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During one magical chapter of her childhood, Vanessa Hudgens lived in Anaheim, California — home of the 510-acre Disneyland theme park. On many days, Hudgens, her mother, and her younger sister would wake up, do schoolwork for a few hours and then head to the Happiest Place on Earth, where the family’s season passes became a regular part of their home-schooling curriculum.
“I don’t know if it was very conducive to a good learning style,” she laughs, “but it was fun.”
As it turns out it was time well spent. When Eurasian Hudgens, who is of Filipino and Caucasian American descent, was 15 she was cast as the leading lady in the Disney Channel’s High School Musical. The 2006 TV movie not only jump-started Hudgens’ acting career, but inspired a lucrative multimedia franchise.
“In 10,000 hours, they say you can master anything,” Hudgens deadpans. “10,000 hours in Disneyland and you’re the queen of Disney.”
Eurasian of Filipino and Caucasian American descent!
During her reign, from 2006 to 2008, Hudgens reprised her role as the sweet, brainy songbird Gabriella Montez in High School Musical 2 and High School Musical 3: Senior Year.
She collected enough tween-centric awards and nominations to fill a Disney-licensed tote bag; dated her on-screen love interest and frequent duet partner, Zac Efron, in a highly publicized romance; recorded two studio albums–the gold-certified solo pop record V, and its follow-up, Identified; and zigzagged across the continent for a High School Musical concert tour.According to Forbes, she became one of Hollywood’s top-earning young stars, alongside Daniel Radcliffe and the Olsen twins. But these years weren’t all shopping mall tours and generous Mickey Mouse paychecks. In 2007 nude photographs the actress had taken ended up on the Internet.
“That was just a really shitty situation that sucked,” Hudgens tells me over breakfast at Kings Road Cafe in Studio City, her mood deflating for the first and only time in the two hours that we spend together. “That was by far the worst moment of my career.”
But perhaps those photos were a blessing in disguise, signaling to the world that she was not just the one-dimensional squeaky-clean face on the HSM collectible lunch boxes.
She was a typical 18-year-old girl with a camera phone and a sexual appetite. Hudgens manned up and took responsibility for the pictures, apologizing to her fans. (Disney stood by her throughout the ordeal, simply admonishing the actress with an afterschool special-worthy message: “We hope she’s learned a valuable lesson.”)
Five years later, Hudgens is about to embark on the most crucial year of her career yet — one which could cement her as a wide-ranging dramatic actress. After supporting roles in projects like Zack Snyder’s fantasy thriller Sucker Punch and the sci-fi adventure Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Hudgens will plumb markedly darker depths in her next three movies — all scheduled for release in 2013.
If the first of these films — Harmony Korine‘s Spring Breakers, out March 15th — is any indication, the 24-year-old is headed into legitimate adult acting territory — a leap that few Disney stars have managed to land. Korine is the unconventional filmmaker — who shocked audiences and no doubt many parents, with his 1995 breakout film Kids — from whom the idea for the wickedly original Spring Breakers sprung.
The cra-mazing crime comedy stars Hudgens as one of four bored best friends who bust out of their small-town college and rob a restaurant to finance their spring break. After a raucous few days, the bikini-clad quartet is arrested, only to be bailed out by a corn-rowed rapper/gangster named Alien (James Franco), who incorporates them into his Florida crime scheme.
After making twisted, experimental films like, Gummo and julien donkey-boy, Korine returns to the same gritty world of unsupervised teenagers that he explored in Kids. But he tops himself in Spring Breakers, showing uncensored displays of debauchery that would make even the hardest-partying frat boy blush.
In other words, it’s a father’s — and a certain corporate mouse’s — worst nightmare. Ironically, though, it was Hudgens’ father, a retired firefighter, who flagged Spring Breakers as a script worth reading.
“He loved Kids so he was really excited for the project,” she says, then quickly adds, laughing, “He didn’t read the script, but when he saw that Harmony’s name was attached to it he said, ‘That’s going to be a really interesting project.'”
Asked what she considers the key to making the tough transition from Disney star to grown-up actress, she says,
“It’s always been hard for actors to cross that bridge but honestly, you have to hold out and do what you think is right for yourself,” she says, adding, “But I also think it is about finding someone who truly believes in you. Harmony took a really big jump in hiring me and [co-stars] Selena [Gomez] and [ABC Family actress] Ashley [Benson].”
Although Hudgens seems to think Korine gambled on her, the filmmaker says that he wrote the female roles with both Hudgens and Gomez in mind. In part because he loved the idea of incorporating actresses whom the audience “is not used to seeing in this way.”
(“This way” meaning that the girls writhe suggestively over each other, wield shotguns, take bong rips and snort coke off other spring breakers’ stomachs.) Korine even suggests that it was Hudgens who took a chance on him.
“From the very beginning, I’d say, ‘This isn’t going to be like anything else you’ve done before. We’re going to push it. So I need you to be bold.'”
Hudgens heeded his advice. And in what Korine considers her most impressive scene — one in which she and Benson shove a gun in Franco’s mouth — the actress not only holds her own against her Oscar-nominated co-star, Franco, but with the help of Benson, overpowers him with the kind of unexpectedly aggressive and manipulative temperament you might see in a David Lynch villain.
“The scene wasn’t even written like that,” Korine says. “She took it to this other place where she kind of tried to emasculate him and then he ends up strangely turned on by it.”
The actress refers to the scene as the one in which she and Benson “make James our bitch” and explains that it was not difficult to get into the Franco-taming mindset.
“You sit there. You’re smoking your fake blunts. You just do it.”
It was Franco, her avant-garde co-star, who attracted her to the unlikely project. (“I saw that James was already attached and I am his biggest fan. I thought, ‘I need to be in this movie.'”).
