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The Voice Of 40-Something Cynical Optimism!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

There is hope!

"How can you possibly be interested in the New Hitler, Elle? Look at me!"

Now I know why Oliver "Krapp" Kamm hates Noam Chomsky so much: he's never been name checked by Elle MacPherson!

Body and soul: Elle Macpherson tells all about proving she's more than just 'The Body', how she became a business tour de force and why true beauty is not just skin deep

On the packaging of your new beauty products you say, "Every woman has the right to feel beautiful." What makes you feel beautiful?
I feel beautiful when I'm at peace with myself. When I'm serene, when I'm a good person, when I've been considerate of others. Launching a beauty range fits completely with what I've done with my lingerie business, which is to celebrate women's femininity. Everything I do is about women honouring themselves, treating themselves and taking care of themselves.

Why did you decide to have an image of your own, naked body on the packaging?
I was the cheapest person to employ to do it. Also, I thought the image would represent the product. It's very sensual, but it's also a very intimate picture of me. At this stage of my life it's great to be able to ask myself, what do I really like, not what am I told I should like.

You were never content with just being a cover girl, were you?
I've always had an unusual career; I've never followed the industry norm. My body type wasn't fashionable when I started, but it was commercial. For a while I was on the cover of every Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, which was regarded as the pinnacle of success in America. I soon started producing my own calendars because I realised there was a market for them.

Are you very ambitious, always looking for new projects that will get you more fame and money?
I've done all this stuff because it's fun. It's never been about fame. For me, just being on the cover of a magazine wasn't enough. I began to think, what value is there in doing something in which you have no creative input? It's prestigious, yes, but there's no point having global recognition if you're not going to do something constructive with it. I've used my fame for charity work, but I've also capitalised on it to get financial security, in order to have a good life with my children.

Do you ever regret choosing a career that has meant you have had your life and body scrutinised by the world?
I didn't choose it. It just happened. I went to America on holiday when I was 17 and, before I knew it, I'd been signed up by an agency and had these obligations I didn't understand, but which I couldn't say no to. This industry chose me. But I did choose to make it fulfilling.

Your body was analysed and observed every day during your modelling career. How did that affect your body image and sense of self-worth?
That's difficult to answer, as I only have my own experience. I don't know what I would be like if I hadn't spent my whole life in a business in which the outside was what was important. But I do know focusing on the exterior doesn't make me happy. If I want peace and serenity, it won't be reached by getting thinner or fatter.

If you had a daughter, how would you feel about her going into modelling?
This industry has been incredibly supportive of me and for that I'm very grateful. I owe it thanks for the life I've had: my independence, my capacity to express myself creatively in all different fields. If I had a daughter who wanted to follow the same road, I would be extremely supportive. I don't believe we own our children, they're their own souls who make their own choices, we just guide and support them.

How do you feel when people tell you you're beautiful?
People don't tell me that very often! They don't shower me with compliments. And if they did I probably wouldn't hear it. I'm not tuned into it.

But do you feel beautiful?
I don't look at myself in the mirror. I'll flash past a mirror in the morning to check how I'm dressed, that's it.

So if you rarely look in the mirror, how long do you take getting ready in the morning?
Ten minutes to shower and get dressed - I don't do my hair and I only wear a tiny bit of blusher and lip gloss. I get my hair blow-dried a couple of times a week, but apart from that I just put it up in a ponytail. Focusing on the way I look makes me uncomfortable. I try to focus on the way I feel - I know what makes me feel better about myself. Reading my child a story makes me feel great, doing my hair nicely doesn't.

Are you quite self-critical, physically?
It's not vanity to feel you have a right to be beautiful. Women are taught to feel we're not good enough, that we must live up to someone else's standards. But my aim is to cherish myself as I am. I spent years beating myself up about the way I look, so now I try to do things which encourage me to be self-loving; like saying no when I don't believe something is right, having time for reflection, getting enough sleep, and seeing the gym as a way to look after my body, not as a punishment.

You say women feel pressurised into meeting impossible standards, but yours is the body regarded by most people as impossibly perfect.
It's not the same as it was 20 years ago. I've had two children and no surgery. My body is the result of good genes and a healthy attitude.

But you must eat so little. What do you eat in a typical day?
I eat like a horse! Okay, yesterday for breakfast I had yoghurt with sunflower seeds and pine nuts, and an espresso. Then I went for lunch with my brother and had fried calamari, carpaccio, and a bite of his pasta - which I didn't really like. Then I had ice cream, biscotti and coffee. In the afternoon I had a few slices of multigrain bread because I got a bit hungry. Then we went to the theatre and after that to The Ivy and I had shepherds pie.

Then you must work out constantly. How often do you go to the gym?
I actually haven't been for about six weeks. I try to put aside an hour a day, five days a week, to do some sort of physical exercise, whether it's Pilates or running in the park. But with two young children I don't always get that time. I have a holistic attitude to health - it has to be a combination of physical, spiritual and emotional care. It's about listening to your body. Sometimes I need to run, other times to meditate, sometimes I need to dance with my kids, and sometimes I just need a good meal. I don't have a regime.

