Jenna de Rosnay’s extraordinary life is one that seems both completely unpredictable and yet almost predestined to become legend. Windsurf champion, daughter of an American surf icon, Vogue model; Duchess by marriage to a French adventurer, Jenna de Rosnay is the picture-perfect princess of a heartbreaking romantic love story.
Her biography seems to tap into every fantasy humans love: a sports heroine, an international record breaker, a heiress, a fashion model turned fashion designer and a wildly romantic love affair, filled with global headlines of triumph and tragedy.
Born the daughter of Surfer Magazine founder John Severson, Jenna lived in the secluded and remote beach community of Cottons Point, California – until President Richard Nixon moved in as a next door neighbor.
Shortly after, her father sold the magazine, and moved the family to the idyllic Hawaiian island of Maui – but only after a 12 month trip through the South Pacific where they lived in a tree house and Jenna learned French from the kids living in French Polynesia.
Returning to Maui, her father focused on his primary love – art – and her talented mom continued designing the family outfits. The experiences of that Bohemian year-long sojourn would become inspiration for future life. But in the meantime Jenna found her passion in the nascent sport of sail boarding – and almost immediately fell in love with riding the wind.
Within a short time Jenna became one of the world’s best women windsurfers. And then she met the great love of her life.
Arnaud Louis Fromet de Rosnay was a French Baron, surfer, bon vivant, photographer and long-distance windsurfer, the youngest son of French-Mauritian painter whose family owned a sugar plantation on the Island of Mauritius. Jenna Severson and Arnaud de Rosnay were attracted like two comets swept up by the tides of Triton’s magnetic pull.
They were married as soon as Arnaud could talk Jenna (still only 17) into planning a wedding. In the next 3 years they would become one of the most famous couples in ocean sports – breaking world records, traveling the world and having a child, Alize. They sailed from Florida to Cuba, the Bering Sea, the straights of Japan and Russia, and finally the crossing between China and Taiwan, one of the most dangerous in the world.
What happened next remains a mystery. But after leaving the little Chinese harbor, alone and facing a daunting gale, Arnaud de Rosnay was never seen again. The Baron simply disappeared without even the slightest trace.
Jenna was devastated – she had lost the love of her life, was caring for a 9-month-old and living in a foreign country where she had been a citizen for less than 3 years. As with many of us, the crises in our lives often not only test us but define us as well. In Jenna’s case the path was clear: to endure the pain she had to overcome it. And the method she chose was motherhood and career – in other words love, hard work and focus.
She signed with Ford Models in New York and threw herself into the world of modeling with a fever, working with prestigious fashion labels including Dior, Celine, and Nike. She was chosen to be one of the elitist of the elite in the fashion realm – a model in the photo shoot for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Her movie-star looks and athletic prowess landed her on the covers of Vogue, Photo, Official and Elle amongst many others.
But Jenna had always wanted to do more than be a model and work for someone else’s company. So in 1988 she broke with her employers and started her own swimsuit line. Finally Jenna de Rosnay had fulfilled a dream she had nurtured since she had first seen her mother sewing and designing clothes for the family as an 11–year old ingénue traipsing about the beaches of the remote South Pacific.
Overcoming family tragedy, corporate pressure, and single mom status, she had created her own clothing label. Her debut collection was a hit and within five years she was a top established brand.
For the last 32 years a new range of swimwear has hit the stores every season; the Jenna Collection has become one of the most enduring and endearing labels of the last three decades. Now remarried with 3 more children she lives among the 4 homes she now owns. Like any good fairy tale (even an absolutely true one) this story has a happy ending.