Riley Keough‘s grown up with tabloids telling tales about her famous family. In Vanity Fair‘s September cover story, she goes deep herself, sharing her own stories about growing up Presley — and the string of recent heartbreaks that have gone with it.
It’s been a difficult few years — losing mom Lisa Marie Presley in January, the resulting legal battle with grandmother Priscilla Presley over Graceland, which is now resolved, and the 2020 suicide of her brother Benjamin Storm Keough.
“I think I’ve certainly been chosen for some wonderful things and chosen for some horrible things too,” the Daisy Jones & the Six star, 34, told the outlet of her life so far. “I am aware that I have been through a lot of very crazy things, but I don’t feel like a victim. I don’t feel like poor Riley.”
Here are the biggest reveals from the interview…
Riley last saw Lisa Marie one day before she died.
Two days after attending the Golden Globes in support of Elvis on Jan. 10, the King’s only daughter — also a singer — suffered cardiac arrest and died. The cause of her death, on Jan. 12, was determined to be a small bowel obstruction tied to weight loss surgery several years earlier.
Riley, daughter of Lisa and her first husband, Danny Keough, said “the last time” she saw her mom was at a dinner party for Elvis on Jan. 11. “I remember thinking about how beautiful she looked,” she told the outlet.
She called Lisa Marie “one of a kind,” despite the “treachery she endured.”
While she said it would take hours to summarize the best qualities of her mother, she tried, saying, “She was just so unapologetically herself in every circumstance, and so strong… The life she had was not easy, and the treachery she endured and the lack of real love and real friends… She definitely had some great friends and relationships in her life, but I don’t think she really ever had… People were just coming for her since she was born — wanting something from her and not being totally authentic. She had to develop very thick skin. She was a very powerful presence and extremely loving and extremely loyal and sort of a lioness — a fierce woman, and a really wonderful mother… She was the best mom.”
Lisa Marie’s relationships were public fodder throughout her life. She was married four times — to Danny (to whom she remained close and lived with at the time of her death), Michael Jackson, Nic Cage and Michael Lockwood. She and Lockwood, with whom she shared 14-year-old twins Harper and Finley, had a bitter and prolonged divorce battle. She also fought opioid addiction, grieved the sudden death of her 27-year-old son, Ben, and cut mom Priscilla from her trust in her final years.
She discussed the “complicated” drama with grandma Priscilla.
“I’m trying to think of a way to answer it that’s not a 20-minute conversation,” she told the outlet when asked if things with her grandmother are “happy” now that their battle over Lisa Marie’s trust and control of Graceland is over. Riley, the sole trustee, reportedly paid Priscilla, 78, $1 million and $400,000 in legal fees in a settlement that’s given her ownership of Elvis’s Graceland estate.
Riley said when Lisa Marie died, “there was a lot of chaos in every aspect of our lives. Everything felt like the carpet had been ripped out and the floor had melted from under us. Everyone was in a bit of a panic to understand how we move forward, and it just took a minute to understand the details of the situation, because it’s complicated. We are a family, but there’s also a huge business side of our family. So I think that there was clarity that needed to be had.”
She said, “Things with Grandma will be happy” now that it’s settled. “They’ve never not been happy… There was a bit of upheaval, but now everything’s going to be how it was.” She called Priscilla “a beautiful woman” and credited her for being “a huge part of creating my grandfather’s legacy and Graceland. It’s very important to her. He was the love of her life. Anything that would suggest otherwise in the press makes me sad because, at the end of the day, all she wants is to love and protect Graceland and the Presley family and the legacy. That’s her whole life. So it’s a big responsibility she has tried to take on. None of that stuff has really ever been a part of our relationship prior. She’s just been my grandma.”
As for reports that Priscilla, who divorced Elvis in 1973, wouldn’t be able to be buried at Graceland, Riley said, “If she wants to be, of course… Sharing Graceland with the world was her idea from the start.”
She revealed her daughter’s name: Tupelo Storm Smith-Petersen.
The fact that Riley had welcomed a daughter — with husband Ben Smith-Petersen, whom she met in 2013 making Mad Max: Fury Road — was a secret until it was revealed in the eulogy she wrote for Lisa Marie’s Graceland memorial. She introduced the Vanity Fair writer to the child, who was born by surrogate in August 2022, and shared her name. As for the name inspiration, Tupelo was Elvis’s Mississippi birthplace and Storm was Benjamin’s middle name.
She said she “would like to be the best mom” for her baby girl. That includes a more structured upbringing than she had as the daughter of artists — including a mom who wasn’t focused on education. Riley, who talked about not graduating high school (which she hopes to one day do), said she always sought structure amid her bohemian upbringing. She and her stuntman husband are usually home in bed by 9 p.m.
She shared why she used a surrogate.
Riley said that while she “can carry children,” she has been battling Lyme disease and felt that was “the best choice for what I had going on physically.”
Her Lyme battle was detailed in the article because she was in Switzerland undergoing 15 days of holistic treatment for it. She otherwise declined discussing the symptoms she’s been dealing with, but her Daisy Jones co-star Sam Claflin said she was nothing short of “miraculous” at work while “battling that on top of everything else” she’s been dealing with.
She talked about secret sleepovers at Graceland.
Riley said Graceland has become “a place of great sadness at this point in my life” because so many of her family members have been buried there in recent years. But growing up, she had “positive and beautiful memories” of her visits. She spoke about having sleepovers as a child on the second floor of Elvis’s Memphis home, which is off-limits to visitors. She said, “The tours would start in the morning, and we would hide upstairs until they were over,” she recalled. “Security would bring us breakfast. It’s actually such a great memory. We would order sausage and biscuits, and hide until the tourists finished.”
She discussed having Michael Jackson and Nic Cage as a stepfathers.
“I’ve had some wild stepfathers. Famous and not famous,” she acknowledged. Of course, that includes the King of Pop, who Lisa Marie married in 1994 in the wake of child molestation accusations against him. The couple, who denied the relationship was a sham, divorced in 1996.
“My whole childhood was probably very extreme,” she said. “In hindsight, I can see how crazy these things would be to somebody from the outside. But when you’re living in them, it’s just your life and your family. You just remember the love, and I had real love for Michael.”
She said Jackson — who once shut down a toy store to buy her a teddy bear — “got a kick out of being able to make people happy, in the most epic way possible, which I think he and my grandfather had in common.” She also talked about how she “spent more time at Neverland,” home to Jackson, “than Graceland” in her life.
As for Cage, who was married to Lisa for a few months in 2002, they don’t keep in touch but she’d love to work with him, calling him a “great actor.”
Riley talked about navigating grief after losing her mother and brother so closely.
She said she feels “parts of me have died” and that “my heart has exploded” amid her losses, but she’s also been determined not to let her grief “take me out.”
“When I lost my brother, there was no road map whatsoever, and it was a lot of big emotions that I didn’t know what to do with,” she said. “When I lost my mom, I was familiar with the process a little bit more, and I found working to be really helpful. I find it triggering when people say happiness is a choice, but in that moment, I did feel like there was a choice in front of me to give up and let this event take me out or have the courage to work through it. I started trying to move through it and not let it take me out.”
In the interview, she also said Benjamin was “like my twin” as the only kids from their parents’ marriage. “We were very connected and very similar. He was much quicker and wittier and a little smarter than me. He was a very special soul.”
She’s renting a home in Calabasas, Calif., to be near her twin sisters.
Riley grew up in Calabasas and recently returned, renting a home there to be closer to her twin sisters, who now reside with their dad full-time after Lisa Marie’s death. “After my mom died, I needed to be close to my sisters,” she said.
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