Scottish Daily Mail

Britain’s richest woman?

So Kirsty, what’s it like being A rare interview with the former Miss UK who married a billionair­e — and is now seeking pop stardom

- by Jane Fryer

KIRSTY Bertarelli is perfect — every bit of her: skin, nails, hair, eyes, teeth. even her gums — just the right colour of pink and gleaming with health. And, of course, wealth. For Kirsty, mother of three and aspiring pop star, is the UK’s richest woman — worth nearly £9.75 billion — thanks to her marriage to ernesto Bertarelli, the Harvard-educated biotechnol­ogy tycoon (who has multiplied five-fold what he inherited).

We’ve been trying to meet for well over a year. We came close several times.

Once, last year, there was a possibilit­y of a flying visit to Gstaad, where the Bertarelli family spend winter in a £8 million ski chalet complex complete with a helipad, vast lake and two kitchens in the main house — one for the chef, one for Kirsty.

Then there was mention of a trip to Geneva — where the Bertarelli­s own a £10 million chateau on the shores of Lake Geneva, just along from racing driver Michael Schumacher and his family.

And then Kirsty was busy with her family in Indonesia, working on the Bertarelli Charitable Foundation’s eco-reserve, tagging sharks and monitoring fish.

And, of course, popping up around the world in the photos she posts online, with her friends (who include Liz Hurley, s ocialite Tamara Beckwith and J i mmy Choo co-founder Tamara Mellon) adding admiring comments.

But this week, happily, just as her first single is about to be released, our meeting finally happened.

Not in Belize or Hawaii, where Kirsty loves to play golf, or even the Maldives, where she once saw in the New Year at the same party as the Beckhams (‘Victoria’s like a little angel, a beautiful bird!’).

But in a recording studio in West London where we watch the rough cut of her new pop video which shows her roaring through the Spanish desert in a turquoise Cadillac convertibl­e, picking up handsome hitch-hikers and singing There She Goes from her new album Indigo Shores.

‘It’s about feeling young, whatever your age,’ says Kirsty, 43.

‘I just wanted to capture that essence of youth and that wonderful feeling of when you chase freedom. It’s just in me to write songs. I’ll still be writing songs when I’m 95.’

She always writes her own material. ‘Of course I write my own stuff!’ she says. ‘ I was never interested in singing other people’s songs.

‘I just get a feeling that’s overwhelmi­ng and I want to write about it. I need to. I always have. It’s real events and emotions that make a good song — real life.’

ReAL life, perhaps. But, of course, Kirsty’s life isn’t quite like the lives of the rest of us. She’s richer than the Queen, J.K. Rowling and Formula 1 tycoon Bernie ecclestone’s ex-wife Slavica all rolled into one.

She lives for months every year on Vava II, a £100 million, 315ft superyacht with a helipad, six decks, a fuel tank that reportedly costs £250,000 to refill and a swimming pool with an adjustable bottom.

‘The floor comes up, so it can be shallower if you want,’ she says. ‘It’s beautiful. Really amazing. We’re really lucky. everyone thinks it was my 40th birthday present because it says so on Wikipedia — that really made me giggle. But it isn’t true.

‘My party [which cost $3 million] was really my present because ernesto’s not much of a party person.’

As well as being beautiful (when she was just 17, Kirsty was Miss UK and second runner- up to Miss World), she’s very talented.

At the age of 26, she co-wrote Black Coffee, a No. 1 hit for British girlband All Saints, which described how she met ernesto.

‘I had just met this fantastic man. It was straight from the heart. It was from real life, so I just came up with the words, “I wouldn’t wanna be anywhere but here. I wouldn’t wanna change anything at all.” ’

She and ernesto met in 1997 at a dinner party in a villa in Sardinia. ‘It was love at first sight. You know, when you blush and it makes your heart pound — there was definitely that. He was divine. He was a very beautiful, dishy man.

‘We had that connection. I fell in love. He is wonderful. It’s difficult to find a fault.’

Kirsty loves talking about 48-yearold ernesto and love. ‘ And then it took him two weeks to call. It was the worst two weeks of my life.’

But call he did and, two years later, in Mexico, he got down on one knee and proposed. At their wedding — a lavish Alpine affair for 250 guests in a marquee in Geneva, she sang Black Coffee to him.

‘It’s a fairy tale,’ she says. ‘I feel so lucky that I fell in love and I’ve got a family. It’s beautiful. I have to pinch myself — to have such a beautiful home, a beautiful boat.

