragic ends—but none were as tragic as Margaux’s.
Margaux Hemingway Facts
1. She Had A Famous Name
Born in 1954 in the relatively isolated Portland, Oregon, Margaux’s upbringing was anything but humble. Her parents were the beautiful and leggy Byra, who everybody called “Puck,” and Jack Hemingway, the oldest son of revered writer Ernest Hemingway. As such, the Hemingways were the toast of any social circle they floated into, and were bosom buddies with people like Julia Child and avant-garde artist Alice B. Toklas.
On the outside, it was a dream upbringing for a little girl—but on the inside, it was a horror story.
2. Her Family Was Infamously Dysfunctional
In reality, the Hemingways were falling apart at the seams. Puck had never fully loved Margaux’s father, a rejection the patriarch dealt with by drinking and smoking with alarming dedication. By the 1960s, they’d had three girls—including Margaux’s older sister Joan, called “Muffet,” and her much younger sister Mariel—but growing the family only intensified their dysfunction. Then the other shoe dropped.
3. Her Grandfather Met A Notorious End
In the summer of 1961, Margaux’s troubled grandfather Ernest notoriously completed suicide with a shotgun on the family farm in Idaho. His violent death sent shockwaves through the world, but deeper tremors went throughout Margaux’s inner circle, and her father and mother struggled even more to be parents to their young children. Before long, Margaux was trying to break free from this hellish home life, and she did it in all the wrong ways.
4. She Rebelled At A Young Age
As Margaux matured into a coltish, 6-foot tall teenager, she also grew into a stunningly beautiful face—a face that the adolescent sure knew how to use. Looking for a way to vent out her angst, she used her good looks to sidle into the local bar at the tender age of 14 and let off some steam, becoming the pub’s youngest client ever in the process. But that was just the beginning of her rebellion.
5. She Was A Wild Child
According to Margaux’s younger sister Mariel, this is right about when Margaux became “completely wild.” No matter what curfews or punishments her parents put on her, Margaux went out at all hours of the day or night, skipping school to go party with her friends. During one raucous weekend at a ski hill, she even got kicked out of the resort after downing copious amounts of booze and then tearing down a Black Diamond run.
Margaux was on a rapid downward spiral, and it would only gain speed.
6. Her Mind Was A Prison
Margaux may have looked like she had it all, but several disorders accompanied her intense partying. Before she turned 20, Margaux was dealing with a host of psychological issues, including depression and bulimia, as well as epilepsy. She attended regular therapy sessions throughout her life, but all of these habits would not only stay with her, they were about to get a Big City upgrade.
7. She Had Big Dreams
Margaux’s face, physique, and love of partying made her pursue a career in modeling with a single-mindedness she usually only saved for her nights out. One day, while working for a small-town PR firm after (barely) graduating high school, her bosses asked her to go to New York City to attend a business meeting at the Plaza Hotel. Margaux knew it was a date with destiny…just maybe not the good kind.
8. She Was Vulnerable
Margaux went to New York wide-eyed and ready to impress whoever she needed to in order to get her foot in the door and become a model. With this aura radiating off of her, it wasn’t long before a predator approached. The wealthy, middle-aged restaurant heir Errol Wetson spotted the 19-year-old at the hotel and couldn’t tear his eyes away. But instead of offering her a job, he first made her a more indecent proposal.
9. She Fell In Love With A Much Older Man
Within hours, Wetson had discovered what hotel room Hemingway was staying in, and went up with a bottle of champagne and a single rose to introduce himself to the teenager. Margaux was bold and bubbly enough to invite him in, but still too young and naïve to have any kind of guard up. Within days, she was head over heels in love, and making some very rash decisions.
10. She Moved In With Her Sugar Daddy
Wetson and Hemingway’s chance meeting turned into a whirlwind romance, and after four months, Margaux had moved into his Manhattan apartment. Of course, this wasn’t just a move for love; Hemingway hadn’t forgotten her modeling aspirations, and she that Wetson would be able to help her. The “help” he offered her, however, looked a lot more like domination.
