Archive for the ‘Celebrity Fashion’ Category

The big squeeze

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

What do women want? This was, and remains, Freud’s most vexing question.

If he cast an eye over this month’s glossy magazines, he might deduce that we would like equal pay, careers that don’t get in the way of family life and, frankly, vice versa. We’d also like the perfect clutch bag and winter boots that go with everything.

 The big squeezeFreud might also notice that the female silhouettes featured in the glossies – all guitars and hourglasses – do not remotely match the oblong-, oval- and apple-shaped women shopping on the high street. He would observe that what these women really want is a waist: they are shopping for controlling, tummy-flattening underwear. According to recent reports, sales of these items have shot up to £135 million annually.

While it might be sensible to say that it’s a sad day for feminism that our physical appearance has become so important, I’m actually whispering: “Go girls.”

In the past decade alone, the Western woman’s waistline has expanded by two inches to an average of 33.5in, and the rest of our bodies can’t keep up. It’s one thing to burn our bras (though I would only ever dream of doing this symbolically), but does our emancipation, our freedom from the restrictive underwiring of patriarchy, mean we have to have man-shaped middles?

A decent waist is a symbol of femininity, less entangled with sexuality than, say, an ample cleavage or a nice bit of leg. The purpose of a trim waist is to make clothes look better, and we all know that women – especially Brits – are more likely to dress for themselves than for men or other women.

Having spent my teens and twenties on a Sisyphean quest to be half a stone lighter (whatever my weight), I realised post-childbirth that shape was more important than size. Once that cow we call Mother Nature decided to take my waist away, I didn’t much care how fat I was, I just wanted to be concave in the middle. A fashionista friend recommended Spanx – restrictive big pants with a name and the kind of kitschy packaging that took all the shame out of the procurement of such undergarments. But though they are fit for purpose, nothing can remove the shame of stripping off in a pair.

It’s a brave woman who can look at herself in flesh-coloured cycling shorts, let alone allow the eyes of others to fall upon her. Yet bravery is the order of the day: John Lewis has seen a 22 per cent rise in sales of such pants in a year, and it’s no wonder M&S is doing so well these days – it sells five pairs a minute.

Why not, then, abandon courage and embrace the waist-cinchers that our grannies wore instead? The boned corsets and satin “waspies”, thick, belt-like contraptions that can yank a waist in by a couple of inches, are making a deserved comeback, thanks to burlesque star Dita Von Teese.

Abandoned by our 1960s sisters for being the Western equivalent of foot-binding, they are being ushered back into fashion, often worn as outer garments. Agent Provocateur has a special post-partum version favoured by Gwyneth Paltrow; and Elle Macpherson’s real-women-friendly underwear collection includes a “waspie” suspender belt, as does that by trendy smalls company Myla.

These controlling frillies, which some say train abdominal muscles to pull your tummy in, have become my excuse for not doing sit-ups. And what could be more liberating than that? LT


The news that girdles are in fashion again brought it all back. I was about to go on my first date and my mum suggested I borrow her roll-on. No, not a deodorant (if only) but a sausage-skin with dangly suspenders. It looked highly unlikely that I could get one arm into it, let alone both hips.

“Cross your legs and heave it up,” Mum advised, briskly. I crossed and pulled. Mum tugged from behind. Then I tried to stand up: I couldn’t uncross my legs.

Thus clamped, it worked better than all her warnings to “behave” and, anyway, it was unlikely to inflame my spotty date. Indeed, he threw me a bemused glance when I creaked as I sat down in the cinema. Halfway through Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday, tears streamed down my cheeks – even though he was singing a happy song on the top of a bus. I had to get rid of it – especially as a nail-bitten, ink-stained hand was about to encounter a rigid wall of rubber.

Hobbling into the Ladies, I rolled off my roll-on. “Argghhhhh!!” I shrieked, which alerted an anxious usherette. Frozen in the light of her torch, I displayed a stomach like a filleted haddock but a face wreathed in smiles of relief. They say that sex didn’t start until the 1960s – and that was why.

