Life with the UK’s most el­i­gi­ble man

Cosmopolitan (UK) - - Contents - Pho­to­graphs BEN RIGGOTT

Pulling up to the red car­pet, I could see the bright spot­lights search­ing over­head. The mu­sic was blar­ing, punc­tu­ated only by squeals from the crowds that filled Le­ices­ter Square. I quickly brushed my hair back with my fin­gers and ap­plied a slick of lip­stick be­fore gaz­ing over at the man sit­ting next to me. “Do I look OK?” I mouthed. He smiled, gen­tly squeezed my hand, and said,“You look lovely.” That man is my hus­band, also known as Paul “mil­lion­dol­lar face” Scul­for, and he’s the one the crowds want to see, not me. A real male su­per­model giv­ing his finest blue steel for the pre­miere of Zoolan­der 2, play­ing up to the par­ody of the film’s main char­ac­ter. As usual, I stood back and smiled on, as he ex­pertly an­gled his face to the pa­parazzi, the flashes mak­ing my eyes flut­ter, pride swelling in the pit of my stom­ach. We walk hand in hand into the cin­ema, say­ing hello to Valentino, Lara Stone and sev­eral other fash­ion fig­ures on the way in, be­fore head­ing to the green room, which smelled of freshly popped corn and ex­pen­sive per­fume.

Ear­lier that day I was eat­ing a packed lunch at my desk in­side Im­pe­rial Col­lege’s depart­ment of Pri­mary Care and Pub­lic Health, dis­cussing the lat­est pub­li­ca­tion by our col­leagues in the

Bri­tish Med­i­cal Jour­nal. My hair was in a messy braid and my out­fit was more com­fort than cou­ture. I’m a re­search post­grad­u­ate at the School of Pub­lic Health, hop­ing to com­plete my PhD later this year. I’m a self-pro­fessed geek and a sci­en­tist; a work­ing woman with lit­tle in­ter­est in fash­ion. So how did I end up mar­ried to one of the most fa­mous su­per­mod­els in the world?

I grew up in Rome, sur­rounded by a big Ital­ian fam­ily. We took trips to the sea­side, ate home-cooked meals and spent warm af­ter­noons play­ing in the sun­flower fields at the end of our street. I in­her­ited my love for bi­ol­ogy and the med­i­cal sciences from my mother – cur­rently se­nior sci­en­tific ad­vi­sor at the Eu­ro­pean Medicines Agency – who’s one of the smartest peo­ple I know. De­spite my love af­fair with sci­ence and academia, I had al­ways wanted to travel and longed to work in a fast-paced, so­cia­ble in­dus­try,

“He was too hand­some to be good news”

rather than be cooped up with a com­puter. I dreamt of one day work­ing in New York, so at age 24, I did just that. I started pro­duc­ing pop-up events at in­ter­na­tional film and art fes­ti­vals with a bril­liant brand of night­clubs called Bun­ga­low 8, trav­el­ling the world and han­dling spon­sor­ship bud­gets and su­per-pri­vate guest lists; ap­ply­ing all of my sci­en­tific rigour to bring some or­der to an in­dus­try filled with big cre­ative per­son­al­i­ties.

It was in a club on Lon­don’s Drury Lane, on Valen­tine’s Day 2014, that every­thing changed. I had pro­duced a Fash­ion Week party – not the set­ting I’d imag­ined meet­ing my fu­ture hus­band in, but that was to be the first of many sur­prises dur­ing our courtship.

I didn’t know who Paul was when he was in­tro­duced to me; I’m ter­ri­ble with names and not re­ally in­ter­ested in celebrity gos­sip. What I did know was that he was too hand­some to be good news, so when he showed an in­ter­est in speak­ing to me, I was in­stantly sus­pi­cious. Thank­fully, my friends en­cour­aged me to let my guard down. “Live a lit­tle,” they said. So with a glass of tequila in­side me, I man­aged to string to­gether a cheesy chat-up line, and we ended the evening with a good­night kiss.

