Meeting your new boyfriend’s mother is a big moment for anyone. Pity, then, British model and singer Marieangela King, whose first meeting with the woman who is now her mother-in-law was unimaginably intimidating.
She’d met boyfriend Elijah on a blind date outside Cologne Cathedral when Marieangela was visiting family in Germany for Christmas. It went well and other dates followed.
Elijah then invited Marieangela to spend Christmas Day with his family, who were renting a house on the River Rhine, casually dropping into the conversation that she may have heard of his mother: global icon and pop royalty, Cher.
‘I actually met Cher for the first time on Christmas Day,’ Marieangela recalls in this exclusive interview. ‘It was quite an experience and I was very, very nervous.
‘To make it even more nerve-racking, I’d stupidly forgotten my hairbrush and make-up and I was about to meet this incredibly glamorous woman. I was going to meet Cher!
Tensions: Marieangela King says she would find it hard to forgive Cher for her actions
Marieangela, left, and mother-in-law Cher have been embroiled in a highly emotional court case after the singer tried to get a conservatorship order that placed herself in control of her 47-year-old son’s finances
‘She was beautiful, she was wearing all black and her top had rhinestones on it. I remember thinking how little she was, she was at least a head shorter than me. And despite being one of the most famous women in the world, she was actually quite shy. She gave me a hand-made, light grey scarf as a present.
‘I thought she was lovely. I remember praising her Christmas trees with white bows and white lights. They were pieces of art which Cher had done herself. It was very different to anything I had seen before.
‘She later told me, “The first time I saw you I knew that Elijah was going to marry you.” It was obvious that we were in love.’
So far, so auspicious. Fast forward 12 years from that first meeting in 2011, however, and relations between the two women could not be more frosty.
They’ve just been embroiled in a highly emotional and disturbing court case after Cher, 77, tried to get a conservatorship order, placing herself in control of her 47-year-old son’s finances.
It’s the same arrangement under which troubled singer Britney Spears lived for 13 years following a successful application by her father Jamie Spears in 2008.
Cher had claimed that Elijah, her son with second husband Gregg Allman, to whom she was married for four years, is addicted to drugs and has physical and mental health problems that have left him unable to manage his financial affairs.
In court documents, she described daughter-in-law, Marieangela, as a destructive presence in her son’s life, claiming she’d blocked efforts to get him the help he needs.
‘Their tumultuous relationship has been marked by a cycle of drug addiction and mental health crises,’ Cher said, adding that she feared Elijah would be dead within the year unless the order was approved by the California court.
Marieangela categorically denied the claims, insisting that she has always acted in her husband’s best interests.
‘It has been said in court documents that I have taken him out of rehab,’ she tells me. ‘Yes, I took him out of [a facility in] Mexico where he was being held against his will, and where he had no rights, and was coerced into going. I wanted the best for him.’
Marieangela also maintains that she has no addiction issues herself, saying: ‘I have no reputation for taking illicit drugs, everyone knows this about me.’
She even questioned Cher’s suitability for managing Elijah’s affairs, hitting back, pithily: ‘She doesn’t drive, doesn’t make her own food or dress herself.’
As for Elijah, he’d said in a court filing before the hearing that a conservatorship is not necessary. While acknowledging his struggles with addiction and irresponsible spending, he said he is under the care of a doctor, has been sober for more than three months, is attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and is willing to submit to drug tests.
Struggles: Cher with son Elijah in 2002 — before he met wife Marieangela
Cher with ten-week-old Elijah and his father Greg Allman in 1976. The pair married just three days after she finalised her divorce from first husband Sonny Bono
‘While I understand that my mother, the proposed conservator, believes she is looking out for my best interests and I appreciate her love and support, I do not need her unsolicited help or support at this time,’ he said.
The couple were relieved when a judge at the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, dismissed the application on January 29, saying she’d ‘not been persuaded’ by Cher’s case.
I spoke to Marieangela just days after the decision, and the relief was clear in her voice. The past four months, she says, have been ‘nothing short of a nightmare’.
