How Jocelyn Wildenstein’s ‘Unusual’ Lifestyle Dragged Her To Bankruptcy

Elif Ozden

The saga of Jocelyn Wildenstein, the Swiss-born billionaire socialite, is one that truly underscores the unpredictable twists and turns of life in the public eye. Born as Jocelynnys Dayannys da Silva Bezerra Périsset in 1940 in Lausanne, Switzerland, Wildenstein’s story is filled with high-profile relationships and an extraordinary passion for altering her appearance.

Raised in a middle-class family with her father working as a struggling department-store buyer, Wildenstein’s life took a dramatic turn when she began dating Cyril Piguet, a Swiss movie producer, at the age of 17. As Jocelyn said, meeting him changed her life, and their relationship ushered her into a world of glamour:

“My life changed then. Lausanne is very plain, but I began meeting exciting, glamorous people.”

Over the years, she moved in elite circles across the world, resulting in her meeting and marrying billionaire Alec Wildenstein, a famous name in the realms of art collection and horse racing.


However, as grand as her life seemed, it was not without its controversies. After a year of being married to Alec, Jocelyn embarked on a journey of extensive cosmetic surgeries, making headlines worldwide for her commitment to adopt a more ‘feline’ appearance, inspired by her husband’s love for big cats. Reportedly, she spent $4 million on surgeries.

This extravagant lifestyle took an intense turn with the tumultuous end of her marriage. The couple divorced in 1999, two years after Jocelyn found Alec in bed with a 21-year-old Russian model. Their divorce lasted for two long years, creating a media frenzy with Wildenstein often being the center of scrutiny for her looks.

Despite the relentless negative press, the divorce proved to be financially advantageous for Wildenstein. She received a whopping $2.5 billion settlement, along with $100 million each year for the subsequent 13 years. However, a unique stipulation was imposed by the judge, prohibiting her from using the divorce payments for further cosmetic surgery.

Wildenstein later entered a relationship with French designer Lloyd Klein. The couple remained together for a considerable period until their relationship spiraled into chaos in 2016, marked by allegations of domestic violence. Klein also found himself arrested on multiple charges, including assault and grand larceny.


Surprisingly, although she had a billion-dollar divorce settlement and an extravagant lifestyle, Wildenstein recently claimed she is now ‘broke.’ As reported by Daily Mail, her annual maintenance from her ex-husband’s family trust, which had been her primary source of income, ceased in March 2015.

The abrupt halt in funds left her unable to afford travel and even food, according to her statements. Her former partner, Klein, echoed these claims, saying that he had been taking care of all her expenses:

“Jocelyn needs help. She doesn’t have a penny. I have been paying all her expenses for the last year and a half. I can’t anymore; I am not Wildenstein. I am not that rich.”

Today, the woman once dubbed ‘The Bride of Wildenstein’ and ‘Catwoman’ by tabloids lives a life that is far removed from her past years of wealth and notoriety. As of now, she is working on an HBO docuseries to share her side of the story and help with her financial struggles.

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