Just a few weeks ago, Idris Elba walked out on Naiyana Garth, the British mother of his two-year-old son. Now the second wife he secretly married and divorced, Sonya Hamlin has stepped forward with a story of her own.
Hamlin is a property lawyer whom Elba was married to for just a fe weeks before, he told her that he couldn’t continue being married to her because she would get in the way of his career. She said:
‘People were telling him he was going to ruin his career’. ‘He was being told it was an important part of his image to be a single sex symbol in Hollywood and being married would damage that’.
‘It was very sad. Idris and I were madly in love, but he was getting a lot of flak for being married. Everyone was like, “Dude, you’re the hottest sex symbol!”
‘“It wasn’t the right look”, that’s what they were telling him. I wanted to save the marriage.’
The two had met in 2006 after Idris had been divorced from his first wife and had already made a name for himself in the US, through his role on The Wire. However, Hamlin said she was a good catch either. She said she was an accomplished and ambitious lawyer, and seemed to represent the better life to which Elba, who was born in a Hackney tower block, aspired.
‘I didn’t really know who he was,’ says Sonya, who studied law in London and Washington. ‘My friend just said he was a really nice guy. He wasn’t a superstar back then. Living in Maryland I was vaguely familiar with The Wire, but I didn’t know who he was.
‘We met at a crowded gathering with a few other people,’ she recalls. ‘But we hit it off. We meshed very well. He’s not shy and neither am I, and we fell very much in love with each other.’
After a whirlwind romance, they moved in together in Maryland.
‘We went on normal dates – dinner, movies – and we used to have fun in the house,’ she says.
‘We used to co-ordinate our outfits when we dressed. And he was a very good cook. If we woke on a Sunday morning we might go out to brunch, or stay at home and make breakfast. Idris loved eggs and porridge, or would cook Jamaican food: he loved aki and saltfish.
‘He’s a homebody. He didn’t like to be out at night. He loves to watch TV, and listen to music. We were very casual. We’d lounge around in jeans and a T-shirt.’
Then on April 8, 2006, they jetted off to Las Vegas, Nevada, to watch the Floyd Mayweather Jnr vs Zab Judah boxing match. It was there that Idris persuaded Sonya to elope for a secret marriage the following day.
‘We didn’t go to Vegas with plans on getting married,’ she says. ‘We were just chilling on sun-loungers early in the day by the pool. I was drinking a Mimosa, and we were talking, and were both in a great mood.
‘We had talked about marriage before and how we would want to keep it plain and simple.
‘We had been together several months already, and knew it was right. We were both madly in love by then, and we were like, “Let’s just do it!” We were both excited. It was a mutual decision. As far as we were concerned, we were going to spend the rest of our lives together.’
The went to a jewellery store in the hotel where they were staying. ‘He got me a beautiful diamond ring,’ she says.
‘We picked it and it was not cheap. He was generous.’ Then they went to the courthouse where they picked a marriage license then got married at a wedding chapel.
She believes Elba was also swayed by his friends who felt that he should have a bombshell young starlet by his side, rather than a property lawyer, who looked ordinary.
Only six weeks after tying the knot, Elba decided he wanted to end it all. Sonya sighs:
‘Some people used to say, “Why her?” That’s what they were telling him. It used to upset him. He was like, “Why don’t people just let me be happy?”
‘I couldn’t understand how it would damage his career because I saw actors like Denzel Washington be successfully married. But I don’t think those actors’ wives are running law firms.’
She said she has since moved on and wishes him well.