TV show, swimwear line, mod­el­ling con­tract… EL­IZ­A­BETH HURLEY’s em­pire con­tin­ues to flour­ish. Even her exes are reg­u­lars at her court. But, she tells Mar­garette Driscoll, it’s her role rais­ing aware­ness of breast can­cer that is clos­est to her heart

The Mail on Sunday - You - - Editor's Letter - PHO­TOGRAPHS ALAN GELATI

re­veals why she prefers exes to boyfriends – and the only boy who re­ally stole her heart

If­longevity is the test of celebrity, El­iz­a­beth Hurley has passed with fly­ing colours. Ever since she be­came the pa­parazzi’s dar­ling – after ac­com­pa­ny­ing her then boyfriend Hugh Grant to the pre­miere of Four Wed­dings and a Fu­neral in 1994 wear­ing ‘ that Ver­sace dress’, held to­gether with over­sized safety pins – her life and loves have been the stuff of soap opera. But along­side the drama she has built an im­pres­sive ca­reer as an ac­tress, model and swimwear en­tre­pre­neur, while mostly be­ing a sin­gle mother.

It takes the best part of four weeks to find a space in her crazy-busy di­ary for an 8am meet­ing at Blakes, a bou­tique hotel just around the cor­ner from her home in London’s Kens­ing­ton. And, at 7.45am, with a long day’s film­ing ahead of her, I find her al­ready seated at a cor­ner table sip­ping a soy cap­puc­cino.

It’s no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that El­iz­a­beth looks amaz­ing. Her eyes sparkle, she has the per­fect honey tan and her tum­bling hair is an ex­quis­ite shade of caramel. All sum­mer she has been work­ing 16-hour days shoot­ing season four of E!’s The Roy­als, the Dy­nasty- style soap – ‘Buck­ing­ham Palace on steroids’ – in which she plays Queen He­lena, head of a fic­tional Bri­tish royal fam­ily, all tiaras and sexy foot­men.

On In­sta­gram, El­iz­a­beth (none of her friends calls her Liz) de­scribes her­self as ‘Mummy, Ac­tress, Model, Farmer and Bikini De­signer’ and it’s hard to know – other than Mummy, ob­vi­ously – which of these roles takes prece­dence. She talks with as much en­thu­si­asm about her lat­est ac­qui­si­tion, a flow bee­hive (a method of ex­tract­ing honey with­out dis­turb­ing the bees, in case you were won­der­ing) for her £6 mil­lion country pile in Here­ford­shire as she does about her act­ing ca­reer.

Fol­low­ers will be fa­mil­iar with her glam­orous swimwear shots and end­less tabloid spec­u­la­tion about her love life and friend­ships with her string of exes: after Hugh Grant came mul­ti­mil­lion­aire Steve Bing, hus­band Arun Na­yar and fi­ancé Shane Warne. But there is one se­ri­ous as­pect to her port­fo­lio. She was hired as a ‘face’ of the cos­met­ics gi­ant Estée Lauder in the mid-1990s and has spear­headed its sup­port for breast can­cer re­search ever since. This week, to mark the 25th an­niver­sary of the cam­paign, she is launch­ing its an­nual fundraiser (Oc­to­ber is breast can­cer aware­ness month) which is hop­ing to raise more than £100,000 in the UK through sales of a spe­cially cre­ated beauty box.

Breast can­cer is a sub­ject very close to El­iz­a­beth’s heart. When Eve­lyn Lauder – co-cre­ator of the pink rib­bon (now the sym­bol of sup­port for peo­ple with breast can­cer) and daugh­ter-in-law of the com­pany’s founder Estée – first asked her to join the cam­paign, her beloved grand­mother had just died from the dis­ease. ‘No one talked about breast can­cer in those days. Can­cer was a dirty word – it was whis­pered – as if it were con­ta­gious even to say it,’ she says.

‘My grand­mother, who was fab­u­lous and from a large, happy fam­ily, didn’t talk about it, even to my mother. We found out later she’d had a dou­ble mas­tec­tomy but we didn’t know when she had it; we weren’t there for her. Now sur­vival rates are higher and there are bet­ter treat­ments. We’ve done a good job of spread­ing aware­ness. A world that doesn’t have breast can­cer – or one where you don’t die of it – has to be the aim.’

El­iz­a­beth is char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally up­beat. One of the things peo­ple seem to like most about her is that she’s not edgy or neu­rotic. She cheer­fully ad­mits to be­ing a show-off who can’t re­sist the cam­era and is a com­pul­sive flirt, so much so that she laughs about hav­ing suf­fered ‘flirt­ing in­juries’ on hol­i­day: think­ing she looked ‘hot’, she mis­judged a scis­sor jump into a ham­mock and knocked her­self out.