I’d love a nipped-in waist and an hourglass figure. But I know that in order to achieve it, I’d have to be very uncomfortably dressed, lots of bits would get squashed, I wouldn’t be able to eat properly, and I’d probably faint. That’s why, as they say on Dragons’ Den, I’m out.

But there are women who think it’s perfectly acceptable to go out for the evening in all that corsetry, squeezed from neck to knee and teetering on daft shoes. You can’t possibly have fun if you can’t walk and you can’t breathe. How can you smile, let alone flirt? And in the unlikely event that you get to the bedroom, surely you have to get the girdle off before he sees it?

So we’ve gone back to the dark ages – getting undressed in the dark, I mean, because of so many ugly underpinnings – simply because this generation of young women hate their bodies so much. What a sad situation. How did it happen? Girls, we’ve moved on from there. We have careers, independence, ambition, confidence. We can be kinder to ourselves and our bodies.

Those of us who remember the liberty bodice – a term about as apt as “friendly fire” – recall a thick, ribbed cotton vest with endless buttons, apparently designed to keep us warm but creating such compression and rigidity that I have no idea how I played netball. It was called “liberty” because it was a softer, freer version of the debilitating Victorian corset. So why do we want to go back to a time when women were trussed up like turkeys to attract a husband?

Any corseted mother should consider the effect her pathological dissatisfaction with her own body is having on the next generation. And any celebrities endorsing “shapewear” should… oh, I give up on celebrities.

I’m all for good make-up, hair colouring and a pretty matching bra and knickers, but the sound of Cliff singing Summer Holiday is enough to bring back the pain of that night in the Kingston Granada when I became a rebel without a corset.

Britney skips drug tests

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

Britney skips drug tests Britney Spears ignored eight random drug test requests, according to her ex Kevin Federline’s attorney.

Kevin’s lawyer, Mark Vincent Kaplan, made the allegations in an emergency hearing he had called in Los Angeles to discuss the former couple’s on-going custody battle.

Neither Spears nor Federline, who has been granted custody of their two boys – appeared in court for the last-minute meeting. Under the latest court ruling, Spears is allowed to see her boys — Sean Preston, and Jayden James — three times a week, but must follow an earlier court order to undergo mandatory drug and alcohol tests and well as attend joint parenting sessions with dancer Federline.

But Kaplan claims Spears has violated the court drug test order by ignoring eight out of a total of 14 requests and lives in a ‘parallel universe’. He also told the court, “Mr. Federline doesn’t want to take these children out of their mother’s life, but what are we to do?” However, Spears’ new lawyer, Anne Kiley, has defended the star’s actions and branded the drug testing procedure ‘unconstitutional,’ claiming a missed test does not indicate a positive one.

And Kiley also hit back at Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Scott Gordon when he said the early morning requests for the tests were not ‘unreasonable’. But Kiley claimed superstars like Spears were not used to being woken up at 8 am, retorting: “You are not a pop star with a number one album, so you don’t know.” If Spears is proved to have violated the drug-testing procedures, she faces having her visitation rights suspended until she follows the court order. The hearing continues.

Amy Winehouse’s husband is remanded

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

Amy Winehouse's husband is remanded

Singer Amy Winehouse looked on tearfully as her husband was remanded in custody charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice..

Blake Fielder-Civil, 25, of Jeffrey’s Place, Camden, north London, appeared at Thames Magistrates’ Court, east London.

District Judge John Perkins remanded Fielder-Civil in custody until November 23 when he will appear at Snaresbrook Crown Court, east London.

A second man, Anthony Kelly, 25, of Constable House, Chalk Farm, north London, appeared in court alongside Fielder-Civil, charged with a similar offence. He was also remanded in custody until November 23.

Winehouse, accompanied by her father Mitch, stood at the back of the courtroom next to the glass dividing the public gallery from the dock throughout this morning’s hearing.

Wearing a black top and grey pencil skirt and sporting her trademark beehive, she blew her husband kisses and mouthed “I love you” repeatedly as Fielder-Civil turned around and smiled at her.