‘The whole thing’s a fairy tale. But it’s not as if I came from rags to start with.’

Kirsty Roper was raised in Stone, Staffordsh­ire, the youngest of three children. Her father and his two brothers owned Churchill China, a very successful ceramics manufactur­ing company.

Kirsty grew up riding horses, playing tennis and singing in local musicals. She was determined to be a singer-songwriter. She focused on music after leaving school, doing a bit of modelling on the side.

Home was a trust-funded flat in South Kensington, London. She partied with the Sloane set — often dancing on the tables at Tramp.

Then, aged 26, on holiday, she met ernesto, who’d just inherited Serono, the pharmaceut­icals company founded by his grandfathe­r. And that was that.

She immediatel­y threw herself into the sports that ernesto loved. She took up heli-skiing — skiing on runs accessed by helicopter — despite only having skied twice before in her life . She went scuba-diving and water- skiing and tandem mountain biking. The couple now have three children: daughter Chiara, 13, and sons Falco, 11, and Alceo, eight. She says she does her best to give her extraordin­arily privileged children a normal life.

‘I think my Midlands roots help,’ she says. ‘It’s about having the right morals — to be humble, to appreciate

what you’ve got and to help other people with our foundation.

‘We’re a close-knit family and we all eat together in the kitchen. I cook shepherd’s pie and lamb shanks and roasts — and do the school run. We don’t have a nanny.

‘I’m mummy and I put them to bed every night — each has their own special lullaby that I sing them. We do normal things.’

And a few less normal things. Such as partying with the Beckhams (‘I wanted to run up to Victoria and say: “Hiya, I love your clothes!” but I stopped myself’) and living a good chunk of every year on the biggest yacht ever made in Britain.

‘We try to make the most of it and use it every holiday. It allows us to travel to beautiful places. Last year we went to Indonesia i n the summer and back for Christmas. This summer we’re going to Alaska and all my family are coming.

‘But generally the kids like the simpler things — climbing and camping . Their favourite holiday is to go in the RV [recreation­al vehicle], which is a caravan, in the States , with Ernesto driving and me doing the barbecue.

‘It’s a luxury caravan, of course, not your average caravan.’

And then finally, four years ago, she signed a deal with the Swiss branch of Universal Music. Her first album, Elusive, reached number 20 in the Swiss charts.

‘They’re so adorable with me in Switzerlan­d!’ she says. ‘ They just embraced the music straight away.’

Several of the tracks were remixed by dJs and did well in the dance charts. Since then, she’s sung at charity concerts and music festivals (‘I get terribly nervous’), opened for Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall in Edinburgh (he is a friend) and Ernesto has funded work on a second album — featuring a duet with f ormer Boyzone singer Ronan Keating.

For this album (inspired by the Bertarelli marine r eserve in Indonesia), she has a recording deal with decca.

‘It’s all so exciting. I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but I think the material is . . . well, I’m very proud of it.’

Launching a pop career is never easy. It goes without saying that as well as talent, chutzpah and good looks, money helps.

But the fact is that Kirsty’s music is pretty good. Her voice may not be the strongest, but neither are Madonna’s or Kylie Minogue’s. The songs — I’d characteri­se them as ‘country pop’ — are catchy and fun and stick in your head.

I rather admire Kirsty. After all, she could easily have spent all her time lolling about drinking vintage Bollinger on the Vava II. Instead, she’s pursuing her dream (possibly the only one from her childhood not yet realised).

‘ Of course people have preconceiv­ed ideas and wonder why I’m doing it,’ she says.

‘But I just think if people give it a listen — even if they think they couldn’t relate to me because I’ve got t his beautiful, beautiful amazing life — they’ll see it’s just about the same real-life emotions and feelings that we all have.’

And with that, she’s off. Jetting back to Geneva to her beautiful kids, her action-man husband and her extraordin­ary fairy-tale life.

 ?? X I P R O R R I M : e r u t c i P ?? Winner: Kirsty being crowned Miss UK aged 17
X I P R O R R I M : e r u t c i P Winner: Kirsty being crowned Miss UK aged 17
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 ??  ?? F Fairy-tale lifestyle: Kirsty and her husband Ernesto. Inset, their £100 million super-yacht Vava II
F Fairy-tale lifestyle: Kirsty and her husband Ernesto. Inset, their £100 million super-yacht Vava II

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