Every aspect of Brigitte Nielsen’s life has been documented in the media – and it’s been one hell of a life. Nielsen has been a model, an actress, a singer and a reality TV star on shows such as Celebrity Rehab. She’s been married five times, including once to actor Sylvester Stallone, and has four children. As she neared 55 years of age, it seemed that she could do nothing surprising anymore. But then a shock announcement appeared on her Instagram.
Nielsen was famous from a young age. At just 16 she dropped out of school to pursue a modeling career, and the risky move worked. Her height and her Amazon-like looks helped push her into the spotlight, and before long she gained the media nickname “The Great Dane.” She posed for Playboy several times and even played She-Hulk for Marvel Comics.
Her first husband was Kasper Winding, a Danish musician whom she married in 1983. She had her first son, Julian, with him. (Like his father, Julian went on to be a musician.) However, the marriage didn’t last. By 1984 it was all over, and Nielsen had hooked up with another man. This was A-list action star Sylvester Stallone.
The relationship apparently started in a slightly outrageous way. According to the media at the time, the 21-year-old Nielsen sent a naughty picture of herself to Stallone’s hotel room asking him to meet her. She was still married to Winding then, and Stallone was married to Sasha Czack, but that didn’t put a damper on their romance.
After their respective divorces went through, Nielsen married Stallone in December 1985. But that relationship too was full of scandal. Nielsen appeared in the 1985 movie Red Sonja alongside both Stallone and his fellow action star Arnold Schwarzenegger, but many years later, Schwarzenegger would claim in his autobiography that he’d had an affair with her on the Red Sonja set.
In the end, Nielsen and Stallone’s headline-grabbing marriage only lasted 19 months, and by 1987 they were officially divorced. But one year later came the news that Nielsen was engaged again, this time to New York Jets player Mark Gastineau. At the press conference the couple gave to break the news, they also announced they’d gotten each other’s names tattooed on their behinds.
Nielsen had her second son, Killian, with Gastineau, but no marriage ever took place. She broke up with him right after Killian was born, and in her 2011 autobiography You Only Get One Life, she alleged domestic abuse on his part. In 1999, after the breakup with Nielsen, Gastineau was sentenced to three years’ probation for an attack on his wife.
In 1990 Nielsen married photographer Sebastian Copeland, but that relationship lasted a mere two years. She split with him in 1992 and then just one year afterwards married Raoul Meyer, a racing car driver. She had two more sons with him, Douglas and Raoul Jr. But he too, she later claimed, was abusive to her. They divorced in 2003.
Then at last came a happy union. In 2006 she married Mattia Dessi, a bartender 15 years her junior. It was an unconventional relationship, and all the more so because it had started on a reality show, Nielsen and rapper Flavor Flav’s Strange Love. At the end of it, Nielsen had split up with Flav and gone with Dessi instead. But it all seemed to work out.
In 2018, after she had been married to Dessi for more than ten years, Nielsen suddenly made a surprising announcement. The 54-year-old was pregnant with her fifth baby. She broke the news via her Instagram, posting two pictures of herself with her baby bump on display. “Family getting larger,” she captioned the first one.
The majority of comments to Nielsen’s Instagram post were positive ones which congratulated her on the upcoming new arrival. But there were also some that were nasty or judgmental. “Getting pregnant after unnatural procedures to force the body to conceive at an advanced age is nothing to be proud of,” came one remark. Others said her child would end up “an early orphan.”
The Instagram trolls complained that Nielsen had used IVF to get pregnant. However, there was no actual evidence she had, as Nielsen had remained private about the whole thing until her announcement. However, in 2008 she had stated to Hello magazine that she would like to try IVF, although it would be “asking a lot.”
The website Hello Giggles condemned the backlash. “Brigitte Nielsen is pregnant with her fifth child, and some angry commenters are filling her Instagram with vile and sexist feedback… because the actress and former model is 54 years old. When a woman in the public eye over 50 announces a pregnancy (like when Janet Jackson revealed she was pregnant for the first time at 50), the woman is often subjected to unfair and sexist backlash with comments running the gamut from being ‘too old’ to being ‘cruel’ for having the audacity to get pregnant.”
Indeed, Janet Jackson did announce a pregnancy when she was 50 years old in 2016, and gave birth to a healthy baby boy. And in 2018 48-year-old actress Rachel Weisz confirmed that she was having a baby with her husband, James Bond star Daniel Craig. It’s certainly not unheard of for older women to carry children.
In fact, it’s a common misconception that a woman is unlikely to conceive after she gets past 29. After that age, there’s still a 78 percent chance that she could, a very hopeful statistic for a lot of people. And in 2016 the U.K.’s Office of National Statistics revealed that the average age for a British woman to have a child had actually increased to 30.
However, the stigma around later-in-life mothers is still significant. It is true that a baby born to a mother over 40 can be at higher risk of conditions including Down Syndrome. But with technology around reproductive issues increasing all the time, there’s a chance that this might not be the case for much longer.
Some articles about Nielsen’s pregnancy pointed out that it was perfectly common for men, including celebrity men, to become fathers at an older age. George Clooney, Mick Jagger, Hugh Grant and Jeff Goldblum are all examples of this. “Men, especially in Hollywood, who father children in their 50s and older aren’t constantly subjected to a ‘he’s going to die soon’ narrative in the way women are,” Hello Giggles pointed out.
And one of Nielsen’s ex-flames spoke about how impressed he was by her. Flavor Flav talked to People magazine about the whole exciting affair. “This pregnancy at over 50, it’s amazing! It shows everybody in the world that everything and anything is possible. I was proud,” the rapper said.
“I remember a long time ago I read about a 63-year-old lady that had a baby. If that lady could do it at 63 I don’t see why my friend Gitte can’t do it at 54,” he went on. There’s actually been more than one woman who’s given birth past the age of 60. Currently, the oldest mother on record is Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara, who was 66 when she gave birth to twins.
Since her initial announcement, Nielsen has kept her fans updated with more pictures of her baby bump. One, posted for Father’s Day, was a photo of her and Dessi with the caption, “You’ll be a great papà.” But there was another one which seemed to most clearly indicate her state of mind – a picture of her with a hand on her belly, alongside the words, “Find what makes you happy and fight for it.”