Riley Keough is no stranger to the spotlight. After all, she’s Elvis Presley’s granddaughter. And as one might expect for someone in one of the most famous families in the world, her life been a rollercoaster. From breaking through Hollywood’s glass ceiling to dealing with the aftermath of her mom’s sudden passing, she’s seen a lot. But now, as the sole inheritor of Elvis’ famous estate, Graceland, the actress has opened up in some candid interviews.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot to cover in an interview with Riley Keough! In addition to explaining how she navigated her younger years as a “nepo baby,” she also shed light on the legal issue that threatened to tear her famous family apart.
Yes, the death of Lisa Marie Presley ultimately pitted grandmother against granddaughter in a battle to oversee Elvis’ iconic estate.
Health and motherhood
And Riley’s openness didn’t end there, either. The actress touched on her own health situation, which had previously been shrouded in secrecy. Plus, she gave some tantalizing details regarding the birth of her child as well, mentioning her baby girl’s name for the first time to the public.
Like we said, the third-generation Presley star had plenty to talk about. You wouldn’t expect any less from a person who can literally claim Elvis as her grandpa!
So let’s go back to the beginning. Lisa Marie and her hubby Danny Keough welcomed Riley into the world in May 1989, and the youngster immediately attracted the media’s glare. Yep, she was the cover story for an issue of People soon after her birth.
The headline read, “Elvis’ first grandchild. HERE SHE IS!” Since then, the spotlight on Riley hasn’t dimmed.
From the good times to the bad, the focus on Riley’s life has seemingly never wavered. And that came as no surprise to the man who directed the latest Hollywood blockbuster about her grandfather in the shape of 2022’s Elvis.
Speaking to Vanity Fair in August 2023, Baz Luhrmann made a fascinating observation regarding the Presleys’ place in pop culture.
Luhrmann noted, “There’s the Kennedys and there’s the Presleys. They’re the royal families of America. And in different ways, they both were, as Shakespeare says, ‘wedded to calamity.’ Is it genetic? Is it because they have such high standards?
“Is it because the world watches them? Maybe. Because to be American royalty isn’t just to have your country watch you. [It’s] to have the whole world watch you.”
For Riley, she began to catch on to that fact when discussions turned towards her grandfather as a kid. While Elvis had passed away some 12 years before her birth, his presence was inescapable.
“[I knew he was] very, very famous,” she told The Guardian newspaper in August 2017. “I knew the situation. I just didn’t really think about it that much.”
A mother’s determination
But, of course, that started to change as Riley got older. How could it not? Whatever she did, she was always going to be intrinsically linked to the Presley name.
Having said that, though, Lisa Marie was determined to ensure that her daughter wouldn’t be just another “nepo baby.” And she made that pretty clear to Riley throughout her childhood.
“Not about that life”
As Riley informed Nylon magazine during a 2016 interview, “[My mom] was like, ‘I don’t want you growing up like another Hollywood celebrity daughter.’ She was so not about that life, you know?
“She didn’t really put attention on it. It was there. We’d get photographed doing stuff, but I didn’t see a tabloid until I was 15.” Lisa Marie’s words didn’t stop there, either.
Lisa Marie’s hopes
Yes, as Riley explained to InStyle back in 2021, Lisa Marie didn’t want her to coast along just because she was a Presley. She hoped that her daughter would forge her own path.
The actress recalled, “I grew up with my mom saying, ‘Anything you do in life, you’re going to have to take it seriously, and work really hard at it, and be really good at it. Don’t just dip your toes into things.’”
Before Riley could do that, though, she had to navigate a pretty crazy childhood. For the first few years of her life, she flitted between three different homes in Hawaii, Florida, and California with her parents.
But everything changed when Lisa Marie then left Danny and tied the knot with music megastar Michael Jackson. The timing was particularly notable here.
You see, Jackson had been dealing with some very serious legal issues during that period, and Lisa Marie stood by his side through all of it. Then, once a settlement had been reached in 1994, the singer asked for her hand in marriage.
After they got together, Riley went on to spend a lot of time with her new step-dad, which she reflected on while chatting to Vanity Fair.
Riley said, “My whole childhood was probably very extreme. 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. I think he really got a kick out of being able to make people happy, in the most epic way possible.”
