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Port Hercules, Monte Carlo

FEATURE Article...

Behind the Billionaire's Playground: The French Riviera

The Inescapable Truth About Wealth and Power

By Zarah Maillard

Updated Nov. 1, 2022 5:43pm PT / 

Published September 28, 2022 5:23pm PT

Peel back the curtains behind the glamorous French Riviera and what do you see? If not the gargantuan yachts, the jet-setting locals with their chilled French rosé champagnes and wines, the expensive designer shops or Michelin-starred restaurants, it is the crystalline waters under the Mediterranean sun where time slows down and you have now entered the perfect decadent setting that oozes wealth and power. Welcome to the life of the rich and famous.


Years ago, when I was just a TV personality and a recording artist who visited Monaco in the French Riviera, I thought of having a nice vacation. But I was wrong. Instead, it opened my eyes to a whole new level of excess and indulgence I never knew existed. The staggering wealth and power of the uber-rich with an average of $1 million per capita, it is no wonder Monaco has been long regarded as the “billionaire’s playground.” But behind the glitz and glamour coming from a daily observer could be more deceiving than one might think as though an alluring flawless diamond.


Enter my Diamonds are For Cocktails book I had written and set aside the intrigue and crime thriller part for a moment. Here is an all-powerful diamond heiress living in the billionaire’s playground who has more money than God so to speak and yet, she is haunted by her past. I say this, because this is an important subject matter for us, collectively as a society, that is open for discussion. That perhaps what my main character Camille Rogers is experiencing is that, despite becoming the envy of the world, “all that glitters, is not gold” as William Shakespeare would say. That indeed, money cannot buy you happiness and there is no amount of riches and diamonds that will ever save you from your hurt and pain nor will it exempt anyone from deadly diseases or illnesses, which makes us all humans fragile. 


Interestingly enough, life also imitates art. For example, money and power are some of the oldest motives for murder. That is a fact. Which is why, this also became a theme to my book. People would do anything to get their hands on money even if they have to suffer the consequences. They lose perspective. Hence, they become greedy at all costs. In 2014, a day before I arrived in Monte Carlo, a real-estate heiress who was considered the richest woman in Monaco with a reportedly $25 billion fortune according to Vanity Fair was gunned down, ordered by her son-in-law. It was a sensational story in the media that had all the makings of a Hollywood movie. Back in 1999, the mysterious murder of banker Edmond J. Safra worth $2.5 billion was covered by famed investigative journalist, Dominic Dunne.


Do not get me wrong. The crime rate in these places particularly Monte Carlo is very low and being born into wealth or possessing a life of luxury comes with many benefits and forms. It is an asset that can easily be enviable from the outside world. In fact, Monaco is still considered one of the best places to live in the world—that is, if you can afford it. So, what is it about having money and power that we as humans more often times than not, could not resist? 


For the general wealthy, individuals who are used to a certain lifestyle or standards will and must feed their desires. They too, lose their way. They are used to living in over-indulgence where morals and values have long been forgotten. Money, greed and power also, come into play. And I see it more times than not. The bigger money they make, the more wealth and power they want. It is like an unquenchable thirst; it grows inside of you and you are never satisfied with what you have. Although there is an exception to this; not all rich people belong to this category. The time I spent with Prince Albert II and the late Sir Roger Moore in Monaco could not have been more different as my experience was nothing less than stellar. But this is few and far between; it is a rarity in real life.


As British historian Lord Acton once said, “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” People who have money to burn are some of the unhappiest people on the planet, sometimes leading to drugs and alcohol abuse, suicides and other untimely deaths not to mention, families being torn apart when all they wanted is just to be loved like the character in my novel. They got everything in the world, but have nothing in the end. This is where wealth and power plays with our human psyche in my view and where one can determine his or her priority in life. Then, you ask yourself—can money really buy you everything? As an author who lived this world, I wanted to highlight that point in my book.

The Prince's Palace of Monaco_edited.jpg

Palais princier de Monaco, Monte Carlo 

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