‘MICK’S AN AMAZ­ING DAD’

There are 44 years and 3,500 miles be­tween them, but US bal­le­rina ME­LANIE HAM­RICK, mother of Mick Jag­ger’s son Dev, cred­its apps with keep­ing their love on track, says Jane Mulk­er­rins

The Mail on Sunday - You - - EDITOR’SLETTER - POR­TRAITS AN­DRES DE LARA

Bal­le­rina Me­lanie Ham­rick on love with the Stones front­man

At an age when most men are slow­ing down, put­ting their feet up and set­tling com­fort­ably into re­tire­ment, 75-year- old Mick Jag­ger is still shim­my­ing around the world on tour, strut­ting and pout­ing his way across sta­dium stages with the Rolling Stones. Sim­i­larly, in spite of al­ready be­ing a great-grand­fa­ther, he’s lost none of his zeal for fa­ther­hood, ac­cord­ing to Me­lanie Ham­rick, the mother of his eighth and youngest child, 22-month-old Dev­er­aux. ‘He’s the most in­cred­i­ble, won­der­ful, lov­ing fa­ther,’ says Amer­i­can bal­le­rina Me­lanie, 31, of the rock star whom she has been dat­ing for four years. ‘And, to me, he’s the most won­der­ful man in the world.’

In spite of her be­ing based in New York (where she has been a mem­ber of the Amer­i­can Bal­let Theatre since she was 17), and Mick still liv­ing in Lon­don’s Chelsea, Me­lanie in­sists her lover is a hands-on par­ent to their son, known as Dev. ‘Mick and I are fan­tas­tic co-par­ents and I don’t feel as though I’m the sole care­giver at all,’ she says. ‘I never feel a lack of sup­port, re­gard­less of our not be­ing based in the same city. I feel as though I have more sup­port from him than some of my mar­ried friends get from their hus­bands. With What­sApp, FaceTime and so­cial me­dia, you can now have a close re­la­tion­ship even long dis­tance. I think the norms of re­la­tion­ships have changed. Or maybe I’m just re­ally mod­ern and in­de­pen­dent,’ she shrugs.

Cer­tainly, Me­lanie ap­pears to be adapt­ing well to Mick’s very mod­ern blended fam­ily – he has seven other chil­dren by four more women, rang­ing in age from 47-year- old Karis, his daugh­ter by ac­tress and for­mer model Mar­sha Hunt, to 19-year- old Lucas, the child he fa­thered with Brazil­ian ex-model Lu­ciana Gimenez Mo­rad, while he was still mar­ried to Jerry Hall (mother of Eliz­a­beth, 34, James, 33, Ge­or­gia May, 26 and Gabriel, 20). His is also fa­ther to Jade, 47, whose mother is his first wife, Bianca Jag­ger, and whose el­dest daugh­ter, 26-year- old As­sisi, gave birth to her daugh­ter, Ezra, in 2014, mak­ing Mick a great-grand­fa­ther.

Me­lanie and Lu­ciana, who is also based in New York, have even be­come friendly, hang­ing out in the park this sum­mer. ‘I’d say we’re friends,’ nods Me­lanie. (Lu­ciana has pre­vi­ously praised Mick’s par­ent­ing, say­ing that: ‘He loves all his kids and he is so close to all of them.’ They have, she has said, ‘been raised so well. They are all very nor­mal, well-ad­justed and are not money ori­en­tated.’) Me­lanie is thrilled that she and her son are now part of the sprawl­ing Jag­ger clan. ‘It’s amaz­ing how bal­anced and kind ev­ery­one is. I grew up with a small fam­ily [she is the youngest of three, with an el­der brother and sis­ter] and it’s nice to have a big fam­ily for Dev.’ And, she says, he is most def­i­nitely a Jag­ger. ‘He dances and dances and dances,’ she beams. ‘He has his dad’s moves.’ Not hers, though? ‘Oh no, mine are re­ally reg­i­mented,’ she in­sists. ‘I’m not the best so­cial dancer.’

