COVER STORY

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We meet dancer and model Re­nee Ste­wart and dis­cover shes’ a chip off the old rocker – dad Rod. But she own’t be wear­ing those leop­ard-print trousers

As the Los An­ge­les-bred model daugh­ter of Bri­tish rock roy­alty Sir Rod, Re­nee Ste­wart would have ev­ery right to be­have like a proper lit­tle madam. Re­al­ity TV pro­duc­ers, model agen­cies and party or­gan­is­ers all come knock­ing on the door of ge­net­i­cally blessed celebrity off­spring in their teenage years, with prom­ises of mil­lions of pounds from sim­ply liv­ing off the fam­ily name.

So it comes as a pleas­ant sur­prise to meet a rather shy 24-year-old who ad­mits to feel­ing ‘in­cred­i­bly ner­vous’ about her first magazine in­ter­view and whose im­me­di­ate con­cerns in­clude the Don­ald Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion (‘In terms of ac­cep­tance and in­te­gra­tion we are just go­ing back­wards – it makes me want to cry’) and no longer be­ing able to use her stu­dent travel card, hav­ing re­cently fin­ished her BA at the Lon­don Con­tem­po­rary Dance School (LCDS). (‘I used to pay around £80 a month for travel and now it’s so ex­pen­sive. I just walk a lot more.’)

It is al­most im­pos­si­ble to take in the fact that this quiet, con­sid­ered, beau­ti­ful girl is the child of New Zealand-born su­per­model Rachel Hunter and rau­cous Rod, whose iconic mo­ments in­clude wear­ing a pair of skin-tight leop­ard-print trousers, and singing songs such as ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy’, not to men­tion a his­tory of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll.

But Re­nee (named by her dad after the Left Banke song ‘Walk Away Renée’), who moved to Lon­don in 2013, idolises not mu­si­cians but dancers – in­clud­ing US bal­let star Misty Copeland and French bal­le­rina Sylvie Guillem. She rarely drinks or goes to par­ties be­cause if she’s not in a dance stu­dio she’s in a gym, at a yoga class or cook­ing in the house she shares with friends. ‘I’m a good cook but I’ve def­i­nitely eaten a lot of beans on toast since I’ve been in Lon­don. I don’t have money to blow on fancy restau­rants,’ she says.

And when she signed up to LCDS she didn’t tell any­one who her fa­mous par­ents were. ‘I don’t ex­actly go around an­nounc­ing that,’ she says. ‘Peo­ple got to know me first be­fore they knew any­thing about my fam­ily.’

Her small cir­cle of friends (she is not cur­rently in a re­la­tion­ship) is largely made up of other dancers and mu­tual friends with her younger brother Liam, 22, who lives in Coven­try (where’s he’s a mem­ber of the Coven­try Blaze ice-hockey team) and her half-sis­ter Ruby, 29, from Rod’s re­la­tion­ship with Kelly Em­berg, who lives in Nashville with her band The Sis­ter­hood.

Re­nee also – very con­tro­ver­sially for a Ste­wart – has dark brown hair. ‘I have no idea where it came from,’ she says. ‘I once dip-dyed my hair blonde but I’m def­i­nitely a brunette. And I’m stay­ing that way.’

It would be easy to say that Re­nee is some­thing of a Saffy fig­ure from Ab­so­lutely Fab­u­lous: the sen­si­ble, earnest by-prod­uct of out­ra­geous look-at-me par­ents. But she is not ex­actly that. She has mod­elled for Pan­tene and was the face of New Zealand lin­gerie com­pany Ben­don (her mother was the face of the same brand in 1986), and her spec­tac­u­lar physique – all long limbs and lithe body – is some­thing in which she takes great pride. ‘The mod­el­ling I want to do is where move­ment is in­volved. I love that the fash­ion in­dus­try is us­ing dancers as mod­els more. I see my­self as a dancer first and model se­cond.’

She has cer­tainly in­her­ited her

fa­ther’s work ethic. She re­cently walked for Dolce & Gab­bana at Mi­lan Fash­ion Week, as well as star­ring in the new James Perse cloth­ing cam­paign, and has com­pleted a re­search project with chore­og­ra­pher Sasha Roubicek. Cur­rent en­deav­ours in­clude a project with film­maker Leila Bartell and danc­ing in one of her sis­ter Ruby’s mu­sic videos.

She and Rod have a spe­cial bond. ‘We are both per­form­ers. I love to per­form,’ she says. ‘We talk about it, what it feels like to be out there on stage. It’s the place where both of us feel the most com­fort­able in the world. I feel so lib­er­ated, so com­pletely my­self, when I dance.

‘As a kid I was al­ways putting on plays. It would be me and Ruby and Liam. We’d sell tick­ets and make ev­ery­one come, then Liam would try to wreck every­thing by say­ing the wrong lines and my dad would re­ally laugh,’ Re­nee says. She has danced since child­hood. ‘I did every­thing from bal­let to street to hip-hop. My mum did bal­let and my great aunt was a dancer – plus my dad is one of the most en­er­getic peo­ple I know – so it’s def­i­nitely in the blood. Both of my par­ents in­spire me.’ Can she sing, too? ‘No way,’ she laughs. ‘I leave that to my dad and my sis­ter. It’s def­i­nitely not my thing.’

When Rod and Rachel came to see her in her fi­nal per­for­mance at LCDS, the 72-year-old singer had tears of pride in his eyes. ‘He tells me he’s proud of me all the time,’ she says. ‘He knows I work hard and I’m fol­low­ing my pas­sion. And I guess he’s pleased I’ve found some­thing cre­ative that makes me happy.’

Re­nee pro­vides a fas­ci­nat­ing glimpse into the work­ings of the byzan­tine Ste­wart clan, peo­pled with glam­orous blondes (from Rod’s first wife Alana Ste­wart to his cur­rent spouse Penny Lan­caster) and stud­ded with beau­ti­ful chil­dren. Re­nee is the fifth of his eight-strong brood, and the first born of his se­cond mar­riage in 1990 to Rachel (they sep­a­rated in 1999 and di­vorced in 2006 when Re­nee was 14, but have re­mained friends). At 24, she is nearly 30 years younger than his first child, Sarah Streeter, 53 (born when Rod was 18 after a year-long ro­mance with art stu­dent Susannah Bof­fey, and sub­se­quently adopted), and al­most 20 years older than his youngest child Ai­den, six (his se­cond son by Penny).

Re­nee ad­mits she was a well-be­haved child. ‘I was never dif­fi­cult as a kid. The only times I’ve been in trou­ble with dad is over my dog [she has a res­cue chi­huahua called Jagger] be­cause she poos in the house, which drives him mad. He’s not big on an­i­mals but we are all ob­sessed’ – a source of good-na­tured ir­ri­ta­tion for a man who ‘likes every­thing neat and tidy’.

When Re­nee talks about her very mod­ern fam­ily, what comes across most clearly is a lack of dys­func­tion along with a fun­da­men­tal ad­her­ence to old-fash­ioned val­ues (hard work, good man­ners and re­spect for her el­ders) and a solid sense of fam­ily.

‘Both my mum and dad are laid­back about what we want to do in life but strict about how we be­have, and my dad re­ally cares about us work­ing hard and be­ing in­de­pen­dent. He came up from noth­ing and worked in­cred­i­bly hard to get where he is, and he loves talk­ing about the old days when he was busk­ing in the streets and liv­ing on hardly any money. That def­i­nitely keeps you grounded. It also makes me re­spect him all the more be­cause try­ing to make a ca­reer in a cre­ative in­dus­try is so hard. I’m gen­uinely in awe of what he has done.’

Re­nee’s face re­laxes as she talks about her fam­ily. ‘There are a lot of us kids and a lot of ex-wives and part­ners, but we were brought up to con­sider each other broth­ers and sis­ters. I’ve never thought of any of my sib­lings as a half-sis­ter or brother – to me they are just fam­ily.’

Ev­ery year, the Ste­warts gather for an an­nual Christ­mas lunch. She laughs: ‘We all get to­gether and ev­ery­one cooks. It’s com­pletely chaotic but it’s one of my favourite times of the year. We also re­cently went on hol­i­day to­gether, which was pretty in­sane. It’s quite hard to fit ev­ery­one in a sin­gle pho­to­graph as there are so many of us, but we all get on re­ally well.’

Penny, Rod’s wife of nearly ten years, is al­ways the first to write glow­ing praise of Re­nee’s dance shots on her In­sta­gram page. ‘Penny is a lovely woman and she’s very sup­port­ive with all of us,’ she says. ‘I’m lucky to have a lot of great peo­ple in my life.’