‘Elijah and I are happy,’ she says. ‘We need our space. Our situation is not uncommon where a mother-in-law intervenes. I’m happy with the court’s decision and now we need our freedom to have a chance to live happily.’
Earlier this week the couple, whose relationship has weathered periods apart, posed for pictures together on the red carpet at a premiere in Hollywood, declaring they’d ‘never been stronger’.
Yet this latest battle will have tested them to the extreme.
Independently wealthy, Elijah lives off a trust fund set up by his rock star father who died in 2017, and also fronts a rock band of his own. However he admitted in an interview in 2014 that he first tried drugs aged just 11.
Sent away to various boarding schools from the age of eight, Elijah has always struggled to feel like he ‘belongs’, says Marieangela, a fact she puts down to his chaotic upbringing.
Cher had married Elijah’s father Allman a mere three days after she finalised her divorce from first husband, Sonny Bono.
The marriage was plagued by Allman’s drug use. Cher famously revealed how she’d found the singer passed out in the bathroom after taking heroin on their first date.
‘I see Cher as a workaholic,’ says Marieangela. ‘I think her work has been her primary focus.’
When the couple decided to marry in 2013, Marieangela says Cher didn’t seem terribly enthusiastic at the prospect.
‘We said that we hoped she would be happy for us but we got no reply. Elijah was Cher’s darling boy and she didn’t take the news too well.’
In the end the couple tied the knot at home with an officiant, exchanging vows in an intimate ceremony in front of a log fire.
‘We messaged Cher to tell her we got married and once again . . . nothing.’
So why does she think her mother-in-law took against her so forcefully?
Marieangela met Elijah on a blind date outside Cologne Cathedral when she was visiting family in Germany for Christmas – it went well and other dates followed
Cher poses with Elijah in a photo from 1980
‘Elijah always says that we are both strong women, that Cher has a strong personality and so do I. But I love my mother-in-law and we have had some really good times together. I miss that side of her,’ says Marieangela.
Because, she says, when she and Elijah lived nearby in Los Angeles, she and Cher were very close.
‘We both have a passion for classic, black-and-white old films,’ says Marieangela. ‘Then there was fashion and make-up. We also worked out together, we used to be gym buddies in her home gym. We’d do her old exercise videos. That was when I was in killer shape. She was in killer shape too, she always nailed it in the gym.’
She also got a close-up, insider’s view of life in the star’s 16,000-sq ft Malibu mansion: ‘It’s beautiful, very quiet and it has a very Italian look,’ she says. ‘It’s super tidy and there is a wig room in the basement where she has a lot of really cool hair pieces. There are also a lot of walk-in wardrobes.
‘Cher has gifted me some wigs. I remember she was doing some spring cleaning once and was getting rid of some blonde ones, I said to her “Before you put those on the chopping block, your daughter-in-law would like a blue one.”’
As was the case in many families, tensions came to a head during the pandemic, when Marieangela and Elijah decided to ‘hunker down together’ at Cher’s mansion.
‘Cher really took Covid to the next level,’ reveals Marieangela. ‘It was a very fearful house and it wasn’t really my cup of tea, but Cher took the view that it was her house so it was her rules.
‘For example, we had one hour per week to go to Whole Foods and she clocked us in when we got back to make sure we weren’t any later. It was masks and gloves, and we got sprayed down and had to take our clothes off when we got home.
‘Cher was in her room all of the time. We weren’t allowed to see her, we were the dangerous ones. It was miserable.’
Undoubtedly, it was Covid that prompted the fall-out between the three, who had until then been getting on ‘famously’.
‘It got really awful so we moved out and got a rental,’ says Marieangela.
When restrictions were lifted, Marieangela flew abroad to visit her family and that’s when Elijah — who’d been clean for some time — relapsed and was taking what she describes as ‘the usual drugs’ again.
Marieangela says she didn’t hear about this until she got a call from Elijah, who was in hospital having treatment for addiction.
She immediately returned to the U.S., determined to care for her husband, but says that when she turned up at Cher’s home, Elijah was missing and she found his mother ‘hostile’.
‘I asked Cher where he was and she said she couldn’t tell me. Elijah then called me and he was at Cedars Sinai hospital in LA so I went there but was told by the front desk that I wasn’t allowed to see him.