She has found a kin­dred spirit in Joan Collins, who co-stars in The Roy­als. One of El­iz­a­beth’s re­cent In­sta­gram posts shows a clip of the two of them walk­ing off set, arms en­twined, say­ing, ‘You were won­der­ful, dar­ling.’ ‘No, you were won­der­ful…’

And in a sur­real mo­ment of life meet­ing art, she re­cently ran into Prince Harry’s girl­friend Meghan Markle, an ac­tress some think might be­come an ac­tual royal. El­iz­a­beth is cheer­ing her all the way: gor­geous, tal­ented, a wo­man of her own mak­ing, Meghan is just what the royal fam­ily needs, she says. ‘Hell yes! She’s en­chant­ing.’

Damian, El­iz­a­beth’s 15-year- old son, who has spent four school sum­mer hol­i­days hang­ing around on set, was of­fered a cameo role as Prince Hansel of Liecht­en­stein last year. ‘I was his chap­er­one, so I was there to watch and pass him bot­tles of water. This year we’ve had a scene to­gether, which was sweet,’ she says.

Her ad­vice to him as an actor was sim­ply to ‘learn your lines and don’t be an­noy­ing’, which he seems to have more than managed. ‘Bizarrely, he’s as­ton­ish­ingly com­fort­able and non-ner­vous. He’s im­pres­sive actually, a nat­u­ral.’

In term time, Damian is away at board­ing school. It must be a tough act, be­ing a sin­gle mother, run­ning two homes and trying to work (‘Ah! Cue the vi­o­lins,’ she laughs). She thought long and hard about send­ing him away, but it has worked well for both of them. Iron­i­cally, as the son of a celebrity, Damian prob­a­bly has a more ‘normal’ en­vi­ron­ment in a school where many of the pupils have rich or fa­mous par­ents.

‘My mother helps where she can but she is a gen­er­a­tion older and if Damian were at day school in London, aged 15, and I had to go away for work, I don’t think she would have been able to cope with the chal­lenges,’ she says. ‘He went to


a day school in the country for a while, but it was hard to know who could hold the fort there, and be­cause he is an only child and was never going to have sib­lings, I wanted him to have kids around him.

‘We’re quite iso­lated. There aren’t neigh­bours like there were where I grew up, when you could just get on your bike and say, “Do you want to come out and play?” He doesn’t have that. It was the right de­ci­sion and he’s very happy where he is. And now we have these great hol­i­days ev­ery sum­mer, on set. He likes that; he’d rather be on set than on hol­i­day. There’s part of me, though, that would rather be on hol­i­day.’

El­iz­a­beth’s ca­reer be­gan after a pe­riod of teenage punk re­bel­lion when she dyed her hair pink: ‘My mother prob­a­bly thought I looked a fright.’ She grew up in a mod­est semi in Bas­ingstoke, Hamp­shire. Her fa­ther, Roy, was a ma­jor in the Royal Army Ed­u­ca­tional Corps, her mother An­gela a pri­mary school teacher. Her sib­lings are also high achiev­ers: El­iz­a­beth’s sis­ter Kath­leen was an agent who sold film and TV rights to books; her brother Michael is a sci­en­tist at London’s Im­pe­rial Col­lege, re­search­ing Parkin­son’s dis­ease.

El­iz­a­beth was just out of act­ing school in 1987 when she landed a part in a Span­ish film, Re­mando al Viento, which also starred Hugh Grant. They were an item for the next 13 years, their re­la­tion­ship sur­viv­ing not just her up­stag­ing him in the Ver­sace dress but his much-pub­li­cised en­counter with pros­ti­tute Di­vine Brown in Los An­ge­les in 1995, the same year El­iz­a­beth was snapped up by Estée Lauder.

Pro­fes­sional dis­ci­pline means she’s too busy for boyfriends right now – ‘When I’m film­ing, I don’t go out at all. Not at all. I walk in the door and go straight to bed’ – but her abil­ity to keep exes cir­cling in her or­bit is re­mark­able. She and Hugh lived next door to one an­other for a number of years after they split up and are god­par­ents to each other’s chil­dren. Her ex-hus­band, In­dian tex­tiles heir Arun, is still very much on the scene, though they di­vorced in 2011. And she re­mains close to Shane Warne, the Aus­tralian former in­ter­na­tional crick­eter, to whom she was en­gaged for two years un­til 2013.

‘The thing is,’ she says, ‘if some­one’s lovely how could you not be on good terms with them? None of us has ever done any­thing bad to one an­other. Hugh and Arun are very important in our lives. Shane is still a good friend; we were tex­ting each other last night. Damian loves Shane’s three kids, so we’ll al­ways be con­nected to each other in one way or an­other.’

The one who has been all but erased from the pic­ture is film pro­ducer Steve Bing, bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther to Damian. When El­iz­a­beth be­came preg­nant, Bing de­nied pa­ter­nity, say­ing their re­la­tion­ship had been ‘non- ex­clu­sive’. El­iz­a­beth’s fury was ev­i­dent in the statement she re­leased when a DNA test proved Bing (who in­her­ited $600 mil­lion at the age of 18) was her son’s fa­ther and he of­fered to pay £100,000 a year into a trust for Damian’s main­te­nance. ‘I have al­ways made it per­fectly clear that I don’t want any fi­nan­cial help from him what­so­ever,’ she said. ‘The money is not wanted or wel­come.’