But even though they shared intimate scenes together, including a three-way love sequence in a swimming pool, Hudgens is not any more familiar with the enigmatic actor now than she was when she first read the script.
“I still don’t know him,” Hudgens says in wonderment. “I have no idea who James Franco is. I know who Alien is. He’s that into method acting. He comes on set as his character. In between scenes, he is still his character.”
“When I first saw him, I was speechless because he just completely transformed himself. The way he talked, with that accent… Everything he does is so organic.”
She did, however, bond with her co-stars Benson, Gomez and Rachel Korine (Harmony’s wife) over crushed-up vitamin B, which the actresses snorted on camera in lieu of cocaine. The foursome quickly realized that the vitamin’s effect was not unlike that of the drug it was simulating.
“We would run around set like mad men, and people would wonder, ‘Did you switch that out with anything?”’
Although her acting career began rather innocently — when she played Mary in the nativity story at age three — Hudgens has always yearned to test her dramatic limits. She’ll follow Spring Breakers with the thriller Frozen Ground, in which she plays a drug-addicted prostitute.
“Ever since I was young, I wanted to play really heavy and intense roles and really push myself in a dramatic direction. So I was like, ‘A prostitute! I can play a prostitute! This is going to be exciting.'”
The role that demanded the most transformation, however, is the wayward teenager she plays in the upcoming Gimme Shelter. For the survivalist drama, which is based on a true story and co-stars Rosario Dawson, Hudgens gained 15 pounds, chopped off her hair, wore three fake piercings and prepared by spending two weeks inside several covenant shelters for pregnant teens.
She describes the film as “my Monster,” and says she was so unrecognizable, even to herself in the mirror, that it took her time to regain her confidence and sense of self.
“It’s nice to be girly!” she exclaims. “I need my nails and my hair.”
Exiting the restaurant to head out on a hike, the actress protectively warns, “There are a lot of paparazzi outside, just so you know. So don’t get freaked out and scared.”
Indeed, a swath of photographers lie in wait, and trail us to a nearby park. They document her paying the parking meter, and station themselves at the bottom of the hill to await her return.
Pulling a basketball cap far down on her face, Hudgens whispers: “I’m always afraid that when I’m wearing a hat, I’m just going to run into a pole or something.”
A clumsy misstep might be the most exciting thing these paparazzi could catch her doing these days.
She spends most of her free time decorating her house (she just finished a Moroccan-themed room) and watching Girls and reruns of The Office with her boyfriend, Austin Butler, the handsome male lead in The Carrie Diaries.The couple has been together for a year and a half but they’re not quite ready for the next step — a puppy. After cooing at several passing dogs, Hudgens laments the fact that she can’t commit to canine ownership — even if she was a successful surrogate to her sister’s toy poodle, Moonshadow.
“I took her with me to shoot a movie once. After that, I realized it’s a lot of work, and she was kind of bitchy. I’m always traveling, so it’s hard.”
As we round a bend and overlook Los Angeles on an unexpectedly clear day, our conversation returns to Disneyland. The actress still adores her frequent childhood destination, and after a recent visit to the park’s legendarily private Club 33 — the only place in the park that serves alcohol — Hudgens has a new appreciation for her former home away from home.
“There’s nothing more fun than being drunk at Disneyland,” she giggles. Vanessa Hudgens has officially left the theme park.
Credits: Paper Magazine
Designer Rachel Roy’s home was a cabinet of curiosities: A vintage scalloped-edged screen in the softest of greens, a meticulously organized collection of National Geographic’s (some dating back to the 1930’s) and a host of Indian deities and dream catchers that turned up in the most unlikeliest of places.
It was these treasures that greeted us when we arrived at Roy’s home (along with her beyond cute puppy).
While Roy may live among the clouds with her two daughters in tow, her home and style is heavily rooted in historic reminders, which keep her grounded.
Her collection of colorful Indian saris, National Geographic’s (“it started with my family’s love of collecting them, my grandfather used to receive them in his State Department office”) are faithful symbols of her past. And though her Manolo collection could easily rival that of Carrie Bradshaw’s, Roy’s quick to credit her humble beginnings.
“Manolo’s were my first pair of designer shoes,” she told us. “I used to save up and wait until they went on sale. I would make friends with all the sales people and they would call and let me know when a sale broke. They were one of my favorite investment pieces and still are to this day.”
From every cataloged art tome that Roy uses as inspiration and research to the cherished pieces found in her jewelry box – each item tells a story of Roy’s past, present and future.
“The pieces I choose always have a deeper meaning and story behind them. My collaboration with Deepak Chopra really reflects that: we did a sword body chain that has ‘Keep the Stillness Inside of You’ engraved on it and when I wear it, it reminds me to just that.”
With a killer soundtrack playing in the background – Rhianna Radio, F.Y.I. – Roy took centre stage, captivating us all with her effortless glow and presence, while Jake snapped away feverishly.
My collaboration with Deepak Chopra really reflects that: we did a sword body chain that has “Keep the Stillness Inside of You” engraved on it and when I wear it, it reminds me to just that.
“I think I got it,” he said… just minutes later. This clearly wasn’t her (or his!) first rodeo.
I’m not a huge diamond girl; I like edgy statement pieces with interesting materials. Some of my favorites pieces are by strong women who I admire for not only their designs but also how they live and incorporate their lives in their work.
Jacquie Aiche, Jennifer Fisher, Jennifer Meyer and Manon Von Gerkan are some of my favorites. The pieces I choose always have a deeper meaning and story behind them.Pants, The Row; Blouse, PucciButter LONDON makes amazing polish and is one of my favorite lines. We just finished collaborating on a custom color for my F/W 2013 show. I’m lucky to count Suzy Biszantz [La Perla’s CEO] as one of my close, super smart girlfriends.
