Abbey Clancy: 'I'm not a brat'
Deborah Ross meets the ultimate wag
On the first sunny, spring-like morning of the year, when I could be doing something quite middle-aged and sedate and lovely, like pottering around the local garden centre, I find that, instead, I am on the London to Macclesfield train, cursing the very day I was born. I've been dispatched to interview a Wag.
I have nothing against Wags per se. I rather admire them, with their glorious gusto for celebrity and conspicuous consumption and living the dream and over-sized sunglasses, but it is also a deadening prospect. What do I know about over-sized sunglasses? Or St Tropez tans or hair extensions or fake nails or, of course, posing for OK! with a certain vacant perfection? (I did once try a certain vacant perfection, it's true, but it made me dizzy and gave me dry elbows so, alas, I had to cancel the OK! photo-shoot.)
This Wag is Abbey Clancy, TV presenter, model, spokesperson for Lynx Attract For Her, the first Lynx fragrance for women – "it's young and flowery and really, really nice," she says, with a straight face – and wife of England and Stoke footballer Peter Crouch, described by my son as "the very, very tall spindly one who did that robot dance," as if this is going to help me place him. Still, I do ask Abbey if the very, very tall spindly one ever does a robot dance for her own private enjoyment, when she's been good, say, and made the beds and taken the rubbish out? "No!" she exclaims with horror. You're not a fan of the robot dance? "It's bizarre!"
She is very warm and rather fun, actually, and although we have a few sticky moments – she doesn't much enjoy talking about tabloid newspaper revelations, predictably – I have some fun myself. We have a splendid lunch. We go mad on credit cards in a designer childrenswear shop. I invite myself to her daughter, Sophia's, upcoming first birthday party, once I learn a mini-farm will be coming to their house. "With piglets you can pet and everything?" I query excitedly. "And a little horse," she says. I'm on it, I tell her, and feel significantly cheered.
Anyway, she meets me as I come out of Macclesfield station, drawing up in one of those tank-sized Range Rovers. She is 25, and disappointingly non-blingy, dressed simply in black T-shirt, black skinny jeans and mid-heeled Kurt Geiger courts. She is 5ft 9ins, with legs going up to her armpits – although not literally, as that would be freakishly hideous – and is certainly gorgeous, with huge, amazingly green eyes and a distinctly non-orange complexion. It is creamy, if anything.
And your beauty regime, madam? "Just baby wipes and Nivea." Are you sure, I ask, you don't want to name-drop Crème de la Mer, so they'll send us a big box of free stuff? "Nivea," she repeats. Drat. Still, I climb into the car. She is, I quickly discover, a considerate road user if you don't count the instances when she harasses slower drivers with "Come on, you soft shite", which are many.
I'd wanted to visit her at home – she lives in nearby Alderley Edge, naturally – for a good snoop, but she wouldn't have it. Her house is rented and doesn't have a good vibe or feel like home, she says. But does it have a swimming pool, I enquire. It does, she says. "I don't use it but Pete takes the baby in every day and she absolutely loves it and me mum's dogs go in, too." What sort of dogs does your mum have? Morkies, she says. Morkie? A cross between Maltese and Yorkie, she explains. I say I'm planning to buy a Shiatsu crossed with a Poodle if only so I can tell everybody: "I'm having a Shit-Poo". We laugh until the next slow driver comes along, who is also a "soft shite".
She is originally from Liverpool, and is still very Liverpool, saying "me" for "my" – "I love to read and I love Martina Cole. She's me favourite" – and "cewk" for "cook" and "bewk"' for "book". It can lead to some confusion. Last night, she says, she got a terrible fright when a mouse got into the house and crawled all over "me Burberry tewks". Your Burberry tewks, I query? "Me Burberry tewks," she confirms. And what is this Burberry tewks you speak of, Abigail? "What's a tewks?" Yes, what is this "tewks"? "A jacket, like." A tux! A tux! "I got Pete to catch it." The tewks? "The mouse."
She then hoots the horn. Another soft shite? No, Pete driving his Range Rover in the opposite direction. He'd taken their daughter to her mother's for the day, and now he should be off to training, but is going the wrong way. She calls him and puts him on speaker phone. He forgot his wash-bag, apparently, so has to speed home for it. She finishes the call with: "Love you!", to which he replies, "Love you!". Nobody, it appears, loves me, but it may just be my dry elbows. I should cream them more. (E45? Is that the best? I would use Crème de la Mer, if I had any.)
She takes me to The Cheshire Smokehouse, a deli-cum-cafe where she appears to be well-known. "I haven't got the baby with me today to trash the place," she tells the waitress. "She's never any trouble," says the waitress, who is kindly as well as, possibly, long-suffering.
I would say that Abbey is one of those figure-conscious women who simply push food around a plate, if it were true, but it isn't. She can well pack it in. It is a joy to behold. She has scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, two rounds of toast with cream cheese, two cappuccinos, an orange juice, and then a scone piled with jam and cream. Yet you stay skinny? "It's me genes," she says. I say a friend of mine had a baby at around the same time she did, and when she saw photos of Abbey taken a few weeks after Sophia's birth and noted her flat stomach, she burst into tears. A tummy tuck? "Absolutely not!" she says. "When I had the baby me mum said I'd go back to normal and although I didn't believe her, I just did." Did you breastfeed? She didn't, she says, "because I was in that much pain". When you tried? "No, underneath". Down below? "Yeah, and exhausted. And me mum didn't breastfeed and you do what your mum did, don't you?"