There was some­thing about him, a mag­netism that was un­de­ni­able, but when he asked if I’d like to leave with him, I re­fused and de­nied him the plea­sure of hav­ing my num­ber.“Why would we see each other again when we clearly have noth­ing in com­mon?” I thought, naïvely. The only thing I left him with was a selfie of us on his phone, which I cheek­ily up­loaded to his In­sta­gram page with the cap­tion “Met the love of my life tonight”. Clearly, the tequila I’d drunk had given me prophetic pow­ers.

Back in New York, I car­ried on with my life. I didn’t think I’d ever see Paul again, but when his work brought him to the city, he tracked me down and asked me out. I as­sumed he was a player and not gen­uinely in­ter­ested in me, so I can­celled on him twice and ended up go­ing to the same event as him with some­one else, all in the space of a week! When we even­tu­ally did get to­gether for din­ner, I could sense it was my last chance to show him that I was ac­tu­ally a de­cent

per­son. I ar­rived soak­ing wet from the April show­ers in New York, to a vi­sion of Paul sit­ting, im­pos­si­bly hand­some, wait­ing for me. My in­ner voice screamed at me: “Why are you try­ing to mess this up?!”

Din­ner lasted un­til they threw us out of the restau­rant. Sure, Paul was good-look­ing, but I’d as­sumed we’d have noth­ing in com­mon. I turned out to be wrong. He was funny, kind, sin­cere and in­ter­est­ing. I re­alised that the as­sump­tion that male models are all vain and shal­low was ridicu­lous – mod­el­ling is a job, not an en­tire per­son. We spoke about sci­ence, art and travel; he was in­ter­ested in my stud­ies and un­der­stood why I had in­ter­rupted an aca­demic ca­reer in Pub­lic Health to work in New York for a cou­ple of years.

I’ll never for­get the pure joy and light­ness of step I felt walk­ing away from that date. I can still see the sun­shine fil­ter­ing through the West Vil­lage streets the next day, feel­ing so full of hope that there was a man out there who could make me feel so alive! I still as­sumed I’d never hear from him again, of course, but I was at least grate­ful to have met him.

A few days later my phone rang. It was an un­known UK num­ber.“How many Pauls do you have call­ing you to ask you on a sec­ond date?!” Paul joked when I picked up. He’d got my num­ber through the mu­tual friend who in­tro­duced us. I pointed out that I was liv­ing in NYC and he was liv­ing in Lon­don. “Well, what are you do­ing for Easter week­end?” he asked. I was free, I told him. “Come and join me in Bar­ba­dos then,” he said. I agreed, and he sent me my ticket con­fir­ma­tion once he’d booked. I got to the air­port and every­thing was taken care of. It was three weeks af­ter our first date. That day I smiled so much that my cheeks hurt.

In Bar­ba­dos, he asked me to be his girl­friend. I knew there was no point fight­ing the fact that I’d fallen hard for him.

Of course, I was ner­vous about how much at­ten­tion he must get from other women, but Paul quickly nixed those in­se­cu­ri­ties. He made it very clear that he was in­ter­ested in me and only me. I soon re­alised that inap­pro­pri­ate fe­male at­ten­tion is as an­noy­ing to him as be­ing wolfwhis­tled in the street is to me. Most women only want to say hello to him and have me take their photo, which I usu­ally of­fer to do! Paul has a very good sense of when peo­ple are star­ing and will swiftly avoid awk­ward sit­u­a­tions. On the rare oc­ca­sion that women have ap­proached Paul with less el­e­gant in­ten­tions, I am in­vis­i­ble to them. But those types of women are so far off be­ing his type that I can only feel sad for them. Cru­cially, Paul knows ex­actly how to han­dle it, and we have a con­nec­tion that al­lows me to sit back and gig­gle. Oc­ca­sion­ally, it’s un­de­ni­ably use­ful to have Paul do the talk­ing. His charm has got us through some in­ter­est­ing air­port sit­u­a­tions, and I have to ad­mit that it’s amus­ing to see other women laugh at his puns and melt a lit­tle when he smiles at them with that toothy grin of his.

