Le Bon Life
interview: Charles Williams
Fame, fortune and hunky husbands are all very well but it's love that makes the world go round, Yasmin Le Bon told Charles Williams
There are times when you feel like pinching Yasmin Le Bon, just to make sure she’s real. It’s almost too good to be true. She’s beautiful, clever and rich. She’s got three great kids, a famously happy marriage and she’s been at the top of her profession for 15 years. Yasmin Le Bon, do you have the perfect life? She laughs. "Nothing is ever as it seems at the time. But yes," she concedes, "I have been pretty lucky."
Yasmin and Simon Le Bon are on a visit to Cardiff where they are the guests of Tenovus, the cancer charity, at an event thrown together by their old friend Steve Strange, singer with '80s popsters Visage.
They arrive at Scotts bar a fashionable 90 minutes late. They have just flown in from Japan, but look as if they could have come from another planet, serenely elegant as they are in matching purple and with a faintly celestial aura.
There’s no doubt about it. Even if you had never heard of Duran Duran, or thought that supermodels were made by Airfix, you would recognise them as stars.
"Ah, she’s pretty, isn’t she?" sighs an onlooker, and indeed she is. Yasmin stands a full six feet on her stilettos. Stick-thin, her perfect features framed by glossy brown hair, she exudes all sorts of vibes: She’s simultaneously sexy, motherly, magisterial and vulnerable. This Everywoman quality is what makes Yasmin Le Bon the godmother of British supermodels.
The Le Bons (or is it Les Bon?) sit at their balcony window like fabulously expensive coy carp while we gape at them like a lesser species of fish. Hake, possibly.
I am pleased to report that I saw Yasmin consume a whole canapé, which proves that she is human after all. It also disproves the myth that supermodels exist purely on Evian, fags and flattery.
Meanwhile, Simon performs like a seasoned trouper. He looks younger and trimmer than he did five years ago and fizzles with restless energy. He makes occasional bum-wiggling dashes into the crowd, flirting expertly with the girls, engaging in knockabout mateyness with the lads and leaping behind the bar to throw together a few cocktails. He needn’t bother. Tonight, all eyes are on his missus.
Simon and Yasmin have always been a unit – underlined tonight in matching purple – but since the decline of Duran Duran, she is reckoned to be the breadwinner and Simon is relegated to the enviable role of the bloke who married Yasmin.
Even so, she appears ill at ease without him. At one point she stands alone, scanning the crowd and biting her lip. "Where’s Simon?" she asks.
"Who cares?" I think but don’t say, for tonight she is all mine.
Yasmin is, as everyone says, warm and friendly. At 33, she looks hardly any different from the 19-year-old starlet the world first knew her as. She was a teenage shop assistant in Oxford when she was spotted by a local model agency. Then she arrived, unannounced and dripping wet, at the door of Models One in London.
By 1986 she was the first face on the British edition of Elle. Ten years later, she celebrated the magazine’s anniversary by appearing again, this time naked.
She manages always to be natural, and utterly of her time. For many, Yasmin was the face of the late ’80s. In the early '90s, when environmentalism was all the rage, she was refusing to give interviews except to promote Friends of the Earth, for whom she trotted off to be photographed in the Malaysian rainforest by Hello! magazine.
This raised uncomfortable questions: Why spend her professional life promoting Western consumerism, and her campaigning life railing against it?
Nowadays, it’s kinda cool to be a '90s mother (look at Madonna, for heaven’s sake). But nobody does it more naturally, or with more charm, than Yasmin. It’s also interesting to note how the balance of power has shifted between her and Simon.
Le Bon was, let us not forget, a New Lad before they were invented, a roisterer par excellence with a song in the charts, a magnet for the ladies and a penchant for fast yachts, which he kept falling off. At 26 and the height of his fame, Simon saw a photograph of the 20-year-old Yasmin in a magazine. He tracked her down and asked if she fancied going to the pictures with him ... as you do. It turned out to be the world premiere of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
The pair kept in touch, but it wasn’t until 1984 that they met again in Paris ... in springtime ... Hey! What are a rock star and supermodel supposed to do?
They fell deeply in love, of course, and remain so to this day. And their marriage has flourished, despite the relentless glare of public scrutiny. While newly-wed Yasmin was pregnant, the tabloids reported Simon to be "frolicking with lovelies" in New Zealand.
"They’ve got it completely wrong," Yasmin said at the time. "We’ll have the last laugh, just you wait and see."
Even so, their marriage has hardly been plain sailing. Simon nearly died when his yacht capsized. Their jobs often take them to opposite sides of the world. And Yasmin suffered two miscarriages, the second after five months of pregnancy.
When she became pregnant for the third time she took no chances and put her career on hold. In 1990 she gave birth to Amber Rose, first of three daughters.
Yet even with a career where late nights, long days and jet lag are the norm, motherhood came as a shock to Yasmin.
"I wasn’t prepared for the sheer exhaustion – it feels like being hit on the head with a sledgehammer all the time," she says. "It’s the lack of sleep. If you’re on your own with the children you never get a break."
Indeed, by the time her third child was born in 1995, her body didn’t spring back into shape with quite the same ease. Even so, looking at her today it’s hard to believe that three lively children call her mummy.
Would you encourage your daughters to follow you into modelling? "I wouldn’t ever discourage them from doing anything," she says. "Modelling has been good to me, but who knows how they will grow up? Whatever they choose to do, I will support them."
Modelling, as she reminds me, is not all it appears. There’s little glamour in standing outdoors on a freezing day wearing nothing but a sliver of chiffon. But the greater cruelty of modelling is that even the top girls have to pack it in by 40. That gives Yasmin seven or so years.
With three growing daughters and a lifestyle to maintain, where is the money going to come from? And just what will an ex-supermodel and a former rock star do for a living?
"Who knows? I never make long-term plans," says Yasmin. "I’ve got my hands completely full at the moment."
No need to worry just yet, then. But when it does all come to an end, you suspect she won’t be too disappointed. "There are more important things in my life," she says.
Such as? "Love. Love and happiness."