“A man who gets divorced is not going to be forever talked about because of it. There are very different standards that we have for women than we have for men.”
That is Bianca Jagger, who might have added, “A man who gets married…etc.”
Bianca was, once upon a time, neatly defined by the world as the glamorous wife of rock idol Mick Jagger. She was a fabulous ornament, who even resembled her husband a bit. She gave him one beautiful child, Jade, and despite a very serious approach to life, was categorized as a member of the “jet set,” a fixture among the Studio 54 crowd, a party girl. Andy Warhol adored her. Well, as much as Andy could adore anyone, really.
But the reality, always, behind the exotic façade was much more interesting. (In my mind, I have often linked Bianca and Yoko Ono: two fascinating, underrated women, defined by the men they married. Yoko had the harder time of it as she was blamed for the breakup of The Beatles, before watching her husband, John Lennon, shot dead in front of her. But both women suffered the slings and arrows of the double standard.)
Born to some privilege in Nicaragua, Bianca learned about the harsher realities of life after her parents divorced when she was 10. Her father was a well-off import-export merchant. But after the divorce, Bianca’s mother struggled with a small income, raising Bianca and her two siblings. Young Bianca was undeterred by her change in status. She worked hard to receive a scholarship, and studied at the Paris Institute of Political Studies. She traveled to India and immersed herself in the tenets of non-violence. She was, it seemed, the last person to become a media sensation. She was beautiful, yes. But the world is full of beautiful, young women.
Being young, however, she did enjoy popular culture; not everything can be a study of Gandhi. She liked rocked music. She liked the Rolling Stones. After attending a Stones concert in France in 1970, she was among a crowd invited to meet lead singer Mick Jagger. He was properly impressed. And so, apparently, was she. (Mick is, away from his public image, intelligent, well-read, and sensitive. If he is not sensitive to the demands of marriage and fidelity, well—nobody’s perfect.)
The following year, Bianca became the first Mrs. Jagger, in a media firestorm, in St. Tropez. She was four months pregnant. Of more interest even than her pregnancy (the media and the public were a tiny bit more innocent back then) was Bianca’s accidental “wardrobe malfunction” as we would call it now. The white blouse she was wearing gaped open briefly giving the world a glimpse of her bare, perfect bosom. Or maybe it wasn’t accidental. It was very nice, however. The incident cemented her image as a wild woman, an exhibitionist, a perfect sensual match for the randy Mick.
They traveled and partied and often looked happy, or at least sexy. But Bianca would later say, “My marriage ended on my wedding day!”
They would divorce in 1978. Bianca claimed Mick had been unfaithful with model Jerry Hall. Indeed, he had been, and in time (a long time and a number of children later) Jerry would become the second Mrs. Jagger.
Single, with the heat of the old Studio 54 days cooling down, Bianca made a few movies and T.V. appearances, all capitalizing on her beauty and her reputation as a worldly woman, possibly dangerous. The names of her characters say it all: The Sheik’s Sister…Madam Schrivers…Martini McQuickly…Francesca Delgada…Maya Kumara.
But other things were on the burner. In 1979, Bianca visited her homeland, Nicaragua, accompanied by the Red Cross. She was horrified by the condition of her countrymen under the Somoza regime, and thus began a commitment to human rights that continues to this day. (Jagger also played a role in a terrifying incident in Honduras in 1981, where she and a U.N. delegation put themselves between 40 people slated for execution and an El Salvador death squad. The captives were released.)
She opposed U.S. intervention in Nicaragua after the Sandinista revolution. She has spoken up vociferously against the death penalty, for women’s rights—particularly in countries where those rights are routinely trampled upon. She was out front fighting for the victims in the horrors of Bosnia and Serbia. She has worked to append war criminals and to raise further the issues of climate control. There has rarely been a global issue affecting the rights and lives of people worldwide in which Bianca Jagger has not been involved.
She currently serves as a Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador, is founder of the Bianca Jagger Human Rghts Foundation, and a trustee of the Amazon Charitable Trust. She has at least 20 various humanitarian awards and doctorates. She also has two grandchildren.
I still see Bianca now and then, out and about in New York City. But it’s not like the good days when I’d glimpse her in her clinging Halston get-ups, with Andy and his crowd, glittering and dramatic, not appearing to have a serious thought in her head. (Well, who did in those days? Not I!) No, when I catch up with Bianca Jagger now, it’s better than the good old days. From falling out of her wedding dress to human rights activist, she’s traveled a road few could have imagined she’d take back in 1971.
Bianca fashioned a supremely productive life out of fame that was based on nothing but her controversial husband, her superficial friends, an era of excess, and her striking bone structure.
Sometimes one has to be silly—or to be perceived as silly—to become a real woman, a real person, a real benefit to the human race.