Tesla boss Elon Musk already has a substantial fan club in China. And now his mother does as well, following a livestreaming session with media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife Wendi Deng.
Over seven million Chinese watched Deng’s interview with Maye Musk, which was linked to the launch of her book in China.
Public reaction to the 71 year-old was overwhelmingly positive with many women hailing her as a role model.
The book – called A Woman Makes A Plan – details how Musk escaped an abusive relationship, raised three children as a single mother and then, in her sixties, became a fashion model.
“When you work out that you are in a bad situation, you need to move on. Don’t think you can change people or the situation… I should have moved on quicker than I did,” she said of her marriage to Elon’s father, the South African entrepreneur Errol Musk.
Viewers in China praised the author for her “confidence and energy”, and her book shot to third place on the JD.com bestseller list.
Many women in China have become more assertive in recent years, with many refusing to marry in the traditional way because of fears of stereotyped gender roles and even the risk of spousal abuse.
To help counter those concerns – and to encourage marriage – the eastern city of Yiwu launched a database last month allowing women to check whether their prospective spouses have been convicted of domestic violence or been the subject of restraining orders.
Musk – who has a shock of white hair – was also lauded for making older-age seem fun and vital.
“She made me realise there is no fear in getting old,” commented one female weibo user.
“This granny is living the life every woman wants to live,” said another.
Others were fascinated by her decision to allow her children to study whatever they wanted, as well as her hands-off approach to mothering.
“Only a woman like this could produce a son like Elon Musk,” remarked another admirer.
Musk mentioned her son as a “genius boy” and also thanked the Chinese for supporting Tesla. She said she had agreed to be interviewed by Wendi Deng because they have been friends for years.
Despite her Chinese roots the Shandong-born Deng hasn’t livestreamed in China before and she keeps a relatively low profile on social media.
Some Chinese see her as a classic success story – a clever, ambitious women who worked her way up from a humble background to an executive position at Star TV via an MBA from Yale.
Others see her as a femme-fatale, who has reached a position of wealth and influence through guile, her looks and marrying well.
Aside from her marriage to Rupert Murdoch – from whom she is now divorced – she has been linked romantically to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and even the Russian leader Vladimir Putin (as reported by gossip magazine Us Weekly).
Many young women watching the Musk interview were impressed by Deng and her energy too. “Both Wendi and Maye are excellent. This is the outlook all women should have on life,” one said.
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