It’s really only brand I wear because they use the best lace, are constructed so beautifully and just fit so well. – Lingerie, LaPerlaI took this dress to Italy with me this summer and wore it to lunch in Capri and I know that when I wear it again this summer I’ll feel like I’m back there.
My life is so full with work and the girls and I love it that way. When I design, I want to make women feel smart, confident and sexy. Bags, Left to Right: CHANEL, Hermès, AlaïaThese are a few things that make me happy. The perfumes bottles were my great grandmother’s from Holland, the jeweled box is really a pendant with an Indian deity on it that symbolizes good luck and a doll I bought in India that wards off bad dreams –all in a Hermès ashtray. – Ashtray, HermèsPants, The Row; Blouse, Pucci sitting on green stoolI love how Missoni celebrates color and print together. Margherita [Missoni] is a friend that introduced me to a philanthropic program in Ghana called OrphanAid Africa that helps keep families together and cares for orphans. – Jacket, MissoniTravel Organizer, BalenciagaVogue magazinesThough we live in an increasingly digital world, I still print photographs that are special to me and keep them in this Hermès photo album. – Photo Album, HermèsRachel is an avid lover of booksPants, The Row; Blouse, Pucci Indian goddess Kali photoI got this vintage lace robe from Golyester, a vintage store in Beverly Hills that specializes in vintage from the 1910s to 1960s. They keep the delicate pieces in a special room and I always find something I love there. – Robe, VintageI am a great lover of books, and art books in particular. I collect art books for inspiration and research. Reading is one of my favorite downtime activities. I really believe art should be what makes you happy, not what others think is important.
Books that give me a glimpse into what the artist is feeling or thinking when they are creating are my favorites. – Shoes, Manolo BlahnikI like any book that you can take away a lesson or something that you can act on in a positive way. Books that give me a glimpse into what the artist is feeling or thinking when they are creating are my favorites.
The sword is a symbol Deepak and I used in our collection. It’s symbolizes strength but the chain is delicate and the inscription on it “Keep The Stillness Inside of You” is so calming. – Sword Necklace, Deepak Chopra x Rachel RoyBobbi [Brown] and I have been working together for years. How she approaches beauty very much starts from the inside out and I find that empowering for every woman. My National Geographic collection started with my family’s love of collecting them.
The issues that are most special to me were from the 1930s. My grandfather used to receive them in his State Department office so each one has the State Department stamp. – Clutch, Nancy Gonzalez; Cuffs, OfriaThis Roger Vivier clutch is very special; it was given to me as a gift from the Vivier House when I attended the MET. I wanted something colorful to go with the yellow gown I was wearing so I chose this clutch and a pair of white Vivier heels.
I felt modern and comfortable. The pillows I create by taking vintage Hermès scarves and having them made into pillow fronts. I mix the Hermès pillows with ones I find on One Kings Lane. I’m a bit addicted to OKL. – Clutch, Roger VivierManolo’s were my first pair of designer shoes. I used to save up and wait until they went on sale. I would make friends with all the sales people and they would call and let me know when a sale broke. They were one of my favorite investment pieces and still are to this day. – Shoes, Manolo BlahnikPants, The Row; Blouse, Pucci – hands clappingI love the color and the beading of this sari. – Sari, Vintage
First published in The Coveteur
Thandie Newton has told how she was abused as a teenage actress on a casting couch. The 40-year-old British star said she was still scarred by a ‘horrific’ incident involving an unnamed male director when she was 18 and looking for her ‘big break’.
Miss Newton, now a mother of two and married to the film producer Oliver Parker, said she later found out the director involved had shown a video of her ordeal to others in showbusiness.
The Cambridge-educated actress, who has starred in films including Crash and Mission: Impossible II, has chosen to speak out about her abuse as part of an international campaign to end violence against women, One Billion Rising – the number who have been raped, beaten or abused.
‘When I was a 16 year old fresh from boarding school going out in, you know the casting couch, I was definitely objectified to an extreme. ‘The way I was made to feel. The way I was exploited and the kind of role and the kinds of things I was expected to do in auditions.’
Foster asked: ‘So you were abused as a 16-year-old?’ Miss Newton replied: ‘Yes.’
She goes on to explain, however, that at the time she didn’t know how to react because it was conducted in what she describes as a ‘professional environment’.
Referring to the incident that happened when she was 18, she continued: ‘It was a screen test. There were two other people in the room – the director and the casting director, who was a woman.’
‘The director asked me to sit with my legs apart – the camera was positioned where it could see up my skirt – to put my leg over the arm of the chair. Before I started my dialogue, [I was told to] think about the character I was supposed to be having the dialogue with and how it felt to be made love to by this person.’
She was confused because it was a ‘professional environment’: ‘I was thinking “this is so strange, why would I need to do that?”’ she said. ‘But this is the director, there is the casting director, [it] must be normal.’
‘I’m 18 years old, you know, and I’m thinking this is, obviously… I was in a protected… there were boundaries.’
Three years later, she discovered the video was being shown by the director to other showbusiness figures.
‘It turned out the director… used to show that video late at night to interested parties at his house – a video of me touching myself with a camera up my skirt,’ she said.
Miss Newton declined to name the director or say if she knew whether he was still in the business. Now married to producer Oliver Parker, she said the coupl were accosted by a drunken British producer at a party in Cannes several years later who boasted of having been shown a video of her ordeal.
The actress was born in London to a Zimbabwean health care worker and her British husband and grew up in Cornwall. Her name means ‘beloved’ in Zulu. She married English writer and director Oliver Parker in 1998. The couple have two daughters: Ripley, 12, and eight-year-old Nico.
It happened like clockwork, every month, for decades. The pain would leave Padma Lakshmi ‘balled up in bed’ for days at a time. There were cramps, bloating, nausea and shock-like sensations running along the length of her legs.
