Look where my big mouth has got me now

Janet Street-Porter happily agreed to model for one of her friends - but then reality set in. What about the glasses, the cellulite and all those skinny waifs? This is her Milan report

Last Thursday at 9.30pm, I did something even I couldn't believe I'd pull off. I walked down a catwalk in Milan, watched by 850 people, modelling three dresses in a top fashion show. I know you're incredulous. From rambling to runway - is she nuts? How does it feel to stand naked, backstage, while two Italian seamstresses pull clothes on and off you at lightning speed? What about all those gorgeous professional models? What about my cellulite? My glasses?

The story started two years ago, but here's the latest installment. The phone rang on my birthday, 27 December. I'd eaten so much lunch I was lying on my bed, bloated. It was good and bad news. My friend Antonio d'Amico had called from Milan to wish me happy birthday, but also to remind me that, in an unguarded moment last summer, I had agreed to model his first solo collection. Panic set in. How could this shapeless white body swan down a catwalk and look elegant in just over 14 days time? A new regime started - but not until I'd celebrated New Year, of course. Antonio had told me to "be myself", after all.

I had met Antonio d'Amico at Elton John's house the summer before last, shortly after Gianni Versace's murder. Antonio, his lover for 14 years, was simply one of the most dignified people in grief I had ever met. There was no doubting the depth of his loss, and so our friendship started at the lowest moment in his life. But he was an inspirational person, and certainly helped me to deal with my mother's death this summer.

Elton had known Gianni and Antonio extremely well, and was very supportive when Antonio finally decided to launch his own collection. How could I churlishly refuse to model? He told me his clothes would be modern and simple, and that he would use a combination of real people and models. After all, he reasoned, customers are not super-thin. They are real shapes and sizes.

How could I, at 52, not look a complete disaster? For years I've whinged on (like most women) about stick-thin models dominating our images of fashion. Now I had a chance to put the JSP point of view into action. So I didn't diet, but tried to remove festive excess from my torso. I was a size 10 at the age of 18, but for the last 10 years I have been either a big 12 or a 14. And nothing would change that.

Luckily, I had a book to write and the deadline was upon me. So, at my cottage in Yorkshire I adopted a lentils, brown rice and vegetable regime. No drinking for three days, then a one-night binge in London and then back to three days of abstinence. Lots of apple juice and water. Loads of trips to the loo.

The night before take-off I lapsed, but I had still lost 5lb on the JSP diet. Good. But I had a cold. Bad. Nothing would remove the bags under my eyes. I would have to smile a lot and incorporate them into laughter lines. Grinning also disguised my baggy chin. I practised the walk - a lot - in my friends' kitchens. All the gay men could do it perfectly, thrusting their hips forward and their shoulders about one foot back. Not one woman could.

I arrived in Milan, to find a huge bunch of flowers in my hotel room, and spent two hours being fitted for my clothes. Basically, you take off all your underwear and bits of fabric are draped on you, cut on you, pinned on you. Nudity isn't a problem. The seamstresses have seen it all before, the male models are all gay (spending their time eyeing each other's biceps) and the female models ignore you, because you are fatter than them and thus simply don't exist in glamour world.

Back at the hotel, I stuck on a blue "revitalising" face-pack and fell asleep, awoke late for drinks with David Furnish, Elton John's partner, who was also modelling, and shoe designer Patrick Cox. We had a great dinner - I ate risotto and liver and fried potatoes, plus vanilla ice- cream. Then I had to go back to Antonio's at 11pm for more fittings. Now all the clothes were too tight. There was a lot of tutting.

Tuesday morning. I ate a croissant for breakfast. I will not be a slave to fashion. Go to the Nuovo Piccolo Teatro (where the show will be held), as requested, at 11am. Nothing happens. They are still building the set - it has a departure lounge on either side and a silver runway with lights up the side. I'm bored out of my brain. How do these models do it? They just smoke, drink water and witter endlessly on their mobile phones. I get a newspaper out and they look at me as if I'm mad.

The other people turn out to be dancers (great figures), body builders (great bodies), an antique dealer (also does weight-lifting), some gorgeous young Italian men from very good families with fantastic faces, and one or two extremely stylish older women. David and I have named ourselves as the Plucky Brits. We decide to drink champagne before the show, especially as poor David is to be the first one down the catwalk.

Finally, at 4pm, we have a rehearsal. People shout your name out and you stand in line backstage - just like school. On my first entrance, I trip on the step up to the stage and rip a chunk out of my arm. It's covered in blood. At least now I'll get some sympathy.

Back at the hotel I order bandages and throat lozenges. I don't think a hacking cough is a great accessory. Rumours are sweeping Milan. Will the theatre be full? (It was.) Will Donatella Versace be gracious enough to go? (She wasn't.) Why can't people who worked together for 10 years be generous? But then I remember. I was a fashion writer for four years once. How could I forget what the fashion business is really like? A world of giant egos and massive jealousies. Panicking, I shave my armpits yet again, slick on another "rejuvenating" face-pack and eat a plate of smoked salmon and two bread rolls. That feels much better. I wash my hair, and the red dye leaves the marble shower and luxurious white towels looking as if a serial killer has visited Room 364.

Back at the theatre at 7pm, I queue to have my hair and make-up done. The room is baking. I take my sweater off and walk round in a flesh- coloured bra - no one cares. My hair is turned into a red pagoda. It takes 30 minutes of ironing it straight and then a whole can of lacquer. It looks great, feels like steel. Make-up - I choose the old man making up the snottiest real model. He does a wonderful job of making me look brown and natural. It takes another 20 minutes to make me look like I'm wearing no make-up. I say thank you. No one else has thanked him, it seems. I put the first outfit on and wait and wait.

We start 30 minutes late. All the Brits cheer when I come out. The Italian press are confused. Who am I? Am I famous? It all passes in an instant. I don't fall over, do a lot of grinning, and bring Antonio on at the end for applause. The press ask him, who is Janet? He kindly says, "My favourite model". They ask me: "Are you a model in England?" I just crack up."No, I have a real job!"

The show got great reviews, and it seems the clothes were thought to be stylish and confident. So I'm pleased for Antonio. But would I do it again? You've got to be joking.

On Wednesday, there were large photos of me in the Daily Mail, the Mirror and the Express. Cliches galore, of course, from "Pret-a-Porter" to "TV presenter gets her teeth into fashion", but I'm not complaining. After the nasty press I've had based on big teeth and a bigger mouth, this coverage was positively friendly.

Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London