Christina Onassis: The Short Life of an Unfortunate Heiress


On a warm South American night 29 years ago, on November 19, 1988, Christina Onassis, golden heiress of the Onassis fortune passed away in a friend’s house in Argentina at the age of 38.

Being the only daughter and sole heiress of Aristotle Onassis, Christina was supposed to live a sheltered, carefree life. Yet all testimony from friends and staff around her point to an unhappy woman, haunted by family death and unfortunate choices in love.

She married and divorced four times. Her struggles with her weight and pill-popping were legendary. Her parents divorced in 1959 when she was 9, and the resulting scandal that arose from news her father had cheated with opera singer Maria Callas was a lifelong embarrassment.

She was further distressed when her father married the widowed Jackie Kennedy in 1968, a match that raised eyebrows across the world. Christina Onassis saw Kennedy as a gold-digger, referring to her as “my father’s unfortunate obsession.”

When Onassis was in her 20s, the personal losses came quickly and mercilessly. Her only sibling, Alexander, died in a plane crash in 1973. A year later, her mother died of a suspected drug overdose that many speculated was a suicide. Her father died in 1975, prompting Christina to lament, “I am all alone in the world now.”

A native New Yorker, Onassis gave up her American citizenship. She learned about business and finance in the New York offices of her father, beginning as a 20-year-old secretary.

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