Saturday, June 13, 2009

FABULOUS: Sophie Ellis-Bextor


Sophie talks about her fourth album, Heartbreak Make Me A Dancer, Kit, her brother etc., She's working with a few different people on the 4th album, she mentioned Calvin Harris, Metronomy and the Sneaker Pimps, and she said that there were some collaborations in the offing, but it was too early to talk about them.


She's survived traumatic pregnancies and her baby's illness, but it's just made Sophie Ellis-Bextor stronger

Many things can change in 18 months, just ask Sophie Ellis-Bextor. The last time Fabulous caught up with pop's queen of cool, she was on a high, bursting to tell us how motherhood had chilled her out, how happy her marriage was and how life was very peachy, thank you very much.

Fast-forward a year and a half and the Sophie we meet this time is very different indeed. The trademark jet-black hair is still the same, as are the killer pins (yes, even after giving birth just four months ago) - but now there is a quietness about her, a more contemplative air. Today she's not trying to push the "my life's just perfect" line, and in fact shakes her head at the mere suggestion.

"I honestly can't imagine anyone wanting to swap places with me. Not unless they have a very strong stomach" she says.

This is not just pop star hyperbole. The past few months have been nerve-shredding and, ultimately, the toughest she and her husband, The Feeling's bass guitarist Richard Jones, have ever had to face.

After suffering complications with the premature birth of her first son Sonny five years ago, Sophie had to relive the emotional ordeal when her second baby, Kit Valentine, was born nine weeks early, weighing just under 3lb. In short, Sophie's been to hell and back.

But if the traumas of the last few months have taken their toll, Sophie's not showing it. She arrives at the north London studio looking anything but careworn, with immaculate hair and perfect porcelain skin. Only the dark circles under her eyes and the fact she's come armed with a breast pump give away the fact she's mum to a newborn.

Free of post-baby body issues, she's even happy to slip out of her Topshop floral dress and wriggle into a pair of hot pants that would make Lady GaGa blush. So what's her secret? Macrobiotic food or liquid diets? In truth, Sophie has more important things to worry about than her waistline.

"I'm exercising about three times a week at the gym," she says. "But I'm not in a mad panic. I'm usually a size 8 so I'm a good size off that, but I don't care. To be honest, the focus of putting weight on is more of a big deal to me."

Her subtle reference to Kit, who's now almost 7lb, drop-kicks all our figure envy out of the window. Who cares about your dress size when you've got a little miracle at home? But Sophie's keen to point out how many other mothers have gone through what she has - that and "so much more".

Pre-eclampsia, a common but serious complication of pregnancy, causes dangerously high blood pressure in the mother, and is one of the leading causes of premature birth. And it blighted both Sophie's pregnancies.

"With Sonny it was my first experience of pregnancy and I think nature gave me some sort of protective bubble that didn't allow things to really hit me," she says. "A lot of it was touch-and-go and nothing happened as it should. I had post-traumatic stress afterwards. You put a lot of your feelings and panics on hold and then later it all rewinds in your head over and over and you can't believe what you've gone through. It's like being hit by a train."

"Then in the middle of it all, when Sonny was four months old, he got meningitis, which was terrifying. I thought that was it, and I went to pieces. He was so hot and getting hotter and hotter. It was incredibly frightening."

Despite this traumatic experience, Sophie wasn't worried when she fell pregnant again after doctors assured her that it was highly unlikely her pre-eclampsia would return.

"Statistically, it wasn't an issue. I was really excited and felt completely fine," she says. "Then, at 28 weeks, I was due to do a show in Russia and needed a doctor's note to fly. There was part of me that knew something was up. I'd tested my blood pressure and it was quite high. Then the doctor said she had a bad feeling. "

"Within days of being diagnosed with pre-eclampsia again, the consultant decided they needed to get my baby out."

"I didn't at any point allow myself to imagine anything bad. You have a moment where you think: 'Oh God, no!' but you just have to push through that. Richard was with me and at least both of us had been through it before so we knew what to expect."

Sophie describes Kit's birth - an emergency C-section at London's Chelsea And Westminster Hospital on February 7 - as lovely but scary at the same time.

