The Sunday Times: Meet the Twags (tech billionaires’ wives and girlfriends)

Forget rock stars and Hollywood hunks — glamorous ‘founder-hounders’ are out to catch the geeky bosses of Silicon Valley start-ups

The 9.6m followers who tune in to watch Miranda Kerr having her hair done on Instagram — for this is how models spend most of their time — were treated to a rather more interesting sight last Thursday: a black and white photograph of a whacking great diamond ring. Across it was the caption “Marry me!” and a twee animation of the tech mogul Evan Spiegel on bended knee. Underneath Kerr had typed “I said yes!!!” and an explosion of heart emojis.

A spokesman for Spiegel, founder of the Snapchat mobile app, who is 26 to Kerr’s 33 and worth $2.1bn (£1.6bn) to her $42.5m, revealed “they are very happy”. He declined to add whether Spiegel was disappointed Kerr had not announced their engagement, which already has 447,000 “likes”, as a Snapchat “story”.

At first, the marriage seems an unlikely combination: a man so bright he founded Snapchat while still at Stanford University, becoming one of the world’s youngest self-made billionaires by 22, and a Victoria’s Secret model who was previously married to the Pirates of the Caribbean star Orlando Bloom (she allegedly had a fling with pop brat Justin Bieber, leading Bloom to punch Beebs in a posh Ibiza restaurant).

Perhaps the union indicates that there is more to Kerr than we thought. More likely, it reveals something about Spiegel — and the way the social status of “geeks” has changed.

Since Steve Jobs made computers cool and Millennials started living online, nerds are king. Even coding is sexy enough for the model Karlie Kloss, singer and actor Ashton Kutcher to learn it. Silicon Valley has become the new Hollywood, as moguls and social media barons take over from film stars and sportsmen not just on rich lists, but as alpha men.

Being a co-founder of a company is this decade’s equivalent to being a rock star or a chef. And, if their attractiveness to models and actresses proves anything, then being a Twag — tech wife or girlfriend — is a “thing”. Sources tell me Twags are also known as “founder-hounders” because they like to date the creators of start-up companies.

Actress Talulah Riley was an early adopter. She started dating the PayPal founder Elon Musk in 2008. Riley, then fresh from starring in the St Trinian’s film, met Musk in London’s Whisky Mist nightclub after he had delivered a lecture at the Royal Aeronautical Society. I interviewed her shortly afterwards and she told me they had spent the evening talking about “quantum physics”. A month later they were engaged. Their on-again-off-again marriage lasted six years before she filed for divorce again in March. Currently Musk, worth an estimated $12.7 billion and focused on Tesla cars, is said to be “spending a lot of time” with Johnny Depp’s estranged wife, Amber Heard.

Model Lily Cole dated the Twitter founder Jack Dorsey in 2013. Later she had a son with Kwame Ferreira, founder of the digital innovation agency Kwamecorp. Actress Emma Watson is going out with William Knight, an “adventurer” who has an incredibly boringly sounding job as a senior manager at Medallia, a software company. Allison Williams, Marnie in the HBO television show Girls, is married to Ricky Van Veen, co-founder of College Humor website.




The Sun: Sadiq Khan’s plans to ban body shaming adverts on public transport is a ‘ridiculous act of oppression’ that perpetuates the idea that women are the ‘weaker’ sex

London mayor is just pandering to a ‘tedious, angry mob’ says columnist Katie Glass who thinks the move is ‘so patronising’

I HEARD the news Sadiq Khan was doing something about London transport and thought, “Finally! He’s going to reduce my chances of being killed in a rush-hour stampede”.

Maybe he’ll knock an hour off my commute, after reports that in London it’s now quicker to get to work by donkey than bus. Or address the spike there’s been in sexual assaults on the Tube?

But, no. Silly me. Nothing so useful.

Instead Khan’s first major act as Mayor is some censorship, having pledged, like a puritanical Boy Scout, to ban body-shaming adverts on public transport.

You’ll recall this is a row sparked by last year’s Protein World ad, in which a girl in a bikini, right, asked: “Are You Beach Body Ready?” and 378 complained. And apparently Khan writes ­legislation based on 400 people being mildly annoyed.

That, and his rules for his kids.

