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Expecting Her Second Baby In October, Yasmin Le Bon Talks About Her Concern for the Future of the World on the Hello! Expedition to the Malaysian Rainforest
Hello! 10 August 1991

interview: Elizabeth Smith

 

With her second child expected in October, Yasmin Le Bon is finding that the bulge in her tummy is cutting back on her modelling assignments. She's using some of this spare time to further the cause she most believes in - saving the rainforests from man's destruction.

Yasmin left her husband Simon Le Bon, lead singer of Duranduran, in London looking after their daughter, nearly two. Taking none of the glamorous clothes that usually accompany her on a photo shoot, she packed a few of her own sporty clothes in a holdall and took off by plane, dugout canoe and foot to the heart of the rainforest on an expedition sponsored by Hello!

Yasmin's aim is to use her presence to bring to world attention the destruction of these beautiful forests that are so important even to the air we breathe. Her trip deepened her love for them, and her respect for life in all its forms.

She is a longtime member of Friends of the Earth and her trip was organised by the organisation's Tony Juniper. Malaysia was chosen as the destination because it is one of the safest of the rainforest countries for a pregnant woman to travel in - with no malaria and access to the forest without too much roughing it. It is also the largest exporter of rainforest timbre to the UK.

Here she discusses the Hello! expedition, how her belief in protecting the environment affects her attitude to child-raising and how that is quite compatible with her desire for "masses of children."

Yasmin, was this your first visit to a rainforest?

"I'd been to the rainforest in St Vincent, a small island in the Grenadines, and I caught the edge of what is said to be a pretty big rainforest about two or three hours' drive out of Rio, but this was the first time I'd been to a protected zone. We went into the Taman Negara national park and we saw logging sites. I'd never been that far in."

What was it like?

"It was incredibly beautiful - I've never been anywhere so beautiful. I have to take my family back there.

"I was also shocked by what I saw in the logging sites, and in the areas called 'conversion sites' where people are converting this land into golf courses or riding schools or casinos. It was shocking to go from the rainforest to that.

"The rainforests were almost deafening. There was so much insect and wildlife calling to each other constantly - so beautiful, all these different calls. Then you go to a logging site and you can't hear any of this. It has all been frightened away or its habitat has been devastated.

"And the plant life is disappearing too. There must be thousands of species there that haven't even been discovered yet - and they'll become extinct before they are even discovered, that is the sad thing.

"We met a native tribe while we were in the rainforest, the Orang Asli. The little girls had flowers in their hair and I asked them to put some flowers in my hair. Tony Juniper from Friends of the Earth, who was travelling with us, then told me that the flower, the rosy periwinkle, is thought by scientists to be a cure for leukaemia. That really brought home to me the importance of the rainforests. I thought: 'Everything you see and touch in these forests could have an effect upon our lives.

"That is why these areas have to be protected. Some of the plant species are found in only two or three acres and nowhere else."

We felt it was very important to be part of this expedition. But why did you choose Hello! in particular?

"I wanted to reach a lot of people, and Hello! magazine does reach a lot of people, from all walks of life. You don't have to be rich to help save the rainforest.

"And also, I wanted to see for myself how it would effect [sic] my life. It was fascinating.

"Who knows? I may have cancer in the next few years, and maybe the cure for it is sitting in those forests - it quite likely is.

"That's what I'd like to say to Hello! readers: If you have ever had cancer in your family, if you have ever known anybody who was effected [sic] by it - and it is devastating, terrible - do you realise that the cure for it could be sitting in those forests? And only in those forests!

"If they carry on logging at the rate they do, then there won't be any more left in 38 years. When I first heard that, I thought: 'My God, it's going to happen in my lifetime.'

"The other message is to tell people they can do something. I felt helpless for so many years.  But you've got to get over your fear. Everybody can make a difference.

"That doesn't mean you have to go out to a rainforest and throw yourself around a tree - you're not going to gain anything that way. It's the power of consumerism. I've said it before and I'll say it again: What you choose to buy determines what people will sell."

What should we choose not to buy?

"Don't buy tropical hardwood. When you shop in one of those big DIY centres ask: 'Where does it come from?' And if they don't know, don't buy it. And, if it's tropical hardwood, don't buy it, ask for the alternative - because there are alternatives.