Ask Re­nee if she feels over­shad­owed by the Ste­wart name and she looks al­most puz­zled. ‘No,’ she says. ‘I’m proud of it. I don’t think it en­ti­tles me to any­thing. I want to make a ca­reer out of dance and from mod­el­ling with move­ment. But it’s all up to how hard I work at it.’

Re­nee has ben­e­fited from be­ing born when Rod was older. Rod him­self has ad­mit­ted he was ‘too caught up in my ca­reer’ as a young man. He has said his re­la­tion­ship with Sarah – with whom he was rec­on­ciled in 2009 – has been dif­fi­cult and mired with guilt, and he had to watch as Sean, 36 (from his mar­riage to Alana), strug­gled to get through is­sues with drugs and par­ty­ing. ‘It was much harder for my older chil­dren be­cause I was younger,’ Rod told me re­cently. ‘Bless them all, they’ve come through it and I’ve worked to be a good dad.’

Re­nee nods her head. Un­like Sean and his sis­ter Kim­berly, who lived in Bev­erly Hills, she and Liam grew up in the more re­laxed sea­side en­claves of Cul­ver City and Re­dondo Beach. She says: ‘We didn’t have the whole Hol­ly­wood thing go­ing on. We didn’t re­ally get in­volved in par­ty­ing and go­ing out be­cause I was so fo­cused on dance and Liam was fo­cused on his sports. I didn’t start mod­el­ling un­til quite re­cently be­cause dance al­ways came first.’

Right now she is in the heart of her fa­ther’s home­land and Rod – who hails from North Lon­don, where he was born to a work­ing-class

Scot­tish fa­ther and English mother – was de­lighted when his youngest daugh­ter moved to the cap­i­tal. When he vis­its, he re­gales her with tales about how the cut­ting-edge area that is now her home used to be one of the ‘rough­est neigh­bour­hoods ever’. She laughs: ‘My dad thinks it’s hi­lar­i­ous that Shored­itch is now so cool and trendy be­cause it was re­ally dan­ger­ous when he was my age. But I love it be­cause you can walk every­where, it’s in­cred­i­bly mixed and laid­back, and there are tons of great lit­tle places to eat.’

In terms of mod­el­ling, Re­nee – who is man­aged by Storm, the agency that dis­cov­ered Kate Moss – is not the av­er­age stick-thin cat­walk size. In­stead she is strong, lean and ath­letic. ‘I eat a lot be­cause I ex­er­cise a lot,’ she says. ‘I love healthy food but I also love roast din­ners and choco­late. I’m ob­sessed with Cad­bury But­tons. I never stop my­self eat­ing any­thing I want be­cause I’m al­ways danc­ing and ex­er­cis­ing for hours ev­ery day.

‘I do yoga, I med­i­tate, I go to spin classes and I work out in the gym. It’s how I live. It makes me happy. I look at my dad still run­ning around on stage and I think that’s amaz­ing be­cause he is so fit – he still plays foot­ball. My mum is in­cred­i­bly fit and healthy and that’s the way we were brought up.’

Re­nee is also a big fash­ion fan. ‘I love laid­back, well- cut dance and ath­letic clothes,’ she says. ‘I’d love one day to de­sign my own line be­cause they are the sort of pieces I love to wear; you can look cool and com­fort­able at the same time.’

She smiles when I ask about her dad’s sense of style. ‘It’s amaz­ing,’ she says. ‘He has his own look. He’s al­ways re­ally well dressed and he loves clothes. He has a whole floor in his house [in LA] with his stage clothes from all the decades, which we love go­ing to look at.’

Does she ever, I ask, feel tempted to pull on those skin-tight leop­ard-print trousers? She laughs: ‘They don’t fit me. My dad was a smaller size in trousers than I am, so I wouldn’t be able to get them on. I do love them, though.’ Sir Rod – and Rachel – should be proud.

I look at my dad still run­ning around on stage and I think that’s amaz­ing

RE­NEE WEARS TOP, TROUSERS and SHOES, all Fendi

DRESS, MaxMara. YEL­LOW TOP, Top­shop Unique. TRAIN­ERS, Jimmy Choo Re­nee (cen­tre) with, from left, sib­lings Sean and Kim­berly, dad Rod and Penny Lan­caster in 2005

Re­nee with her mum, su­per­model Rachel Hunter, 47

DRESS, Stella McCart­ney. JACKET, MaxMara

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