Michaele Salahi (Michaele Schon) (née Michelle Ann Holt) (born October 1, 1965) is an American self-proclaimed model and socialite. In 2010, she had a role in the reality show The Real Housewives of D.C.. She and her former husband, Tareq Salahi, gained national attention in November 2009 by allegedly crashing a White House state dinner in honor of India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Michaele met Tareq Salahi at a 2000 holiday party that McLean, Virginia real estate developer N. Casey Margenau and his wife Molly had hosted. Michaele and Tareq married in 2003 in a ceremony at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington D.C. The guest list included 1,836 guests, including Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Margaret Heckler. The wedding, originally scheduled for October 2002, was postponed numerous times, prompting Kennedy to quip that he needed to issue "subpoenas" to the bride and groom.
Michaele Salahi was a front-desk employee at contemporary hits radio station WKRZ in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 1989. She then moved to the Washington, D.C., area getting a job at the make-up counter at Nordstroms at the Tysons Corner Mall in McLean, Virginia, for most of the 1990s. In 2001 she was a make-up artist on the set of the "Lady Bird" episode of the PBS documentary series American Experience.
Salahi has claimed to be a former model and Washington Redskins cheerleader; she has also claimed to have been featured in numerous television spots, was the face of Virginia.org's Wine Getaways ad campaign, and has also claimed to have been a featured model in various magazines. However, the Washington Redskins have publicly stated that she has never worked for them. She did perform with the Washington Redskins cheerleaders during the September 20, 2009, Redskins-St. Louis Rams game at a halftime event honoring the team's pom-pom alumni, although other cheerleaders questioned her dancing abilities.
In Florida, a polo magazine editor said the Salahis submitted pictures for a December 2008 article that identified Michaele Salahi as a "former Miss USA." No record exists of her winning that beauty crown, pageant officials said. In 2010, Michaele was one of the featured housewives on Bravo's The Real Housewives of D.C.
Gatecrashing and celebrity run-ins
In June 2005, while he was a Senator, Barack Obama had posed for a photo with the Salahis and the Black Eyed Peas at the 12th annual Rock the Vote Awards Dinner at the National Building Museum. The Salahis also allegedly gatecrashed the September 26, 2009, dinner for the Congressional Black Caucus, where the couple posed for photos with Rep. Chuck Rangel and Star Jones before being asked to leave by security. On the December 2, 2009, Today Show they claimed they were given tickets to that event by the Gardner Law Group, but caucus spokeswoman Muriel Cooper refuted that claim.
"The first the White House security detail knew of their blunder in allowing them into [the November 24, 2009, state dinner] was when the couple posted photographs from the dinner on their Facebook page." Invited guest Brian Williams, anchor of the NBC Nightly News, observed the Salahis' SUV being turned down from the East Gate entrance. After that, he saw the Salahis and crew leave their vehicle and walk to the White House. They entered through two security checkpoints; only one of them checked for photo ID. The White House on November 27 released photos of the couple posing with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and other celebrities in attendance. Secret Service director Mark Sullivan issued a statement on November 27 saying that the Secret Service was "deeply concerned and embarrassed by the circumstances surrounding the State Dinner". Sullivan's statement also pointed out that "the preliminary findings of our internal investigation have determined established protocols were not followed at an initial checkpoint, verifying that two individuals were on the guest list."
Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, wrote a letter to the House Committee on Homeland Security requesting an investigation into this incident. The Secret Service is also considering criminal charges against the Salahis. Michaele Salahi was requested by the House Homeland Security Committee to appear at a hearing on December 3, 2009, but she refused to attend.
The Salahis had numerous fights with their neighbors, stemming from the expansion of the winery and disputes over live music. In 2005, these disputes, caused the Fauquier County Zoning Office to limit event activities to 12 wine tastings per year. That action prompted Michaele Salahi to register as a lobbyist in Richmond and her efforts succeed in passing House Bill 2643, which removed the power of county zoning authorities to regulate "customary or usual" vineyard activities, such as wine dinners or weddings.
Michaele and Tareq Salahi operated the charity "Journey for the Cure Foundation." CBS News reported that public records for the Foundation showed that the charity had spent in 2008 over 58 percent of its donations on travel, fundraising and meals and less than 4 percent ($710) on actual charitable expenses. Tareq Salahi told the Washington Post in 2008 that he had raised $250,000 for the charity.
Travis Frantz, president of the 28-property Mosby's Overlook Estates homeowners association in Front Royal, put a lien on the Salahi's home because they hadn't paid dues since the first year they moved in. The Salahis and HOA reached a settlement in mediation, but the HOA has yet to be paid.
In 2009, CNN reported that plaintiffs in 16 civil suits had named as defendants the Salahis or organizations that the Salahis had operated. The 2008 America's Polo Cup resulted in vendors suing the Polo Cup or the Salahis for at least $500,000 in unpaid bills. Sheila Johnson, the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television and proprietor of Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia, claimed in Loudoun County General District Court in a filing that the Salahis owed her catering business more than $300,000 for a 2008 America's Polo Cup event; a Hume-based caterer, Jerome Farmer, told Washington Life that the Salahis still owed him $30,000 for catering services for the 2009 America's Polo Cup; and Robb Levin told Time magazine that he had won a $15,000 judgment against the Salahis, but had yet to collect a penny.
On September 13, 2011, Tareq reported Michaele missing and perhaps kidnapped after Michaele had phoned him to say that she was on her way to her mother's house, but, according to her mother, had not arrived. She was located soon afterwards when law enforcement authorities discovered that she had run off with Neal Schon, guitarist for the rock band Journey and had not wanted Tareq to know where she was. Michaele had met Schon earlier and had remained in a very close friendship with him.
On September 16, 2011, Tareq filed for divorce from Michaele on the grounds of adultery and abandonment or separation. Tareq dropped the case shortly thereafter, but Michaele filed for divorce on December 15, 2011, citing the grounds of cruelty and constructive desertion. On December 22, 2011, Tareq responded to Michaele's divorce suit with a new filing for divorce on the grounds of adultery, desertion and constructive desertion.
On August 20, 2012, Judge Dennis L. Hupp granted a final divorce decree to the Salahis following a contentious settlement proceeding. Hupp also entered a dismissal order for a $50 million personal injury lawsuit that Tareq Salahi had filed against the entertainment company, Journey, Schon and Sonata. Hupp placed the settlement, including the divorce decree, under seal, thus preventing anyone except the attorneys, their clients and Hupp from seeing the details. An anonymous source close to the situation subsequently stated that Schon had agreed to pay Tareq $12,000 plus Tareq's mortgage payments over the next year to settle the case.
Engagement and marriage to Neal Schon
On October 14, 2012, Schon proposed to Michaele onstage during a charity concert at the Lyric Opera House in Baltimore, Maryland, offering her an oval 11.42 carat diamond engagement ring. The couple married on December 15, 2013, in a pay-per-view ($14.95 for three hours) wedding that was broadcast live from the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California.
In popular culture
In the opening segment of the December 5, 2009, episode of Saturday Night Live, Kristen Wiig portrayed Michaele as an interloper who got on stage at a Barack Obama speech in Allentown, Pennsylvania and posed for various pictures behind the President with her husband, Secret Service agents, and Vice President Joe Biden. At one point they asked the President to stop his speech and snap a group shot of all of them.
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