Yasmin Le Bon: A Top Model In Her 40's
Telva January 2007

interview: Itziar Narro
translated by Hanna

In the era reigned by Claudia Schiffer and Linda Evangelista, Yasmin landed at the top of fashion with a "flash-proof" kindness and her endless honey-coloured stare. Now, recently hitting 40, mother of three daughters and married for two decades with Duran Duran lead singer, Simon Le Bon, she interprets Loewe's fashions in the house's 160th anniversary, in a TELVA exclusive.

An exotic beauty
She was born 40 years ago in Oxford, England. Her father, Iradj Parvaneh, is an Iranian and her mother was English.

She started working as a model professionally at 18, first in England and later internationally.

During the 80s and 90s she was one of the most in-demand models on the planet. She was the face of companies such as Chanel, Calvin Klein, Christian Dior, Karl Lagerfeld...

At the age of 21 she married her first boyfriend, Simon Le Bon, lead singer of Duran Duran, and they have three daughters, ages 11, 14 and 18.

A perfect Sunday

"When my husband brings me breakfast in bed; not too early!, and we stay in our bedroom, in our pyjamas, the whole family watching a football match on the telly."

Her small pleasures...
"I play guitar and piano; I love music. I also like to practise boxing in the gym, I let adrenaline loose and I feel like new."

Her phobias...

"Frogs. When I was little we went to Iran to visit my father's family, and I remember there was this pond full of frogs. It got stuck in my mind, and since then it's an animal I've very frightened of."

3 tips to be a top model
"You need to have a good sense of humour and you must know how to find the positive aspect of any situation, no matter how difficult it is.
"It's necessary to work a lot. You have to be strong physically and psychologically.
"Emotional discipline is highly important. When I'm working, I can't have a bad day, because in a few hours I have to make a connection with the photographer, the make-up stylist and the hairstylist, so everything can proceed perfectly."

"It seems dangerous to me that the model aesthetic nowadays is 16-year-old girls, size 36."

"My father taught me the importance of commitment, and after 20 years of being married and with three daughters, I am living the best moments of my life."

Once there was this 18-year-old girl that launched herself into the world of fashion almost accidentally. Her father, an Iranian photographer, discovered her behind his camera lens when she was just a child. Her mother, British, went with her from Oxford to London to convince the prestigious agency Models 1 that her daughter was capable of being No. 1.

At first it was hand-modelling, she worked in small publicity ads, and at the age of 20, when Chanel and Calvin Klein fought over her face, she met with a Prince Charming converted to musician. Simon Le Bon, famous English singer of the 80s, saw her photo in a magazine, and the image of Yasmin got so engraved in him, that he moved heaven and earth to get her phone number. He called her, insisted, they met, they fell in love, and since then they have formed one of the most stable marriages in British showbiz.

In her twenty year career, Yasmin has been the face of nearly everything: Christian Dior, Versace and Chanel. And even if she's not as popular as her runway companions Claudia Schiffer or Cindy Crawford, big fashion firms battle over her. Maybe because of her marvellous character that mixes kindness, common sense, coyness, and an envied serenity. We confirmed this during this special report in a TELVA exclusive.

How has the photo shoot been?
Very good, but I'm so tired! People don't know how physically exhausting it is to be posing for up to eight hours for a photographer, changing your clothes constantly... At 40 it's worse than at 20... (laughs).

Anything for Loewe's anniversary...
Yes, I've know them for many years, when they called me to be the face for a campaign photographed by Peter Lindbergh. Also, do you know that the first Christmas gift I gave my mother, with my model salary, was a Loewe bag? I still have it!

Your father was a photographer; was he your first contact with the fashion world?
Actually, to photography. If being a model wouldn't have worked out, right now I would be travelling the planet with a camera dangling from my shoulder. I grew up surrounded by photography books, the fridge at home was always full of reels that hadn't been developed...

And what happened?
I left it behind when I started working as a model.

The truth is that you've left and come back to fashion many times.
Yes, that is true. The first time, to tell you the truth, was for love, just after I got married. I couldn't be away from my husband, not even for two days! Then I got pregnant very young and I had three daughters, so I've stepped out of fashion for long stretches. But there always came this certain moment when I needed to get back; I enjoy a lot about my job.

Have you regretted your profession at times?
No, although I don't like people that regret nothing. On great days I am secure of everything, but on not so great days...