“I think [Jackson] and my grandfather had [that] in common,” Riley noted. Yet Lisa Marie and the King of Pop’s relationship didn’t last forever — their marriage ended after just 18 months.
From there, Riley became more aware of the different lifestyles that her mom and dad were living, as her time was divided between them. It wasn’t all glitz and glamor!
“Experiencing both sides”
“I grew up very privileged with my mother,” Riley informed The Guardian. “But my dad didn’t live like that. And I think experiencing both sides has been helpful. My father had mattresses on the floor of his apartments.
“He lived in cabins and trailer parks. He just didn’t have much money. [But] my memories of growing up with him were so colorful and eccentric and fun.”
“A good vibe”
Riley continued, “It was a good vibe, you know? When I was like eight I told [my dad], ‘I want to grow up and be poor like you!’ He was eating a bowl of cereal.
“I didn’t realize how wildly offensive that was!” Yet even though her time with Danny really helped ground her, the celebrity status of her family did have a significant knock-on effect.
The school situation
In what way? Well, Riley’s high school studies took a big hit while out on the road with her loved ones. As she explained to Vanity Fair, “I was always at a loss.
“My father really cared about my education. My mom was like, ‘You’re an artist. Go be an artist.’” Ultimately, the Hollywood star failed to make it to graduation — and it still bums her out.
“I really wanted an education”
Riley admitted to InStyle, “It’s a shame, because I really wanted an education, and I really wanted to go to college. I just didn’t have a lifestyle that would permit that.”
So what did she do after that? Simple — Elvis’ granddaughter started to heed the previous words of Lisa Marie. She wasn’t interested in coasting through the rest of her teenage years.
Becoming a model
Yep, Riley moved into the world of modeling as a 14-year-old, taking to it like a duck to water. She worked with the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, while also popping up in ads for brands such as Dior.
Lisa Marie couldn’t have been more proud, and she wasn’t afraid to shower her daughter in praise when they were both guests on Oprah in 2007.
But Lisa Marie also felt the need to make the following point, too. She said, “I didn’t want [my kids] to lose their own identity. I just wanted them to be raised normally.
“We have more conversations about [Elvis] now because [Riley’s] older. I didn’t want her to have that shadow where she felt in competition and intimidated by anything.”
“Stay who you are”
“I wanted [my children] to be able to do what they wanted to do,” Lisa Marie continued. “I was raised to never flaunt being who I am. I kind of raised them the same way, just do your thing, stay who you are, be appreciative of it.”
Mind you, when Riley made the decision to swap modeling for acting, she didn’t even have to “flaunt” her famous connections to get ahead.
In truth, Riley hasn’t ever lost sight of the advantages that come with being a Presley, but it was never clearer than at that point. As she said to The Guardian, “It’s been a huge help.
“I’m very privileged. Like the normal story of moving to L.A. and it takes you three years to find an agent? I got one in a week.”
Riley made her on-screen acting debut in 2010’s The Runaways, before appearing in several different projects over the next five years. Then, in 2015, she featured in her very first Hollywood blockbuster — the modern action classic Mad Max: Fury Road.
Yet that job proved to be significant for another reason. During the shoot, the actress was introduced to her future husband.
Falling in love
Yes, Riley crossed paths with Ben Smith-Petersen, an actor and stunt performer from Australia. The pair immediately hit it off, and went on a road trip once the cameras stopped rolling. She recalled to Vanity Fair, “I remember it so vividly.
“I just knew that we were going to have kids. It was, in hindsight, very strange. I didn’t know how we’d get there, but we did.”
A huge tragedy
Riley and her partner tied the knot in 2015, ahead of becoming parents for the first time in the summer of 2022. But a lot happened over the course of those seven years — and not all of it was positive.
In fact, the Presley family suffered an unimaginable tragedy in July 2020. At that point, Riley’s younger brother, Benjamin Keough, took his own life.
“A very special soul”
It was a devastating loss for the Presleys, with Riley shedding some light on the relationship she shared with Benjamin. She stated, “He, in a lot of ways, felt like my twin. 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.” Following his passing, the actress then made a big decision.
To help support Lisa Marie through her grief, Riley chose to stay at her mom’s home for around half a year. “After that, I would still sleep at her house like two or three times a week,” the star explained.