And once the agony had abated, she suffered crushing fatigue and mood swings that affected every area of her life.
Endometriosis is a female health disorder that occurs when cells from the lining of the womb (uterus) grow in other areas of the body. This can lead to pain, irregular bleeding, and problems getting pregnant (infertility).
Every month, a woman’s ovaries produce hormones that tell the cells lining the uterus (womb) to swell and get thicker. The body removes these extra cells from the womb lining (endometrium) when you get your period.
If these cells (called endometrial cells) implant and grow outside the uterus, endometriosis results. The growths are called endometrial tissue implants. Women with endometriosis typically have tissue implants on the ovaries, bowel, rectum, bladder, and on the lining of the pelvic area. They can occur in other areas of the body, too.
Unlike the endometrial cells found in the uterus, the tissue implants outside the uterus stay in place when you get your period. They sometimes bleed a little bit. They grow again when you get your next period. This ongoing process leads to pain and other symptoms of endometriosis.
Why does this happen?
The most commonly accepted theory suggests that during menstruation, pockets of endometrium travel up the fallopian tubes into the pelvis and are deposited, rather than passing out of the body. These deposits are affected by the female hormones around the time of menstruation. Endometriosis can also cause what are known as adhesions, which stick organs such as the bowel to the womb, further adding to pain.
Who does it affect and why?
Endometriosis occurs in women of reproductive age, and is more common in those with a relative who suffers. It is an oestrogen-driven condition so is more common in women who have had a longer exposure to the hormone – for example, starting periods at a young age makes endometriosis more likely.
So it’s not just bad period pains, then?
The condition is characterised by pelvic pain. Specifically, women get severe prolonged period pain starting in their late 20s. Other typical pain for the condition occurs during intercourse, at the time of ovulation or before a period affecting the lower abdomen.
The second important sign of endometriosis is infertility, and often it is when trying to conceive that a woman is first diagnosed. Other less common signs are pain associated with bowel and bladder movements, irregular bleeding and fatigue.
Why are so few women diagnosed?
If a woman’s period pains are relatively mild, neither she nor the doctor would be looking further for a cause. Diagnosis can only be made during a surgical procedure called laparoscopy: a camera is inserted through a small incision into the abdomen so the errant tissue can be seen. Obviously this is not risk-free, so is only suggested when symptoms are severe.
Can endometriosis be cured?
Sadly, no. But the condition can be prevented from interfering with life with the help of painkillers or hormonal treatments. Surgery can sometimes be used to improve symptoms and fertility.
Despite these debilitating symptoms, the model-turned-TV-chef came to believe it was just part of life, as doctors dismissed her ‘women’s problems’.
Embarrassed that people would think she was exaggerating, she admitted: ‘I thought I was just being a wimp.’
The 42-year-old, once married to celebrated author Salman Rushdie, says today: ‘I was told that some women get menstrual cramps badly and some don’t and it was normal for me because my mother had them. I saw her suffer the way I came to suffer.’
Padma’s ordeal began when she reached adolescence and she needed hospital treatment on more than one occasion. But it wasn’t until the age of 36, following a visit to accident and emergency with heavy bleeding outside of her normal cycle, that she was finally given a diagnosis: endometriosis.
The condition, in which cells that normally line the womb grow outside it (usually in the abdomen), is thought to affect two million British women. Padma’s case was so advanced by the time it was spotted that specialists told her she would be unlikely ever to have children – even with the help of IVF.
So it was a shock, to say the least, when she discovered that she was pregnant after a brief relationship with Adam Dell, brother of computer firm founder Michael, in 2010. Even her doctor described the conception as ‘nothing short of a medical miracle’.
Today, Padma is a fiercely proud and protective mother to Krishna, who celebrates her third birthday next week.
‘It ended up happening accidentally,’ she says, hoping her story will inspire others facing infertility caused by endometriosis. ‘I’d spent most of my life trying not to get pregnant and it was only after stopping taking birth control – because I was told that I couldn’t conceive – that it happened at all.’
Teasingly, Padma says she would like more children, although she admits her age and history make it unlikely.
‘I’ve always wanted to be a mother, but I never knew it would be so much fun and I’d enjoy it so immensely. My daughter is such great company. I would love to have another child or two.’
It is thought up to ten per cent of women suffer some form of endometriosis!
Like Padma, many are simply told they have severe menstrual cramps. She says: ‘Ever since my teens, I was bedridden for two or three days each month and had to take prescription painkillers. I missed school, I missed work, I missed family functions.’
‘If I had been diagnosed at 15, 20, or even 30, my life would have been different. That would have been four or five days every month that I wouldn’t have been incapacitated, that I wouldn’t have been tired, that I wouldn’t have been nauseous and cranky.’
Padma, who co-founded The Endometriosis Foundation of America (EFA) to encourage women to look out for the symptoms of the illness, continues: ‘I was galvanised by what I went through. Chronic pain is a terrible thing. It impedes your ability to make rational decisions. It alters your ability to handle other stresses in life.’
‘Endometriosis affects every aspect of a woman’s life. It is woven into the very fabric of her life and it develops as her womanhood develops through her adolescence and early years. It becomes part and parcel of a woman’s opinion of her own body, of her femininity, the relationship she has with herself and her sexuality. It affects her intimate relationships, her platonic relationships and her business relationships.’
Padma had surgery in 2001 to remove two ovarian cysts and was rushed to hospital when she was 34, suffering pain and bleeding that she now knows was endometriosis-related. But at the time the condition still wasn’t diagnosed.
‘I tried everything to help, from teas to evening primrose oil, from over-the-counter pain medication to acupuncture. The pain was debilitating, but more than that it was incredibly frustrating that no one was able to tell me what was wrong,’ she adds.