11. Her Lover Controlled Her
As an older, wealthier man, Wetson had a lot of power over Hemingway, and she once admitted just how disturbing their relationship got. While Hemingway looking for gigs, Wetson assumed a position as her manager. Some of his duties included taking her to upscale parties and introducing her to the heads of companies, but they went far beyond this, too. Wetson also started dictating the clothes Hemingway could wear, and took great pains to critique everything that was “imperfect” about her body.
Unfortunately for Wetson’s over-inflated ego, these sinister tactics actually paid off.
12. She Had A Million-Dollar Face
In the mid-1970s, Hemingway’s career rose to astronomical heights when she signed a record-breaking million-dollar contract with the company Faberge for their Babe perfume. Suddenly, she was on the cover of everything from Time magazine to Vogue, with publications dubbing her “New York’s New Supermodel.” Sadly, though, fame didn’t bring happiness to Hemingway—instead, it brought chaos, bitterness, and even more demons.
13. She Partied With Big Stars
In the glaring heat of the spotlight, Margaux Hemingway started living it up as only a New York supermodel could, frequenting the infamous Studio 54 discotheque and befriending the likes of fashion designer Halston, as well as actresses Liza Minnelli and Bianca Jagger. This heady nightlife only increased Hemingway’s dangerous taste for living on the edge, and she added harder and more exotic substances to her party regimen. Yes, this was a recipe for disaster.
14. She Had A Disastrous Marriage
In her state of constant, hazy hangovers, Hemingway decided the best thing for her to do was to actually marry her controlling lover Errol Wetson, and the odd couple tied the knot in 1975. It ended in supreme bitterness. What hadn’t worked while they were bachelors only got worse when they were husband and wife, with Hemingway once sniping, “He never seemed to be able to hold a job other than advising me on important issues such as my wardrobe.”
By 1978, after just three years, the couple had officially divorced. While her personal life floundered, however, Hemingway’s career hit a new high.
15. She Tried To Become A Movie Star
With her face on every fashion magazine, Margaux Hemingway soon decided to immortalize herself in celluloid, and began stumping for an acting career. Her first big break came when director Lamont Johnson booked her for his upcoming thriller Lipstick alongside Hollywood veteran Anne Bancroft, where Hemingway was typecast as a model bent on vengeance for an assault.
It had all the makings of a crossover success story…that is, until Hemingway messed it right up for herself.
16. Her Sister Stole Her Spotlight
While in talks to star in Lipstick, Margaux benevolently suggested that her 14-year-old sister Mariel play her on-screen sibling. It only seemed natural, but it was a fatal mistake. When Lipstick came out, critics completely panned Margaux’s acting style, and landed instead on her painfully young sister Mariel as a dyed-in-the-wool screen star. As it happened, this was the worst possible outcome.
17. She Had A Sibling Rivalry
In truth, there was maybe no one who could hurt Margaux quite like her angelic baby sister Mariel. With their seven-year age difference and Margaux’s hard-partying growing up, the girls had never been close. Plus, the shockingly similar beauty of their blonde hair and angular faces did nothing to help quell the seeds of their sibling rivalry.
Mariel later admitted that she always thought her older sister “was stupid,” and was always “mortified” when passersby would mistake her for Margaux. So when Mariel’s star power took off, Margaux’s response was the definition of self-destruction.
18. She Had A Hollywood Rival
Overcome with insecurity about her little sister upstaging her at her own game, Margaux Hemingway descended deeper into substance use. Meanwhile, her relationship with Mariel went from vague childish jealousy to, as Mariel later put it, taking on “adult dimensions.” Before they knew it, the golden Hemingway girls quickly became official Hollywood rivals in the cutthroat world of Los Angeles. Then the knife really twisted in.
19. Her Sister Became More Famous Than Her
In 1979, Margaux starred in the seedy and oft-forgotten Italian horror Killer Fish. As for Mariel? Well, poor Margaux had to watch as her sister yet again set critics alight when she played precocious high school student Tracy opposite Woody Allen in Manhattan, earning an Academy Award nomination in the process. After this excruciating turning point, Margaux’s personal battles took on an embarrassingly public dimension.
