Supermodel Yasmin Le Bon reveals how she suffered a breakdown

By Mark Woods

Yasmin Le Bon said she found herself in a 'dark place' and ultimately suffered a breakdown. Photo / Getty Images
Yasmin Le Bon said she found herself in a 'dark place' and ultimately suffered a breakdown. Photo / Getty Images

Married to a heart-throb rock star and with a successful career as one of the world's top supermodels, Yasmin Le Bon enjoys a lifestyle that has made her the envy of millions.

But today she reveals for the first time that, behind the facade of her gilded life, she sank into the depths of despair - finding herself in a 'dark place' and ultimately suffering a breakdown.

In a candid interview with The Mail on Sunday's You magazine, she said the 'drip feed' of life took its toll when the three daughters she has with Duran Duran star Simon Le Bon were teenagers.

Yasmin, now 51, described how she would hide in the bathroom and cry when the strain of juggling motherhood with her demanding career proved too much. She explained: 'Nobody can tear your heart apart within a couple of words like [your children] can... I had been a punchbag for a long time and it was having an effect. That whole emotional drain pushed me over the edge...

I was in a dark place.'

Asked if she was going through a breakdown, Yasmin said: 'Yes, I have been at that level, absolutely.'

But she said 'nothing terrible' triggered her dark mood but explained: 'I needed to address things in my past I hadn't really dealt with.'

Describing the symptoms, Yasmin, who lives with her family in Putney, South-West London, said she was sleeping very badly and suffered a crippling back pain which she 'couldn't cope with'.

Problems came to the fore when daughters - Amber, now 27, Saffron, 25, and Tallulah, 22 -became teenagers 'I was a real disciplinarian when they were little,' she said. 'But they get to a certain age and you're exhausted because you can't keep up. By the time they were teenagers, they could walk all over me.'

But Yasmin says her dark days are now behind her.

Yasmin Le Bon gives a good impression that, at 51, she's falling apart. When she can't think of a word, she worries that it's 'early-onset dementia' (or perhaps it's the menopause, she decides). Her back is shot, her knees and her hips are going, her chestnut hair - lustrously bouffed on umpteen magazine covers in the 80s and 90s and elegantly slicked in the noughties - is frustrating: 'It's so demoralising when your hair starts to thin, it starts to take all your femininity.'

She can no longer carry off the granny-chic tweed Prada dresses she wore in her youth as one half of an era-defining power couple (it hardly needs stating that she is married to Duran Duran frontman Simon Le Bon, and was once the highest paid model in the world). 'There's no irony any more. I actually look like someone's grandmother.'

Yasmin and Simon Le Bon. Photo / Getty Images
Yasmin and Simon Le Bon. Photo / Getty Images

Also mothballed are the vest tops and jeans that for many years were her signature look. Having gained about a stone in her 40s, she now has cleavage. 'Agh, the boobs! It's quite a shock to develop breasts later in life. I've always felt very masculine; I've got a strong jaw. When I wore a vest and walked down the street, suddenly I had these things jiggling around and people were looking - I was mortified. It was like part of me had disappeared.'

Her home, 'a big old double-fronted house' in Putney, Southwest London (she can't remember exactly how many bedrooms), is 'very lived in, to put it nicely. You have to be careful what knobs you pull and how hard you throw yourself down on the sofa. Things could explode.' She refers to herself as a woman of 'very few grey cells' and is only partly joking about the luxury retirement homes she's seen in a magazine for herself and Simon, 57.

She may claim to have wear and tear like the rest of us, but, quite frankly, only she has noticed. From where I'm sitting, I see clear olive skin, shining eyes, a rocking outfit (Sofie D'Hoore shirtdress, bright blue Christopher Kane trainers, neon yellow socks - 'I apply a bit of rock 'n' roll to everything') and a woman who segues intelligently between Brexit and boxsets - specifically Simon's annoying habit of watching them without waiting for her.

She talks as easily about the emotional power of the minor key as the antisocial nature of social media: 'I can't stand it when you're out to dinner with people and suddenly they see an Instagram opportunity. Let's just live in the moment and enjoy it, please.' She defends Mick Jagger's impending fatherhood at 73 - 'People have been so rude about him, I find it really distasteful, so ageist' - and wonders if it really is hot in the room or whether she's having a hot flush. ('Can we open a window? Is it me?')

While the superficial things in her life have changed, the big-ticket items have remained absolutely solid: her marriage to Simon, which has lasted 30 years; her modelling career, which has endured even longer (this year she modelled for Giorgio Armani - 'Yes, I still get wheeled out!'); her almost umbilical relationship with her daughters Amber, 27, Saffron, 25, and Tallulah, 22, who all, to Yasmin's gratitude, still live at home.

'We've grown up together. I'm completely open with them and we've got to the stage where if it's OK for them to offload on to me, it's OK for me to offload on them. They are pretty good at listening and giving advice. Our house is a mad place; people come and never leave.'

