After graduating from Stanford with academic honors in history, in 2001, Chelsea studied for a master’s degree in international relations at Oxford’s University College, where, three decades earlier, her father had been a Rhodes scholar. She experimented with her own identity as a celebrity, attending fashion shows and London premieres with her new friends Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kevin Spacey, going clubbing with Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, and taking up with fellow student Ian Klaus, a tall, handsome soccer player—and a Rhodes scholar like her dad—who was the scion of an exercise-equipment fortune. Chelsea and Ian were newfound American royals—perfect for the paparazzi. “The press is still all over me in London, but on the Continent, I can do what I want,” Chelsea told Women’s Wear Daily during the fashion shows, breaking her no-interview rule. When Harry Benson showed up unannounced at Oxford to shoot her portrait for a Vanity Fair profile, Chelsea agreed to pose for him without consulting her mother. “I’m a big girl now,” she boasted. Tatler magazine named her one of the most eligible young women in Europe.
After Oxford, Chelsea settled in New York, where Klaus also lived, and was often seen holding hands with him outside the London Terrace apartment complex. She’d written a heartfelt essay for Talk magazine about her reactions to 9/11, about how it gave her “a new urgency to play a part in America’s future.” Her inner Hillary kicked in. Chelsea stopped hanging out with the fashion-and-celebrity crowd so openly. She took a job at McKinsey & Co., at a reported salary of $120,000 plus a $10,000 signing bonus. A former colleague at McKinsey told me Chelsea was “very impressive, very poised,” and specialized in “financial-services consulting as well as advising businesses in the health-care and pharmaceutical fields.”
Chelsea is on the board of directors at the School of American Ballet. “Sometimes people join a charitable cause because it promotes them socially,” says Jill Kargman, who with Chelsea was in charge of recruiting the under-35 set. “She doesn’t need that. When she says she’ll do something, she truly will do something. She was working at McKinsey, incredibly long hours, and if she wasn’t in town, she’d call in from some red state. I guess I’m not used to people working that hard, especially high-profile people.”
In 2006, Chelsea took a job as an analyst for Avenue Capital, a hedge fund specializing in distressed debt run by longtime Clinton donor Marc Lasry. On the stump for her mother, she neglects to mention her six-figure salary but regularly complains about her health-insurance plan. “I’m hoping that it will filter back to my employer,” she jokes.
Meanwhile, her relationship with Klaus fizzled in the summer of 2005. He traveled to Arbil, in northern Iraq, to teach English and American history at Salahaddin University. He recounted his Iraqi experiences in a book dedicated to Chelsea and enthusiastically endorsed by Chelsea’s father.
Today, Chelsea is dating a young Goldman Sachs banker named Marc Mezvinsky. He had been a fellow student at Stanford, but, more pertinent, was a childhood friend from Washington. His parents are former Pennsylvania congresswoman Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, who famously lost her reelection bid after voting for President Clinton’s unpopular tax hike in 1993, and former Iowa congressman Edward Mezvinsky. Chelsea and Marc had more than a few things in common, notably a politician father who had humiliated the family—in 2002, Ed Mezvinsky pleaded guilty to swindling investors out of $10 million and is currently in prison, with an expected release date later this year. Chelsea’s boyfriend is doing better, reportedly buying a $3.8 million apartment not far from hers, near Gramercy Park.
At every stop, Chelsea tells audiences about “one of my closest friends,” a captain in the Marines in Iraq. The captain is Zachary Iscol, son of New Yorkers Kenneth and Jill Iscol, wealthy supporters of her parents, who has left active duty and now writes about Iraq. Observing the Chelsea omertà, he wouldn’t talk to me. But his mother, who has known Chelsea since she was 14, did.
“She’s very definite. She’s got strong positions,” Iscol says. “And she’s very, very gracious about the rest of us who are not able to have a conversation with her at her level. Listen, she had to develop substantive arguments to talk at the dinner table and deal with her parents, and they don’t always agree on an issue, and you can imagine she has had to learn how to defend her position and analysis.”
Chelsea and her parents typically come to the Iscols’ to break the fast of Yom Kippur—and Chelsea, a Methodist like her mom, has attended synagogue with them. Mezvinsky is Jewish, and the Times has reported that friends think they could marry.