"If you can imagine 10,000 people on one Saturday afternoon not buying a product that they buy every Saturday afternoon - that would make a huge impact. That would make a company rethink what it is doing. And that doesn't mean revenues are lost, it's just redistributed to another company who does it better.

"The West makes 90 per cent of the money on these trees, it's not the home country that's profiting.

"It is only people like Friends of the Earth who are watchdogs in society who tell you the truth."

How has motherhood affected your attitude?

"Having children obviously does highlight it. You think: 'What kind of life will she have, what quality of life?'

"Part of our problem, as human beings, is that we are so precious about life, we want immortality and that is not natural; no other animal values its life quite the way a human being does.

"But your immortality is your children. My job's been done on this planet in one respect. Why we are here is very simple and that is to maintain our habitat and maintain our species. If we can't successfully do those things, then we haven't accomplished our job. With Amber, I have accomplished half my mission on this planet so far."

And you're nearly seven months into accomplishing more.

"Another helping hand. People come up to me and ask, 'With your concern for the earth, how can you have more children?' But this planet should happily be able to support three times the amount of people on it, we are just not very clever about the way we are living."

You want to have a lot more children.

"Masses. I'm pretty good at being pregnant."

When is the baby due?

"The doctors say October 10, but I know I'm more pregnant than they think I am."

Do you know whether it is a boy or a girl?

"No."

Any preference?

"Not at all."

Have you chosen any names?

"No, we'll have to see the baby first."

Does Amber like babies?

"She loves them."

So you're not anticipating any jealousy problems?

"Not at all."

Were you worried, being pregnant and travelling so far into the wild?

"Not in the least. I felt so completely safe in the forest - that came as a pleasant surprise. The only time I was bitten was in the aeroplane coming back.

"I felt so safe and happy there. It is so green. It is the most beautiful experience. Living in London, I'm constantly hearing traffic and aircraft. You go out there and it's just the wildlife. I feel quite rejuvenated from being there."

Are you still working?

"I wish. It's a bit difficult when you have a lump the size I have.

"Like everybody else, I have to work, I have to earn my living. I have a family to keep. But with the kind of work I do, because I'm pregnant, I now have time to do things like the Hello! Malaysian Expedition."

Does Amber go with you when you travel for work?

"No, that doesn't make it cost-effective. The whole reason I have to be away from home is to earn money to keep us all."

You're the breadwinner at the moment?

"We take our turns, that's how it should be. Everything should be a shared responsibility in life."

Do you think having a second baby will change your domestic life?

"It will just be more hectic, slightly noisier, that's all."

It won't be harder leaving two babies behind than one?

"It will be harder leaving Amber than the baby. We have a good relationship. The older she gets, the more she can tell me how much she doesn't want me to go."

Does she say that now?

"There's not much you can do with a little kid, she's not yet two, but she will grow up to be a positive member of society. She, and her brothers and sisters, will respect human life and every other form of life."

What about the toys she plays with?

"She doesn't have many toys, she plays with the ones she has a lot. Other toys don't really stimulate a child. I'm happy for her to play with whatever she wants to play with."

What about her clothes, does she have any interest in what she wears?

"I suppose I'm a bit of an authoritarian about that."

As a model, you must have a particular interest in clothes?

"Not really. I hate anybody to think about those things too much. That's a waste of energy."

Amber's very pretty.

"She's a cheeky monkey, actually."

When you were away in the Malaysian rainforest there was a furore in the tabloids about a photograph of you, nude and pregnant, that was to be auctioned at a gala to raise money for Friends of the Earth.

"I called Simon from the airport just to say I'm back and he said, 'I'd better warn you, the strangest thing has happened...'

"I was astounded. It's a beautiful picture, about the most natural and beautiful thing I can think of - having a child. I think it is a happy picture. That's me bringing life into the world, it's a happy event. Simon loves the picture." (Simon paid £1000 for the photograph at the gala auction.)

Have you posed naked before?

"On very rare occasions; apart from anything else, nobody would want me to."

You're being very modest. You are a model, you have a great body.

"There are tricks of the trade."

 
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