The current head count at Le Bon towers includes Yasmin's niece, Saffron's boyfriend and a friend of Tallulah's. People come and go; no one pays rent: 'Obviously, I am a hopeless businesswoman.' Yasmin has been told off 'by one of my daughters for not having enough house rules, which is hysterical. The roles have reversed.' Simon's mum, 81-year-old Ann-Marie, lives in the house that backs on to theirs and there's constant traffic between the two.

The day before we meet was Saffron's graduation from the University of West London: 'I'm so proud of her. She worked hard and now has a first-class BA in music performance.' Saffron is the only one in the family to have a degree. Simon dropped out when the band took over, Yasmin was scouted in her home town of Oxford at 17, Amber started modelling after school and Tallulah went straight into work as a booker at Models 1, Yasmin's agency.

Yasmin is proud of all her daughters - not that they didn't put her through the wringer. The stress of their teenage years, combined with the pressure Yasmin put herself under as a working mother, pretty much tipped her over the edge. 'Nobody can tear your heart apart within a couple of words like they can,' she says. To cope, she developed the habit of nipping to the bathroom for a quick cry.

She laughs when reminded that Amber once described her as 'a right dragon'. 'Yes, I was a real disciplinarian when they were little. It's not as if I didn't give them love, I just felt that they needed boundaries. I had to be able to take them anywhere - around the world, on an aeroplane, backstage - in quite adult situations. I needed to be sure that they would be welcome and that they were going to make friends, and they did. That's because they listened and never questioned me. They were quite exceptional.'

But it wasn't sustainable. 'They get to a certain age and you're exhausted because you can't keep up that level of discipline. By the time they got to their teenage years they could walk all over me.'

Yasmin wasn't coping, and a friend had a quiet word. 'She made it blatantly obvious that I needed to do something. My energy levels were terrible, I was sleeping very badly, my ability to recover after exercise was not good. I needed to address things in my past that I hadn't really dealt with. They were mounting up and making everything a lot worse.'

Yasmin Le Bon with her daughters in 2002. Photo / Getty Images
Yasmin Le Bon with her daughters in 2002. Photo / Getty Images

What things? 'Nothing terrible - just the drip-feed of life; things that have happened, that have been said, situations that you have parked somewhere until your body can't take it any more.'

Would she describe what she went through as a breakdown? 'Yes, I have been at that level, absolutely.' But for her there was no single tipping point. 'That is the misconception - that there must be a fault. But there is no major drama, it's just trying to live. We hold on to the weirdest things. There will be one little comment I made to somebody 25 years ago in a mindless moment that still hurts me. Those just build up and unwittingly start to change the shape of things.'

Yasmin is convinced that the crippling back pain she suffered when the girls were in their teens was 50 per cent emotional. 'You are so linked to all their moods, all their anxieties... I had been a punchbag for a long time and it was having an effect. That whole emotional drain pushed me over the edge with my back. I couldn't cope with the pain; I was in a dark place - but, hey, that's what friends are for.'

She stopped her wing-chun martial arts training and gained weight, which she is philosophical about. 'My entire wardrobe no longer fits me, but maybe it's time to get some new things. I'm never going to be that size again and I don't want to be, because I know I wouldn't feel good; I would be living on the edge again. I think you have to be a stone over your prime weight - that's what keeps your joints happy. You need to be a healthy weight or you pay the price for it later with osteoporosis.'

Plus, she feels it's only right that as a model, she should look her age. 'I have to be honest about who I'm selling to. At 51, I'm not the weight I was when I was 25, but that would be unfair to the women my age. I'm bigger, I've got to embrace that and be happy I'm healthy.'

It still took Yasmin a good few years to heed her friend's advice and seek help from a therapist, who she still sees now and then. Another part of her toolbox is an anti-ageing supplement called Lumity, which she discovered last year. 'I don't believe in any magic pill; I believe in a much more holistic approach - you've got to tackle the body and the mind.

'But I noticed that with Lumity I was sleeping better (and that I even wanted to go to sleep in the first place), that I was feeling calm at a time in my life when I'm not supposed to be. I am very hormonal, but I have been on a surprisingly even keel, more so than I have ever been, which is extraordinary because it's not meant to be like that.' She has even been able to get back to the gym, 'which is such a blessing'.

She also credits Lumity with helping her heal quickly after a road crash last November when she broke her shoulder blade, three ribs and suffered deep scarring to her left arm. She and Amber had signed up for a charity challenge to drive 500km in a tuk-tuk across India.

'Er, I had a little collision with the road,' she says sheepishly, grateful that Amber, who was sitting behind her, had only minor injuries. 'There's a good reason we don't drive three-wheeled vehicles. The rural roads were fantastic but you shouldn't ever go at full throttle.' Yasmin is something of a girl racer and has just about forgiven Simon for writing off her Alfa Romeo Montreal 18 years ago.

The couple's 1985 wedding took place in the register office of Oxford's Westgate shopping centre: 'It was pretty grim. They've knocked it down now.' It was a rush job, two days after Christmas, 'partly because we didn't have a home, partly because we just wanted to get married, and also he was about to go on an around-the-world boat race. Not wishing to be morbid, but he could quite easily have not come back, so there was a sense of urgency.'