Trying to justify this ridiculous act of oppression, Khan said: “As the father of two teenage girls, I am extremely concerned about this kind of advertising.”

As if that makes it OK that I, a grown woman, now have to live as if Khan was my dad.

Does this mean as Mayor, Khan will also want me home by 10pm?

Will he ban me from smoking in bed? Or leaving the house if my skirt is too short?

After all that’s what this ban amounts to: A middle-aged dad telling women to cover up, because he knows what’s best.

Paternalism doesn’t cover this puritanical crusade to dictate what we can see — a censorship especially patronising to women.

Khan thinks such ads “demean people, particularly women”.

In saying so, he perpetuates the sexist idea that women are the weaker sex, most easily damaged by advertising. That we girls need protecting — the same patronising sentiment behind Jeremy Corbyn’s idiotic idea for women-only train carriages.

Is it because men are made of sterner stuff that Khan doesn’t worry so much about them? Because plenty of ads feature semi-naked men.

In fact Protein World ran an ad showing a guy with a six-pack wearing just his pants in 2014.

Last year ads for an Australian breakfast shake, showing a guy in Speedos and claiming “Aussies Suck”, was plastered on London buses.

No one seems panicked about them.

Perhaps Khan finds female nudity more offensive? Why stop at ads, then?

Khan should head to the British Museum and chuck a modesty cloth over the naked statue of Aphrodite, in case visitors faint at the sight of her bum.

Never mind that even hand-wringing eating disorder charity Beat admits advertisements ­cannot cause eating disorders.

Never mind that Protein World’s ad ran uninhibited in America on a massive billboard in New York’s Times Square.

Never mind Protein World’s ad was officially ruled neither ­offensive nor irresponsible by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Ignoring them, Khan has Transport For London establishing their own ad-watch group, governed by his tastes.

Explaining the ban, Khan says he is worried ads promote “unrealistic expectations”.

If he’s seriously concerned about that he’ll have to take on the whole advertising industry.

And start banning ads for ­perfect tans, ones promoting ­flawless skin and fashion ads bullying us into buying nice clothes.


Image: Getty Images


The Sunday Times: Click. Send. Oops. That email has just revealed the real you

Sarah Vine is among the 60% of us who have sent a note to the wrong person. It may be embarrassing but it may not be accidental, offering the chance to express our true feelings

Perhaps Sarah Vine is hoping people are too busy watching the political landscape implode to have taken much notice of her blunder last week: the leaking of an embarrassing email she wrote to her husband, Michael Gove. In it she advises him how best to handle Boris Johnson and goads him to be his “stubborn best”.

Ambitious and scheming, it is a missive that has seen Vine compared to Claire Underwood from the television series House of Cards and, more cruelly, to Lady Macbeth. Particularly embarrassing is the fact that it was leaked by Vine herself. When emailing it to Gove’s staff, she accidentally copied in a member of the public. They, in turn, forwarded it to Sky News.

To err is human, to accidentally cc is a modern hazard. If you haven’t humiliated yourself by email, as far as the 21st century is concerned you haven’t lived.

I accidentally emailed someone just last week. After popping over to pick up some keys from a friend’s relative, I dropped my mate an email observing, “OMG your cousin is hot!” Only to realise, the moment I pressed send, the hot cousin was still copied into our chat.

A journalist friend was at the brutal end of this recently when she pitched a story to an editor only to receive an email reply, into which she had been accidentally copied. It read: “There is nothing I want to read less.” This is the classic accidental cc: erroneously emailing someone, usually whomever you are insulting at the time, probably because they are on your mind.

In his book Great Email Disasters, Chas Newkey-Burden quotes a survey by the search engine Lycos claiming that 60% of us have sent an email to the wrong person, on nearly a quarter of occasions to the person being mocked.

“If someone writes a nasty email about someone, they’re thinking about the person as they send it,” Newkey-Burden says. “So there is a real danger of them accidentally addressing it to the very person they’re slagging off.”

This is presumably what happened when Alastair Campbell sent an email to Newsnight telling them to “f*** off and cover something important you t****!”. Campbell claims he intended to send it to a Labour party official, in response to a query from Newsnight, but sent it directly to the Newsnight journalist Andrew McFadyen instead.