Following the hearing Winehouse left the courthouse through a rear entrance and was driven away in a silver BMW without speaking to reporters.

The court heard that Fielder-Civil is charged with one count of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The full charge is “That on or before the 8th November 2007, within the jurisdiction of the Central Criminal Court, you conspired together with James King, to do an act namely whereby James King would withdraw from being a witness in an indictment charged before the court against another for causing grievous bodily harm to James King with intent to pervert the course of justice contrary to Section One (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977″.

The charge against Fielder-Civil’s fellow defendant, Anthony Kelly is that he “With the attempt to pervert the course of public justice did a series of acts which had a tendency to pervert the course of public justice in that you arranged with the victim and the defendants in that the victim doesn’t attend court”.

Fielder-Civil is one of five men arrested in the last two days on suspicion of perverting the course of justice in relation to a court case due to start on Monday at London’s Snaresbrook Crown Court. In that case, Fielder-Civil and Michael Brown, 39, face charges of assault causing grievous bodily harm relating to an alleged incident on June 20 this year.

Re-launch of Ossie Clark label

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

Marc Worth, the fashion info tycoon is not a man to waste time.

Today, he and his brother Julian, who set up WGSN (Worth Global Style Network) ten years ago, sold the fashion information business to the media group, Emap, for £140 million. And, already, another major fashion venture beckons.

Telegraph Online understands Marc Worth will now immerse himself in a long-cherished ambition to create a full comeback for the Ossie Clark label.

Details of the re-birth are sketchy, at present, but it is understood the label will be re-launched at the next London Fashion Week in February. Worth, 44, has secured the services of the talented young designer, Avsh Alom Gur, who has previously worked with Donna Karan and Chloe, among others, to head a hand-picked design team. Full details will be announced at a media briefing in London within two weeks.

Ossie Clark was one of the most important figures in British fashion in the 1960’s and 1970’s. His languid, ‘retro’ style epitomised the ‘Swinging Sixties’ generation and, nearly thirty years on, continues to inspire.

Clark graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1965 and after a series of magical fashion shows was dubbed ‘the king of the King’s Road’ by the fashion press. He was a contemporary of Mary Quant and Biba.

With his partner-muse and, later, wife as well, Celia Birtwell, the print wizard, he created an iconic silhouette adored by the likes of Marianne Faithfull, Liza Minnelli, Marisa Berensen, Patti Boyd and Jane Asher.

He was seduced by the hedonistic party lifestyle of the time and despite a business deal with Radley which produced his diffusion line, he fell heavily into drugs and debt and – when the 1980’s ushered in the punk movement which quickly renounced Clark’s romanticism – into despair as well.

In 1984, Alfred Radley persuaded Clark to design for two seasons; the clothes were beautiful, but they were his last collections. Although technically out of business, he occasionally created one-off pieces for friends and also in the early 1990’s, trained the designer Bella Freud as a pattern-cutter.

Tragically, Clark was murdered in 1996 in his Holland Park flat by a former lover. In a fashion twist, Celia Birtwell has latterly re-emerged as a fashion figure, using her distinctive floral prints to create a series of capsule collections for Topshop, which bear the ‘vintage’ 30’s-40’s silhouette Clark loved so well.

Meanwhile, the David Hockney, ‘Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy’, painted in 1970, today hangs in Tate Britain and is one of the most visited paintings in the country.

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Robbie Williams loses £200,000 to con men “friends”

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

Robbie Williams has reportedly lost more than £200,000 to two con men posing as friends.

A source told the Mirror that the two men were part of Robbie’s LA Vale soccer team entourage and used the former Take That star’s Hollywood home as a “24-hour crash-pad” before asking for the money to set up a fashion label in New York: “Robbie wants to be everyone’s friend and on this occasion, people have taken advantage. He has up to 20 people in his house at a time and everyone jokes that he’s the perfect host.”

“But what were fun times to begin with have started to take their toll. Rob’s become a bit jaded by the whole situation and has started putting on a bit of weight.”

