Sophie Anderton: Back from the brink
Published 23/08/2011 | 08:00
A clean and sober Sophie Anderton talks|to Barry Egan about how a new man has helped her with a drink and drugs battle.
The last time I met Sophie Anderton was in the summer of 2007 at a five-star hotel in London. She was telling me how she had given up drink while she was taking sips — then gulps — out of her PR person's beer. Her poor PR was almost as confused as I was.
Things got even more confusing a few months later when Sophie was the subject of a News Of The World sting, which found that she was charging men £10,000 for sex to bankroll her drug habit.
An awful lot has changed since then. Sophie Anderton has found redemption and a soulmate for life in her boyfriend, James Simpson, a dashing internet entrepreneur. He came running out to the reception area of the Dylan Hotel in Dublin to say goodbye to me and to ask his partner if she needed anything.
Sophie, I am glad to reveal, has everything she needs now. And she found it within herself. Once upon a time, however, she was standing on the edge of the abyss: she pulled herself back, just as it seemed to all the world that she was going to tumble into Class A oblivion like Amy Winehouse did.
It was Sophie's choice to get her life properly back together. No one can tell such a dedicated abuser of drugs — and of herself — that it is time to stop. Sophie made the decision because there was no alternative. The one-time Gossard girl was looking at an early grave if she kept going the way she was. The path of self-obliteration she was headed along at a fast pace was littered with beautiful girls seduced and brought low by the high life.
It's hard to believe, looking at the Zen-calm cherub with the never-ending limbs, who is politely sipping coffee with me this morning, but there was a time when she would down a bottle of vodka every night and use cocaine in the daytime.
Sophie first came to public attention in 1996 when she appeared in the Gossard Glossies ‘girl in the grass' ad campaign photographed by Herb Ritts with the cheeky, coquettish strapline: “Who said a woman couldn't get pleasure from something soft?” In the Noughties, naughty Sophie seemed to be getting pleasure from hard drugs. It saw her once end up in a psychiatric unit, allegedly.
Those were turbulent times for the girl from Bristol: there were lurid tales of unhealthy relationships with men such as bad-boy footballer Mark Bosnich, who had his contract terminated by Chelsea after testing positive for cocaine in 2003.
I ask her why she was drawn to men who were clearly not good for her. “You attract like-minded people, don't you?” she says. “Looking at past relationships, I was in a very bad space. And suddenly this amazing man came into my life after I had made the decision to turn my life around,” she says, referring to James's arrival in December 2009. “He had actually been a friend of mine for about six months and, amazingly, he was there for me. I needed to get out of London for a couple of days. We went down to his place [in Surrey]. He said, ‘Why don't we give it a shot?' Because the chemistry was there and everything. We are still together today and very happy. He is remarkable.”
Do you ever get frightened that the old Sophie Anderton will come back? “No, because for once I — 100% — made a decision to change my life. I eat organic food. I am really healthy. I choose not to drink because I am chemically allergic, and it just doesn't work for me.”
What works for Sophie, evidently, is her new man James. He is her boyfriend cum knight in shining Gucci armour. “James is the best thing that ever happened to me,” she claims, not unreasonably. “It is wonderful to hear him say that I am the best thing that ever happened to him too.”
Sophie says she is going to work until September and then she and James are planning on taking a holiday. “I'm trying to twist my partner's arm for the Maldives. He wants Europe. But that's only because he wants his laptop and BlackBerry. We'll probably go to the Maldives.”
Some might argue that for years Sophie Anderton was in denial. Lest we forget, Sophie once alleged that her modelling career played a part in her downward spiral towards prostitution. “There is a dark side to the modelling world,” she said a few years ago. “At least two supermodels are on the game.”
“I was completely in denial for a long time,” she says. “I thought I could drink.”
What did drink do for you? “It enabled ... it covered up a multitude of things. I think I used to hide behind drink. It gave me confidence, I thought. What I didn't realise is that it completely transformed my personality; one sip of alcohol and I changed into not a very nice person. It wasn't ever that black and white, because I was never a morning, noon and night drinker. I cannot drink. End of story. One sip of alcohol and I am a loose cannon.” (I have a mental image in my head of Sophie being arrested following a drunken outburst at London's Waterloo railway station in December 2009.)
“But it wasn't that I would wake up and want to have a drink,” she continues. “I wasn't propelled by that sort of urge. It just doesn't react well with me. So I stopped. That was it for me. And it was the best thing I've ever done.”
You had tried to stop before, what was different about this time? “Because I made the decision myself. Whereas before it was my parents telling me and ...” she trails off. “My stepfather was incredible. He sat me down and said: ‘I am really glad you have made this decision'.”
I ask her about being diagnosed as bipolar in 2006. “I was wrongly diagnosed,” she says. “I had depression. They wrongly diagnosed me and put me on a bucketload of blood pills. It was absolutely bonkers. I have never been happier than now. But, of course, that was the repercussion of my lifestyle at the time. It is a very fine line, and I think it is really dangerous that doctors just hand out things left, right and centre. This is why I won't even take Nurofen now, because I don't know what's in it. I have girlfriends practically suicidal because they've been put on Prozac. It's terrifying. They have a pill for everything nowadays.”
