I was stuck in my house all day Monday waiting on Hurricane Sandy to unleash her fury on the East Coast. I planned to be productive—touching up the edges on my most recent paint job and putting a dent in my read of Rebecca Walker’s Black Cool. Instead, I mindlessly spent (i.e., wasted) most of the day flipping through fashion magazines and scanning celebrity “news” sites to distract myself from impending doom. Oops!
It seemed “everyone” who wasn’t talking about Sandy was talking about the lavish bash that supermodel Naomi Campbell is planning to mark the 50th birthday (Nov. 7) of her billionaire Russian boyfriend, Vladislav Doronin. The details read (and looked) like an event planner’s wet dream: an alleged four-day affair in India, a booked solid palace where a one-bedroom suite costs upwards of $12k a night, and an imagined guest list that read like a Who’s Who of the world’s A-List. Must be nice.
Each article reveled in the would-be decadence of it all, but no one seemed able to avoid the figurative elephant that would be in the Indian room. Naomi’s very sexy, very rich boo? The one that’s held her down since 2008, accompanies her to red carpets, vacations with her around the world, and even once subjected himself to an inquisition by Oprah to stand by his lady? Welp, he’s still married. Bossip, unsurprisingly, took the hardest dig: “Guess when you can’t get married cuz your boo still ain’t divorced you have to get creative about other kinds of celebrations…” I mean, it’s true, but… Ouch!
When it comes to coaching clients or doling out dating/relationship advice, I take a hard-line on dating married — that includes separated, like Doronin — men. I can’t forget the story of YaVaughnie Wilkins, the jilted woman who dated a man who was separated from his wife for 8 and a half “serious” years. (Wilkins said she didn’t know he was still married.) But then, her boyfriend, after all that time, decided to go back to his wife. Wilkins made headlines after setting up a website showcasing mementos from their relationship and took out billboards in three different cities because she wanted to debunk many people’s assumptions that she was someone her ex had “just” passed (all that) time with but that she actually mattered to him, at least before he went home.
I’d heard or seen similar stories — sans the websites and billboards — from friends or friends of my family. One of them was the friend of my dad’s, so close to the fam that I called him “Uncle Chuck” and he always showed up at our house with “Aunt Kitty.” At seven or so, I just assumed she was his wife like all the other non-blood related women who I called “Aunt” who showed up with men I called “Uncle” (All of my parents’ friends were married too.)
But then one day, nearly a decade years later, “Uncle Chuck” showed up with a woman my mother introduced as “Aunt Lisa.” I’m sorry, who? My mother explained she, Aunt Lisa, was his wife.
Me (at like 18, upstairs in the kitchen two minutes later): He left Aunt Kitty? He’s re-married already!
Mom: Uhh … Aunt Lisa’s always been his wife. They’re back together.
Mom: Mind your business and take the potato salad downstairs to your father.
For good (and polite) reason, I never saw, heard from, and rarely heard of “Aunt Kitty” again. It was like she never existed. (Damn shame because I really liked her too.) Aunt Lisa was here… or er, back after all those years, sliding right back into her seat, an easily made claim since there was never a divorce, which meant she never gave it up. And that was that. I did learn a lesson though: separated means just that. It doesn’t mean “over.”
Neither one of these scenarios is likely to happen to Naomi Campbell — but I guess that’s probably what Wilkins and “Aunt Kitty” thought too, huh? Anyway, Campbell’s boyfriend has been separated from his wife for at least twelve years now, and prior to hooking up with Campbell at Cannes, Doronin had a seven-year relationship with another woman. Doronin’s wife seems to be okay with the situation as she, her daughter, her husband, and Campbell have been spotted at events together. Despite rumors from earlier this year that the wife had clowned Naomi and was planning to file for divorce, “friends” of his wife say she has no plans to do so and she and her husband live separate lives.
Doronin and Campbell travel the world together, he dotes on her, splurging on homes — note: not bags and shoes — and when they’re actually “home” in Moscow, they live together. Doronin seems to be building a life with Campbell. I don’t know why he’s still married. It doesn’t appear that he is still in love with his wife. Perhaps if I had a better understanding of Russian divorce laws, I could gander that his reasoning is along the “cheaper to keep her” lines. Maybe there’s another reason entirely.
I do know, Doronin seems happy, Campbell seems happy, and so does his still wife. His divorce, or lack there of, doesn’t seem to matter to any of them. But should it? (That’s not a judgment. That’s a question.) There’s a popular line of thinking — that means you, Bossip —that Campbell is playing herself by being a mistress, that Doronin’s wife is getting played by having her husband publicly claiming another woman, and Doronin, well, he’s just a player.
Would you be okay with dating a separated man like Doronin? (Okay, what if he didn’t have Doronin’s money, power, or privilege? That was a joke… sorta.)
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk