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A Miller's Tale
Vanity Fair (June 1995)
The Millers' Tale
The daughters of duty-free king Robert Miller are a fairy-tale trio: one is already married to American royalty and the other two are about to marry princes. LAURA JACOBS talks to the Cushing sisters of the next millennium.
Once upon a time, there were three sisters who lived in a house on a hill in Hong Kong. Their American-born father, Robert W. Miller, was known to all as the "duty-free king," famous for his airport emporiums. Their mother, Chantal, born in Ecuador, was said to be the last Incan princess.
The eldest daughter, Pia, played with pretty dolls; the middle girl, Marie-Chantal, chose G.I. Joes; the youngest, the pet, Alexandra, collected Barbies. They went to an English school, then off to Swiss boarding school, then each in her turn to America for a degree in art history, meanwhile doing the things girls who are not the daughters of billionaires do: going out with friends (and eligible men), taking dance class, catching movies, watching Melrose Place. This is a Gen X fairy tale.
But it comes complete with princes. For soon two of the Miller sisters will marry into aristocracy. On July 1, 26-year old MC exchanges vows with Crown Prince Pavlos, the eldest son of Greece’s King Constantine, in front of 1,000 guests in the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia in London. In preparation for the ceremony, MC will not only convert from Catholicism, but privately rehearse. "I have to walk around the altar three times in a huge train," she exclaims. "They’re giving me a mock train to practice with." A train (and gown) by Valentino.
Three months later in New York, 22-year old Alex will marry childhood sweetheart Alexandre von Fürstenberg, son of Prince Egon and designing Diane. "When someone says ‘Alex,’" Alex says, beaming, "we both turn around."
And while the Miller parents own homes in New York, Paris, London, Hong Kong, and Gstaad, plans post-honeymoon see the two Alexes settling down in L.A., and MC and Pavlos in Manhattan- where Pia, 28 and since 1992 the wife of Christopher Getty (grandson of J.P. and as close as you come to American royalty), already lives. Asked what advice she has for her affianced siblings, Pia says, "None. I think they've made the right choices."
Indeed, choice is at the heart of our fascination with sisters. From Jane Austen’s Bennet girls to Black Jack’s Bouviers to the cushy Cushings (a trio that raced up six sterling surnames: Astor Forsburgh, Roosevelt Whitney, Mortimer Paley), beautiful daughters—especially those in fabled threes—have embodied epochal promise and plenty, a kingdom’s or a culture’s claim on the future.
Of course, there is also the symmetry, the déjà vu of those duty-free dimples, those champagne complexions, those pink Miller manicures, and that fine photographable nose. "Our little bumpy nose," MC notes. "It’s our father’s father’s, so we hear, from Boston."
Until now the sisters have not felt Society’s heated stare; they pose for the camera with old-world aplomb. Alex looks the baby czarina, with glowing dark eyes and the high forehead of a Tolstoy ingenue. MC is a Fragonard with a Mitford-sister wit. She paints in a Pop-art style, advises her parents on their art collection, and is the sister in charge of organizing a family fund that will promote environmental awareness. Pia, who grows rose-quiet when the subject turns to her private life, opens up talking about art, literature, and the writing she has just begun to do. She speaks the Miller motto when she says, "You draw your strength from the family. It’s like a seed."
Would there have been room for a Miller boy? "I can’t imagine a brother," MC blurts. "A brother is not even in our vocabulary."
But "happily ever after" is, or so it seems, at this perfect, fateful moment.