Daisy Lowe: Pearl's girl is the new queen bee of the rock'n'roll It-girls
How does a girl born into a real-life of rock'n'roll soap opera (Sex! Drugs! Paternity tests!) make her own her mark in the world? By becoming this year's hottest model and the star of her own reality TV show, that's how...
Sunday 04 May 2008
Daisy Lowe belongs to a very modern breed of London It-girl. It's a role you have to be born into. While their predecessors were the daughters of aristocrats – the Tara Palmer-Tompkinsons and Lady Victoria Herveys, whose pedigree was determined by how many acres their family owned in Gloucestershire and how closely related they were to the Queen – these days, it's more a question of rock'n'roll royalty than blue-blooded veins.
A quick inspection of the surnames of the current crop of girls-about-town is telling. From Peaches Geldof to Lizzie Jagger, Leah Wood to Kelly Osbourne, the latest generation to grace the gossip pages are more likely to have spent their early years on a tour bus with their rock-star parents than competing at pony-club gymkhanas.
Although Lowe's name may lack the instant wow factor of her starry peers, the 19-year-old model's genetic make-up has secured her place in the rock firmament. The eldest daughter of Pearl Lowe, the fashion designer and former singer with Britpop band Powder, and step-daughter of Supergrass drummer Danny Goffey, her indie Primrose Hill upbringing alone would have been enough to ensure vicarious celebrity status later in life.
In 2004, however, a DNA test which revealed that her biological father was not her mother's first husband, as she had previously believed, but Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale, placed Daisy at the centre of a real-life rock'n'roll soap opera. Old friends, Lowe and Rossdale had enjoyed a fling so brief in the late-1980s that neither suspected Daisy might be his child. A doting godfather to Daisy for 15 years, his reaction to the news, according to Pearl, was to sever all contact with the Lowes, seemingly ploughing his energies into saving his marriage to the American singer Gwen Stefani.
Although the subject remains strictly off-limits, it is hard not to interpret Lowe's fierce loyalty to step-dad Goffey as an indirect condemnation of Rossdale. "Danny is a brilliant dad," she says. "He is father to my brothers and sisters, who I never for a second think of as anything less than whole; I just think of them as my brothers and sisters. He will be there for me when no one else will. Plus, of course, he's a creative genius. I'm proud to call him my father."
It would be easy for Daisy, a supporting player in the media drama, to have remained exactly that, forever known as little more than Gavin Rossdale's love child. But like many It-girls before her, Lowe has greater aspirations than just being a socialite. "If I'm going to be famous, I want to be famous for doing something good – having talent," she declares. What sets her apart is that she actually looks likely to make good on that desire.
At the beginning of this year Lowe, a model in Britain from the age of 15, was signed by the powerful New York agency IMG, which looks after supermodels Giselle and Naomi Campbell – a reliable indication that international stardom is on the cards, since it is in the US that the major campaigns that will put her on billboards around the world are booked.
The producers of the upcoming BBC2 fly-on-the-wall documentary Class of 2008, which charts the early push for fame and fortune of a group of trendy young things, are similarly confident she has what it takes to become a huge star, which is why they have made Lowe the focus for the series.
While her fellow subjects look set to achieve considerable success, including Lowe's on-off boyfriend Will Cameron, lead singer of The Blondelles, it is clear who is the star of the show. (Her relationship with Cameron, incidentally, is very much on right now – despite recent tabloid stories suggesting Mark Ronson is more than just the good friend she claims.)
Lowe has already graced the catwalk for Chanel – hand-picked by Karl Lagerfeld, no less – and stepped into Kate Moss's stockings in a campaign for luxury lingerie brand Agent Provocateur. With her doll-like face, mussed-up hair and slender but curvy body, she strikes a unique balance ' between an edgy, catwalk-friendly look and a more commercial appeal that could see her do very well indeed.
Were it anyone but Lowe, the prospect of such fame and fortune at such a young age might be worrying, but it's hard to imagine anyone better equipped to deal with the inevitable circus that will surround her. Her own childhood provided ample preparation for dealing with the excesses of celebrity; after all, not many people can say they grew up in a house where Pete Doherty was once a lodger.
Regulars on the 1990s Britpop party scene, Pearl and Danny were part of the Primrose Hill set that included Kate Moss, Sadie Frost and Jude Law. At one stage they were dubbed "the Posh and Becks of the indie world", although it would be fair to say that they lived a little more dangerously than Mr and Mrs Beckham. In her recent autobiography, All That Glitters, Pearl describes her descent into cocaine and heroin addiction with incredible candour, recounting the day-to-day struggle of trying to hold things together and care for her three children.
During a particularly difficult period of depression following the birth of her third child, Frankie, Pearl describes Daisy as her "saviour" and recalls how, at 10 years old, Daisy would change the nappies of her younger siblings and warm bottles while her mother lay paralysed in bed.
While some children might have cracked under the strain and developed their own wild-child ways, Lowe's instinct took her in exactly the opposite direction as she assumed responsibility for keeping the family functioning as Pearl slowly fell apart. "The only way to rebel against my mother was to be totally normal," she explains. "There's a huge element of Saffy from Ab Fab in me – just because I always tried to be my mother's mother. Obviously, she takes huge care of me, but I always felt it was my duty to help her too, being the oldest, especially as she was doing drugs. She was always really depressed and I'd want to be there and help her."