It’s a bright, breezy Septem­ber day when I meet Me­lanie in the gen­teel bar of a plush ho­tel a block from Cen­tral Park. It’s taken a cou­ple of false starts for us to get to­gether, as she’s cur­rently in re­hearsals and cos­tume fit­tings for the Amer­i­can Bal­let Theatre’s au­tumn per­for­mances at New York’s Lin­coln Cen­ter. A mem­ber of the corps de bal­let, she is also a soloist in one of the pieces for the shows. I ask her if it’s dif­fi­cult to jug­gle the de­mands of a danc­ing ca­reer with mother­hood. ‘I’m lucky – I have my fam­ily, Mick’s fam­ily and a won­der­ful nanny,’ she says, pour­ing English break­fast tea into a del­i­cate china cup.

Born in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, and raised in nearby Wil­liams­burg, Me­lanie is the daugh­ter of a civil en­gi­neer fa­ther and a health­care worker mother. Her sis­ter Rachel – who used to be a bal­le­rina her­self and now has a com­pany called Flex­istretcher pro­duc­ing fit­ness ac­ces­sories for dancers and ath­letes – lives in New York too, and has a son two months older than Dev. ‘My par­ents are back and forth be­tween Florida, where they now live, and Cape Cod, Mas­sachusetts, where they have a house, so they visit a lot,’ says Me­lanie. ‘And I be­lieve in still be­ing an in­de­pen­dent per­son be­cause it makes your child hap­pier if they sense that your well­be­ing isn’t to­tally re­liant on them.’

Her bal­let sched­ule, while de­mand­ing, does mean that she has the whole of July and Au­gust off as the Amer­i­can Bal­let Theatre does not per­form shows in high sum­mer. ‘I’m work­ing long hours re­hears­ing and per­form­ing, but then I know I’m go­ing to have two months with my son.’ She and Dev spent a part of last sum­mer on tour with Mick and the band – Me­lanie posted a pic­ture on In­sta­gram of them both on the stage be­fore the Rolling Stones con­cert in Coven­try in June – and she at­tended Eng­land’s World Cup semi-fi­nal in Rus­sia with Mick in July.

Though scrupu­lously po­lite, Me­lanie, I strongly sus­pect, also pos­sesses a cer­tain stee­li­ness, no doubt honed by the ded­i­ca­tion and dis­ci­pline re­quired to make it to the top of her highly com­pet­i­tive pro­fes­sion. And that stee­li­ness may well be re­quired in a re­la­tion­ship with Mick, whose pre­vi­ous his­tory of wom­an­is­ing is well doc­u­mented. In­deed, while Me­lanie was still preg­nant with Dev, gos­sip emerged link­ing Mick to Rus­sian model Masha Ru­denko. And this spring, 22-year- old film pro­ducer and so­cialite Noor Al­fal­lah posted an in­cen­di­ary shot of her­self cud­dling up to the star on a sofa along­side Rolling Stone Ron­nie Wood and his wife Sally Humphreys. The pair are ru­moured to have be­gun a fling last Oc­to­ber in Paris, where the Rolling Stones were on tour, when Dev was just nine months old. ‘I feel very se­cure in my re­la­tion­ship,’ says Me­lanie, briskly and firmly, to­day. ‘There will al­ways be ru­mours in the news­pa­pers, but I know what Mick and I have so I don’t pay any at­ten­tion.’

She and Mick re­port­edly first met in Tokyo in

Feb­ru­ary 2014; he was in the city per­form­ing with the Stones, while she was there on a bal­let tour. At the time, she was en­gaged to Cuban for­mer bal­let dancer José Manuel Car­reño. Mick, mean­while, was still in a long-term re­la­tion­ship with the Amer­i­can fash­ion de­signer L’Wren Scott, whom he had been dat­ing for 13 years. Less than a month later, L’Wren took her own life in her New York apart­ment; her death is be­lieved to have re­sulted from the pres­sures of enor­mous debts and busi­ness dif­fi­cul­ties. (In a state­ment, a dev­as­tated Jag­ger said: ‘I am still strug­gling to un­der­stand how my lover and best friend could end her life in this tragic way. We spent many won­der­ful years to­gether…I will never for­get her.’ He set up the L’Wren Scott fash­ion schol­ar­ship at Lon­don’s Cen­tral St Martins col­lege in her me­mory.) In June of that year, Mick and Me­lanie were first pic­tured to­gether, papped on the bal­cony of his pent­house at the five-star Dolder Grand ho­tel in Zürich.