20. She Had A Quickie Wedding
While Mariel’s star took off, Margaux unspooled in front of the world. The same year Manhattan came out, the elder Hemingway married the Venezuelan director Bernard “Baron” Foucher, whom she had already been entangled with since her first marriage to Wetson. As with so many things concerning Margaux, the newlyweds had flashy beginnings and moved to Paris to live the glamorous lives of ex-pats.
But to those who knew them, they were already in deep trouble.
21. She Was A Scandalously Rude Houseguest
While living in Paris, Margaux began to lose all sense of reality—and propriety. As one of her French socialite acquaintances remembers, Hemingway would often show up to fashionable events and end up talking loudly and brashly about all manner of impolite subjects, including “her sex life with Bernard.” But when Margaux tried to make a change, she only ended up in further pain.
22. She Tried To Make A Comeback
In the 1980s, Hemingway went stateside again and tried to take another stab at Hollywood, working on the 1982 comedy The Call Me Bruce? and then taking on a supporting part in the ensemble romantic comedy Over the Brooklyn Bridge. Although the parts didn’t earn her much acclaim, they did claw back some of the respectability she had lost, and it seemed like things were back on the right path. But one violent accident changed everything.
23. She Got Into A Vicious Accident
In 1984, Margaux Hemingway was enjoying herself on a skiing trip in Austria when she got into a horrific crash on the slopes. Her injuries debilitated her for nearly a year, but more than that, her recovery caused her to gain 75 pounds, pushing her to almost 200. For a woman who loved being traditionally beautiful and who struggled with body image issues her entire life, it was a waking nightmare.
24. Her Marriage Fell Apart
Nothing much could survive in Margaux Hemingway’s heart at this point, least of all her marriage. In 1985, she divorced her second husband Bernard Foucher, and struck out into the single life, trying to scrape by on her own. It didn’t work. Before long, Hemingway had fallen into one of her deepest depressions yet, and something simply had to give.
25. She Went To Rehab
Hemingway became so debilitatingly down, the model was forced to admit something she had never been able to: She needed in-patient help. In 1987, she checked into the infamous Betty Ford Center, which had seen many celebrity rehab treatments before Margaux and would see many after her. Yet instead of emerging “fixed,” Hemingway only became more desperate.
26. She Tried To Reinvent Herself
To be fair, when Margaux Hemingway came out of the center, she definitely looked and acted the part of a changed woman. She was newly thin again—society’s dubious hallmark for “healthy”—and had grown previously nascent interests in yoga and hiking into full-blown obsessions. Hemingway was sure that now that she had done all this work on herself, her second comeback would be a snap. Tragically, fate had other plans in store.
27. She Was Estranged From Her Mother
Ever since Margaux had started booking regular acting gigs, she had visited her home less and less. There was nothing there but bad memories for her, and she had never had a conflict-free relationship with her mother, Puck. Indeed, the pair were almost completely estranged after Margaux’s rehab stint—and it would take a horrible turn of events to bring them back together.
28. She Made A Deathbed Reconciliation
In 1975, Hemingway’s mother Puck was diagnosed with cancer, and the matriarch had to undergo a battery of tests, chemotherapy, and other treatments. Still, not even this was enough to bring Margaux back into the fold of her family; that came in 1988, when Puck was so close the Grim Reaper’s door that everyone knew it was now or never.
At almost the last moment possible, the mother and daughter finally reconciled. Puck passed later that year, and Margaux was down one more loved one. More would come.
29. She Took Off Her Clothes For The Public
In the wake of her mother’s passing, Hemingway nabbed a part in the French film Love in C Minor, but none of her old fair-weather friends in California seemed to even notice the flick. At her wit’s end, Hemingway went to scandalous lengths for attention. In the spring of 1990, the granddaughter of literary royalty posed in the buff for Playboy.
Then again, that was a blip on the radar compared to her new hobbies.
30. Her Friends Thought She Was Crazy
From this point on, Margaux Hemingway became an undeniable eccentric. Although she and many of her group were interested in vaguely Eastern spirituality, Hemingway managed to freak even the most granola of her friends out. As fellow model Cheryl Tiegs remembered, “She would come out to my house in Montauk and sit on the beach, communing with the seagulls. Everyone would come in the house and whisper and think it was kooky.”