I say if you were worried about your boobs, you were right to be so. I breastfed and now my boobs are like pitta breads before you've even put them under the grill and they've puffed out a bit. She says she saw a woman breastfeeding on a train the other day, and shudders. Hey, it's natural, I counter. She shudders again. This is not, I'm guessing, a world where 'natural' is rated that highly. That said, I tell her, I can't understand why men find breast implants attractive. Who wants to fondle a bag of silicone? She says, yeah, "but all they see is: boob!". She can be sharp and funny. When we later discuss wine, and I say expensive ones are wasted on me, although I like to think I can tell the difference between a £3.99 one and a £9.99 one she says, "not after two bottles you can't" which, aside from anything else, is very true.
Born in Liverpool, the oldest of four, Abbey's father ran a tarmac business. I wonder if she grew up craving riches, so ask if she remembers yearning for things beyond the family's income. "Yeah," she says, "but I always got them." Like what? "It was less high-end when I was younger, more high street, more like: can I have this pair of shoes from Topshop? I'd always had quite a privileged lifestyle, to be honest. I've never wanted for anything, but I do know the value of things. I'm not, like, a brat. And I've worked since I was 15, and always got me own stuff."
And what were you like at school? "Always on report, always being told off for messing about, but always top of the class." Really, I enquire, patronisingly. "I got all A-stars and one B for me GCSEs." Gosh, I exclaim, just as patronisingly. Did you work hard for them? Not really, she says.
So you were a smarty-pants? Probably, she says, but she was also absolutely determined to not stay on at school. "I was already in a band and the teachers called my mum in and said: 'Abbey's so clever, it's a total waste if she follows her dream'. But I never wanted to do a job I didn't love, and I'd always wanted to be a model or an actress or a singer."
If you had gone ahead to study, what might you have studied? Something well rewarded, she says. "If I had to study and work hard it would have to have the reward of a lot of cash. I'd want a nice house and a nice car and go to nice places on holiday." Is this the ultimate appeal of Wag-dom? Riches without endeavour?
The band was Genie Queen, which supported Blue on tour before splitting. Next, she appeared on Britain's Next Top Model, making it through to the last few, and met Pete. How? When? "It was me friend Tommy's birthday and I was out with him and his wife, Karen, and I did fancy Pete before then." From seeing him on TV and in newspapers and the like? "Yes. And we were in this restaurant and I saw him and I was like: 'Oh my God!' and I went to the toilet and walked past him and he just started talking to me and then begged me for me number... Only joking! We swapped numbers." How long till he called? "An hour." Did you have any sense of where it would go? "Oh, yeah. I knew he'd be me boyfriend." How? "Just a feeling. I knew he was The One."
And what was your first experience of being a premiership footballer's girlfriend? "When I finished Britain's Next Top Model, the day I got back, he said the England team were going to Portugal, did I want to come? I'd been away from me mum for eight weeks and I'd never left me mum's side in me life and I was like: 'Should I go or shouldn't I?'." You did go, and? "It was really strange because I was really young, 19, and at the meal in the evening Victoria Beckham was sitting there, and David Beckham, and all these players you only see on TV, and their wives, and I felt quite intimidated and that my clothes were crap." Was Posh friendly? "I didn't speak to her." Too frightened? "Yeah."
She also went to Baden Baden for the 2006 World Cup but came home early when pictures of her sniffing cocaine were printed in a tabloid. This is another of our sticky moments. If you are living the dream you do not want it defiled, I suppose. How did you feel about it, I ask.
A sharp intake of breath and then: "It makes it hard to trust people you thought you could trust. It's just embarrassing because it just lets people down, like me family, and then people have a certain image of you. When I'm a good person. I'm not an angel, but it was just a silly teenage thing that most teenagers in the world do. It wasn't nice."
Did someone you know sell that picture? "Yes, but I don't want to go into it, because it scares me still." It is a massive betrayal, isn't it? "Definitely. I wouldn't do that to anyone. I just don't understand people's mentality. If I saw Tom Cruise sitting here, I wouldn't go over and take a picture of him then sell it to a newspaper. People seem to do that nowadays. It's just bizarre."
She and Pete are among those suing News International for phone hacking. And what's the most ridiculous thing you've ever read about yourself in a tabloid, I ask. "There have been millions of things." The latest, then. "The latest is that I'm getting £750 cellulite treatments and I don't even have cellulite!" Absurd! "I know."
We pay up and climb back into her car, where there is a bag of treacle toffees. "Want one?" Abbey, I'm stuffed! She pops one in her pretty mouth. It's my idea to stop at the childrenswear shop in chi-chi Wilmslow on the way back, as I need a baby gift. I ask Abbey if she likes shopping, shopping, shopping.
"Not as much as I used to," she says. Still, although the price of the one little outfit I buy makes my eyes water, she proceeds to buy up half the shop for Sophia. I'm guessing not having to think about money simply becomes normal after a while.
Did Pete, I ask, cry when Sophia was born? "He cried, and me mum cried, and me sister cried." Is she fat? I love a fat baby. "She is very fat." Cellulite treatments? You're never too young. "Ha, ha!" Who gave Sophia her first-ever bath, always a nerve-wracking event? "Pete did and he held on to her arm that tight her hand went blue!"
She has never allowed Sophia to appear in the press, which is wise, and she has never done any 'at home' spreads. "That way you open the door, don't you?" And your wedding wasn't Hello!-ed? "No, although it would have been very nice to have had it paid for!" And you don't use Crème de la Mer? "Nivea." Drat.
Finally, she drops me back at the station – "Come on, you soft shite!" – which is kind, and we part amicably although, I now realise, I've yet to receive an invite proper to the mini-farm party. It's my dry elbows, I bet. They've always held me back.
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