The source explained that Robbie finally confronted the pair last week and a huge argument erupted which only ended when Robbie threatened to call the police and dissolved his beloved amateur soccer team: “It was as if the penny had finally dropped and Robbie realised he was being taken for a mug.”

“There was a screaming row between him and several people. He accused them all of taking advantage. He ordered them all out of his house and told them not to come back.”

“But it was when he disbanded the team that everyone became convinced he meant business. It’s very much his pride and joy. They all disappeared pretty sharpish.”

“At best Rob was being used, at worst, he was being conned. These so-called friends have preyed on his hospitality and good nature.”

What exactly is Britney Spears trying to tell us?

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

“Blackout,” the new album from Britney Spears, is as intoxicating as a snort of high-grade white powder. Like that nightclub indulgence, it’s an expensive ride, crafted by a team of top producers exploring the outer reaches of cybernetic pop. Its dazzling studio effects, rhythmic reconstructions and vocal shape-shifting drag the listener in, as each song elaborates on the power of desire and desirability. It’s hard to resist.

But maybe it’s time to start just saying no.

Since it leaked online a few weeks ago, “Blackout” has been receiving buzzy attention. A few reviewers have trashed it, but most have called it a comeback. Spears’ musical presence on the album may be minimal (dance-pop notables including Keri Hilson, Europop darling Robyn and L.A.’s own Nicole Morier shore up her vocals throughout, and Spears has just two deeply buried writing credits), and her public behavior remains cause for concern, but apparently that doesn’t matter. The music’s fun, the beats are fresh, and the Spears that “Blackout” promotes isn’t a person anyway but a publicly traded fantasy. Cynicism clearly outweighs compassion when it comes to poor, sad Brit.

The public agrees that Spears is a product worth purchasing. “Blackout,” which was released Tuesday, is expected to chart at No. 1 next week, moving about two-thirds of the 527,000 units Carrie Underwood did the week before. This even though, beyond a sleepy and rather sad phone-in appearance on Ryan Seacrest’s KIIS-FM radio show Wednesday, Spears isn’t promoting the release. Maybe she’s too caught up in the loss of her kids in a custody battle; maybe (even this seems possible with her) she really doesn’t like “Blackout” all that much.

After all, it’s not really her album, is it? It’s one thing to recognize the fluid collaborative process that has made for great music since the days of disco and jazz before that. It’s another to blithely dismiss the importance of the figure who carries that music forth into the world. Spears is listed as executive producer of “Blackout”, and the Wall Street Journal reported that it earned her a nearly $4-million advance. So the idea of Britney it presents must have some relation to her own idea of herself.

At any rate, there are three Britneys now. There’s the tragic celebrity going through a public breakdown, who seems to have little command over her own actions and less over how others treat her, including the public that’s circling and scorning her.

Then there’s the Britney created by Spears and many others over the course of a decade, an embodiment of the feminine libido in an age when empowerment and exploitation are often confused. Finally, there’s the Britney the public imagines, a repository for our fears about what today’s tough little girls might become and our disgust and fascination with the fame machine.

“Blackout” is an attempt by Spears and her latest crew of in-studio plastic surgeons to reconcile those three Britneys. But as seductive as the music is, it fails. Instead of reconciling the fantasy Britney with the one who breathes, these songs push aside her pain and defeat and substitute an almost militant wantonness. In the process, they abandon what made the invented Britney so appealing: her stance on the knife’s edge between virtue and corruption, the innocence of a girl brash enough to declare “I’m not that innocent.”

As the living, breathing Spears continues to crash downward in plain view, few seem troubled by the disconnect between the success of this album and the sorry state of its nominal maker. Even more disturbing, no one seems to care that the songs on “Blackout” uphold the very attitudes about femininity, sexual power, and the blur between reality and television-tabloid “reality” that have dragged Spears into misery — and those of us enthralled by her into a state of callousness and cynicism.