At the time, many still waved off Hemingway’s oddities with affection. Of course, they didn’t know what was coming.
31. She Went On A Faraway Quest
In 1994, Hemingway decided to sojourn to India to wring even more enlightenment out of her life. It ended in shocking disaster. Although some of the details remain a mystery because of the remote places she was traveling in, all of Hemingway’s friends believe the model suffered some kind of breakdown while on her quest…and that was just the beginning.
32. She Had A Mental Breakdown
As far as her friends and family can tell, Margaux Hemingway may have suffered from an epileptic seizure while in India, but it was the aftermath that got truly scary. Whether the first responders didn’t understand her condition or something more violent occurred, Hemingway ended up having to spend time behind bars in a foreign country.
When her family located her, they bailed her out, and hospitalized her back in the United States. Once more, Hemingway had been pulled back from the brink. But how much longer could that possibly last?
33. Her Sister Went Down An Even Darker Path
Margaux’s unraveling is now notorious, but few people know how deep the Hemingway unhappiness runs. While Mariel Hemingway continues to have a successful acting career, their eldest sister Joan, nicknamed “Muffet,” had just as harrowing a path as Margaux herself. While Margaux stuck mostly to alcohol to soothe her demons, Muffet turned increasingly LSD, with extremely painful results.
34. Her Family Was Violent
Eventually, Margaux’s sister suffered a mental breakdown, partly from her substance use and partly from the horrible Hemingway home life. Muffet was so unhinged, she would frequently threaten their parents with instruments like kitchen scissors, and claimed that it was her destiny to “fly.” After spending time in a mental institution and then briefly trying to live independently, Muffet went back home to live with their mother.
Yet as tragic as this inheritance was, Margaux’s end was somehow more heartbreaking.
35. She Wasn’t A Reader
Margaux Hemingway was someone who loved living in the moment and despised looking at her past—so perhaps it’s no surprise that she was no great fan of her grandfather Ernest Hemingway’s classic novels. She had hardly ever read one of them, and when people asked her about her connection to him, she responded simply, “I am not a Hemingway aficionado.”
36. She Had A Different Name
As it happens, Margaux’s name wasn’t even Margaux. Her parents had initially named her “Margot,” with a different spelling. Nonetheless, they took the name from the wine “Chateau Margaux,” which they had been drinking the night that their daughter was conceived. In a slightly gross turn of events, the model decided to change the spelling to match the vino in her TMI origin story.
37. She Tried (And Failed) To Get Better
By the summer of 1996, Margaux Hemingway seemed recovered enough from her disastrous trip to India to have a job lined up as the host of the Discovery Channel show Wild Guide. She had also just moved to a small apartment in Santa Monica, California, and the small, tight-knit community of friendly and caring neighbors could have been just the thing Hemingway needed to get her life back on track. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened at all.
38. She Went Downhill Fast
Within days of Hemingway moving into her new place, her neighbors began noticing disturbing signs. When one neighbor talked to Hemingway just outside her apartment, they said they noticed she had a “troubled tone”; when another walked by her on the street, he said she looked painfully “disturbed and haggard.” No one was quite sure how to take this behavior, but one of Hemingway’s old friends saw it for what it was—and she was terrified.
39. She Didn’t Return Any Calls
Hemingway’s long-term friend Judy Stabile had witnessed a strange series of mood changes in Margaux, and the model’s listless demeanor put a small, dark feeling into the pit of Stabile’s stomach. A worried Stabile tried calling her regularly—but in the last week of June, Hemingway stopped returning her calls entirely, pushing Stabile to make a visit to her in person. Little did Stabile know, by then it was too late.
40. Her Friend Tried To Save Her
When Stabile pulled up to Hemingway’s apartment, she could see the model’s car in the driveway, but there was no answer at the door. Even more certain that something was gravely wrong, Stabile was desperate enough to locate a ladder and look in through the bedroom window of the house. The scene she came upon was nothing short of gut-wrenching.
