There are two pictures Maria carries with her everywhere. One is of Jesus. The other is of Taki. In her apartment is a framed copy of “The Papadakis Laws”—nine can-do aphorisms written by her dad. And when Maria got married to investment banker Kent, it was a decision very much influenced by Taki.
On their first date, at Alma de Cuba in 2010, Kent told her he wanted to marry her. Maria, whose father had wooed her mother in near-identical fashion, was emotionally fragile. “After the death of my dad, family became super-important,” she says. “It was just a matter of picking the right person for that marriage.” That she tried to fill the void so soon suggests an overly rigorous interpretation of Papadakis Law No. 3—“If it’s worth doing—it’s got to be done right now!”
Maria may have jumped into marriage, but the wedding itself was far from a rush job. Several attendees evoked the film The Philadelphia Story to describe the genteel glamour of it all. It was the social event of the season.
Maria and Eliana (and, of course, HughE) took Amtrak to New York to gown-shop at the salon where the reality show Say Yes to the Dress is filmed. Maria fell for a $20,000 gown adorned with faux pearls, but it ultimately proved too pricy (says Maria) or too clunky (says HughE). The Monique Lhuillier dress she went with instead was more reasonable: in the $7,000 range.
The dress was from New York, but the wedding couldn’t have been more Philadelphia. The ceremony took place at St. George’s Cathedral, where Maria walked down the aisle alone, to “leave space” for her father. Everyone—Jannie Blackwell, Carl and Roberta Dranoff, Charlie Pizzi—was there. Garces Catering did the filet mignon and sea bass; a soprano and a tenor from the Opera Company of Philadelphia sang “Maria” from overhead. HughE was the best man.
Seven months later, it was all over. “The Papadakis laws say, ‘You can make anything work,’” Maria says, shaking her head. “We just weren’t people who fit right together. Unfortunately, Maria found something she couldn’t change or fix.”
The precise reason for the breakup, which a writer from—you guessed it—Philadelphia magazine first reported in June, remains maddeningly murky. (Kent didn’t respond to requests for comment.) Maria’s friends all said the same thing about the breakup.
Hadas Kuznits, CBS 3 reporter: “I have no idea what happened.”
Marisa Magnatta: “See, that’s, like, a really weird thing. I just really didn’t know that much about that part of her life.”
Andrew Rosenthal, Bay Area entrepreneur: “We didn’t talk about that in detail.”
To be sure, there were some potential clues dropped along the way. In a post-separation interview with a publication called Society magazine—Maria’s on the cover, standing next to a horse—she was asked what she admires most in a man. “Well, mental stability. Ha ha!” she answered. “It’s harder to come by than you think!”
At one point Maria called me twice, then texted me in a huff, telling me she needed to “clear up some facts.” HughE—try to follow along here—somehow got the impression I thought Maria had cheated on Brendan with her new boyfriend, Chris. So he called Maria to tell her. And Maria called me. In between when I talked to him and she talked to me, HughE sent out this cryptic tweet: “It’s a darn shame the wrong story’s going to get out, but the right one would destroy someone’s life.”
Finally, over dinner at her apartment one night, a few details begin trickling out. The view from her windows is spectacular. She shows me the little terrace where she likes to hang out at night and listen to the reggae emanating from the Jamaican Jerk Hut on South Street.
Over moussaka and braised lamb shank—she and her mother cooked before I got here—we get down to business. Maria dispatches several rumors: No, Brendan never cheated on her or abused her. And no, he’s not gay. So why they did break up? She’s not saying.
“We all kept it really quiet,” she says. “People are so fascinated. I would rather be on my own, in pain, suffering quietly.” But the truth is, she can’t say: An airtight prenuptial agreement forbids her from talking about certain aspects of the marriage.
I tell Maria I thought only celebrities signed pre-nups. “I’m a celebrity,” she says.