From Le Blob to Le Bon
interview: Jonathan Worsnop
She has one of the most stunning bodies in the world - and along with her willowy figure, Yasmin Le Bon's luscious looks have helped make her the perfect model. But amazingly, when beautiful Yasmin first started modelling, no one believed she would make it... because she was too chubby for the catwalk.
A passion for wolfing down big piles of sweets and biscuits gave the now so slender Yasmin such a plump outline her model agency was forced to fib about her measurements to get her work, taking five inches off her vital statistics. "We simply had to put the wrong statistics on Yasmin's card," says Jayne Turner of the Elliott Brown agency in Oxford.
"It read 34-26-34 but she was more like a 34-29-36," adds Jayne. "She was big - but it didn't show that much as she was tall. She carried it well." But even so, a round face, chunky thighs, bulging hips and a flabby tummy wouldn't make young Yasmin a top model.
Jayne's partner Val Hiett says, "She was quite well-built then and hefty on the hips. Of course, she was a schoolgirl and therefore she spent a lot of time sitting around. Yasmin's changed a lot since then - she's lost a great deal of weight."
Patricia Parvaneh, Yasmin's mother, recalls the days when her daughter needed to diet. "Yasmin was a nibbler. She'd binge on sweet things... and now she still does just occasionally. If she fancied a biscuit she wouldn't just have one - she'd have the whole packet!"
Even when top agency Models One took Yasmin on, they didn't think she'd be the success she now is. "My first impression of Yasmin was - very pretty, but overweight," says Jose Fonesca of Models One. "I had no idea she was going to be so good."
In fact, shifting that flab meant Yasmin turned out better than just good. Today, the 24-year old is the queen of the catwalk, commanding £4,000 a day, her face graces the covers of top magazines worldwide and all the best designers want her to model their clothes. She even met her husband, pop singer Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran, because he'd seen a photo of her in a magazine, was knocked out by her looks and rang her up for a date. And even after having a baby - daughter Amber Rose was born only five and a half months ago - Yasmin still looks stunning.
It was when she was just 17 and still at school that Yasmin's beauty was spotted. Says Val Hiett, "Jayne of Elliott Brown noticed her in the shop where she worked part-time selling clothes. She appeared in a few fashion shows, but at first it was mainly small-time work like advertising cars, vacuums and local hairdressers. We also used her as a hand model because she had very nice hands." Yasmin then entered some local beauty contests - even there her potential wasn't spotted because twice she came second.
But then, according to Yasmin's mum, her daughter was never a typical model - in fact she often looked scruffy. Says Patricia, "She never wore make-up and always had her hair scraped back from her face. Even now it's unusual to see Yazzie dressed up - she doesn't own a lot of clothes.
"But she always did hold herself well. She has a natural grace. It used to be a bit of a joke with our neighbours because even when she was late for school, Yasmin kept herself upright and walked slowly."
Despite her natural beauty, Yasmin had few boyfriends - in fact, Simon Le Bon was her first serious romance. "I think boys felt intimidated by her," says her mum. "She was quite aloof. Not a lot of boys rushed to our door."
Yasmin's home was a smart semi detached house in Oxford which she shared with her mum, Iranian dad Iradj, lecturer in photography at the Oxford Polytechnic, and her older sister, bank worker Nady, 30. "Yasmin had a great time as a teen-ager in Oxford," says Patricia.
Years before, though, Yasmin had been painfully shy. "She was so quiet I was advised to take her to drama classes to try to bring her out of herself," says Patricia. At junior school, they said she was very inward looking. Later Yasmin actually told me there was a lot going on inside her. Drama school helped her and by the time she was at high school she was normal. But she's always been strong willed. Even Simon says so."
Not just a pretty face, brainy Yasmin got six O levels as well as one A level - though according to her parents she could have done a bit better. "She used to skive off school with friends," says Patricia.
Just after her A levels, Yasmin decided she wanted to see the world - but her mum Patricia was horrified at the thought of her young daughter back-packing. "I was so worried I persuaded her not to go by telling her she could have a serious go at modelling."
So one morning Yasmin jumped on a train bound for London and went to the offices of Models One, knowing they were one of the best. It was pouring with rain and when Yasmin arrived she was soaked through. Says Patricia, "She had no appointment and just told them she wanted to see someone about being a model. By the end of the interview they had given her a month's trial and then that was it - everything took off so suddenly for Yasmin's career.
"We began seeing her in magazines and every time she came home the phone would be ringing non-stop. In no time at all her face was everywhere. I was amazed, but also so very proud. I think she was lucky because for some girls it can take ages to be recognised in the modelling world."
But at one stage, the pressure on the young Yasmin became too much. "It was such hard work," says Patricia. "One year she hardly seemed to be in England. Often she'd step off one plane and walk straight onto another. And she later told me she'd collapsed in New York from the strain."
When Yasmin met her husband Simon, it was a dream come true for the starstruck beauty. Says Val Hiett, "I remember once we did a fashion show in Oxford and there was a disco afterwards. Yasmin was bopping away to one of Duran Duran's records and saying, 'Oh, Simon Le Bon, he's fantastic.' It's incredible to think that she went on to marry the man of her dreams."
When the couple got married, Yasmin wanted a baby to complete their happiness, but she suffered the heartbreak of going through two miscarriages. After the first one she announced her retirement from modelling. "It became a very traumatic time for them," remembers Patricia. "Yasmin felt she must spend more time with Simon."
Today, Yasmin is back on the catwalk and jetting off round the world - but now with her baby Amber Rose. And Yasmin's figure hasn't got the baby blues - it's still as magnificent as ever. Says Val Hiett, "When she lost that extra weight Yasmin just blossomed. And she really is a huge star now in the right sense of the word. And we are all simply delighted for her!"