Let’s assume that Spears still wants to connect to the spirit of sexual liberation that took shape in the 1970s and went pop mostly through Madonna’s efforts in the 1980s. “Blackout” contains some direct Madonna references. The CD booklet photo showing Spears sitting on a priest’s lap, which has outraged the Catholic League, is an obvious nod. More generally, the album’s mix of avant-garde dance music and libertine lyrics echoes controversial landmarks such as “Justify My Love” and “Erotica,” which blended explorations of explicit subject matter with cutting-edge dance beats.

But Madonna’s libertinism was always tied to a community — an underground of self-identified queers and other sexual outlaws who saw erotic freedom as part of a larger movement toward gay and women’s liberation. In comparison, the mood of “Blackout” is oppressively retrograde.

Enlisting her signature panting coo, Spears presents herself (or is presented by the songwriters representing her) as a girl gone wild, driven incoherent by desire. “What I gotta do to get you to want my body?” this mother of two implores on “Get Naked.” The song is subtitled “I Got a Plan” — but the voice who claims that plan belongs to a man, background singer Corte Ellis, not Spears. Spears plans nothing. She occupies the centuries-old stereotype of the woman in heat, unable to control her sexuality, only finding relief when a man takes her in hand.

The other message “Blackout” strongly conveys is that notoriety is its own reward. In “Piece of Me,” the song most often cited as proof that Spears possesses some level of self-awareness (though she didn’t write it), Spears responds to being surveilled by the tabloids by listing the violations for which they cited her: She’s too fat, too thin, a grocery-store flasher, and a working mama who trots her kids around to her photo shoots. Most of all, she’s “shameless,” a word that has sounded truly defiant in the mouths of Garth Brooks and Ani DiFranco but that, dully voiced by Spears, becomes a condemnation she’s willing to embrace.

This list of sins is made musical within a choppy, mechanical setting that reinforces the aggressive petulance of the vocals. The title phrase suggests a threat without following through. A few songs later, “Freakshow,” which Spears did co-write, presents Team Britney’s solution to the quandary of constant surveillance: “Make them clap when we perform.”

In this scenario, a woman who’s been branded as overly sexual can respond only by becoming truly pornographic. It’s the culmination of the self-objectifying process that reality television and the fever for celebrity promotes, in which any kind of interior life, including both sexuality and artistic creativity, gets flattened out and transformed into an empty commodity.

If these songs represent Britney talking back, her response is disturbingly adolescent and predictable, with none of the redeeming emotion and individuality of other celebrity answer songs, like “Get in the Ring” by Guns N’ Roses or “Leave Me Alone” by Michael Jackson. W. Axl Rose wanted his enemies bloody; Jackson wanted to escape to Neverland. Britney doesn’t want to fight or retreat. Her solution to being exploited is only to exploit herself further.

But lyrics don’t matter in dance music, right? Real meaning resides in the way its rhythms moves the body and its inventive sonic twists expand the mind. If words are present, though, they communicate. Think about the dance songs you love most: They’re built around ritual incantations that express freedom, sorrow, pride or communal connection: “I Feel Love,” “I Will Survive,” “I’ve Got the Power,” “Groove is in the Heart.” Even chilly Madonna built a utopian vision of the dance floor as a free space in songs such as “Vogue,” in which striking a pose becomes a means to self-realization.

There’s no self-realization on “Blackout,” nor is there celebration. There’s only addiction – to sex, to powerful men, to exhibitionism. If this is how Spears wants to be perceived, she’s even more troubled than the tabloids tell. If it’s what those entrusted with her best interests think is most enticing — and if the marketplace proves them right — then we’re all hooked on some pretty nasty stuff. I wonder, will we ever be able to kick it?


REPO! The Genetic Opera Trailer starring Paris Hilton?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Paris Hilton OperaHere is the trailer for REPO! The Genetic Opera, the horror musical, by Darren Lynn Bousman (the guy who did Saw II, III and IV) and it stars Paris Hilton!

I was kind of unsure if I should put this on our sista site, here or both. I guess it belongs here, but Paris Hilton in a cheap wig, singing is just too great not to comment on. If she is in one more horror film we could brand her an “official scream queen,” and boy does that tickle the gay in me.

