The Truth About Oksana: Inside the Mel Gibson Scandal
updated 09/13/2010 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 09/13/2010 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Survivor, alleged abuse victim, fame seeker, gold digger: The enigmatic Grigorieva, 40, has drawn reactions from sympathy to scorn since her secret recordings of an enraged Gibson, 54, screaming invectives at her were leaked during their post-split custody battle. The trouble is far from over: A sheriff's investigation into domestic violence allegations against Gibson has been handed to the district attorney; extortion allegations against Grigorieva are still being investigated. Several sources close to Grigorieva say accusations she is seeking Gibson's fortune are untrue. "If she is a gold digger, she is the worst one in the history of gold diggers," says a source. "She doesn't have any money." Still living in the same Sherman Oaks home with 10-month-old Lucia, her daughter with Gibson, and her 13-year-old son Alexander, whose father is actor Timothy Dalton, Grigorieva "seems lonely and depressed," says the source.
It's a dramatic change from last year, when Grigorieva told PEOPLE she and Gibson were happy together: "We laugh so much." But by the following spring, the relationship crumbled amid clashing personalities, ending for good in March. Insiders say Grigorieva hammered out a tentative child-support settlement with Gibson worth about $15 million over 18 years but then ultimately refused to sign the final deal. "Oksana didn't want Mel to have anything to do with the baby until he had received treatment," says a Grigorieva source. Gibson, whose visitation rights have been upheld by a judge, has denied ever harming Lucia. A Gibson source says Grigorieva was only interested in more money: "She was greedy." Adds a Gibson family insider: "She's been using Lucia against Mel to get what she wants."
What exactly does Grigorieva want? Her musical ambitions propelled her a long way from her humble childhood, and while she has dated several high-profile men, her career and bank account never got much of a boost. Raised in a two-bedroom apartment in the Russian industrial city of Saransk by music-teacher parents, Oksana and her younger sister Nataliya "had a very strict upbringing," says childhood pal Tatiana Rodina. "Oksana's mother worked so hard to give the girls good classical training." A gifted pianist, Oksana "was the loveliest of girls, gentle and quiet," says a former teacher. "But she had huge ambition. She wanted to get away from Saransk and be somebody."
After a brief marriage fell apart, she left Russia for England. "She was talented and beautiful," says Alan Bergman, a dancer turned entrepreneur who dated Grigorieva in the mid-'90s before she left him for actor Timothy Dalton. She and the former James Bond star, 64, welcomed son Alexander in 1997 but split soon afterward. Pursuing her music career, Grigorieva moved to L.A., where she dated high-profile music producer David Foster.
Gibson and Grigorieva emerged as a couple just after Gibson's wife of nearly 30 years, Robyn, 54, filed for divorce last year. Grigorieva "truly loved Mel," says a pal, who notes that Grigorieva converted to Catholicism for the actor. "Until she saw who he really was and what he was capable of."
As the exes continue battling, Grigorieva has leaned on Dalton and her mom. Still, "it's a lonely life," says the friend. "She is almost like a lost soul."