What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and you were fat?
I have been twice as heavy as I am now. I've been pregnant twice. When I filmed Sirens I had to put on lots of weight. When I stopped smoking my body went bananas. I've lost and gained weight in my life, and yes, I notice. A few pounds show a lot on my body. But it's okay. I believe women look good with a bit of softness to them.

If you don't see your body as perfect, whose is?
I think Angelina Jolie has a beautiful body. She has lovely thin limbs, wrists and ankles, but she is all woman. But it's not for me to judge. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.

Have you ever wished you didn't have the body and face you do?
I don't look at myself and think, 'My God, you're so beautiful! What a perfect body!' And being tall as a teenager was awkward because I wanted to be like everyone else. Even now I wonder what it'd be like if I wasn't so tall.

Is that why you so rarely wear high heels?
I used to wear heels because I wanted to show people I wasn't ashamed of being tall. But I don't wear them any more because you don't have to wear heels to be beautiful. I can't even remember the last time I wore heels.

You decided to stop modelling your own lingerie at 40. Why was that?
I'd been modelling it for 15 years and then I thought 'Enough!' I wanted to focus on the lingerie. I didn't want the distraction of my face, I wanted people to imagine it could be anyone. The lingerie is for everybody, not just for me.

Your lingerie line and your beauty range are both priced so that they are accessible to everyone. Why did you decide not to make something more exclusive?
Because that wouldn't be in keeping with my philosophy. I don't think feeling beautiful should be exclusive to the rich and famous. And everyone has a few minutes for a quick body scrub in the shower. All women deserve that.

What's your own daily beauty regime?
I get in the shower and use my own body scrub. I get out and slap on a bit of my nourishing butter. Then I get dressed and I'm ready to go.

No eye gels or specialist elbow creams or intensive masks?
No! None of that works for me. If I drink enough water, my skin is hydrated. I don't need moisturiser. Anyway, I believe you don't fix the inside by putting something on the outside.

How do you feel about getting older?
I feel better than I've ever felt. When I was young, I didn't think I was good enough, but I've learned to see the gifts in every experience. As for plastic surgery, I haven't had it myself because I know that having fewer wrinkles is not going to make me feel better about myself.

Did having children change you?
Having children is my greatest achievement. It was my saviour. It switched my focus from the outside to the inside. My children are gifts, they remind me of what's important.

You must be busy - how do you balance it all?
By putting my children first. If something has to give in order for me to do that, it gives. If I have a choice between putting my kids to bed and going to a party, I'll put my kids to bed. If I have a choice of going to a restaurant or having friends round, I'll have friends round. Every time.

Do you miss Australia?
Yes, very much. I don't get back enough. I still feel Australian, very much so. I haven't lived there since I was 17, but it's part of my soul. I travel round the world, I speak a few languages, but I'm basically just an Aussie surfer chick.

What are you reading at the moment?
I read all kinds of things. I love Paul Auster and I'm reading Hegemony Or Survival by Noam Chomsky, which is really interesting. I read in bed and I read when I travel. But my passion is painting and photography. I have quite an extensive collection of art and I'm still buying. I buy an important piece every year or so. I love Cy Twombly, Lucian Freud, Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol and Richard Prince. I don't buy for investment; I buy to have them around. I'm a very visual person. I like beautiful things.

Is your wardrobe full of beautiful things?
I have the most minimal wardrobe. I probably have about 20 pairs of jeans. I like white shirts and camisoles, cashmere sweaters, jackets, boots and ballet shoes. This year I've bought two pairs of Dior boots and a hat. Nothing else.

So there's no walk-in wardrobe with rows of couture gowns at your house?
No! Once I've worn something I normally give it away to my sisters or to friends. I'm fortunate in that I get to borrow things - if I'm going somewhere nice I'll often borrow something from Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino or Stella McCartney. It works well because I don't like dressing up - I think it's a nightmare. I like long dresses so I can wear flip-flops.

What do you wear when you're just hanging out at home?
Satin pyjama trousers, a camisole and a wrap cardigan or a cashmere sweater. Or a satin slip with a cardigan and Ugg boots.

Do you always wear your own lingerie?
Always. Everything I've ever designed has originated from thinking, 'What do I need?' I designed the After Wear collection because I couldn't find anything beautiful and comfortable to wear at home that wasn't a tracksuit, but that I could greet the postman in.

Do you always wear matching underwear?
Always, always, always! It's absolutely essential. It just makes you feel better. I mean, you wouldn't walk around with one blue sock and one red sock, would you? I will always wash the bra and knickers at the same time so the set never gets split up. I believe every woman should have seven sets of beautiful lingerie. That's the absolute minimum. I have about 50, but if you have seven then you don't have to worry if it takes you a couple of days to wash a set. If I'm wearing a bra that doesn't match the knickers I feel like I'm walking with a limp. It just doesn't feel right.

The Elle Macpherson The Body range is available at Boots and Selfridges


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