The entrepreneur and former Made In Chelsea star is fit, determined and ready for the future – marital bliss included
Millie Mackintosh has changed. Not so much that she’s unrecognisable – the permanently golden honed midsection is still front and centre – but there’s been something of a seismic shift in the way the 28-year-old entrepreneur perceives things. It’s as if she can see straight through the bullshit, past the weighty expectations of other people, and happily filter it all to work out what she wants and, perhaps more importantly, what she needs.
As she stands tall in a secluded jungle paradise – in Clapham no less, a short jaunt south of the river from her pad in Notting Hill – with strong, lean thighs any selfrespecting VS angel would be proud of, there is a quiet, graceful strength to Millie. It’s a strength that, if it did indeed exist the last time she and the Women’s Health team met up in early 2016 to shoot her second cover for the magazine, was masterfully concealed behind self-aware hair flicks and a guarded manner that all made sense when, just weeks later, her separation from then-husband Stephen ‘Professor Green’ Manderson was publicly confirmed.
There’s no arrogance to Millie. Within moments of slipping off her robe to be snapped in the first of seven swimwear styles she’ll model amid oversized palms and ferns, she’s made her first self-deprecating comment of the day – that she doesn’t think anyone can see her abs. (Oh, come on.)
I play this preposterous remark back to her over turmeric, ginger and lemon shots (what else?) at Camilla Fayed’s plant-based West London eatery, Farmacy, a few days after the shoot. She laughs, cringes in a way that wrinkles her nose, then explains: ‘When I did my last cover, I was doing a lot more weights. I lived really close to a gym [that was kitted out for weight training], so four times a week I was lifting heavy and doing pull-ups.’ A hallmark of strength if ever there was one. And now? ‘I found a really great trainer (PT Jojo Thompson) who comes to my home once or twice a week. We do a mixture of mat work, core, Pilates-based movements and then, like, kettlebell hell. Lots of circuits,’ she says. ‘I’m doing a slightly different type of training, and
I feel stronger in a different way.’
There’s the evolved Millie I mentioned earlier. And the approach extends to how she plans her fitness.
‘I work out what I need for the week – mentally and physically,’ she says. ‘Or I might have a goal in mind, like an event, and a particular dress I want to wear, so I’ll do an arms and abs session.’
I wonder if becoming more attuned to her needs is a direct result of the shit that’s hit the fan in Millie’s world over the last two years. First came the divorce from husband Manderson that played out in the media as well as Instagram posts, leading one to fairly speculate it was acrimonious AF. A speedy reunion and engagement to her ex and fellow Made In Chelsea alumnus Hugo Taylor sparked further surprise – and invited even more column inches. Meanwhile, Millie’s eponymous fashion line, the top-selling external brand on Asos, grew from strength to strength – until it didn’t. In March, it folded when her company Cammac went bust, reporting losses of half a million – £178k of that personally for Millie.
But – according to social media memes, at least – every difficulty presents an opportunity. Right now, Millie is choosing to lean into the practice that helped her stand firm following her divorce. ‘When my thoughts get a bit out of control and my mind is rushing, yoga just brings everything back down to earth,’ she explains. ‘It’s hard to stay calm… but you’ve got to remember that you are not your mind. You are an observer of your mind.’ Oh hey, yogi chat. As for styles, Ms Mackintosh loves the deep stretch of yin and gentler restorative classes. ‘It’s just lying on the floor with bolsters under you,’ she says. ‘You can hardly feel the stretch. But it’s so good for you.’ The mat isn’t the only place Millie chooses to be mindful. ‘I use the app Headspace daily – I’m doing the meditation for anxiety at the moment. With the process I’ve just been through with my business, it’s made a real difference,’ she says. ‘It’s not like, “Oh my god!” It’s more gradual.’ So it helps her keep her head while the ongoing tabloid pantomime plays out? A pause. ‘You know, you can’t control certain things that happen to you, but you can control how you react to them – and how they affect you.’
All very pragmatic for a woman many write off as just a posh party girl. Millie is evangelical about self-care, too – and her definition is more real-world than you might think. ‘[Self-care] might even be something like saying no to plans with people and not feeling bad about it. Actually going, “No, do you know what, I really don’t need to go out and drink loads tonight and I’m not even going to make an excuse,”’ she says. ‘It’s about saying, “I’m really sorry, I’m just not up to it,” and just having a night in by yourself.’
And what a night. After eating dinner before 8pm (‘I do this miso sea bass with brown rice and whatever greens are fresh’) and sticking any leftovers in a Tupperware, she settles down on the sofa to watch an episode of her current Netflix obsession, US chef David Chang’s series Ugly Beautiful. If fellow foodie Hugo isn’t working away, he’ll join too. Then she’ll run a bath with Jo Malone’s rose bath oil, soundtracked by Classic FM and lit by the flicker of gold candles from her latest bath, body and beauty collection for Boots. Then it’s off to bed with a book. Currently it’s Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love (‘about self-love’); next up is You Are Badass: How To Stop Doubting Your Greatness And Start Living An Awesome Life by Jen Sincero – ‘I don’t like the term “self-help”,’ she says – neat nose wrinkling into a cringe again. But evidently, such titles do help. ‘I’ve got a good book called Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway [by Susan Jeffers]. My books are by my bed. Sometimes I’ll read a page or two and go right to sleep.’