‘I keep trying to get the nurse to let me, and eventually they threatened me with security. I did see Elijah for an hour but then I got a call from Cher to say I had to leave. She was on her “mother to the rescue” thing.
‘I was made to feel that this was all my fault. I felt that Cher was saying “Why couldn’t you whip my son into shape?”’
Some days later Marieangela was shocked to receive divorce papers, filed to her at Cher’s mansion where she was living.
‘From the very beginning I know they [the divorce papers] weren’t from him,’ she says. ‘Normally there is acrimony when people get divorced and there wasn’t any between us.’
At that point, Marieangela moved out of her mother-in-law’s property and rented an Airbnb nearby.
By November 2022, Elijah was out of rehab, and the couple reconciled, and celebrated their wedding anniversary at a hotel in New York. It is here that Marieangela claims Elijah was ‘kidnapped’ by four men, and taken to a treatment centre in Texas.
Marieangela said in court papers that she believed Cher was behind her husband’s ‘abduction’ — something the singer denied.
Cher said in an interview: ‘I’m not suffering from any problem that millions of people in the United States aren’t. I’m a mother. This is my job — one way or another, to try to help my children.
‘You do anything for your children. Whenever you can help them, you just do it because that’s what being a mother is.’
A period of estrangement between the couple followed and by September 2023, Elijah was living in Los Angeles at the Chateau Marmont hotel.
According to reports, he was often spotted by staff looking ‘strung out’ or ‘passed out’, around the building. Days later, police arrived and escorted the troubled musician away.
On December 1 last year, Marieangela says she received a worrying text from her husband —this time from a rehabilitation facility in Rosarito, Mexico.
‘It said “send all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” which was our code for “I’m in distress, call the troops”.
‘I called the place back and I then knew I had to cross the border and go and get him. I was very afraid but I had to rescue him. Once I was there the people running it pretended not to know who I was.’
Eventually, Marieangela says she got the Mexican Police involved after reporting that her husband was being kept against his will.
The pair returned to the U.S. once again, but just days later they learned Cher had applied for the conservatorship order.
‘I was so upset,’ she says. ‘We didn’t know about the legal action until some friends saw it online.’
Marieangela says her husband is ‘doing really well’ but the row has left her bruised
The model and Elijah now live in a rented apartment about ten miles from Cher in LA
The couple quickly got themselves legal representation for the battle of their lives shortly before Christmas, determined not to let Cher take hold of Elijah — and ultimately split them up.
When approached by the Mail, Cher’s agent did not respond when offered the opportunity to comment.
On February 2, the couple were delighted when Elijah’s request to have his divorce application dismissed was officially granted in a Los Angeles court.
Marieangela says her husband is ‘doing really well’ and she is looking forward to a happy future together. Yet the row has understandably left her bruised.
Today, she and Elijah live in a rented apartment about ten miles from Cher, just off Santa Monica Boulevard. They are ready to begin new projects.
Marieangela says she has signed a new record deal and will be appearing in her first feature film. Meanwhile, Elijah is releasing new music with his band Deadsy.
Marieangela adds, pointedly: ‘Our marriage is not perfect but we’ve lasted longer than most Hollywood marriages. I’m Catholic, and I don’t believe in divorce. I’m glad Elijah took the divorce off the table.
‘Elijah and I were recently discussing this matter for the first time because I haven’t had access to him in so long. He was put into facilities and I wasn’t told of his whereabouts and we weren’t allowed to see or speak to each other.
‘I felt since the very beginning he was being pressured into a divorce, we both were. There is nothing that is irreparable when you have love. Love covers a multitude of sins. If you can’t figure it out now you will keep repeating the same mistakes with the next person. Elijah is my person.’
But as for Cher, after believing that she caused them so much torment, can Marieangela and Elijah forgive and forget?
It seems unlikely.
‘I love my mother-in-law, says Marieangela. ‘I hope we make peace in the future, but like any relationship it has to come with healthy boundaries and not with the current given narrative.
‘Life is short. It’s over before we know it. But I feel I am owed an apology to say the least.’