"When he came out he was so tiny," she says. "He was like a little doll. We didn't have a whole lot of baby, but what we had was amazing. The next day I got to hold him once. Then we had a week where Richard and I were able to put our fingers through his little incubator and stroke him."

"Sonny came to see his little brother too. He'd already been back to visit the neonatal unit so he could see where he was born, so he wasn't shocked by the tubes or Kit's incubator. He just took it in his stride."

In between sitting with Kit, quiet meals with Richard or her mum, TV presenter Janet Ellis, Sophie worked on her new album in her home recording studio off London's Portobello Road.

"Music has always been the best therapy for me," she admits. "I had one bad moment where my blood pressure shot back up and I was admitted to the high-dependency unit. It was full of mums who'd just had Caesareans. I could hear all the crying babies through the closed curtains. At one point a nurse opened my curtains, looked for a baby, saw there wasn't one and closed them again. I did cry then. I kept thinking: 'I have a baby too. He just isn't with me.'"

For a brief moment Sophie breaks, before regaining her composure. She simply won't have it that she's been unlucky.

"You just deal with the reality you have," she insists. "Neonatal units are surreal places. They're not cutesy. Lots of the parents don't even speak to each other - everyone is just focused on their baby getting better. Premature babies look like little aliens because they have big heads compared with their bodies. To me, Kit was a beautiful little alien. He was our baby, Sonny's brother, our family."

"It's weird. Richard and I had only been together a few months when I got pregnant with Sonny. We went through all of that and now this. It brought us closer together. There were lots of times we needed to lean on each other and we did. Richard has so much strength. He is such an honourable man and I love him very much. We got through it our way and I'm proud of us for that."

"Everything's fine now." she says, turning round to find some wood to touch. "Kit has passed his sight and hearing tests. Babies are tough. My babies are tough."

Despite Sophie's 30th birthday passing last month in a blur of hospital visits and breastfeeding, she has no plans for a belated celeb-packed party. With a nod to her tattoo - a red heart crossed with the word Family - she reveals: "That's what my life is about. My family and my music."

Her parents divorced when she was four, but she's still close to her dad, Robin, and her five half-brothers and sisters.

"I have no problems - my parents got divorced because for them, it was the right thing to do," she says, while hinting that she and Richard, who got married in Italy four years ago, are in this for keeps.

"My mum gave me the best piece of advice before I got married. She told me that your children are the most important things in your life, but you have to remember your husband too. We definitely make sure we do date nights: meals, trips to the cinema, the very occasional night in a hotel. And you always have to remember to be kind to each other. If you aren't happy, how can your children be?"

"Whatever has happened to me, I love how my life has turned out. I'm happier, more confident and stronger now than I've ever been. I've lost a lot of insecurities and I have my boys and a man who really loves me."

And what about the possibility of another baby? "Yes. Definitely. Absolutely," she grins. "Whatever we've been through it's been so worth it. I just need a bit of a break first!"

Googled yourself? When I'm feeling masochistic I Google 'I Hate Sophie Ellis-Bextor' to see the horrible things people say about me.
Been arrested? Never. But I always feel guilty if I see a policeman.
Pretended to be someone else? Yes. If someone in the street asks me if I'm Sophie Ellis-Bextor, I often put on a French accent and say: 'Non'.
Stolen something? I was a total kleptomaniac as a kid. I had a thing about taking mementoes from parties. I stole the white ball from a pool party once.
Gone commando? I like pants.
Used your fame in a bad way? I got to jump the queue at Legoland.
Been mistaken for another celebrity? Martine McCutcheon, lots of times.
Read something about yourself and thought I wish! That I'd got a part in Friends as Ross' girlfriend.
Looked up your exes on Facebook? No.
Kissed a girl? Yes, but it didn't go anywhere

Sophie's new single Heartbreak Make Me A Dancer is released June 22. It's also included on the Freemasons' album Shakedown 2, available on CD and download from June 29.


kaushik said...

I'm not too fond of the gothic style make up on Sophie. It makes her look older!! And not too sure about the old plain hairstyle as well. I've gotten too used to seeing Sophie on Rimmel campaigns and here and there looking stunning with amazing hair, this just doesn't seem right... :( I hope she gets back to the fringe and gorgeous big hairstyles soon

Kazimir said...

Haha, 'I've had that done when I was in the navy'



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