“Set in the not-so-distant future, the production tells the story of an epidemic of organ failures that devastates the planet, killing tens of millions. As scientists feverishly make plans for a massive organ harvest program, a multi-billion dollar biotech company called GeneCo begins to manufacture salvation- for a price- offering simple payment plans to those lacking the necessary funds to purchase new body parts outright. But all financed organs are subject to default procedures, including repossession at the hand of the notorious organ repo men.”

David Beckham tops rivals on “man’s man” list

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

David BeckhamLOS ANGELES, Oct 24 (Reuters Life!) – Here’s some advice for guys looking to be a real “man’s man” — get a life.

More than 1 million readers of men’s lifestyle Web site were asked to name the Top 49 Men who exemplified “a true man’s man” with British soccer star David Beckham scoring top place in the wide-ranging list.

Beckham was followed in the No. 2 position by actor Matt Damon, star of the hit movie “The Bourne Ultimatum,” and just behind him was record music producer Timbaland.

The list featured a broad group in both occupation and age, and editor-in-chief James Bassil said the key factor uniting them seemed to be a willingness to engage in life beyond simply accomplishing career goals.

“These are not the guys you always see on magazine covers or who get the most media play, and they all have secondary pursuits that become expressions of their values,” Bassil said.

“When our readers can see the guy behind the guy, they appreciate that.”

Beckham, whose wife Victoria is a member of the Spice Girls pop group, does see his name in tabloid headlines but amid the media frenzy surrounding him, the sports star seems to stay levelheaded with a good sense of humor, Bassil said.

Likewise, Damon scored a smash box office hit with the recent “Bourne Ultimatum” action flick ($410 million worldwide ticket sales to date), yet he is active in charities such as raising money for victims of the genocide in Darfur.

Others on the list included Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs, 53, at No. 7, and Richard Branson, 57, who is an adventurer outside running his Virgin companies in airlines, music and numerous other businesses. He was No. 20.

Britain’s Prince Harry made the list at No. 23, but Prince William was no where in sight.

Bassil said the younger prince was appreciated by readers for his willingness earlier this year to serve with the British Army in southern Iraq.

Rounding out the top five were tennis star Roger Federer at No. 4, followed by singer/actor/clothes designer Justin Timberlake. Among the top 10 were actors Daniel Craig, George Clooney and Christian Bale and race car driver Lewis Hamilton.

A complete list is posted at (, which boasts more than 8 million monthly readers.

Marie Helvin: ‘I know I’m too thin. It’s the adrenaline…’

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Marie Helvin: 'I know I'm too thin. It's the adrenaline...'Marie Helvin has the same problem as other women in finding clothes that suit her. She may have what her former husband, the photographer David Bailey, called a “perfect body”; she may appear enviably un-crêpey at 55, but in the wrong kit she can look scrawny.

I can vouch for this, having witnessed her trying on a whole rack of clothes intended for publicity junkets surrounding the launch of her new autobiography.

Experience has taught Helvin how to avoid obvious mistakes, as she riffles through the assembled options.

“Too short. I don’t show my knees.” “Too frilly.” Girly dresses are out. “Too frumpy.” The Ralph Lauren suit joins them. “Too weird.” So does the tartan Vivienne Westwood two-piece.

On and on goes the weeding process: too hot; too covered up; too pastel; too low-cut for television. That leaves just a handful of outfits for her to try on. The skirts swim around her bottom, and one dress fits below the waist but won’t do up around her bust. This, she assures me, is entirely usual: “My mother was known as Jayne Mansfield.”

Helvin knows she is too thin. In her youth, Bailey, who she credits with developing her look, said she looked “mighty meaty matey” and kept her on a broccoli-only diet. But these days her problem is maintaining her “fighting weight” of 130lb.

She has dropped to a size eight in the month since her mother died of a brain tumour. “It’s the adrenaline. I find it hard to keep things down.”

This is an agonising time for Helvin. Every night her octogenarian father rings from Hawaii, her childhood home, in tears.

Each morning starts with her sister Naomi, in Thailand, calling about when she can get home to Hawaii to scatter the ashes. In between those fixtures, she has to go out, sparkle and look glamorous. Even for a pro who has been modelling for nearly 40 years, that’s tough.