In the same vein, the then executive editor of BBC Sports News, Graeme Reid-Davies, embarrassed himself when Radio 5 Live hired football commentators Andy Gray and Jonathan Pearce for the 2002 World Cup. “I think they’re both crap,” he said in an email to a colleague. He accidentally copied in 500 BBC sports staff, including Gray and Pearce.

Some email mistakes involve copying in people we are thinking about; others reveal a guilty conscience. According to Lycos, sex texts feature in 33%of mis-sent messages. Like the time my friend, a lawyer, wrote a steamy fantasy to his girlfriend worthy of The Hite Report, only to email it accidentally to all the lawyers working with him on a case. Afterwards he tried to invoke legal privilege as he begged them not to share it.



The Sunday Times Interview: Susan Sarandon, actress

“There is nothing about Hillary Clinton I find feminist, except that she’s a woman”

Susan Sarandon arrived last night from LA. Is she exhausted? “I’m surprisingly all right,” she grins. She looks damn good for 69. Relaxed, too. Her hair, loosely up in messy ringlets, seems more strawberry blonde than red-carpet red. She is dressed casually in a loose, pink, sequined kaftan top, which she pulls at, complaining: “I am at my fattest.” Still, she digs into the bread basket and declares she’s hungry. “Let’s get oysters!”

I confess, I am slightly disappointed. I had hoped to meet Sarandon at her purringly seductive best. After all, she was the sexiest feminist icon ever in Thelma & Louise — and 25 years later she is a siren still: tweeting pictures of herself comparing cleavage size with Salma Hayek at this year’s Cannes and stealing the red carpet from stars 40 years younger by turning up in a plunging tuxedo dress (her “double-breasted look”). In 1975 she played Janet (dammit) in the Rocky Horror Picture Show, where she seduced Frank-N-Furter and Rocky Horror in one night. In real life, she had a three-year fling with David Bowie in the mid-1980s after they met on the set of The Hunger. For years Playboy begged her to pose, offering ever more cash. Now she says she regrets not finding a way to do it, on her own terms, in a way “that wasn’t dehumanising or objectifying”. She did offer to pose naked while pregnant, but it wasn’t interested. Now she can’t do it “because I have two grown-up sons”.

Today, though, I might not have recognised her walking into Claridge’s. Unlike celebrities who travel with an entourage while wearing giant Prada sunglasses and complaining about paparazzi, Sarandon avoids starry fuss. In Hollywood, she claims, she is “kind of an outsider”, and chooses to live in New York because “if I was isolated behind gates in Beverly Hills, I wonder if I would be able to maintain my connection to the bigger picture”. That is important to her.

The day we meet, Hillary Clinton has won the Democratic nomination. Sarandon, who has been campaigning fervently for Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s rival, is unimpressed. “She could be indicted,” she says of the FBI investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server to send classified information. “She’s lied and she’s broken the law.” Even off the red-eye with no sleep, she can’t wait to sink her teeth in.

I would have thought a famously liberal feminist like Sarandon would relish the prospect of America’s first female president, but no. “I don’t vote with my vagina,” she retorts. Besides, in her view, Clinton is no sister: “There is nothing about her I find feminist, except that she’s a woman. She doesn’t support basic things that would help women.” She continues railing in this vein, firing partisan allegations about everything from Clinton’s alleged lack of support for a $15 minimum wage and universal healthcare to her willingness to send back some undocumented child refugees.

Her gripes against Hillary are so numerous, I could write about nothing else. “She’s a hawk and she’ll probably get us into another war — she’s been desperate to get us into it with Russia and Iran.” As Sarandon warms to her theme, she reels off the charges: “She won’t release the transcripts of all her speeches to Goldman Sachs … She was the last one out for gay rights … Monsanto … Honduras … Libya. Across the board, everything she stands for is wrong.”

So what is the alternative? Sarandon has provocatively suggested people might vote for Trump over Clinton just to watch the system implode. “Some people feel Trump will bring the revolution immediately,” she has said. She has since seen the light, admitting that, rather than voting for Trump, she’ll abstain or vote for Jill Stein, an independent candidate.

If she feels so strongly, would she ever run herself? “No! Absolutely not.” But Americans love a celebrity politician: look at Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California. “No, you can’t make a difference, it’s much better to be outside.” This seems to be a recurring theme with her.