“She wanted us there. If it was up to her, I would’ve lived there full-time.” Off the back of that tumultuous period, Riley would later pay a heartwarming tribute to her sibling.
So that brings us back to Riley’s journey in becoming a parent. Her baby girl was born in August 2022 through a surrogate pregnancy. That decision was made with the actress’ health in mind, as she’s been dealing with a very tricky medical ailment.
Riley’s will to get better even took her to Switzerland at the time of her chat with Vanity Fair, where she revealed all.
Riley said, “I have Lyme disease. I used this little break that I have to come and try and see if I can alleviate it a bit. It’s a holistic treatment center and offers all kinds of things that you can’t really do in America yet, like cleaning your blood.”
Elvis’ granddaughter confirmed that she can bear kids, but in this instance she wanted to play it safe.
Meeting baby Tupelo
So after she arrived, what did Riley name her little bundle of joy? Well, in the memory of her brother and iconic grandfather, she called the baby Tupelo Storm Smith-Petersen.
Storm was Benjamin’s middle name, while Tupelo was the place in Mississippi where Elvis was born. Riley went into a bit more detail about the latter choice with the magazine.
“Tupelo this and Tupelo that”
“It’s funny because we picked her name before the Elvis movie,” Riley noted. “I was like, ‘This is great because it’s not really a well-known word or name in relation to my family — it’s not like Memphis or something.’
“Then when the Elvis movie came out, it was like, ‘Tupelo this and Tupelo that.’ I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ But it’s fine.”
Hanging with Austin Butler
Speaking of the movie, Riley did get a chance to bond with Elvis’ star at Graceland in June 2022. Yep, she joined Austin Butler there for a couple of days.
The actor went on to pick up one of her granddad’s guitars and actually played it inside the iconic residence, which proved to be quite the moment. Riley even managed to snap a picture!
Losing Lisa Marie
Yet for all the joy that 2022 brought, the Presleys suffered another heartbreaking loss right at the start of 2023. Tragically, Lisa Marie died that January as a result of a cardiac arrest.
She was 54 years old. It was a terrible time for her loved ones, made even worse by a legal issue that could’ve sparked a family civil war.
The battle for Graceland
When Elvis passed away, Graceland was handed down to Lisa Marie. And as her oldest child, Riley was set to inherit it after her. But Priscilla Presley, the actress’ grandma, disputed that decision, causing lawyers to get involved.
An agreement was struck in the end, which means Riley is the lone trustee of the residence, as well as the family’s shares in Elvis Presley Enterprises.
“A lot of chaos”
In total, it’s now suspected that Riley is sitting on a fortune of around $500 million. Touching on that episode, she told Vanity Fair, “When my mom passed, 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.”
“It just took a minute to understand the details of the situation, because it’s complicated,” Riley continued. “We’re 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.” What about her relationship with Priscilla, though? Was it in any way damaged by the ordeal? Apparently not.
“Love and protect Graceland”
Riley revealed, “Things with grandma will be happy. They’ve never not been happy. There was a bit of upheaval, but now everything’s going to be how it was. She’s a beautiful woman, and she was a huge part of creating my grandfather’s legacy and Graceland.
“It’s very important to her. He was the love of her life. All she wants is to love and protect Graceland and the Presley family and the legacy.”
Even though she preferred Michael Jackson’s Neverland estate to Graceland when she was younger, Riley seems well up for the responsibility today! But does she have any fond childhood memories of Elvis’ residence?
“There were a few times that we slept [on the second floor], but I don’t know if I should say that,” the actress reflected. That area is usually out of bounds, in case you were curious.
Riley added, “The tours would start in the morning, and we would hide upstairs until they were over. The security would bring us breakfast. It’s actually such a great memory.
We would order sausage and biscuits, and hide until the tourists finished.” Despite all the heartache she’s faced recently, some more “great” memories are in the process of being built.
The future is bright...
In addition to raising her daughter alongside her husband, Riley’s career is also in a very strong place. Thanks to her performance in the hit show Daisy Jones & The Six, she’s earned her first Primetime Emmy nomination.
Plus, there are some exciting suggestions that the cast might take their fictional group on a genuine music tour. A Presley singing on stage? Where have we seen that before...