She says she was never suicidal, even during the worst dark nights of the soul. “No. I have to say I am too strong for that,” she says. “And I wouldn't do that to my parents. I think I was doing a good enough job of giving myself a hard time and trying to destroy my life.”
Let's not judge her. Everyone makes mistakes, and it takes a lot of bravery to admit something like Sophie has, so publicly. She should be applauded, and not excoriated, by self-appointed moral guardians for the crime of being human, and showing that she could survive it all. It is easy to say the words ‘Sophie Anderton turned her life around' but infinitely harder to actually do it. “Oh God, yeah,” she says, “and also to be able to forgive yourself. You know, the biggest thing for
me was forgiveness. Forgiving myself. And for what I put my family through, you know, and to let go of the shame of some of the ways I behaved when I was on drugs. But that's what people do on drugs. On drugs, you don't ... you would never ...” She stops herself. “My mum says I have gone back to how I was when I was 15,” Sophie says. And I believe her.
“I was completely anti-drugs. I was moralistic. I was very prim and proper. My mum can see her daughter again before I got dragged into the whole London thing and the big high life and everything. I think it is remarkable that my mum tells me every day that she is proud of me. Do you know how much that means to me?” she smiles.
I ask her what date she stopped being the out-of-control Sophie. She doesn't have to think. “September 21, 2009,” she says straight away. “That's when I went clean. Sober — that was December 21.
“Why would I want to have a hangover this morning?” she asks rhetorically. “I am full of the joys of spring now. I can go to events and have a much better time than anybody else because I can remember everything with clarity the next morning.
“And,” she continues, “I go to bed and wake up fresh as a daisy the next morning and go for a run in the morning, or go for a ride on my horse, or go out with girlfriends for coffee: you know? That, for me, is everything. Waking up when the sun is rising is quite a remarkable thing for me. I cherish that. I love those early mornings when my partner is still in bed and I'm just sitting outside on the terrace having a coffee, on the phone to my mum. That is my favourite hour of the morning. Call me boring. But boring is fun for me.”
She says she doesn't don't want to be the life and soul of the party anymore. “I am happy with being a wallflower now.”
I am delighted that she finally seems to have found a man with whom to share her life and her love. “James,” she beams, “is the love of my life, no doubt about it.” He is four years her junior. “I am actually officially a puma. I'm not a cougar quite yet, thank God; I have got another decade for that,” Sophie, who was born in Bristol in 1977, says, “I'm 34 now. I am very honest about my age, I hate reading about these celebrities — I won't say who — who say they are 30 and they are 38. Why not say you are a young-looking 38?”
She doesn't look 34. In reality, a few years ago you probably could have got very good odds on Sophie not living to 34. She looked like a bad accident waiting to happen. I wonder what what was the cocaine-filled straw that broke the supermodel camel's back? “Two years ago, I had enough; I just had enough. I just got bored. I had a choice: either to go completely down — which, obviously — that path just leads to ...”
Death. “Yeah, death,” she says haltingly. “I couldn't do that to my family. Especially after a decade of putting my mother through hell. My mother is lovely. My parents are just phenomenal. My mum and I speak every day. We are so close. To think that in my 20s I just didn't think what an amazing woman I had as a mother.
“I saw pictures of me when I was still drinking,” she continues. “My body looked wrecked. I don't look like that now.” She certainly doesn't. She smiles a lot. Her eyes are clear — not glazed with junkie detachment like before. She lives in a country pile with James away from the big lights, big city of London. She gets up at dawn every morning to walk, meditate, do their emails, observe nature.
She is still in possession of those curves that wowed us all those years ago. If anything, Sophie looks even better than before. The former controversial contestant of I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! in 2004 and Celebrity Love Island in 2006 now has a healthy lifestyle, which shows in her face. If the eyes are windows to the soul, then Sophie's soul is in pristine condition. She has rediscovered her lust for life, her passion for the world around her. She's in a better place, and she intends to remain in this better place, she smiles.
“It is quite a revelation,” she says. “Life is truly, truly, exciting for me now. I have fought tooth and nail to get back up to where I am. I still have a long way to go to regain the respect of certain people within the fashion industry, but the British media are beginning to be very supportive. I had to really work hard to earn their respect. I have had to prove myself. I am glad people didn't let me off lightly because that would have made it too easy. And, if it was too easy, maybe I would have taken it for granted.”
As much as she enjoys talking to Weekend magazine, Sophie was actually in Ireland for an official reason. As Karora brand ambassador, the 34-year-old beauty was in Dublin to launch Karora's Passport to Flash the Flesh campaign, which celebrates their ab fab new eco-chic mini Self-Tan Mists.
“I am so blessed to be working with Karora,” Sophie says. “They are such lovely, lovely people. But also, I've worked in the beauty and fashion industry for a long time — 18 years; I hate to admit that — and I haven't had a fake tan until now. This is incredible. They sprayed me last night. You wouldn't think I'm wearing fake tan; you'd think I've been in Barbados. I look golden. What I love about it, it is all organic. There's no chemicals. And since I don't put chemicals into my body, why would I put them on my skin? That's very much my ethos now.”
Sophie runs 10km five times a week. “I am about to get back into training properly,” she says, “I do everything in moderation in my life.” And long may it continue.