What makes it worse is that her friends aren’t rallying round. “I think they’re too scared to call me,” she says sadly. What about Jerry Hall, who used to be known as her terrible twin? “Jerry and I haven’t been close for years. We made a good foursome when I was with Bailey and she was with Mick, but then she had a family and wanted to talk about nappies.”

Helvin maintains that she is single and childless by choice. Last week, when challenged on television by Fern Britton, she blurted out: “I don’t like children,” and is now regretting her words. “She asked me whether I hadn’t had children because I wanted to keep my figure. I was so shocked that anyone could think that that I made things worse. It’s difficult when people tell me I look good for my age, so I say that I don’t have the stresses of children and a husband. Of course I like other people’s children. I just don’t want my own.

“At one time Jerry persuaded me to try, but when it didn’t work after six months I was relieved to go back on the Pill. I never wanted children – maybe because my mum didn’t want grandchildren. Maybe it’s genetic; none of my siblings has had children. Maybe it’s to do with the abortion I had in my early modelling days in Japan. It could be to do with my younger sister Suzon dying.”

Suzon was 23 when she fell off a cliff in Jamaica in mysterious circumstances. It was the beginning of the end of Marie’s marriage to Bailey, who offered minimal support. Later, she moved in with Mark Shand, the Duchess of Cornwall’s brother, but it was “torture”. “I’m spoilt. I like my own space,” she says. “I don’t even own a microwave and men don’t like that. They want to be looked after.”

In their time, every playboy – Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Dodi Fayed – tried to add Helvin to their list of conquests. Sometimes she had a fling, sometimes she resisted. She had enough money to travel and be independent. Then financial disaster in the aftermath of September 11 swept away her savings and five years ago, aged 50, she started modelling again.

“It’s flattering to be asked and it’s good money,” she says. She certainly knows how to do it. One minute she’s feeling grim and asking for a paracetamol, the next she turns on the “alert but at rest” look for a good photo: “You should look as if you have just exhaled – ‘Aaaah’,” she explains.

Her look is unchanged from her modelling heyday in the 1970s and 1980s. For a while she had short hair, but her publishers insisted that she grow it for the book so she looked like Marie Helvin.”It makes me recognisable. If I go to the supermarket wearing it in a scarf, with no make-up and baggy jeans and I don’t make eye contact, no one recognises me. Monroe used to say she could become Marilyn. It’s about the way you walk.”

Plastic surgery? “Absolutely, I approve,” she says, “but everyone says once you start it’s difficult to stop. I’ve considered Botox but my forehead is so high it might make me look like an alien.”

Instead, she trains herself not to frown, does facial exercises and sleeps sitting upright to avoid puffy eyes and crumple marks on her face. “Iman had to do it for six months after a serious accident and discovered that her skin looked better.

“Otherwise, I do what everyone else does. I use soap and water. Sometimes I eat, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m lucky in love, sometimes I’m not.”

But, of course, she knows how to dress. Jeans or a pencil skirt and a white shirt are her daily uniform. British tailoring delights her, so she adores her Edward Sexton suit. For the evening, something clingy – like the Roberto Cavalli dress; or sparkly – like the Ben de Lisi jacket; or cinched in around her waist, as with the Maria Grachvogel blouse.

But she can’t bear tights or closed-toe shoes. “I’m an island girl.” And, as soon as she can, she wants to turn off “Marie Helvin” and just be Marie with her family in Hawaii.

Amy Winehouse Friend Endorses Her Drug Use

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Winehouse  The comments come after Winehouse and her husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, were arrested and fined in Bergen, Norway last week after being found in possession of marijuana.

The friend told the Sun: “We were chuffed when she was caught with cannabis, everyone used to worry about her cannabis habit, but now we look back at those days fondly.

They added: “We have been telling her to quit the hard stuff and get back on the weed.”

Despite her arrest, Winehouse’s European tour continued over the weekend with two shows in Bergen and Oslo.