interview: Violaine Binet
She was the best-paid model in the world. Married to the singer of the group Duran Duran, Yasmin Le Bon has succeeded in everything: her career, her relationship, her family. Meeting with a top model.
10 minutes from Wimbledon, on the left bank of the Thames, Putney is a peaceful and tree-lined London neighborhood. Except for the route to get there - 50 minutes from downtown - it's certainly a very nice place to live. There is an abundance of good schools, just as there are businesses and grassy areas. Richmond Park, for example: its meadows extend as far as the eye can see. If a residential suburb is not the imagined setting for a star model married to a rock star, Putney was certainly an excellent choice on the part of the Le Bons. Eighteen years of life together and still in love: who can top that in the glam galaxy?
The family home is called Elmwood. It's a 10-room Victorian home enlivened with a first large garden, which overlooks another garden, and another cottage, where Simon's mother lives. The installation dates to 1988. Yasmin describes: "We were living in Chelsea and did the usual thing: break down all the walls in order to have space. That was when I realized that we were no longer a couple, but a married couple living with kids and my mother-in-law. There was some urgency. At the time, I was working a lot and the last thing I wanted was that we move once, then twice, then three times. I said to myself: I want a large house, a garage, a yard, a quick drive, no more tube than necessary, so that we don't have to move any more, ever. Actually, right now, I would love to move. But no one wants to except me, and the kids refuse. However, they're constantly taking buses and trains. They don't mind; they adore this place. I must say, it'll be hard to find its equivalent..."
This morning, Elmwood is turned upside down due to Saffron and Tallulah's return for vacation. "They returned yesterday from boarding school. And tossed their things throughout the house." Birkenstocks, trousers, a loose t-shirt: Yasmin is therefore dressed appropriately. She doesn't stop apologizing for a so-called mess, but what comes from it is an informal and cheerful atmosphere. Behind her back, the lady of the house encourages it. "Look at the dog! Tallulah put a ribbon around his neck!" Yasmin is laughing her head off. To console the grumbling dog, her fingers stroke his neck: "You're a good dog, a good dog." Then she gets upset: "Every time we go out, he pisses on a new chair. All the nice things here are either broken or chewed up. But we can't lay all the responsibility on the dogs. We're a pretty destructive family. So when I talk about the house, I tell people: think 'shabby chic,' but without the chic."
Born Yasmin Parvaneh in Oxford to an Iranian father and an English mother, the top model made her stunning entrance into fashion at the age of 19. It was the mid-1980's. The tendency at the time was for "blonde bobs and big gobs," she recalls. The agency Models 1, however, soon took a risk on the exotic side of her distinguished physique. It was also around this time that Simon fell in love with a portrait of Yasmin in the portfolio of a photographer friend. "Mike gave him my name. Simon next managed to get my phone number and called me to invite me to a premiere. Since I was hesitant to accept, my roommate, a musician and quite a Duran Duran fan, straight out made fun of me. "Listen... it's okay. For the love of God, it's just going to the movies!" The love affair didn't start up that night, despite a "strong mutual attraction." "His group was the most famous in England. Simon was still all over the place." They had to wait until six months later when they saw each other at a dinner in Paris. This time, they were both ready and decided never to break up again.
"I fell head over heels in love with Simon. At the point of stopping work because I couldn't stand not being with him all the time. That madness lasted a year. Then my reason returned to me. Happily, because the real madness would have consisted in twiddling my thumbs while waiting for my husband."
To hear her speak, one senses that her career, as brilliant as it is, was not her priority. Thus she interrupted it again for a long period at the birth of each of her daughters (Amber, Saffron, Tallulah). "Starting a family that quickly wasn't planned. We were just very young and crazy in love. Actually, I was very lucky because it forced me to have breaks. When you're successful, no one tells you to slow down. But you need it to take a step back and recharge your batteries."
After her pregnancies, Yasmin always returned to the catwalk and photo sessions with more enthusiasm. Her energy was reciprocated. Without any time to rest, she racked up covers and ad campaigns. In 1987, she was the best-paid top model in the world. One of the secrets of her popularity is without a doubt the sincere passion that she devotes to the profession. Still today, she is anything but blasÚ. Putting her on the topic unlocks a flood of emotions. "You're French. In France, people have respect for fashion. That's not the case here. The English, in all the English media, they look down on it, forgetting that it's an industry and forgetting the artistic aspects of this industry. They seem not to have any idea about the creativity that's instilled. They think that it's just a lot of hot air. That's why I say loud and clear in this country: don't be stupid; there's a whole system that's working behind it. It would be a disaster for the economy if it didn't work. Fashion is the simplest and fairest form of self-expression," she continues. "Without realizing it, when you get dressed, you send a message. It could be just the way you feel that day, rather than a philosophy. But everyone does it and everyone gets the message."
Yasmin adores her profession. Thus, met with offers, the challenge has been this: take care of the kids, live with Simon who travels a lot and, in accordance with them, be able to say yes or no, with little delay. "I've developed this ability: to make choices. Believe me, it's an amazing job."
The good sides of such a full life leaves no question in her eyes. Especially concerning her relationship with Simon. "It can be a luxury to become bored with one another: we haven't. Separation is often painful, destabilizing, but it's a test, all the time. Simon isn't the easiest person in the world to live with, no more than me. He has never stopped going on tours, recording albums - and right now, he's working on a new album in America. And when he's with us, he's often centered on his projects. The fact is that a rock star enjoys an enormous amount of attention. Whether my husband likes it or not, the attention is there. I don't want us to be spoiled. After a concert, I sometimes ask him to take out the trash: just to bring him back to reality. Our worlds are pretty similar; I understand what he must be feeling and therefore I'm really careful with him. Celebrity is dangerous. I know too many people who have become crazy. But, basically, Simon lives in a bubble. He's a man who is both practical and imaginative. Outside of music, his needs are limited. I have to force him to go out. We have a very simple life. Why are we still together? He makes me laugh, more than anyone else. He is a very funny and very loving man, very loving."