They invited 'whoever Simon was speaking to the night before or the morning of. I think I managed to forget to invite my own grandmother, it was so rushed. We were young and the two of us couldn't plan a p***-up in a pub. Simon was in the biggest band in the world and neither of us wanted the press attention.'

The bride wore Benetton. 'At the time, I only had a couple of black Azzedine Alaïa dresses and some jeans and T-shirts. So I went into the only shop that was open, which was Benetton, and said, "I need a dress, as long as it's not black, grey or denim - I've got to get married in it this morning." They handed me a beige fluffy jumper dress.'

She must have looked great in it though? 'I didn't - but God damn it, he had to love me to marry me looking like that!'

Duran Duran were famously not short on groupies, which can't have been easy, even for a supermodel. How did she deal with them? 'I had my techniques - they were pretty blatant. I'd just go up behind him and grab his balls, with a big grin on my face. Why? Because they were mine. I did actually do that one night, backstage at a show in Los Angeles, and it sent the message.'

They've been married for 30 years, but it worries Yasmin the way that other people invest in how long they have been together. 'I can't feel that pressure to remain together for other people's sake. It's not that it's meaningless because that history is beautiful, but it's not why we stay together.' Simon is 'mad as a March hare, bonkers and quite brilliant. He constantly amazes me.'

Having time apart has been their glue. 'We have spent our lives looking forward to being together. You have that first little argument when one of you comes home, almost because you're making each other pay for going away. But while you still miss each other, that's a beautiful thing. And he still makes me laugh. We don't stay together because we've been together so long, we stay because every day we decide to.'

Is she nostalgic for her modelling heyday as one of the original gang of 'supers' - Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Veronica Webb, Linda Evangelista, et al? 'I'm not sure we lived the life that people think we did. We were all just working really hard. You're in a grim hotel room, exhausted, never having eaten enough, your insecurities being fed again and again.

'But when we did the shows together we had great fun. We would call each other up and go, "Are you going to do Milan? Because Christy says she might not go - and if Christy doesn't go and if Veronica's not there,

I'm not going." We were exhausted and needed to prop each other up - and that, I really enjoyed. If we did have an hour together, we'd be shopping or in each other's hotel rooms. We always used to party in Naomi's room. We'd play music too loud, roll around the beds, order tons of chips, and then run down the corridor to our own rooms whenever trouble came from the hotel. I feel guilty about that - sorry, Naomi. We did have a damn good time. I'm really glad I was part of that generation.'

Yasmin cherishes the anonymity they enjoyed compared with today's social media-era models. 'We got away with absolute murder. Nobody had a clue where we were, what we were doing. When we weren't working, we weren't on show.'

Could she cut it as a model today? 'No, I don't think I'd survive at all. I'd be completely hopeless. It's relentless. I feel for these girls. There is so much required now from clients to do with social media, it's a whole other job. I get very cross about it because I feel there is a lot of exploitation going on - many of these girls are not being remunerated for what they bring to brands.

'For me, modelling worked because I had a family so young and, being self-employed, I could say yes or no to whatever I wanted. But the downside is that I never really trained to do anything else.'

Clothes are what she knows and she's hugely proud of her new capsule collection for fashion label Winser London, for whom she has modelled since the brand's beginnings. It's Yasmin all over: classics, with an edge, and a life story.

'I wanted to inject bit of daring. The older I get the more daring I become because I just don't care what anybody thinks - I seriously dress to make myself happy. I'm wearing a lot more colour. In the past five years colour has become so much more important because it really does enhance my mood. It's the easiest thing you can play with to stand out.'

The collection is full of vibrant plums, teals and gold as well as a flattering soft pink. The tweed trousers are inspired by her 'love of classic cars and what women in the early days of motor racing - the wonderful suits they had made.'

There's a rocky embroidered bomber jacket, a cape, patterned silk pants and stripy knits. But what she is happiest about is the merino Y stitch roll neck. 'It's the thing I wear every day. I have got much hotter of course because I'm menopausal and I sometimes I just need to take a jumper, not a coat, something I can whip off, I can throw it around my shoulders.'

She first fell in love with merino wool, not in the Winser design studio but two years ago on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, when she stepped in as her daughter Talulah's climbing partner after her friend dropped out.

'Climbers use merino because it's a genius fabric which is antibacterial, it's temperature regulating and it's light.'

She loved the sense of adventure, of discovery - and the anonymity. 'The best thing that you get from that experience is not about conquering the summit it's the journey. We were there with 20 other strangers and in the five days on the mountain not one person asked the other what they did for a living. We didn't care beasue all that mattered was what was in your heart and that you all look after each other.'

Yasmin is itching to study, to 'exercise the old grey cells'. Science, she thinks, would be good, or humanities - 'That's what I need more of, reading!'

She leaves as she arrives, alone on the number 22 back to Putney - real, radiant and a few years yet from her bus pass.

- Daily Mail

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