‘It never feels good to have someone tell you that you’re crazy, or you’re making things up. It hurt me physically but also emotionally to live with this pain. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just take an over-the-counter painkiller and feel better like everyone else.’
For over five years, Alexandra Burke has looked after her ailing mother Melissa Bell, who is battling severe kidney failure brought on by diabetes and is on life-saving dialysis eight hours a day.
The 24-year-old former X Factor champion buys her mum food, has spent £20,000 renovating her house so she can have the dialysis treatment there rather than in hospital, and is paying thousands more to send her on a doctor-approved holiday to Egypt for her birthday next month.
But the one thing Alexandra can’t give her mother is the only thing she really needs – a new kidney.
That’s not to say Alex, as her friends and family know her, hasn’t tried. In fact, she’s tearfully offered her mother – the former lead singer of 80s Grammy Award-winning group Soul II Soul – her organ on more than one occasion even though it could impact on Alexandra’s chances of having children herself.
‘I’ve tried three or four times,’ she says as her eyes well up with tears.
‘But Mum made the choice and shut down the discussion because the doctors said it could mean I wouldn’t be able to conceive. She didn’t want to restrict me from having my own life. But I was willing to adopt because I want to do that anyway.’
Melissa has said that asking her famous daughter to give away a kidney would be ‘downright wicked and selfish’.
Alexandra says she responded by telling her: ‘I don’t think it would be a selfish choice. It’s been offered to you. I’m your daughter. Take it!’ She adds: ‘I’ve tried to meet her doctor privately to be tested to see if I’m a match, but he wouldn’t see me because my mum wouldn’t allow it.’
‘I’ve even had some of my fans offering their kidneys and going for tests. I’ve been very down about the situation. This might be selfish, but I’m not ready to let my parents go. After all, Mum’s still young – she’s only 48.’
Melissa is one of 10,000 people in the UK awaiting an organ transplant. Sadly, ten per cent of these die while they’re on the waiting list. One of those statistics was Alex’s Auntie Verna.
‘She was waiting for a heart for eight years. The moment it came in she died,’ she says quietly.
Despite the statistics, only 31 per cent of the British population have put themselves on the NHS Organ Donor Register – a much lower figure than in many other countries.
That’s why Alex and her mum agreed to be star guests on From The Heart, a major ITV entertainment special next week hosted by Dermot O’Leary and featuring Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie and Jools Holland. The show is the centerpiece of a week of programming on ITV to raise awareness of the shortage of donated organs.
‘I was nervous about taking part initially,’ Alex admits. ‘It’s a subject that’s so personal to me I find it very emotional talking about it. I only put myself on the register a year ago. I decided they can take everything from me when I die, apart from my eyes. I don’t think I’d feel happy without them, even in death.’
In 2008 Alex saved Melissa’s life after returning to the family home in Islington, north London, to find her collapsed in bed after going into kidney failure.
She called 999 and her mother was rushed to hospital. Soon afterwards she gave one of The X Factor’s best ever performances, an unforgettable duet with Beyoncé of the superstar’s song Listen, before being crowned the winner.
When her mother’s illness went public, former Harrods boss Mohamed Al-Fayed offered to pay for the treatment she needed privately.
‘She didn’t accept it,’ Alex says. ‘It was a genuine offer but the NHS advised her against switching to private care as they had been treating her so long. I’ve offered to pay for her treatment since as well.’
‘But it’s not about money. Money won’t buy her a kidney. You just have to wait.’
Alex has no idea how far down the waiting list her mother is. ‘She’s a rare blood type, which makes it harder for her to get a match.’
‘The waiting game is the hardest thing. They’ve said she can survive for 25 years on dialysis but she’s not living a proper life. She’s hooked up to a machine for eight hours a day and can’t really move.’
‘I know there’s a family history so I’m very strict about my diet and I work out all the time,’ Alex sighs. ‘I’m a bit of a health freak, completely unlike what my mum used to be. But she’s on a diet now and doesn’t even touch sugar.’
Alexandra’s family relationships have always been fraught. Her father David had an affair with an underage girl while Melissa was pregnant with Alex. The case went to court and Alex effectively lost contact with him until after she won The X Factor. (‘We’re very close now,’ she insists.)
As a result, Melissa was a single mum to Alex and her sister and two brothers.
Alex’s relationship with her mother has also been tumultuous. Melissa once said of her daughter, ‘To be honest, I’m a better singer than she is. But she’s thinner than me. It’s all about image these days, more than talent.’
However, Melissa’s illness has brought the pair closer. ‘Our relationship is not feisty at all any more. I’ve seen a drastic change in my mum. I feel we’re more like friends now, rather than mother and daughter,’ she explains.
Now it’s Alexandra who supports her family financially. ‘I’m 24 and I’m the backbone of my family. I pay for everything. But it’s what I live for and I don’t think it’s a burden. Don’t get me wrong it’s not a bed of roses all the time. But I feel it’s my calling.’
Alex has already developed a reputation for being hopelessly unlucky in love. She’s rumored to have dated high-profile suitors, ranging from comedian James Corden to England footballer Jermain Defoe, but most of her relationships appear to end in heartbreak.Most recently she’s been linked with Hollywood actor Jeremy Piven, the star of ITV’s period drama Mr Selfridge. At 47, he’s 23 years her senior. Last month, the pair arrived together at a party in London for fashion designer Tom Ford.
Later, they were spotted entering London’s Corinthia Hotel in the early hours of the morning, sparking speculation they’re a couple. The last time I met Alex she told me she wanted to meet ‘someone who’s 42 and probably old enough to be my father.’
She hoots when I remind her of this, burying her head in a pillow. ‘Oh my God! If I was white, I’d be bright red right now,’ she says, clearly embarrassed. ‘Maybe that’s what happens when you put things out there to the universe!’