‘WHEN MY MIND RUSHES, YOGA JUST BRINGS ME BACK DOWN TO EARTH’
With the intricate details of her bedtime routine committed to memory (and my recorder), now feels as good a time as any to come clean about my serious sleuthing of Millie’s social feeds. I read out a supportive comment from Maria Hatzistefanis, founder of skincare and make-up brand Rodial, that gave me pause.
‘The road to success is not a straightforward one, we all go through a few challenges before we get it right.’ After a look that all but says, ‘Do I need to get a restraining order?’ Millie speaks truthfully. ‘I think you can’t be successful without failing along the way...’ The waiter chooses that moment to ask if we’re finally ready to order. Impeccable timing. Millie opts for the macro bowl (a gut-loving mix of quinoa, seaweed, sauerkraut, sweet potato and miso) and, because there’s something more than a little inspirational about her when you’re in her company, I follow suit. As I ready myself to steer the conversation back to tricky ground, Millie takes charge. ‘I think about lots of people I admire, and their first businesses didn’t really make it. Look at Charlotte Tilbury. Her make-up line now wasn’t her first attempt. So, although it’s been a really difficult time, remembering that has helped me. I’ve learnt so much doing it, so it’s just… it’s a gamble. I was really passionate about it, I put my all into it… and I don’t regret it at all.’
IN FITNESS AND IN HEALTH
Of course, even when you publicly trade on your name, life isn’t all work, so talk naturally turns to Millie’s home life. Listening to her and husband-to-be Hugo’s idyllic morning routine, it seems fair to conclude that their impending marriage is a thoroughly good shout. ‘We both love eggs for breakfast, so one of us will usually make some for the other – whoever is rushing least,’ she says. ‘Or we might both go to a gym, get breakfast together and then go about our days.’ Healthy breeds healthy, clearly. But she has the same gripe as many a health-conscious cohabiter: the frustration of watching your male partner routinely put away treats with no visible consequences. ‘Obviously, being a guy, he’s quite tall and can eat a lot more than me. He might have a few more treats,’ she says. Dare I mention the male metabolism? She laughs. ‘He can go to the gym, like, not at all, and then suddenly go three times and come home with a six-pack. I’m like, what?!’ The odd weeknight Mexican stand-off with a salted caramel Gü pot: a small price to pay for what sounds like, if not over-romanticised pre-wedded bliss, then a healthy, happy, sustainable setup.
How’s the wedding prep coming along? ‘I’m trying to be really chilled about it. I’ve got a really great planner and everything’s completely under control – and Hugo’s really involved as well,’ she explains. When it comes to the pre-wedding self-improvement brouhaha – the one task you just can’t delegate – there’s refreshingly little sign of a bridal body countdown. ‘I’m not doing a specific plan, I’m keeping up what I already do. I don’t want to massively change my body – I feel good about my body,’ she says. ‘I’m not about punishing or depriving myself. I’ve spent a while working out what works for me – yoga every week and mixing it up with about five other workouts, depending on how busy I am.’
FEEL THE FEAR
Hear Millie list her favourite classes and it’s hard to imagine her feeling so out of place in a yoga class that she bolted out the door before the first om.
But one of the prime poster girls for the London fitness scene was once held back by gymtimidation. Why? ‘I think it was exercising in front of people, and feeling like I would look silly,’ she admits. But, with perseverance, Millie proved that she has more staying power on the mat or spin bike than those niggling voices of self-doubt. ‘Before going to a new class, I might still get a little bit nervous, it’s just fear of the unknown. It wouldn’t stop me from going.’
I get the sense that this threetime WH cover star is going to deploy a similar strategy in business. To see herself defined as a ‘failed fashion designer’ isn’t going to cut it. She’s pushing ahead, putting the finishing touches to her second beauty collection for Boots and working on a food project – not that she can say anything about it – so I risk stink-eye by asking if she’ll be designing dresses again soon, too. ‘I feel like my journey with fashion isn’t finished at all,’ she says defiantly. ‘It’s begun.’ Maybe she’ll look to move towards more form-fitting casualwear, and utilise her ability to make a pair of Sweaty Betty leggings look so bloody good? ‘Most of what I wash every week is gym kit – like 80%,’ she laughs. ‘I’m usually wearing sports bras.’ Relatable. So, while she’s rattling off her favourite activewear brands (revealed over the page) I interrupt to ask: would she like to be the one designing them? ‘Definitely,’ she says, smiling – and then drops three of the most titillating words in the celebrity lexicon: ‘Watch this space.’ I recommend that you do.
‘MY WASHING IS 80% GYM KIT – I USUALLY WEAR SPORTS BRAS’