Going against the grain of the chaotic, bohemian household, Lowe became ultra-practical and mature beyond her years. At seven she insisted on looking after the family passports on holiday, and at 13 she was more interested in being a forensic scientist than following either of her parents into show business. Even now she confesses that caring for others has become something of a reflex for her: "I've spent my whole life looking after my little brothers, I've got a really strong maternal instinct."
If it was a tough childhood, Lowe does not portray it that way. "I never took it as a burden," she says cheerily. Meanwhile, her devotion to her mother – who has now been clean for several years – is absolute: "She is an amazing ' mother. We steal each other's clothes and talk on the phone every day – she is my best friend. It's all about Danny and my mum; we are a very close family."
The close physical resemblance between mother and daughter is striking too, although Lowe is candid about why her mother never pursued a similar career in modelling: "She got too pudgy because she was always stoned!" she giggles.
When Pearl decamped to Hampshire to escape the temptations of the London party circuit, Daisy initially stayed with her grandparents to continue her studies at her old school. Bright and articulate, she excelled in chemistry and art and was predicted to get good A-levels, but the separation from Pearl proved too difficult, and she abandoned her education in favour of modelling. "I couldn't handle being away from her," she says. "I just felt lost, so lost. So, it was my ticket out of school. Of course I could go back any time. Modelling's not forever, is it?"
While it may not be forever, for the moment at least it seems that Lowe is enjoying the new world it is opening up for her. She describes the decision to leave boyfriend Will in London while she spends much of her time working in New York as "really hard". Nevertheless, there is a sense that Lowe is relishing the new-found freedom that has come with her own pad in the Big Apple's East Village, and that she is at last getting the chance to shed the adult concerns she has dealt with for so long and indulge herself like any other 19-year-old. "I love being able to eat what I want, go where I want and walk around naked and sing to myself without anyone telling me to shut up," she confesses.
There have already been some notable career highlights, too. A shoot with in-demand American photographer Steven Klein was particularly memorable. "He's so quiet – a tortured genius," she says admiringly. He returned the compliment by dying her blue for a shoot – giving her a life-threatening allergic reaction in the process – hanging her off a giant crane and making her jump into a tub of green slime, naked, in the dead of winter. Lowe doesn't seem to have minded: "I am up for anything with Steven – he makes me feel like a beautiful piece of art when I work with him; he sees things no one else sees."
But it was modelling for the grande dame of British fashion, Vivienne Westwood, that she enjoyed most of all. "She is a huge muse of mine," admits Lowe. "I've never seen a designer get so involved in a show before. She was running around with a make-up palette saying, 'You all look too similar' and putting random eyeshadow here and there. Then she ran around with the eyeliner going, 'Who wants a moustache?' She was just so full-on and creative."
Despite the glamour of it all, Lowe still seems to have her heart set on a quiet life. It is safe to say that she has no interest in living the itinerant rock-chick lifestyle that her mother once enjoyed; her one experience of touring with her boyfriend's band failed to ignite any passion for life on the road: "I've never been so ill in my entire life," she groans. "We were travelling around Germany and all there was to eat was schnitzels; I need vegetables and sleep."
Perhaps it's the effect of seeing her mother so happily settled in the countryside with her vegetable patch and ethical clothing range, or perhaps it's just that maternal instinct kicking in once again, but Lowe's ultimate ambitions are a world away from her current career path. At the top of the agenda seems to be marrying her boyfriend and having children. Lowe says that she fell for Cameron when he confessed that "he just wanted to be a really good dad".
So what, then, is this would-be homemaker doing stalking the catwalks of Paris and New York? "I want to have money so I can spend it having children," she says simply. "I want to have three or four and be a really good mother and make sure they have a really brilliant life with parents who are not struggling." It may not be very rock'n'roll, but it sounds like a nice plan. n
Class of 2008, an eight-part series, begins on 17 May at 12.45pm on the BBC Switch zone on BBC2
Bringing up Daisy
By Pearl Lowe
I've been clean for more than three years now, so talking about who I was when I was on drugs feels as though I'm describing a completely different person. Daisy [pictured right with Pearl] was the only one of my children who has any real recollection of that period, but even she wasn't aware it was anything to do with drugs at the time – I always used in secret. Daisy just thought I was quite a sickly mum. I feel guilty that she did become a kind of carer for me at one stage, but I think that's always been in her nature.
It was an awful time – I was in denial and leading this double life. I'd have clean periods where I was this perfect, Mary Poppins-style mum and the kids would be really happy with me, and then I'd relapse again. I was so wracked with guilt about behaving that way with such beautiful children.
I always had a special bond with Daisy because she was my first child and a girl. She had me totally to herself until she was about six years old, which is when I met Danny and first used hard drugs.
She has always been incredibly old for her age. I remember a funny moment when she stood up at a dinner party when she was very little and said, "All men are bastards, aren't they, mummy?" She's always been very wise, which is why I'm not worried about her getting into drugs herself.
Leaving London was the greatest thing that ever happened to our family. People thought that we'd be back within six months, but being away from all that has made me a complete person again. These days Daisy laughs at me for going to bed at 9pm.
Gavin's [Rossdale, Daisy's biological father] name is banned in my household. Someone who doesn't see his daughter at all while parading around with her half-brother is pretty sick, I think. He's missing out on an amazing girl. Interview by Rhiannon Harries
Pearl Lowe's memoir, 'All That Glitters' (Hodder & Stoughton, £7.99) is out now in paperback
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