She claims she’s just ‘close friends’ with Piven but it’s clear to me, and I know her well, that there’s more to it.
‘Jeremy’s lovely,’ she says, still blushing. ‘I’ve known him for a few months now. We met when I performed at the Samuel L Jackson ball in London. He’s lovely. We hang out a lot when we can.’
She quickly remembers to add: ‘I have no intention of being in a serious relationship because of my focus on my career. It’s difficult for me to be in a relationship. It has to be with someone who understands my lifestyle, and that my career and family come first. I’m in no rush to get married.’
So what attracts her to older men? ‘It’s a maturity thing. I want a man to be serious. I don’t go for looks. You would also hope an older man would have done their mucking around with other women.’
Alex has always been wise beyond her years. ‘I’ve always been responsible. When I left school, I told my mum and dad I was going to be a singer. I moved out of home and I paid my own bills. That’s a different mindset to many girls my age.’
‘A lot of my girlfriends are in their 30s and 40s and I learn from them. I remember when I was 16 and first auditioned for The X Factor, Simon Cowell said to me, “You’re not 16, you must be 25. Show me your passport!”‘
Alex is serious about her plans to adopt in the future, although she would also like her own family.
‘I’ve traveled and seen kids across the world. Even though I can have my own children, I really want to adopt a girl from China because of their one child rule. I can’t wait to do it.’
One thing Alex is not is a stereotypical pop puppet. She is the first X Factor winner to make the decision to voluntarily break away from show supremo Cowell and sign with RCA Records, another division of music giant Sony.
‘It was a brave move but the right move. He was going to be busy with X Factor USA and trying to make that work. He had to concentrate on that.’
I wonder how hard it is to be known as the winner of the talent show, given how many people seem to want to see them fall flat on their face.
‘In general, people want to tear The X Factor down and I don’t think that’s right. I didn’t just get where I am from the show – I’d been working at it since I was nine. But I would never say I wanted to move away from The X Factor. If Simon ever offered me an opportunity to be a judge, I would do it in a flash.’
Alex is now recording her third album, taking piano lessons and considering trying out for a lead role in the West End after a successful one-off stint playing Eponine in the London version of Les Misérables to raise money for Children In Need.
‘I want to do as much as I can to further my career. I want to see myself being nominated for a Grammy Award one day. I’m not there yet and I’ve got a lot of work to do. That’s why marriage and children will have to wait until I’m 30.’
‘But what would make me happier than anything else would be for my mum to get her kidney. We believe this will be the year.’
An adopted teenage boy with no pictures of himself as a baby has posed as a ‘newborn‘ in a photo shoot for his photographer mother. Latrell Higgins, 13, from Crestview, Florida, is captured in softy-lit shots typical of a baby’s first photo shoot.
He asked mom Kelli, 33, to create the album in lieu of any photographs of himself as an infant. One of the images shows Latrell swaddled in blankets, while another shows just his feet.
Mrs Higgins proudly uploaded the montage to Facebook with the words: ‘Here’s my sweet not so little newborn! His name is Latrell and weighs 112 lbs.’
The image was posted online on January 29, and has attracted 4,897 ‘Likes’ to date.
Touching moment: Latrell Higgins who had no pictures of himself as a newborn asked his adoptive mother to stage a baby’s first photo shoot with him aged 13
One commentator wrote: ‘This is the most touching thing I have seen in a while!!!! I love it.’ Another added: ‘I think it’s really neat that they can celebrate/announce this adoption, no matter the age, the same way that birth parents announce their baby’s birth. I think he is a good sport.’
Mrs Higgins, who welcomed Latrell and his younger sister Chanya into their home two years ago, told Today.com: ‘I think it’s really hard to have children and not know what they looked like when they were younger.’
She and her husband Daniel, 35,already had five biological children and were expecting a sixth one, but admits she had a yearning to adopt.
Proud mother: Mrs Higgins’ brood pictured on the beach
‘These children, once they get past a certain age, they don’t find homes and they age out of foster care,’ she said. ‘They have to figure out the world on their own and there’s no one to go back to as an adult. Where do you go for Christmas? It’s just horrible, it’s heartbreaking.’
Both Latrell and Chanya, eight, are happy in their new home but sometimes emotional issues crop up. Recalling how Latrell’s baby photo project came about, Mrs Higgins said that the family were sat around the dinner table when she mentioned that she was preparing for a newborn’s photo session. Latrell mentioned that he didn’t have any pictures of himself when he was born and
Happy memories: Kelli Higgins (pictured)recreated a baby’s first photo shoot with Latrell and she said they both laughed ‘hysterically’ throughout
Mrs Higgins’ 12-year-old daughter Alycia suggested recreating a shoot just for him: ‘I thought it was funny and that it would be a good idea,’ Mrs Higgins said. ‘I was very sad too because I didn’t have any photos of him either.’
The next day she took a series of pictures of Latrell at home and she recalled that they both laughed ‘hysterically’ throughout. The mother-of-eight now hopes the images will encourage others to adopt older children.
Talking about reaction she’s had so far she said: ‘[Parents] come to me telling me that they were thinking about adopting a baby, but after seeing those photos it’s changed their minds and they want to adopt an older child.’
In 2011 – the latest year for which detailed statistics are available – there were more than 104,000 children in foster care who were waiting to be adopted.
The average age of those waiting to find adoptive homes was seven according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Intimate close-ups of endangered gorillas, teenagers celebrating their birthday parties and Botswanan heavy metal fans are among the stunning pictures that have been shortlisted for a prestigious photography competition.
