Nicole Shanahan is in the news for allegedly being in a love triangle with two of the world’s most-richest men: Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Google co-founder Sergey Brin. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Brin filed for divorce from Shanahan and ended his friendship with Musk after his ex-wife and the billionaire had an affair. 

Musk refuted the report, dubbing it ‘total bs.’ He added: “Sergey and I are friends and were at a party together last night! I’ve only seen Nicole twice in three years, both times with many other people around. Nothing romantic.”

Elon sent a photo he’d taken recently with Brin to The New York Post to support his assertion that the pair were still friends. 

Shanahan’s mother emigrated from China two years before Nicole’s birth

Nicole Shanahan was born in 1989 in Oakland, California, to Amy and Shawn Shanahan. 

Shanahan’s grandfather, Chen Zhen, met her grandmother, Fai Kwok Wong, after moving from Macau to Guangzhou. Chen and Fai welcomed five daughters, including Nicole’s mother, Amy, in September 1954. 

Amy immigrated to the United States in her 30s and met Nicole’s father, Shawn. The couple welcomed Nicole two years after Amy settled in the US. 

Nicole had a tough upbringing following her dad’s diagnosis with bipolar schizophrenia

Nicole’s life changed after her father was diagnosed with bipolar schizophrenia. She was nine years old, living with a sick father and an unemployed mother. She told San Francisco magazine:

“I had two unemployed parents for the majority of my childhood, so not only was there no money, there was almost no parental guidance, and as you can imagine with a mentally ill father, there was lots of chaos and fear.”

The family survived on public assistance, which embarrassed her mother. Nicole remembered a time Amy asked her and her brother to leave the store as she tallied paper food stamps. 

Due to her father’s sickness, Nicole effectively grew up in a single-parent home. The going was tough, but it taught her to make the most of scarce resources. She said:

“I learned how to compete in really creative ways by making broken objects perform at levels beyond their perceived capacity. This is a skill that helps me navigate almost every day of my life at work and at home, and especially being an entrepreneur.”

By age 12, Nicole was working as a waitress – a job she reckons she would still have without the internet. “It was the internet that made my dream of becoming a lawyer into reality,” Shanahan said. She added:

“From helping me submit college applications to assisting me with school projects and applying for my first legal internship. Without the internet I would probably still be in Oakland doing the same thing I was doing at age 12.”