Elle: Motherhood and marriage make me feel fab and look young at fifty”
Supermodel Elle Macpherson is an example to all those who fear that milestone birthday, the big 5-0.She tells Gabrielle Fagan how her home life and a healthy lifestyle has kept her looking amazing
Elle Macpherson, all six foot of sun-kissed long, lean limbs and a tumbling mane of blonde hair, is earnestly telling an audience of women in Selfridges, London, what it felt like to struggle with a muffin top, fatigue, and finding herself so irritable she shouted at the kids.
Frankly, it's hard to believe the former supermodel's ever had a muffin, let alone struggled with the resulting flab of pigging out on them, and it's even more difficult to believe she's 50 — she had her milestone birthday in March.
The big difference between Macpherson — once known globally as ‘The Body' — and the rest of us poor middle-aged mortals who just accept being sleep-starved and stroppy as the norm is that, in true celebrity style, she countered her slump two years ago by creating her own solution, an alkalising greens food supplement.
“I just wasn't feeling my super self and I'd lost the spark which keeps you feel energised and motivated. My skin was dry, I was gaining weight around my waist, feeling moody, and my joints ached,” confides Macpherson at the launch of her ‘Super Elixir' in the London store.
“I put it down to ageing but then I thought, I don't like that feeling whatever the cause and knew things had to change. So I got help with nutrition, threw out the ton of tablets I'd been taking daily, and helped create this brilliant alkalising supplement instead.” Without a hint of irony she describes it as “my birthday present to women”.
Inarguably, she looks amazing, dressed dramatically in a black top and leather skirt, and even though you know she's genetically blessed, has nutritionally balanced meals delivered daily to her home, and regular massage and acupuncture sessions to keep her tip-top, it's still tempting to go and buy a ton of the stuff if it means you might, in a tiny way, emulate her.
Also, while she undoubtedly enjoys a luxury lifestyle, which makes you feel as green as her supplement but with envy, in person Australian-born Macpherson emerges as enormously likeable, unassuming, and endearingly open about her happiness in her
recent marriage, motherhood, being a stepmother and dealing with unwelcome ageing.
“Do I look back to how I looked in my twenties? Yeah, just like most women do and I think, ‘Wow, did I really look like that?' At the time I didn't realise I was that big a deal and wasn't so confident even though I pretended to be so cool,” she says with a smile.
“I feel better now than I've ever felt because I'm older, wiser and truly believe that being strong, inspired and capable is as important as our body shape. That's why I truly didn't have a problem with becoming 50, and I wanted to go into it with grace rather than fighting it. At this age, of course, you have to make more effort and being fit and being healthy from the inside is really important — if things are good on the inside, it shows on the outside. I just think women today want to look good at whatever age and realise it's pointless chasing after youth.”
Her own youth was certainly charmed due to a fortunate combination of beauty and brains. She modelled from the age of 17, after deferring a university place to study law, and survived all the demands of the often brutal fashion industry as well as high-octane, jet-setting and partying as her success grew through the Eighties.
“I have certainly gone through periods in my life where I haven't treated myself kindly,” she says drily.
“I grew up young. I've done everything, I'm no angel and haven't led a sheltered life. In a sense I've experienced everything, partying with Andy Warhol, going to New York's Studio 54, and meeting Michael Jackson and Diana Ross.
“I think I survived thanks to the values instilled in me as a child — a strong sense of family, commitment to what I love, self-discipline and a desire to methodically work through problems.”
She adorned the much-coveted cover of Sports Illustrated a record five times, and, in 1986, Time Magazine put her on its cover and dubbed her ‘The Body'.
With characteristic savviness, Macpherson, who'd already set up a business so she could profit from her image rather than simply posing for the benefit of others, dismissed feminists who declared it a demeaning label. “I thought great moniker, brilliant for business, I'll use that, thanks,” she says firmly.
It's the name of her hugely successful brand and her lingerie range, Elle Macpherson Intimates, is sold globally. She's also hosted — and been an executive producer for — fashion reality shows in America and is well-recognised in the UK, which she's made her home, as a judge on Britain & Ireland's Next Top Model.
She reflects that today's models are fortunate by comparison with her era. “For a start the world has embraced the fashion industry and it's not a niche market any more. Also, they don't have to endure long photoshoots where photographers took reams of film and hundreds of shots in the hope they'd got the ‘magic' shot. Now with digital photography they can see everything immediately and edit on the spot, so it may only be necessary to take 10 frames,” she says.
That satisfaction from a 30-year career (“My motto is ‘do what you love, and love what you do, so that work is a pleasure not a chore”) is patently eclipsed by her personal happiness.
She has two sons, Flynn (17) and Cy (10), from her nine-year relationship with financier Arpad Busson, and last year wed billionaire, Jeffrey Soffer, a father-of-three.
Although she was married in her twenties to a man 20 years her senior, Gilles Bensimon, a former creative director of Elle magazine, she admits she never thought she would marry again.
“I've never put much importance on it, but then the love of my life asked me to marry him and I didn't hesitate,” she says, beaming as she talks of the romance that broke up a few years after they got together but was rekindled after he narrowly survived a helicopter crash in the Bahamas.
“It was meant to be I think. Our paths have crossed over the last 10 years and friends kept saying, ‘You must meet this guy, you'd really like him', but I was like, ‘Whatever' and then we met and it just all clicked. I feel very loved and so lucky to have him, my boys, and to be a stepmum. I think patience, gentleness and celebrating what my stepkids do well, and not trying to replace their mum is key for that role.”
She's taken time off work to support Flynn while he takes GCSEs and protests that despite those photographs of her immaculately dressed on the school-run that was “just because I was on my way to work in TV. When I'm not working I don't feel any pressure to look great or anything — that's not me. I dress to be comfortable just like anyone else”.
Her anti-ageing tip is drinking three litres of water a day, and staying active, she's a keen skier and off-road cyclist. “I don't like the word exercise it sounds like a punishment, I prefer to say activity. Just 45 minutes a day is good and it can just be a walk, it doesn't have to be a gym session.”
But it's her personal motto which probably reveals most about this woman's indomitable determination: “I believe that it all works out in the end and if it hasn't worked out it isn't the end. It helps me take one day at a time. I have so many ambitions, new ones every day, and it's just a question of staying fit and healthy so I can get everything done.”
The Super Elixir is available online from welleco.com and in store at Selfridges. A 300g Glass Caddy, £80; 300g refill pouch, £52; 150g refill pouch, £32