The Sony World Photography Awards shortlist, announced today, was compiled from more than 122,000 entries from 170 countries – the most ever. Judges have whittled the submissions down to a few hundred in categories including nature and wildlife, architecture, people, landscape and lifestyle.
The shortlist gives a unique insight into the global events of 2012 through the eyes of some of the best photographers in the world. Chosen topics included the historic Burmese elections, eye-popping fashion shoots and dramatic shots of African tribes. The entries also reveal the technical challenges in capturing their subjects.
This black and white image depicts the ‘sada pala’ of these Southern Ethiopian men – distinctive decorate scars that show their valour and bravery. The image by Fausto Podavini is nominated in the lifestyle categoryIn the pink: Myriam Meloni’s picture ‘Limousine porte’ of twins Laura and Bel on their 15th birthday in Argentina, is in the final three of the arts and culture categoryRock on: Daniele Tamagni’s series following heavy metal music fans in Botswana and elsewhere in Africa has been shortlisted in the arts and culture category
Bling: Photographer Ivan Kashinsky was nominated for his work following the ultra-wealthy Roma. This image shows six-year old twins Gelu and Edi Petrache in a mansion on Buzescu, a small town in RomaniaGotcha: A tree frog captures its prey in Brazil. The image was taken by Hudson Garcia using a high-speed laser sensorCanadian photographer Meaghan Ogilvie chose not to wear scuba equipment and instead held her breath for an underwater fashion shoot. Elsewhere Hudson Garcia used a high-speed laser sensor to snap the exact moment a Brazilian tree frog caught its prey.
Catherine Chermayeff, director of special projects at Magnum Photos, who chaired the jury panel said: ‘What an invigorating three days – which resulted in lively and passionate debates. I think we, the jurors, all began this process and felt overwhelmed.’
‘I am delighted to say that by day three, each group proudly presented and argued for our respective shortlists and found surprising strength in the shortlist submissions across all categories.’
Moving: This intimate picture of a gorilla by Regis Boileau is part of a series of photographs highlighting the demise of the animal’s natural habitat. It has been shortlisted in the nature and wildlife category Chicken: Ernest Goh’s photograph of a cockerel was named in the nature and wildlife category The egg: Walter Fogel’s Happy Birthday picture was named in the nature and wildlife categoryFilm fan: This Reuters picture of an Afghan cinema goer attempts to capture change in Kabul and how the cinema is no longer a luxury for the elite Celebration: This picture capturing the ecstasy among National League for Democracy supporters as they celebrate outside the NLD headquarters during Burmese elections has been shortlisted in the contemporary issues category
Astrid Merget, creative director of the World Photography Organisation, said: ‘The World Photography Organisation is dedicated to finding the best international contemporary photography from across the world. The shortlist is a clear indication of the exciting photography which is out there and, as we do every year, we are looking forward to presenting this collection of photographers to a global audience.’
The entries were divided into professional, open and youth categories:
Professional photographers will win the title of L’Iris d’Or/Sony World Photography Awards Professional Photographer of the Year 2013, plus a $25,000 cash prize.
Amateur photographers in the Open Photographer of the Year 2013 title, plus $5,000.
Bricks and mortar: Fabrice Fouillet’s dramatic picture, left, of the church at St Remy in France was named in the final three of the professional architecture category
Bricks and mortar: Reinis Hofmanis’ stark image of a guard booth has been named in the final three of the professional architecture categoryGlamming up: Paul Wenham Clarke took a series of photographs of a group of Irish gypsies, left, that have been shortlisted in the people category
Glamming up: Lisa Wiltse’s series of pictures following eight-year-old beauty pageant contestant Mary has also been nominated. The child trains every day in gymnastics, ballet and dance after school
Ice cold: Klaus Thymann’s photograph is in the final three of the fashion and beauty category and was shot on the remote east coast of Iceland
Strike a pose: Thymann is up against Rory Carnegie in the category, who has also been nominated for his bright portrait from his Mannequin series Dramatic: Photographer Meaghan Ogilvie colorful fashion shoot Dramatic: Photographer Yannick Cormier’s picture of South Indian villagers
Fired up: This Pete Muller image of a young boy being supported as he fires a fully automatic machine gun at the OFASTS gun shoot is nominated in the people category
Cycle of life: Michela Taeggi’s Love Grows picture is part of a series depicting pregnancy and maternity. It has been shortlisted in the people category
Underwater: Zhang Kechun’s series of photographs was inspired by the novel River of the North by Zhang Chengzhi. This photograph shows swimmers crossing the Yellow River holding a picture of MaoAll category winners across the awards will receive the latest digital imaging equipment from Sony.
The overall winners will be revealed at an awards ceremony in London on April 25, 2013.
The work of all the shortlisted photographers will also be exhibited at Somerset House, London, from April 26 to May 26 as part of the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition.
The images will also be published in the 2013 edition of the Sony World Photography Awards book. The Open and Youth category winners will be announced on 19 March.
With the help of designer Don Stewart, the singer-songwriter and his fiancée, Christine Teigen, fulfill their fantasy of indoor-outdoor living…
What becomes a legend most? If the luminary in question happens to be nine-time Grammy Award–winning singer and songwriter John Legend, the answer is expressed most artfully in the 1960s Hollywood Hills house he shares with his fiancée, model Christine Teigen.
A sophisticated update of midcentury modernism, the residence reflects the spirit of a young couple putting their own distinctive spin on gracious California living.
“Our style is chic and tailored but also earthy and casual,” Legend says. “Since this is our first home in Los Angeles, we wanted it to feel right not only for us but also for this city.”
To realize their West Coast vision of domestic bliss, Legend and Teigen turned to Don Stewart, of the L.A. firm Desiderata Design, whom they met through musician Kanye West, another Stewart client. (An early champion of Legend’s work, West is also the executive producer of the singer’s new album,Love in the Future, set to be released later this year in advance of an international tour.)