When, af­ter less than two years of transat­lantic dat­ing, Me­lanie dis­cov­ered she was preg­nant, it was, she says, ‘def­i­nitely sur­pris­ing’. ‘I just re­mem­ber feel­ing shock at first. I had never thought about [hav­ing chil­dren]. It never crossed my mind. In the world of bal­let, not many dancers have ba­bies. You’re al­ways think­ing about bal­let, bal­let, bal­let, and not re­ally about hav­ing chil­dren.’ But then, she says, ‘When I felt that first heart­beat, I re­alised there was noth­ing bet­ter in the world.’ And, when she called Mick to say their son was on his way – a lit­tle ear­lier than an­tic­i­pated – he flew by pri­vate jet to New York to be there for the birth.

With trips to join his very fa­mous fa­ther on tour – Mick re­port­edly loves hav­ing all of his chil­dren travel with him – Dev­er­aux Oc­ta­vian Basil Jag­ger looks set to have a child­hood that is dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent to Me­lanie’s own, which she de­scribes as ‘clas­sic sub­ur­ban Amer­i­can. We had the sta­tion wagon; we even had the golden re­triever.’ It was her sis­ter Rachel, her el­der by five years, who first got her in­ter­ested in bal­let. ‘I re­mem­ber be­ing very young, say­ing: “I want to go to bal­let class to­day. I want to be at the stu­dio all day with my friends.” It’s just some­thing in you. And if you re­ally want to be a pro­fes­sional dancer, you have to want it from when you are very young.’

And want it, she did. So ded­i­cated was Me­lanie that at 11 years old she fol­lowed her sis­ter to the Kirov Academy of Bal­let, a strict bal­let board­ing school in Wash­ing­ton DC, where the train­ing was in­tense. ‘We would wake up at 7am, do some school classes, then do bal­let from 9.30am till 1.30pm, have lunch, do more aca­demic classes, then an­other bal­let class in the evening, fol­lowed by din­ner and bed,’ she re­calls. ‘The older kids would dance for six hours straight.’ The school was, she says, ‘old-fash­ioned’ in many ways. ‘We had one TV that ev­ery­body had to share, you weren’t per­mit­ted to have a com­puter in your room, and at night we would play board games and watch bal­let videos, over and over again.’

There were just 12 stu­dents in each year and, says Me­lanie, by the time she grad­u­ated at the age of 16, that num­ber had been whit­tled down to five. Some stu­dents, she says, ‘just started to re­alise that be­ing a pro­fes­sional bal­let dancer might not be for them’, while oth­ers strug­gled

with ‘hav­ing to fight their bod­ies’ (by which she means that their de­vel­op­ing ado­les­cent bod­ies didn’t grow into the clas­sic wil­lowy shape deemed nec­es­sary to be­come a bal­let dancer). Me­lanie was never one of those. ‘No, thank good­ness, I’m re­ally blessed,’ she says. Pe­tite and pretty, with long dark hair and big brown eyes, Me­lanie has a typ­i­cal bal­le­rina’s su­per-slim physique. But, she says, at the school, she was con­scious of a cer­tain level of scru­tiny. ‘You’re very aware of what you’re eat­ing and you’re in a leo­tard and tights all the time.’

Com­pound­ing the scru­tiny was the fact that the school weighed its stu­dents reg­u­larly. ‘At the time, I thought that it was a mean thing to do, but now I think it was ac­tu­ally to make sure you weren’t los­ing weight [bal­let is an art no­to­ri­ously rife with eat­ing dis­or­ders]. But I still feel the ef­fects of all that some days,’ she says. ‘I have days when I just want to wear a sweat­shirt rather than a leo­tard, be­cause I just don’t want to be look­ing at my­self in the mir­ror in the equiv­a­lent of a swim­suit.’

