Angie Best: 'Knowing George was an utter privilege and taught me a lot of lessons... our son Calum went into a tailspin when he died but I'm so proud of how he's turned out, he is magnificent'
Angie Best, model, former Playboy Bunny, author and fitness guru tells Leona O'Neill about life with her famous ex-husband, her friendship with Cher, secrets of staying young and her new business venture
At 67 years old, Angie Best is still as youthful and glamorous as ever, still in demand as a model and still mentoring women on how to stay young vibrant and beautiful. The years have certainly been kind to the bubbly Essex woman who stole Belfast footballing legend George Best's heart in 1975.
Back then she was a fitness instructor, model and Playboy Bunny who help sculpt the bodies of Cher, Sharon Stone and Daryl Hannah. Today, she describes herself as a 'health and wellness for women expert' and lives in Henley-on-Thames, outside London, where she runs her own gym, Metaphysical.
She says her love of wellness has been a passion of hers since she was a little girl.
"Ever since I was a child I was interested in health, fitness and wellness," she says. "I grew up in Southend in the 1960s and every Friday night my father would bring home carrier bags packed with very exotic fruits. He had a betting office and his Chinese friends would bring all manner of exotic fruits. And I would wolf them down, every one of them, because I thought they were the most fabulous things on the planet.
"And it just continued from there and it is not until later in life that I realised that I've been a health nut since I was a little girl. I also remember walking into my grandmother's bedroom when I was five or six and by the side of her bed she had a container of water with lemon slices in it. And I do that every single morning now. It's something that was done in the old days that has come into fashion again, because it works.
"I was not a vegan or vegetarian when I was a teenager. I was conditioned to follow the food and lifestyle of my parents before me. So I didn't change anything until I moved to California when I was 19-years-old.
"There were such healthy lifestyles there. There were salads and vegetables and exercise, we didn't eat meat. I just became very health conscious. I didn't even know what being health conscious was, but you learn it very quickly when you are surrounded by it.
"I was working with Cher at the time. I was training her, she used to come to my fitness classes. I am still friends with her all these years later. She is my mentor and is an amazing woman.
"We don't train together anymore. She's in California and I'm in dreary England but we are in contact."
She was in her 20s when she met George Best, a man as famed for his alcoholism as he was for his football. Angie says she did try to help him embrace a healthier lifestyle.
"I did try and sway George into a more healthier lifestyle," she says. "That is half the reason he wanted me around was because I was the health fanatic and I tried to help him. But to no avail, sadly."
Angie is guarded when talking about George, finding it 'hurtful'. She says that after his death in 2005 from alcohol abuse, her son Calum 'went into a tailspin', famously battling his own demons with drink and drugs. She says she had to come home from America and 'put him back on the straight and narrow'. Calum has since embraced his mother's healthy lifestyle and written a self-help book.
"I came back to this country to help him," she says. "He went into a bit of a tailspin when his father died. So I came back and got him back on the straight and narrow. Because he didn't have anybody else to help him. Nobody understood and nobody was willing to reach out.
"There was a worry there that he would have followed in his father's footsteps and that is why I came home. He is half me as well and I wanted my half to be the stronger half. But I had to come home and do something about that. That's what mummies do.
"He is doing great now. He is not following in my footsteps any more. He is in line with my footsteps. We are doing this together. We will be working on the business together, which is great.
"He is overtaking me now, bless him. I am so proud and thrilled at the way he has turned out. He is a magnificent human being."
Angie says that she will be embracing her Irish connections in her next line of business - Irish health retreats that revolve around CBD, or cannabidiol, one of the many chemical compounds found in marijuana and hemp. She says she is excited for the future and that Calum will be joining her in the venture.
"I love Ireland," she says. "In fact I am launching a new business there very soon with my friend Kim Kindersley. He introduced me to a man called Michael Lynch who runs a company called Hu Botanicals of which I am now a director. And they have farms that grow hemp which is CBD. They have two farms, one in Westmeath and the other in Monaghan.
"We see the wonderful potential and healing processes from CBD. We are going to Ireland this week to see the first harvest and we are going to be making CBD products for health and anti-ageing in Ireland.
"I like the idea that I see the seeds, the harvest and that everything is organic and grown properly so I know what I'm selling to people is the real thing. So I am very excited about that," she says.
"As we grow we are going to open up retreats using all the CBD and Hu Botanics for anti-ageing, for keeping women beautiful, for explaining life to girls who don't understand it and women who haven't had the opportunity that I've had to learn about it. I want to help everybody stay young, stay vibrant and stay beautiful.
