The Currency Of Love: An American Model in Paris, a Billionaire’s Harem, and My Search for Freedom by Jill Dodd

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“I was a wide-eyed girl, excited to grow up and be independent. I didn’t have a clue that my natural instincts and protective inner voice had been destroyed. I didn’t know how to stand up for myself and say no- especially to someone in authority.”

Jill Dodd used modeling to escape her abusive past, little did she know she would end up as a Paris model and in love with a Saudi billionaire, becoming a part of his harem. Jill was innocent and wide-eyed in her youth, and this memoir reads in the voice of a young woman.  As I read, it reminded me of just how vulnerable young women are, more so in a modeling career. There are stories about sexual encounters that became sexual assault, and that Jill didn’t know how to stand up for herself makes it that much harder to read. Dodd dips her toe into her childhood, the past a sort of shadow that reveals a form of sexual abuse that went on in her home. With a father that exposed his daughters to pornographic images, both parents expressing their sexuality inappropriately in front of their girls, it isn’t any wonder why Dodd didn’t know how to recognize abuse, or dangerous men. But I wondered why there wasn’t more writing about her childhood, it was more ‘touching on it’ rather than really exploring deeper into her early years. It was heartbreaking, thinking about the conflicting love she had for her father.  During her time in Paris, the modeling dream is more of a nightmare. Later, sent to locations that are seedy, with no one looking out for her safety- this is an exposure of the dangerous side of modeling. Somehow, Jill Dodd learned to navigate this adult world on her own.

Enter the billionaire, it seemed like a Hollywood movie. There was a lot of love and jealousy, and assurances in the memoir that it wasn’t about money but how can it not be? It’s much easier to be romanced and seduced by the wealth, the very worldliness of such a man. As a woman of 41, I kept thinking ‘Adnan is a father figure’ she just doesn’t know it. It is hard not to see it as something seedy, an abuse of her youth and beauty, because while he was always open about what he wanted, expected from her, there is a huge difference between their ages, and class. How could Jill, in her vibrant youth, really understand what she is getting into? There is a naivete that is malleable in the young and as much as his money did for her, and it was a lot, there is still exploitation happening, no matter how pretty the package. Interesting that she still wanted to work, to be more than a kept pleasure wife. The heart of her soul was hungry to be able to stand on her own, even if that meant moving on. This man wasn’t the fairy-tale and he introduced her to things better left unexplored. Lavished with gifts, but at what cost? Can a woman really be loved, be free when she is one of many, kept for a man’s needs, at his convenience?

She decides to walk away from her lavish life with Adnan and go to fashion school with his financial support, in fact Jill Dodd went on to become the founder and creator of the ROXY fashion line. Here is where I wanted more about the transition and the success of her fashion line. I was surprised she didn’t write about it. I felt for a book about a young woman who finds herself,  models, travels all over the world, shucks the fantasy life for a career there wasn’t enough about that side of her life. I felt she was guarded about her childhood, at turns revealing and then at other times as a reader I wondered…. and then what happened? This is an honest memoir about the rise of her modeling career, and she certainly doesn’t romanticize it from the frozen streets of Paris and the groping, lecherous behavior of men. The chapters are short and the timeline moves quickly. I wonder if there will be another memoir about her later years. I’d be interested in reading about her career as founder of ROXY and motherhood.

Publication Date: June 6, 2017

Atria Books

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