41. She Died Alone
Stabile found her friend Margaux Hemingway lying abnormally motionless in her bed, still in a nightgown and with her arms folded, as if she could wake up at any moment. Only, she couldn’t. When Stabile got emergency medics to break into the house, they confirmed Hemingway was dead, and had been for quite some time. But how this happened was much less clear.
42. Her End May Have Been Sudden
At first, Hemingway’s friends wanted to believe a comforting version of events. Since the authorities found no forced entry and didn’t suspect any foul play, some of them suggested the peaceful-looking Hemingway had simply passed from yet another epileptic fit. These days, however, that is not the accepted story, and darker signs point to a more violent end.
43. Her Autopsy Revealed Suspicious Findings
Although the autopsy results on Margaux’s body were inconclusive, many believed there was only one sinister conclusion to draw. After the toxicology report came in, it showed that Hemingway had overdosed on phenobarbital, leading some to argue that the model, caught off balance and sinking into another depression, had ended her own life. Margaux’s family did not take the news well.
44. Her Sister Was In Denial
At first, Margaux’s sister Mariel was shell-shocked and refused to give any credence to the idea that her sister had taken her own life. As her husband told People magazine directly following the model’s passing, “This [year] was the best I’d seen [Margaux] in years. She had gotten herself back together.” But if Mariel was in complete denial, Margaux’s parents were worse off.
45. Her Parents Were Stone Cold
It was Margaux’s former agent, David Mirisch, who broke the news of her death to her father Jack and her stepmother Angela, and to say they didn’t handle it well would be a huge understatement. As Mirisch remembers, while Mariel was sobbing everywhere she went in public, Jack and his wife took the tragedy with cold stoicism, and “didn’t say much.” But, well, they had chilling reasons to distance themselves from Margaux…
46. She Had A Hidden Childhood Trauma
Margaux Hemingway struggled her entire life with happiness, self-worth, and healthy habits, but in her case, her demons went right back to the darkest part of her childhood. In the early 1990s, just a handful of years before her death, Margaux put forward a ruinous accusation: She claimed that her father Jack had molested her and her older sister Muffet from a young age. The revelation was a bombshell, and her family imploded accordingly.
47. Her Family Cut Her Out
At the beginning, Jack and his new wife Angela closed ranks entirely. They cut off talking to Margaux completely for two whole years; Angela even once gave a nasty statement to the press, saying, “She constantly lies. The whole family won’t have anything to do with her. She’s nothing but an angry woman.” Only, the rumors had more truth to them than people could ever imagine.
48. Her Sister Confessed The Truth
In the decades following Margaux’s tragic, untimely death, her sister Mariel confirmed her deepest secrets. In the 2013 documentary Running from Crazy about the Hemingway family, Mariel admitted that when she was just a child, she would often see her father entering Margaux and Muffet’s bedroom. Mariel confessed that, “I didn’t know what he was doing, but I knew it wasn’t right.”
Mariel believes that the only reason she escaped her sisters’ fate was because, as the youngest child, she was still sleeping in her mother’s bed at the time.
49. Her Last Recorded Words Were Heartbreaking
For a long while, the truth about Margaux Hemingway’s final moments on Earth remained a mystery, but one of her last voicemails revealed a tragic glimpse. Just two days before her body was found, Hemingway called a friend and left an erratic and rambling message on the machine that, looking back, amounted to a goodbye letter. In the last sentence, she mumbled, “God loves you, God loves you, and I love you too.”
50. Her Case Is Closed
In recent years, the Hemingway family has come around to the sad truth about Margaux’s end. Mariel Hemingway actually went on an episode of Larry King Live in 2005 to retract her earlier doubts about the suspicious death. She clarified that she now believed it was a suicide. It’s not an ending that can give much happiness. Still, it can give closure and peace for a family wracked with tragedy.
51. There’s A “Curse” On Her Family
Like the Kennedys, people often talk about the “Hemingway Curse” when it comes to Margaux’s family. There is a horrific reason for this. Although her grandfather Ernest had the most infamous suicide when she was just a child, an incredible amount of Margaux’s relatives also took their own lives during the years—a total of seven, including Margaux herself.