Tara: 'Health is important to me now'
With her party lifestyle firmly behind her, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson has launched a new fashion line - and knows just what she wants from life, as Kate Whiting and Kimberley Bond discover
You won't catch Tara Palmer-Tomkinson sunning herself this summer. "I don't put myself in the sun," she says curtly. "It's very ageing. Yesterday I could see all these people outside restaurants and they all looked pretty revolting. Lobster red, all wearing white, they'd overdone their make-up to overcompensate. I'm not by any means perfect, but you do what you can, so not going in the sun is what I try to do."
The way Tara alludes to her party-girl past almost immediately is both disarming and refreshing - much like Tara herself.
There are no pretences and she has an unapologetic, 'I am what I am' attitude, that is instantly likeable, particularly when she recalls some of her wilder days.
"I definitely have regrets. I wish I had never touched half the stuff."
There's a slight pause. "But in the same way, I'm not going to sit there and feel ashamed for what I did, because I have had a life. I might be 44, but I was at so many different parties in so many different countries, I haven't slept for 20 years.
"The things that mattered to me a long time ago don't matter any more. What matters to me now is health. Because I've paid a price for my health, and I wish I had given up cigarettes a long time ago. I've always been very health-conscious, but when you're 44, you don't wake up looking the same way."
The socialite and It-girl first shot to fame in the early Nineties because of her wild late-night antics, which made her easy fodder for the tabloids.
A goddaughter of Prince Charles, she became increasingly well known to the public for appearances in I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here!, Blind Date and Top Gear. However, her party lifestyle took its toll on her health and, in 2006, her septum collapsed as a result of her £400-a-day cocaine habit, for which she's had several costly trips to rehab.
Her nose, which she calls her "Achilles heel", was repaired with £6,000 of plastic surgery.
In recent years, Tara has taken a step back from the party scene and reinvented herself as a musician (she plays piano and sings) and now designer, putting her energies into her fashion line Desiderata.
The inspiration for the name, which is Latin for "desired things", stems from Tara's childhood.
"My uncle used to read me the poem 'Desiderata' when I was a child. He used to say, 'Come, my little desired things'. The poem's a mantra to me."
Her Kubbi design is a "secret shirt" - an acrylic body, with a man's shirt cotton cuffs and collar.
"I do love that collar and cuff look," says Tara, who used to cut up her father's shirts and Sellotape them under her jumpers as a teen. "I just think it looks demure."
Although starting her own fashion brand has been a brave new world for Tara - "A grave new world," she jokes - she's been thrilled to see her hard work pay off, with celebrities wearing her Kubbi.
"Mel B wore it to a premiere and she looked amazing! I was so proud. I was going to write to her, but had to say, 'Tara, take a step back, you are quite cool, you've designed a good product, you can climb out of her bottom and just delete the text'. It was one of the most exciting moments of my whole life."
It was perhaps this most recent foray into fashion that led some to assume that the new sleek bob Tara was spotted sporting was in homage to Vogue editor Anna Wintour.
"Oh my God, I look hideous!" Tara screams in good humour. "The wonderful thing about hair is that it does grow back. I used to have a bob when I was a child. I actually think I look younger."
However, the comments on an article about the new 'do and her minimal make-up did not appear to share her sentiments.
"I read all the comments about how disgusting and ugly I look, but I don't choose to wear make-up. Since the age of 20, I've been sitting in a make-up chair every single day of my life, sometimes four times over."
Such intense media scrutiny has caused Tara to retreat from the limelight in recent years.
"I choose to be a recluse because every time I go out, I've got a photographer behind me," Tara says matter-of-factly. "It's very difficult to go about your life like that."
In fact, the Press interference with Tara's life has been so intrusive, it has affected both her relationships and her health; particularly her desire to get clean.
"I had to stop going to Alcoholics Anonymous, because I felt that me being in that meeting might blow other people's cover. If they see me in an AA meeting, they'll think, 'We're not safe here'.
"When I left that meeting, I actually gave my friend who took me a kiss, and the storyline was, 'Mystery man!' and, 'As she hung out in the pub garden'. I came out of an AA meeting with a man who's 33 years clean and married. I think it is a shambles what the Press can do to people," Tara adds.
She also suffers from anxiety, and, in December 2014, was arrested at Heathrow airport when she lost her cool because people were taking pictures of her. She said a panic attack caused the meltdown, which saw her ranting at police and pulling out her hair extensions.
"I've tried meditation, I've tried yoga, I've tried looking in the mirror and thinking about who I want to be - I can't give you the answer to anxiety, because I still get really anxious, you can tell by the pictures."
Currently single, she says she doesn't want to get married or have babies ("I'm terrified of them"), but then contradicts herself when asked what her most desired thing would be.
"The ultimate man who absolutely adores me and actually married me for no other reason than love. My initials may be TPT, but they could probably be ATM," she says drily, before quickly adding: "If I could find a hero like my father, and have a marriage like that, then that would be the man I desire.
"I don't think I'd get so anxious if I had a man on my side. All the people who aren't anxious, they're probably told every night how beautiful they are. I have been followed by packs of men, and I live alone, and they go through my rubbish.
"Also, you become anxious because you've seen what people said about you and for all the good news you read, the bad things are always easier to believe."
Today though, Tara is enjoying the successes of her fashion range - and that's putting a smile on her face.
"I'm just waiting for one last final hurdle with Desiderata, and once I've jumped over that, I will have designed the most beautiful Christmas collection. I'd like everyone to feel marvellous wearing my Kubbis. That would be my dream today, if someone said, 'Oh my God, this was so worth it'."