Singer Enrique Iglesias’s Flipino-born mother, long-known in Spain as one of the country’s most infamous femme fatales, has struck again—at the age of 64.
The glamorous, impossibly-youthful looking Isabel Preysler, whose nicknames include the “Pearl of Manila” and who has been married three times, has managed to seduce Peru’s Nobel Prize-winning writer Mario Vargas Llosa, 79, away from his wife of 50 years, Patricia. Vargas Llosa’s works include Conversation in the Cathedral and Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter.
“I’m done,” Vargas Llosa told Patricia, 70, who is also his cousin, according to a Peruvian TV station. “Now I feel what happiness is. I don’t have much time left.”
For the Spanish press, especially the celebrity magazine Hola! where stories about Preysler, her beauty and her husbands have been a staple for decades, the news is a bit like an elderly, Latino version of Brad Pitt leaving Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie. But in this case, Hola! was clearly on Preysler’s side as it chronicled the new couple’s first “discreet” lunch in Madrid last month and a more public trip to Lisbon recently.
“Their love story shows that dreams can come true,” the magazine gushed last week. “There are second chances, there is joy after sorrow and love can surprise you at any stage of life.”
Patricia Vargas Llosa and the couple’s three children, Alvaro, Gonzalo and Morgana, were not so understanding. They issued a statement last month after Llosa, considered one of the leading writers of his generation, dumped Patricia for Isabel, saying they were “shocked and saddened.”
According to the ABC news site in Spain, Vargas Llosa’s children said the official news of their father’s split with their mother came on June 4, five days after the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in a gala celebration in New York.
Vargas Llosa then got on a plane to Madrid, where he moved out of the family home and into an apartment in the Hotel Eurobuilding.
Vargas Llosa’s son Gonzalo told ABC that the worst part of their father’s affair was all the publicity surrounding it. Vargas Llosa and Preysler have been plastered all over the cover of Hola! and other Spanish magazines. He accused his father of having a secret affair for four months that no one in the family knew about until it hit the tabloids.
Gonzalo described his mother as “like any Spanish woman who dedicated 50 years of her life to build a strong marriage and family.”
“She gave up her career and her aspirations to devote herself fully to my father and children,” he said. “Now that world has been shaken by something completely unexpected from the outside.”
Gonzalo, who said he had always been extremely close to his father, said he has not spoken to him since June 4, adding that his “priority” now is to support his mother.
For Preysler, her romance with Vargas Llosa comes just eight months after the death of her third husband, Miguel Boyer, a Spanish politician and economist to whom she was married for 26 years. Boyer suffered a stroke two years before his death and Preysler helped care for him.
“I actually lost my husband at the time of the stroke,” Preysler said. “It was two years and seven months of sadness and hard times after that.”
Preysler was reportedly so grief-stricken after Boyer’s death that her son Enrique issued a public statement. “It was a very big loss,” he said. “My mother is a strong woman who now needs to give you all the love and support.”
Preysler is best known in Spain for her looks and her ability to attract powerful men, somewhat like the English-born socialite Pamela Harriman, who was married to Winston Churchill’s son among others and had affairs with everyone from Prince Aly Khan to Baron Elie von Rothschild.
Born in Manila into an upper-class family, Preysler was sent to Madrid to live with relatives, reportedly because she was being pursued by a Filipino playboy.
Preysler worked as a model, television host, and celebrity journalist. She met Julio Iglesias when she interviewed him for Hola! and later married him in 1971. Her second husband was the Marques de Griñón, Carlos Falcó.
Though the news about Preysler and Vargas Llosa becoming a couple is recent, the two have actually known each other since 1986. In fact a photo taken at a Marbella restaurant show Preysler and Vargas Llosa along with Miguel Boyer. Preysler and Boyer were then having a secret affair and Llosa was thought to have been brought along as a kind of beard, ABC reported.
ABC added that Preysler and Vargas Llosa, a year after Boyer’s stroke, were both guests of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim on a trip to Mexico and Peru. “There was some chemistry between them,” another guest told the news site.