“The first time we saw the house we were really inspired by the overall vibe,” Stewart recalls. “I told John and Chrissy that it reminded me of a Thai temple. That Asian influence was something they responded to, especially since she is half Thai.”
Stewart’s approach to transforming the home—which had been renovated within the past decade but was out of sync with Legend’s and Teigen’s tastes—involved the deft layering of materials both rugged and refined, beginning with the façade.
He concealed the residence from street view behind a new garage built of massive Cor-Ten–steel panels and a specially commissioned bronze entry gate etched with an Asian village scene. A sculptural stairway of concrete in smooth and rough finishes leads from the curb to the front landing, which is framed by a balustrade of white oak and steel.
Teigen and Legend on a terrace, which is outfitted with a Rodolfo Dordoni sofa, low chairs by Blackman Cruz, and a James Perse daybed with cushions and pillows covered in Sunbrella fabricsThe armchairs on the terrace are by Patricia Urquiola for B&B ItaliaIn the living area, a B&B Italia sectional sofa is arranged with a vintage Osvaldo Borsani lounge chair, at left, and a silk shag carpet by Carini Lang from Woven Accents.
An Alison Berger light fixture from Plug Inc. hangs above the Yamaha piano; the television is by Samsung, and the dog sculpture is from Craig OlsenBasalt counters and floor tiles complement rift-cut teak cabinetry in the kitchen, which features a trio of stools by Emmerson Troop, a ProLine hood, and a Thermador cooktop and ovens.
The dining table was designed by Ferruccio Laviani for Emmemobili, the chairs are by Blackman Cruz, and the pendant lights are by Alison Berger for Plug IncThe bed in the master suite is by B&B Italia; the linens and throw are by Anichini. The artwork includes a freestanding painting by R. Nelson Parrish and a framed Sri Lankan panel from Charles Jacobsen.
The figurine was retrofitted as a lamp by Stewart, and the sea-grass wall covering is by Phillip Jeffries
Pick up a copy of AD’s March issue, on newsstands February 12, or download the digital edition to see more photos and to read the complete story.
I really feel like I have the best fans in the world – your words of encouragement and uplifting stories always brighten my day and remind me of what’s important. Especially since Aden has been born, I’ve been blown away by the support and fierce loyalty I’ve witnessed. Thank you for your love!!
Tia and I have always known we have amazing fans, but reading all your messages and comments on this blog make it even clearer. When people say ignorant things about Aden’s race or my marriage with his daddy Adam, it’s easy for me to take it personally – even after all this time, my skin isn’t that thick!
But hearing your stories about your own beautiful, mixed race babies and the love you have for their fathers grounds me back to reality and reminds me of the truth: Skin color has NOTHING to do with love. How Aden looks or grows up to look like – whether he looks more “white” or more “black” – doesn’t matter to me. Why should it? He’s my precious baby boy and my only job is to be the best mommy I can be to him while showing him both sides of his heritage. All I want for him to believe is that love knows no boundaries.
So – a huge virtual hug and kiss to everyone reading this and supporting me along the way. I mean it when I say you all are the very best fans a brand new momma could ask for.
INTERESTING FACT: According to classical scholar Frank Snowden, skin color did not determine social status in ancient Egypt, Greece or Rome. Relations between the major power and the subordinate state was viewed as more significant in a person’s status than was their skin color.
P.S. XXXX used the Contact Us form to ask her question. You can too should you need multiracial parenting advice.
Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman can include author to his list of accomplishments. His book, “Dennis The Wild Bull,” came out Wednesday, and fans will immediately recognize Rodman’s influence. The large red bull on the cover has flowing red hair, two nose rings, a tattoo and red stubble under his chin.
“They’ll see me, literally see me. They’ll say, ‘Wow, this is just like him,’ “ Rodman said in a phone interview.
And he deals with the same issues. Rodman, known as much for his wacky looks and lifestyle off the court as his considerable success on it, said the purpose of the book is simple.
“More than anything, I just want little kids today just to understand, ain’t no matter what you do in life, be different, rich or poor man, guess what, it’s OK to be who you are pretty much and you’ll be accepted,” Rodman said.
Rodman has already written books about his personal life — the wild nights as a player, relationships with Madonna and Carmen Electra, and everything that allowed him to be famous long after he finished winning five championships with Detroit and Chicago.
The author whose previous works include titles such as “Bad as I Wanna Be” and “I Should Be Dead by Now” chose a different audience this time.
He said even now he is still recognized by children who never saw him play, and those are the ones he wanted to reach: “For a guy like me to be very eccentric, to even go to extremes to write a children’s book with all the wild things I do and make it believable was pretty much incredible,” Rodman said.
Co-written with Dustin Warburton, the book tells the story of Dennis, a bull who is captured away from his family and forced to live with other bulls in a rodeo. Though he looks nothing like them, they come to accept him and he becomes friends with them.
“Once I got to know the other bulls, I liked them,” Rodman said. “I enjoyed their company and stuff like that, and they accepted me for who I am no matter how I look.”
Dennis becomes so close with them that when he plots his escape to return to his family, he makes sure his new friends can come with him. Dennis originally was to escape alone until Rodman decided to change the ending.
“That’s not really Dennis. Dennis thought it was so cool that these other bulls accepted him and he stayed loyal to them. He wanted to see his family but he wanted these other bulls to come along,” said Darren Prince, Rodman’s marketing agent.
“Anybody that knows the real Dennis Rodman knows how loyal he is to anybody that he’s close with and Dennis didn’t like that part, so they tweaked it at the end.”
Rodman, who was ordered to pay $500,000 in back child support to his ex-wife last month, acknowledges a couple of his children on the cover of his book with pictures of two little bulls in front of the mare.