She is easy to be with, and relaxed in the way people are who are totally comfortable in themselves, which you’d expect from a woman who has always been authentically herself, long before being so was a thing. Unpretentious, she is not afraid to speak her mind, even about her own industry. She recently called out Woody Allen as a paedophile, in the light of renewed allegations that he abused his adopted daughter: “I think he sexually assaulted a child and I don’t think that is right.”

She has been outspoken since high school, when she was arrested at protests for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. Since then she has sparked controversy with her support for gun control and LGBT rights, as well as speaking out against sex trafficking, the death penalty and human-rights violations. This is not just luvvie talk — she went to Lesbos recently to work with refugees: “The worst humanitarian crisis I have seen.”



The Sunday Times: Guilty of terrible tunes, but it doesn’t make Cliff a criminal

Sir Cliff Richard is guilty of crimes against music. He had a sweet run in the 1950s and then he should have stopped. His Christmas song Mistletoe and Wine was so torturous that even Costa Coffee refused to play it. And he is responsible for Congratulations: case closed.

So I confess that when police raided Sir Cliff’s home over sexual assault allegations I wasn’t devastated. I joked: who didn’t suspect something dodgy from a man who sang: “I’m gonna lock her up in a trunk” (Living Doll).

Last week Sir Cliff was cleared of the allegations and police announced no charges would be brought against him. Even so, I’ve heard fewer people celebrating Cliff’s innocence than proclaiming Johnny Depp’s. I’m not surprised. In the court of public opinion, celebrities accused of crimes are judged not on the facts, but on our taste. We’re quick to justify the actions of artists we love and to condemn those whose work we don’t rate.

Few of David Bowie’s obituarists chose to remember that he took the virginity of a 14-year-old named Lori Maddox . No one mentions any more that Bill Wyman had sex with Mandy Smith when she was 14. Or that Iggy Pop boasted in his song Look Away that he slept with Sable Starr when she was 13 , the sort of behaviour that helped to create LA’s paedophilically named “baby groupie” scene.

We view these stories differently, at least partly out of snobbery. When you’re enamoured with rock’n’roll — rather than easy listening — who wants to be the killjoy mentioning statutory rape? Still, when grown men sleep with underage girls, that’s what it is. Even if skinny rock gods banging groupies seems glamorous in a way that Max Clifford’s grubby gropes in his office don’t.



The Sunday Times: Mile-high clubbing

DJs, drinking and unicorn onesies at 33,000ft? Last weekend we checked in to a rave on a plane

As preposterous ideas go, a rave on a plane takes the disco biscuit. Yet the promoter Big City Beats has pulled it off — somehow sidestepping both common sense and preconceptions of aviation safety to turn a Boeing 747 into a flying nightclub with four dance areas, celebrity DJs including Robin Schulz, and room for a staggering 500 passengers.

It’s being promoted as the hippest way to reach the World Club Dome festival, in Frankfurt, and, though I jumped at the chance to join this mile-high club, it is only as I’m lugging my case towards Stansted that I realise I might have made a terrible mistake.

There is something fundamentally incompatible about the dual pursuits of air travel and raving. One presupposes organisation, responsibility and sobriety, the other… well, the exact opposite.

Check-in for the 10.45 departure starts at 08.45. This means I find myself getting out of bed to go clubbing at 6am. Dressing proves problematic. My usual flight uniform (comfy jumper, neck-rest cushion, Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream) isn’t going to cut it for raving, so, after some hesitation, I opt instead for glitter eyeshadow and skinny jeans.

At the airport, I try to guess who’ll be joining me. Probably the girl with blue hair. Maybe the guy wearing sunglasses and gold chains in the morning. Definitely the boy who can’t stop chewing his jaw.

Heading for a rave jars with being at an airport: you find yourself wondering if you packed glowsticks while putting your liquids in a plastic bag. You realise you’re going to have to chuck your booze when security check your bag, and the whole surreal scene comes into sharp relief as holidaymaking families rub up against German clubbers wearing pink unicorn onesies.

