Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Jake Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Stanton Daily. Posted by Jake Frost
January 25, 1978
Currently Known For:
Princess of Monaco
Former Olympic swimmer and member of Monaco's royal family
“Grace Kelly forged a link between Monaco and the movie world, and I would like to create a strong bond between Monaco and the fashion community.” Charlene Lynette Wittstock was born on January 25, 1978 in Bulaway, Rhodesia, which is now known as Zimbabwe. The only daughter of three children born to a sales manager and a former competitive diver and swim coach, Charlene and her brothers were raised primarily in South Africa where she attended the Tom Newby Primary school just outside of Johannesburg from 1988 to 1991. Outside of school, she shared her mother’s passion for swimming and started taking lessons from her mother at an early age before joining a professional swim club to further hone her talents.
By the time she was 18, Charlene showed incredible promise as a competitive swimmer and won the 1996 South African Championship. She went on to represent South Africa at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and took home three gold medals and a silver medal the following year at the 1999 All-Africa Games in Johannesburg. Because of her stellar performance, she was invited to the join the South African women’s 4 x 100-meter medley team at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Although the team failed to medal with a fifth-place finish, Charlene’s competitive streak continued as she competed in the 4 x 100-meter medley and took home a silver medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. The same year, she finished in sixth place at the 2002 FINA Short Course World Championships.
Failing to see the results she wanted, Charlene alternated between swim clubs and coaches over the next few years before she finally reclaimed her title as the 50-meter backstroke champion in South Africa in 2007 after she finished in third place at the Telkom SA National Aquatic Championships. Shortly after, a shoulder injury kept her out of the pool for an extended period of time and prevented her from qualifying for the 2008 Summer Olympics, a huge defeat since Charlene had previously said the 2008 Olympic Games would be the “swan song” of her entire career. “I have a year left of competitive swimming, and I just want to be the best I can be in that time,” she said shortly after announcing her plans to hopefully improve her times before retirement. “After that, I want to get involved in charity work, and development work with athletes’ commissions.”
Amid her success as a competitive swimmer, Charlene met Albert II, Prince of Monaco in 2000 at the Mare Nostrum swim meet in Monaco. Although the two shared undeniable chemistry, they kept their courtship a secret over the next few years before they were first spotted together at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Winter Olympics. Months later, they made their first official appearance as a couple at the Automobile Club party following the F1 Grand Prix in Monaco City in May 2006 shortly before Charlene moved in with Prince Albert in Monaco.
Attending the weddings of the Crown Princess of Sweden and the Duke of Cambridge together as well as dozens of other public events, the world anxiously anticipated the couple’s engagement, which officially came on June 23, 2010. After the announcement, Charlene converted to Roman Catholicism, started studying the French language, and familiarized herself with the European court protocol. She also discussed her hopes for her role as a princess and told the media, “I don’t want to be a princess who sits on the sidelines; I want to be present and actively involved. It’s a life with a purpose.”
In the weeks prior to their July 2011 wedding, tabloids reported that Charlene tried to back out of the nuptials, but the Palace of Monaco called the reports of her “attempted escape” nothing but “ugly rumors born out of jealousy.” On July 1, 2011, over a decade after they first met, Charlene and Albert II legally married in an intimate civil ceremony in front of their family and friends in the Throne Room of the Prince’s Palace of Monaco. The couple made their first appearance together on the palace balcony, an act that Albert II’s father, Rainier III, and mother, Grace Kelly, did over 55 years prior. For the occasion, Charlene collaborated with Chanel designer Karl Lagerfield and designed a sky-blue suit trimmed in lace. “It’s a collaboration between me and Karl Lagerfeld,” the Princess said after the color was dubbed ‘Charlene blue.’ “We wanted something to match the color of my eyes. It’s my creation and I’m proud of it.”
The religious ceremony followed the next day on July 2, 2011 and had a global audience with millions watching on television as well as a long list of 3,500 royal attendees, celebrities, and dignitaries in attendance for the royal event. With the Palace’s inner courtyard transformed into an open-air cathedral, Charlene looked exquisite as she walked down the aisle wearing a silk Giorgio Armani bridal gown cut from over 400 feet of silk, studded with 40,000 crystals, and embellished with 20,000 mother-of-pearl teardrops. After the ceremony and a quick change with Charlene donning her second Armani dress of the evening, the couple partied the night away at a lavish reception that ended with a gorgeous fireworks display.
Charlene and Prince Albert II returned to Monaco after their honeymoon in South Africa and settled into life as usual with the Princess taking on more royal responsibilities. In 2011, she was named a global ambassador for the Special Olympics and has continued to travel abroad working with various charities to raise awareness about the poverty-stricken regions of South Africa as well as the associated health issues. In December 2013, she returned to South Africa to attend the memorial service of Nelson Mandela.
Charlene’s schedule dramatically shifted in May 2014 when the Princess confirmed she was pregnant. On October 9, 2014, the Palace confirmed that Charlene and Albert were expecting twins and, only two months later, Charlene gave birth to Hereditary Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella on December 10, 2014 at The Princess Grace Hospital Centre, which was aptly named after Prince Albert’s mother, Grace Kelly.
Over the last four years, Charlene has devoted most of her time and energy to her roles as a wife and mother, the latter of which requires more energy than she ever imagined. “It’s an incredible age, where they constantly demand you,” Charlene happily admitted during an interview with Paris-Match magazine. “Living away from me seems unimaginable for them. They want to know everything, to understand everything, to ask me thousands of questions. They also want to try everything.”
The twins certainly get a chance to experience some of the finest moments in life especially after they made their first appearance at the 42nd Monte Carlo International Circus Festival where their dad toted them around to celebrate traditional circus acts like clowns, trapeze artists, and a variety of animals. Princess Gabriella even bravely fed a banana to a giraffe! Apart from the circus and official appearances, Charlene posts plenty of updates and pictures of the twins on her Instagram page documenting their firsts and special occasions as well as everyday life and anecdotes like how protective Jacques is of his sister. Most recently, Charlene shared a sneak peek of Prince Albert’s 60th birthday celebration where the family of four and their closest family and friends gathered for an intimate celebration.
As for what the future holds for the twins and their parents, Charlene and Albert are anxious for the toddlers to see the world as Prince Albert revealed the family is planning a trip to Polynesia in the summer 2018. “We did a cruise with them this summer and that was fine,” he said. “We’ll have to break it up so it’s not too long for them.” Charlene agrees and has used her new role as a mother to continue her advocacy campaign for mothers and children around the world especially after events like the Manchester terror attack, which inspired her to visit the Princess Grace Hospital to celebrate Mother’s Day with new mothers. “We have to support each other within our communities, especially at this time, those for whom Mother’s Day is a painful one,” she said. “I am so blessed to have two such beautiful and happy children, but I have many children around the world that I cherish.” With such compassion in her heart, we look forward to seeing more of Charlene, Princess of Monaco, at work in the global community as she raises her own beautiful, happy children.