Rock Wife

Susan Holmes, 40, is going on 12 years with a former Guns N’ Roses bassist

Photograph by Dustin Snipes


» “I am not some gold digger. I made millions of my own dollars before I met my husband.”

» Holmes grew up in Ohio and moved with her mother and siblings to San Diego when she was nine. Her father is a retired university professor, her mother a reading specialist. “I’m the only member of my family without a master’s degree.” 

» Fashion photographer Marco Glaviano discovered Holmes when she was 16. She was on a trip to New York, and he approached her in a restaurant and arranged a meeting with Ford Models. She went on to appear on the cover of Vogue and walk the runway for every major fashion house, from Dolce & Gabbana to Chanel to Versace. Occasionally she still makes up to $10,000 a day modeling for clothing catalogs.

» In 1996, Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan saw photographs of Holmes in Allure magazine. “A mutual friend called me up and said, ‘Meet your new boyfriend,’ and handed over the phone. We went to a sushi place in Bel-Air for dinner and have been together ever since.”

» Before meeting McKagan, Holmes was only vaguely aware of GN’R. “I was living in Paris when the band took off. The only music I heard was on photo shoots: Eurythmics, Prince, George Michael.”

» Holmes and McKagan were married in 1999 after his second marriage—and the original GN’R—had fizzled out. The only other musician Holmes has dated is Terence Trent D’Arby. “Rock stars are just so damn sexy.”

» Groupies don’t faze her. “Backstage at a Guns N’ Roses show, there could be a hundred chicks in lingerie with their boobs hanging out, and Duff would be like, ‘Where’s the drugs?’ That was his thing.” (Today McKagan is clean and sober. He has his own band, Duff McKagan’s Loaded, and moonlights with Velvet Revolver.)

» When Holmes was pregnant with their first child, she couldn’t model, so she launched Susan Holmes Swimwear, which has been carried at Henri Bendel and Saks Fifth Avenue and featured on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. “Keith Richards never had a guitar lesson. I never had a sewing lesson. I have done fittings with Yves Saint Laurent and worked with every major designer and photographer. I learned discipline and deadlines, whether it’s doing a fashion show or delivering an order to a store.”

» The couple and their daughters, ages 13 and 10, live in a 1927 Spanish-style ranch house once owned by Tom Mix, who acted in silent westerns. It has six bedrooms, a gym painted Tiffany blue, and a guest house where Nancy Meyers wrote the film Private Benjamin. It is Holmes’s design atelier.

» Holmes stars in Married to Rock, premiering this month on E!, alongside the partners of Perry Farrell, Steve Stevens, and the Cult’s Billy Duffy. “It shows the women behind the men. From Jackie Collins books to feature films, we are depicted as ornaments. I want to highlight how insightful and supportive we are.”

» “It gets tough and lonely when your man is on the road and you’re not able to go because you’re holding down the home front. But I want to show people you can balance stardom and a home life. I have my daughters with their Girl Scout cookies. I’m doing dishes and putting on a fabulous fashion show that celebrities are attending.”

» “Rock stars and models have a lot in common. We both live on airplanes. We both have people asking for our autograph. We know that if someone comes backstage to meet us, they often have an ulterior motive.”