On the apron, the Big City Beats plane — a Boeing 747-400 — is a double-decker monster so enormous that it’s parked in a cargo bay. Before boarding, we are issued with a “code of conduct”, including the edict not to get drunk. Which seems wildly optimistic.

“Don’t jump on the seats, stamp on the floor or smoke,” a voice warns over the Tannoy as we go in and take our seats. The usual flight-safety video whirrs — but no one is watching.

We are issued with a bag containing Haribo sweets and beer. The seat pocket in front has the usual sick bag. As we trundle down the runway, the Tannoy voice crackles again. “Are you ready to party?” it screams. Well, kind of.

We lift off. As we cut through the clouds, the windows gush white and people raise their hands overhead. We reach altitude and the seatbelt sign pings off. Two guys speedily assemble a DJ deck. Beers are cracked open. People get to their feet, opening bottles of duty-free rum, and by the time we reach cruising altitude, 33,000ft, the unicorns are dancing. Crowds form in front of the DJs and the aisle fills so tight with revellers, it’s impossible to get down the plane.




The Sunday Times: From heart-throb to heartblob

The general hilarity over Hugh Grant’s moobs shows that once pretty male stars now get shamed in the same way as women. Is this equality?

A quiet holiday in Marbella with his girlfriend must have seemed like a good idea to Hugh Grant, but he may be regretting it after he was snapped splashing in the Med and subjected to an onslaught of body-shaming.

The gossips and tabloids set about chronicling the 55-year-old’s flaws with gusto. Some noted his once-buff physique had morphed into a dad bod. Others observed that his muscles had melted into moobs and that his waistline had expanded so substantially his belly flumped ahead of him into the sea. Lined and jowly, he was more pasty cookie monster than floppy-haired heart-throb.

As one publication cruelly noted, Hugh was less Four Weddings and a Funeral than “four bellies and a pair of man boobs”.

Even the kindest observers, who praised Grant for ignoring the call of the himbo, still mentioned his “ample belly-level embonpoint and two enormously floppy moobs”.

Perhaps next year Grant might consider hiding his love handles behind one of those burkinis Nigella Lawson prefers on the beach. Or perhaps he does not give a damn that he has let himself go (after all, Martine McCutcheon, who starred with him in Love Actually, admitted last week she “wouldn’t kick him out of bed”).

More interestingly, however, as Grant walked into those waves he waded not just into the eye of a paparazzo’s lens but into a new debate about gender equality.

After decades of women being assessed on their looks, men are finally getting the same treatment. Is this man-shaming a sign of gender equality? Is fat no longer a feminist issue?

Man-shaming — the catch-all term for criticism aimed at the male body — is a relatively new phenomenon but perhaps a predictable one. In recent years men have followed women by becoming sex objects too.

You need only think of Aidan Turner whipping his top off as Poldark, the singer Justin Bieber clenching his abs on Instagram, Channing Tatum baring his muscles in Magic Mike or Zac Efron in almost every film he makes.

As men cashed in on their sexuality and enjoyed their objectification, it could only be a matter of time before they started attracting the same criticism that women have been subjected to for years.

Now the attention long paid to female stars’ cellulite, mummy tummies and bingo wings is being directed at men’s beer bellies and moobs. Grant is just the latest outsize man in the frame, but plenty have been in his place.

Leonardo DiCaprio, who long ago lost the pretty-boy looks that women swooned over in Titanic, now regularly gets teased for his paunch. He cannot get his top off on the beach without a picture of him appearing online cruelly mocking his pot belly and lumbersexual beard.

In recent weeks , as we have watched the collapse of Johnny Depp’s marriage, people have noted how badly Edward Scissorhands has aged. Having morphed from a teen idol with dark, brooding looks and a baby face to a larger, limp-haired version of himself, he is less Cry-Baby and more exhausted Jack Sparrow.

When Matthew Perry arrived in London earlier this year with his play The End of Longing, nobody could stop talking about how he had turned into a pale, overweight imitation of sweet-faced Chandler Bing from Friends.

So it has been for George Clooney, told he does not look as good as his wife Amal; John Travolta, whose performance in The People v OJ Simpson was overshadowed by discussions of what the Saturday Night Fever star had done to his face; and Russell Crowe, who has had every inch he has added to his waistline documented.

No wonder Bieber is so keen to get down to the gym.