When Paul asked me to marry him, on an idyl­lic beach in per­fect

“Women melt when he smiles at them”

Mus­tique, time stopped and I had an out-of-body ex­pe­ri­ence. I couldn’t be­lieve it and yet, at the same time, I knew that mo­ment would come; I had no doubt from early on in our re­la­tion­ship that Paul and I would spend our lives to­gether. Be­ing mar­ried has def­i­nitely given me new con­fi­dence when meet­ing peo­ple at events; it’s such a great feel­ing to say that he’s my hus­band.

There have been times when some of his fans have be­come a lit­tle too in­vested, but I don’t give it too much thought. Paul’s pin-up sta­tus is a by-prod­uct of his work, not the fo­cus of it, so it’s not some­thing we spend much time dis­cussing at home with a cup of tea. I’m glad to see pos­i­tive com­ments on his so­cial-me­dia ac­counts, as I know how dam­ag­ing the in­dus­try can be for self-es­teem. Peo­ple have a hard time un­der­stand­ing that part of be­ing a model for work in­cludes go­ing to events and din­ners. It may sound awe­some to have to go to the gym, make sure you’re groomed, and at­tend par­ties and fash­ion shows for your day job, and it is in so many ways, but it also means hav­ing to be so­cia­ble and look im­mac­u­late even when all you want to do is eat choco­late di­ges­tives in front of Net­flix. When we at­tend events to­gether, my role is to sup­port him in his work, while also en­joy­ing the com­pany of wildly var­ied and of­ten fab­u­lous peo­ple. Nor­mally no­body is in­ter­ested in the re­search I do, but for me, these events are a lovely break from my more mun­dane re­al­ity.

I would be ly­ing if I said there haven’t been oc­ca­sions where I’ve felt our worlds were very dif­fer­ent. I was once pre­par­ing for an exam at the li­brary in St Mary’s hospi­tal, su­per stressed out, sur­viv­ing off stale cof­fee from a plas­tic cup, and feel­ing sorry for my­self, when I saw a story about Paul and Abbey Clancy laugh­ing on a swing on a beach in Ja­maica while film­ing Bri­tain’s Next Top Model. At times like that, I feel the big dif­fer­ence in our work, es­pe­cially as Paul trav­els so much. Some­times it’s hard to talk face to face and re­con­nect.

No, Paul isn’t the man I thought I’d marry grow­ing up. He’s much, much bet­ter. Be­yond Paul’s fa­mous face and per­fectly pro­por­tioned body is the per­son, which is who I’m in love with. Be­sides be­ing a model, he is a bril­liant fa­ther, a petrol­head with en­cy­clopaedic knowl­edge, a ded­i­cated phi­lan­thropist for our char­ity, Stride Foun­da­tion, a tal­ented in­te­rior de­signer, a pun-tas­tic joker and a great lis­tener.

Last sum­mer, we were at a pool party in Mal­lorca watch­ing Pixie Lott sing to a gath­er­ing of all of the big­gest male models in the world. It felt like be­ing in an MTV video. The nicest ele­ment to these pinchy­our­self mo­ments is that all of the models, Paul’s col­leagues and friends, and their part­ners are some of the most gen­uinely friendly peo­ple I’ve met. The “Select Men” (the models signed to the same agency as Paul) are like a fam­ily, not bitchy or com­pet­i­tive, and all of them are in­ter­est­ing peo­ple who just hap­pen to have won the ge­netic lottery and been of­fered the op­por­tu­nity to make a liv­ing from it.

Just a ca­sual night in at the Scul­fors’

“Smile all you want,” she thought. “I’m not shar­ing the crois­sants”

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