Not being blonde nor having blue eyes, like most top models during the 80s, has this helped you or harmed you in some way?
I think it helped me, because during that time there weren't many women in England with dark hair, eyes and skin, and I think that people wanted some change, they wanted to see other images on the runway. In a modest way I feel I contributed in a small measure to that.

When you were younger, you were quite critical towards the fashion world.
I still have my doubts towards exaggerated consumerism in our society. I don't agree with this obsession of buying more and more things, instead of reusing the things we already have.

Which is the best advice that anyone gave you at the beginning of your career?
I didn't get a lot of advice. I began at 18 years of age, but I was very mature and my feet were firmly stuck to the ground. More significant than listening to advice, the most important thing in this business is to learn to live with the decisions you make, and decisions you assume. And that worked pretty well with me. (laughs).

Going back to your childhood. Tell me the first silly memory that comes up to mind.
A precious red coat with buttons which I had when I was very little. I felt very special when I put it on, like some fairy-tale princess.

Your father is Iranian and your mother British. Did you feel like an outcast at school?
As a child I didn't notice, until I began going to class and to my friends' homes. Now things have changed a lot, but during those times there was only one other girl at school with a race different than Caucasian.

Are you familiar with Iran?
Yes, but the last time I went I was 10 years old, so I don't remember much of my visit. I was born and raised in England, I am one hundred percent British; even my father feels this country is his real home because he came when he was very young. But you have to admit that in Iran they make the best food in the world!

How has that cultural mix influenced your life?
Even if at times my parents' different customs clashed, they taught me how it is possible to surpass those bad moments which any marriage goes through, because they stuck together until my mother passed away. And that was possible, partly, because of my father. In the Muslim culture it's extremely important to fight for the spouse. In Europe, marriages are becoming less and less stable. In the Middle East, commitment is something very serious, and I admire that a lot.

In some way you have followed your parents' footsteps, because it is very unusual to find a celebrity couple, like you both, that has stayed married for 20 years.
Yes, before I didn't think about my parents' influence in my life, but now I realize that their example has helped Simon and me to stay happy and united.

Is it true your husband saw a picture of yours and wanted to meet you?
Yes, isn't it horrible? (laughs)

It was because Simon was the last person on the planet I wanted to be with... since I was a child I had many prejudices against famous musicians, they seemed not so serious and very snobbish. But, I admit it, in our situation it was love at first sight.

What happened on that first date?
He changed those biased thoughts I had. He seemed intelligent, funny and sure of himself. That combination is perfect when you are in your 20s and when you are an insecure, shy girl. Those are still the three qualities I most admire in a man.

After 20 years of love, which things have changed?
I always say that if you have the good luck of staying with the same man after such a long time, and you are strong to surpass those bad moments — because relationships go through obstacles, obstacles and more obstacles — you start living the best part of love, the most fun and the most accomplished. And also, Simon is still the person I want to share my life with, as simple as that.

You have three daughters. What would happen if one day they all tell you: 'Mum, I want to work as a model'?
I would be realistic with them. If I see that they don't have the necessary qualities to become successful, I wouldn't support them. This business has changed a lot in the past years, and it's very difficult for young girls that are starting out. It is difficult on a psychological level even for models like me... imagine for an 18-year-old girl. In life it's necessary to be realistic about everything.

Being a mother and a model, is it difficult?
It is not difficult, it's a daily miracle! (laughs). I try to juggle so I can work and be with the girls. At the end I always end up calling my mother-in-law, the nanny... like any woman that has a job and still is a mother: she organizes herself and goes through some trauma.

Do you feel that you have lost any of your daughters' special moments because of your work?
Yes, especially my two eldest daughters, but I try not to blame myself for anything. I had to work and pay dues and bills; money doesn't grow on trees! Also, I also got back home at night, even if I had to catch a plane at 12, so they knew that their mother was sleeping at home.

And they haven't blamed you for anything?
They haven't, and I even believe it's good for them in a way, because they have learned that in life things aren't that easy, you have to sacrifice time and effort to achieve what you want.

Besides fashion, you have been involved with several organizations.
I do all I can when they ask me to collaborate with some association. I've helped various organizations against cancer, since my mother passed away, but my main purpose is with the environment.

Is it difficult to be a model when you hit 40?
You have said the damned word, 40 (laughs)... The fashion business is an industry enamoured of youth, and at times it is difficult to feel sure of yourself at a certain age. But I'm lucky I work with wonderful people, I love what I do, and if they keep calling me up, why not? It's important that someone represents women in general in their 40s; it seems dangerous to me that the aesthetic models nowadays are 16-year-old girls.