Not hav­ing planned to get preg­nant, those par­tic­u­lar phys­i­cal changes took a lit­tle time to ad­just to. ‘At first, I felt, “Oh my God, I’m gain­ing weight, this is aw­ful.” I was very self- con­scious,’ she ad­mits. ‘I didn’t want any­one to know that I was preg­nant, but it’s hard to keep it from the peo­ple who make your cos­tumes. My breasts were re­ally grow­ing, so I was telling peo­ple that I’d switched birth con­trol [some birth con­trol pills can lead to weight gain]. Then, at about 12 weeks, I had to wear this two-piece cos­tume on stage, and I was suck­ing my tummy in as tight as pos­si­ble.’

Just a few weeks later, she hung up her bal­let slip­pers, al­beit tem­po­rar­ily. ‘I was a bit lost,’ she ad­mits. ‘At first I told my­self, “I’m go­ing to re­lax and just put my feet up – this will be fun,” but within a month I was bored.’ It’s not sur­pris­ing that, just six weeks af­ter giv­ing birth, she was back in train­ing. And she was re­hears­ing full time when Dev was three months old. ‘I think it was a bit soon; it should have been five months,’ she re­flects. ‘But I felt this new en­ergy, and I wanted to do it – there was so much more I felt I could give to my ca­reer.’

Bal­let and mother­hood, how­ever, have not been the eas­i­est bed­fel­lows. ‘The com­pany was sup­port­ive – as sup­port­ive as it could be – but not a lot of women in the corps de bal­let have ba­bies. When I first went back, there was only one other girl who had a baby, and the com­pany was not used to hav­ing to ad­just. I had a hard time with all the long days. I would ask, “Can we start with a half day and build up? It’s a long time to be away from my child.” [She was told it wasn’t pos­si­ble.] Now there are two more girls with ba­bies, and hope­fully I’m paving the way for other women – that’s my goal.’

While she is driven in her ca­reer, she is less keen to join the ranks of the com­pet­i­tive par­ents who pop­u­late the well-heeled New York cir­cles she moves in. ‘There’s so much pres­sure. Some­one will say: “Is your child do­ing Su­per Soc­cer Stars [an af­ter-school foot­ball pro­gramme for chil­dren]?” And I’ll re­ply, “No, should he be?” Or, they will say: “But your child’s not tak­ing pri­vate gui­tar lessons?” And I counter with, “Wait, no, mine just goes to the play­ground and the park. Oh no, he’s al­ready be­hind!” She rolls her eyes. Mick, while no he­li­copter par­ent, is a strict fa­ther, ac­cord­ing to one of his el­der chil­dren. Ge­or­gia May [Jerry Hall’s daugh­ter] has re­vealed that her fa­ther al­ways in­sisted on essays be­ing fin­ished on time, and en­cour­aged her to put her stud­ies be­fore her mod­el­ling ca­reer.

Does Me­lanie want any more chil­dren? ‘No,’ she replies, very quickly and very de­ci­sively. ‘I love Dev more than any­thing, but I want to give my at­ten­tion only to him. He’s per­fect and beau­ti­ful, but I don’t think I’d do it again.’

Her fam­ily may be com­plete but she is less sure about her fu­ture ca­reer plans. ‘Danc­ing can’t last for ever, which is sad, be­cause you want it to,’ she muses. Six months af­ter re­turn­ing to the stage, fol­low­ing her ma­ter­nity leave, she tore her del­toid lig­a­ment (the large lig­a­ment con­nect­ing the an­kle bone and the foot). ‘I was out of ac­tion for the whole sum­mer,’ she says. ‘And you start to re­alise, “OK, maybe I need to start think­ing about other things.”’ She has no plans to re­lo­cate to Lon­don, but would like to try her hand at chore­og­ra­phy. ‘I don’t know yet if I have the tal­ent but it will be fun to try.

‘Maybe I will have to take some hip-hop classes to help make me more re­laxed in my moves,’ she pon­ders. Or maybe she could just dance around the liv­ing room, tak­ing point­ers from her boyfriend and their son.

‘I had never thought about hav­ing CHIL­DREN. In the world of BAL­LET not many dancers have BA­BIES’

Me­lanie and Mick snapped to­gether for the first time at a Zürich ho­tel in 2014

Clock­wise from above: Me­lanie with Dev in June last year; her mini Mick aged 17 months; on a play­date in Cen­tral Park this sum­mer; and at the beach when Dev was eight months

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