Why I'm Helping Other Mothers
Woman 8 April 1991

interview: Caro Thompson

Yasmin Le Bon is envied the world over. Perfect looks, a happy marriage, a successful career. But her happiness is clouded by having to leave daughter Amber behind.

She has one of the most beautiful faces in the world. Week after week it's splashed across fashion magazines, alongside tales of her jet-setting travels, stunning performances at fashion shows and star-studded lifestyles.

Yasmin Le Bon is a super model, the girl whose ability to transform a piece of clothing into an event means she's a favourite with top designers everywhere. And she's married to Simon le Bon, lead singer with Duran Duran, still the idol of countless teenagers. What more could a girl possibly want?

Yasmin, who looks lovely even when she's not trying, smiles a little sadly when she hears that. "I know it all sounds good," she says, "but what I want most of all is to spend more time with my little girl - and that's the one thing I can't do at the moment."

Amber Rose Tamara Le Bon is 20 months old, bursting with energy and as lovely to look at as her mum. Her birth was a special triumph for Yasmin, who had suffered the misery of two miscarriages. Now her daughter is the centre of her world, a reason to race home so she can enjoy every moment they have together.

Yasmin is expecting another child in the autumn, and, although she will have to make some difficult decisions about whether or not to continue with her career after the baby is born, she is still determined to carry on working for as long as she can.

"I'm working harder than ever now," Yasmin says. "Everyone thought I was marvellous to be back on the catwalk seven weeks after Amber was born. But the bills were dropping on the doormat and I felt I had no choice. I'd taken a year off before I found out I was pregnant, because I'd badly needed a break and then I couldn't work looking fat. So it was a relief to find that people still wanted to employ me.

"My job means I have to travel. I've been to eight countries in the last two weeks. But it sounds a lot more exciting than it is. I lose track of where I am and all I know is that my baby is on the other side of the world. The other day, in America, the driver of my car said, 'I don't know how you can leave her,' and I just felt like smacking him in the face. Just because I'm smiling doesn't mean I'm not being tortured inside."

While Yasmin's busy working, Simon's mum, Anne, looks after Amber at the Le Bons' home in London. "We've been terribly lucky," Yasmin says. "I was desperate when I rang Anne and asked her for help. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving my baby with a stranger. And neither Simon nor I fancied a stranger moving in with us. Anne is divorced from Simon's father and was living alone, so she came to live with us and it has worked wonderfully. She's a very special person. I adore her, and it means that the people in Amber's life are constant."

The result is a happy girl who is secure, confident and much loved. "She was running around at 10 months and she loves to sing all day long. She even makes up her own songs," Yasmin says.

Simon is a devoted dad who always tries to be around as much as possible. "Because I was working, he saw more of her than I did when she was a baby," Yasmin says. "He did all the nappies in the early days. He loves being a parent as much as I do, so we're looking forward to having another baby. Having Amber has definitely brought us closer together. We love each other so much."

Now Yasmin is pregnant again she is prepared for bouts of morning sickness. "With Amber I felt sick for the first five months," she says. "I put on lots of weight but I didn't weigh myself ever, and I didn't read any books. I just thought I'd leave it to the experts.

"So when I went into labour I hadn't really thought about whether or not to have an epidural. Simon was with me the whole time, holding my hand. And after two and a half hours, the doctor made the decision for me and gave me the epidural. Amber was born 12 hours later. I found out that I'd had an infection and a raging temperature all the way through it and Amber was born with it, too. But she was very healthy and in a couple of days we were both fine."

Twenty-six-year-old Yasmin says it took about a year and a great deal of hard work to get her figure back into shape, so she knows she'll have a hard task in front of her after the birth of her second baby. But she says it was the tiredness she was unprepared for.

"For the first six months with Amber, I was totally exhausted. I really think women should have at least four months with their baby without any other demands. I kept going, but I began to feel useless and that I was no good as a wife, a mother or a model. There's so much pressure on a woman to feel that you've got to do everything. I had to learn to be more relaxed about things, to let other people take over."

Yasmin says that she didn't start out to be a model. "When I was little, I thought I'd like a job helping people. I did modelling as a stop-gap. But the work has never stopped. Even so, I'd still like to do something else - like studying architecture.

"The hardest part for a model is not being allowed to have an off-day. You have to keep smiling the whole time."

Despite the drawbacks, Yasmin has been able to earn a lot of money. "I'm very lucky," she says. "And I try not to forget others who aren't so lucky. Every month I write cheques for causes that I feel strongly about."

One of Yasmin's causes is Y Care International. "It concentrates on mothers and children," she says. "And when I think of the Third World mothers who don't even have a roof, and who still manage to love and care for their children, it's very humbling.

"It makes me very sad to think about the children in the world who are suffering. Y Care caught my imagination because they're being so positive.

"Since Amber came along, I've thought even more about women who cope on so little. I wish I could do more for them."

For Yasmin, the highlight of any trip is coming home. "Amber always runs up for a hug when I walk through the door," she says. "It's so wonderful - all I want is to be with her and I get terribly possessive. I don't know how I'll ever let her go to school.

"But it's wonderful to watch her growing and changing. I don't have great plans for Amber's future - I don't mind what she does. I'd rather she wasn't a competitive person because that breeds discontent. Otherwise all we want is for her to have fun, and to enjoy happiness and health."