Over time, the cold war be­tween them seems to have thawed – ‘I hon­estly don’t think I have an enemy in the world right now,’ she says breezily. ‘We’re on friendly terms.’ But

Damian car­ries her sur­name, not Bing’s. On Fa­ther’s Day she posted a mes­sage to Arun – ‘Thank u for be­ing the best daddy to our lit­tle man’ – along­side a sweet fam­ily pic­ture of the three of them, taken when Damian was lit­tle.

‘They’re very close,’ she says. ‘Damian went out for din­ner with Arun last night. And when they came back there was a knock at my bed­room door. I said, “Damian, why are you knock­ing on my door?” And, of course, it was Arun come to say hello.’

In­trigu­ingly, she twice ab­sent-mind­edly refers to Arun as ‘my hus­band – I mean my ex-hus­band’ – and talks warmly of his fam­ily. ‘I ab­so­lutely adore his mother; she’s Ger­man so we call her Mutti. In In­dia I stay with her and when she’s here she lives around the cor­ner, so I see her nearly ev­ery day. Twice a year I go to Mum­bai, where Arun grew up and his brother still lives. I have kaf­tans made there for my beach­wear com­pany, so I go to su­per­vise pro­duc­tion.’

She has tried to spread the word about breast can­cer in In­dia, ‘but the con­ver­sa­tion is only just open­ing up there’. In 2009, the year after she mar­ried Arun, she re­turned to the Taj Ma­hal Palace Hotel in Mum­bai where she spent her wed­ding night to host a fundraiser, dressed in a pink sari with Damian in a match­ing, mini ma­haraja out­fit. Two years ago, she launched breast can­cer aware­ness month in New York by flick­ing a switch that lit up the Em­pire State Build­ing in pink.

She has a mam­mo­gram at the Eve­lyn H Lauder Breast Cen­ter in the city ev­ery year. Her first was a present from Eve­lyn for her 40th birth­day.

Eve­lyn was in­spired by the Aids ac­tivists of the time, who had cre­ated a red rib­bon as a sym­bol of sup­port for the cause. She and a friend cre­ated the pink rib­bon to sym­bol­ise breast can­cer. She also set up the Breast Can­cer Re­search Foun­da­tion, declar­ing its mis­sion to be ‘preven­tion and a cure in our life­time’. The BCRF now sup­ports re­search around the world, in­clud­ing three projects at Bri­tain’s lead­ing can­cer hos­pi­tal, London’s Royal Mars­den.

‘My grand­mother was a teacher who grew up on a farm. In those days, peo­ple hadn’t been lec­tured on eat­ing quinoa and kale, but they ate healthily compared to now be­cause they didn’t have processed food – and there was no pol­lu­tion in the country. To this day we still don’t re­ally know why some peo­ple will get the dis­ease and oth­ers won’t,’ says El­iz­a­beth.

‘What up­sets me most is that had it hap­pened to­day it would be a dif­fer­ent story. Women of my grand­mother’s gen­er­a­tion didn’t go for mam­mo­grams and they hadn’t been taught to ex­am­ine their own breasts for ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties like we have. The change that has come about over the past 25 years is quite in­cred­i­ble. Back then doc­tors fre­quently saw very large tu­mours and now that is very rare. One in eight women in the UK will get breast can­cer, but if it’s dis­cov­ered early, 90 per cent of those will sur­vive.’

One of the key things we’ve learnt about breast can­cer is that it can be in­her­ited. Four years ago, An­gelina Jolie, whose mother died of can­cer aged 56, re­vealed that she had un­der­gone a dou­ble mas­tec­tomy in or­der to re­duce her risk of de­vel­op­ing breast can­cer.

El­iz­a­beth has also been DNA tested and was re­lieved to find she does not carry the faulty genes as­so­ci­ated with a higher risk of breast can­cer. None­the­less, she is al­ways ner­vous when hav­ing a mam­mo­gram: ‘None of us wants bad news. Mam­mo­grams are not painful, de­spite what peo­ple say. There’s nothing to be scared of, other than a di­ag­no­sis.’

The big dilemma for older women is the risk of breast can­cer as­so­ci­ated with HRT. El­iz­a­beth has erred on the side of cau­tion: ‘Some peo­ple think re­search shows a risk that might not bode well with breast can­cer but other doc­tors say it could be ad­van­ta­geous. It’s not my place to give ad­vice, but I’ve cho­sen not to take HRT. It is an in­di­vid­ual choice.’ Which makes it all the more amaz­ing that she has such beau­ti­ful skin, thick hair and seem­ingly bound­less en­ergy.

‘Aha! For now,’ she laughs. ‘It could all go down­hill.’

JUMPSUIT, Hal­ston Her­itage. EAR­RINGS, Dinny Hall. SOFA, Oliver Bonas

From top: El­iz­a­beth and her son Damian; re­lax­ing while film­ing The Roy­als; a selfie snapped in July; with her

Roy­als co-star Joan Collins

DRESS, So­lace London, from Fen­wick of Bond Street. SHOES, Re­becca Björns­dot­ter

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