"A side-effect of staying healthy is staying young. So I'm not focusing on staying young. I'm focusing on getting and staying as healthy as you possibly can be. Very few of us know how that feels because we have been eating processed food for our entire lives. So I want to focus on being healthy and use products that help the body help itself. And that is what CBD is."
Angie says that staying fit and well into old age is really important to her. She says she still wants to be living life to the full when she is 90 years old.
"Fitness has always been important to me," she says. "Ever since I was a little girl when I started ballet classes. There is so much to enjoy in this beautiful life of ours that I want to grow old.
"As I get to the other end of the scale I want to be upright, pain-free and flexible. I don't want to be fragile. I want to be all the things when I am 90 that I was when I was 50.
"Living a long, fulfilling life is important to me. I think the most frightening thing for me is being sick in a hospital. It is an old adage, but it is really true, the only wealth we have is our health."
She says her daily routine revolves around nature and eating well.
"I am organic with everything," she says. "I supplement through the roof. Science now tells us that growing old without the negative symptoms associated with it is simply the process of keeping all your levels, minerals, vitamins, nutrients up. Because they all go down as you age.
"I'm too old for jogging now, but I teach my circuit classes," she says. "I own a gym so I'm at work every single day, working out. And I love it, because it keeps me energised. It releases all my serotonin so I'm always happy. It's just generally basically very good for you. It is the number one anti-ageing method in the world."
And even though she is approaching 70, Angie still graces the catwalk and is regularly splashed across the pages of glossy magazines. She says age should not be a barrier for women.
"I still model, when I'm asked," she says. "I have been a model since I was 19 years old.
"The only people who create ageism around modelling are other women. Whereas if we don't make a fuss of it and we love everyone for the way they look, then there will be no such thing as criticism of older women.
"If you are a business selling to women, and you are using young girls to sell to other women, then you are the cause of it. So therefore don't buy products for you that are being modelled by young girls.
"Tell those agencies they got it wrong. We are powerful women, we don't have to moan about this because we have it within our power to do something about it. So we should do something about it. I do.
"Age should never be a barrier to women. I'm 67 and I'm just coming into my prime."
Angie has certainly lived a life less ordinary, and she says she has absolutely no regrets.
"The other day I was on my way to a festival and I just sat there thinking to myself, what a life I have led," she says. "I have been so blessed and I am so grateful. I am a very lucky girl.
"If I could do my life all over again I wouldn't change anything. My lessons in life would perhaps to take money more seriously and to learn how to use it and deal with it. Because I was always very laissez-faire about money and it's not until you get older that you realise that the world revolves around it and there is nothing you can do about it.
"And you have to pay attention to it.
"I don't regret anything, not even love. It is where I am today because of all that stuff. I love my life and I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever. Knowing George was a complete and utter privilege. It was a tough privilege, and one that taught me a lot of lessons, but it was still a privilege.
"Marriage to George wasn't just a marriage and a divorce," she says.
"It was something that lasted a lifetime. You couldn't help it. Here I am 30 years after divorcing him and people are still asking me questions about him. That is why I went back to America when Calum was five, because I could only be defined by the man. And the man at the time was in a really bad way so I just had to get out.
"Everything I have done I have done myself. A funny story that I like to tell is that when I wrote my Menopause book in 1999, I came from America to England to promote the book.
"In every single interview I did, all they wanted to talk about was George. And I said to them that there was not a man mentioned in the book, there is no mention of men. It is a menopause book. You just sometimes throw your hands up in the air."
Angie says these days she is happy to be a guiding light for women across the globe who are seeking health and happiness. She says she lives for empowering women.
"My Instagram has turned me into a guiding light for women," she says. "I get questions from women every single day. I spend hours every day advising women on relationships, health on every subject you can imagine. And it's only because I'm older now. But I don't think I'm old, I just am.
"I still think I'm 40, but I've got the wisdom and the knowledge of a 67-year-old, of a 90-year-old actually because of how I've lived my life. So I am able to advise them. I don't tell them what to do, I just give them other ways of thinking. It's like I've turned out to be the mother of all women."
And as for her secret of staying young, she says that believing in yourself and wanting the best, is the key to a long and healthy life.
"What keeps me young is to believe in myself," she says. "Don't follow in the path and be a sheep and negative and down. Say no, I'm not going to believe that, I'm going to believe this instead. Say thank you to your angels every single day for everything that you have. And just keep searching, keep looking and keep wanting.
"The minute you don't want anymore you may as well just curl up and die. Keep wanting to be healthy, keep wanting to be happy, keep wanting to be rich, or famous, keep wanting to be whatever you want to be. Keep that hunger."