Lynne Franks: Absolutely Fabulous

Lynne Franks set up her eponymous PR agency when she was 21 and the company became emblematic of Eighties values. She was supposedly immortalised as the self-obsessed Edina in Absolutely Fabulous before selling her company in 1992 and embarking on 10 years of new-age self-discovery. She now runs the Seed network for women entrepreneurs and her latest book, Grow, is published this week. After five years in LA, Franks, 55, is back in London.
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The Independent Online

In one week in 1992 you left Lynne Franks PR and your marriage. What was that like?

Very frightening. I'd been a wife and a PR guru (or whatever I was) and an employer and then I was none of those. I'd lost my best friend - my husband - and that's frightening. Learning to be self-reliant and myself instead of this image people projected on me was hard.

How long did it take to stabilise again?

A few years, but I had some amazing times. My children were in their early teens and we went travelling together - we spent more time together than ever before. And I had all these mad love affairs - I was going through my puberty alongside my kids. I'd been working like mad for 20 years trying to be the perfect wife and professional woman and suddenly I could let go. I don't regret anything in my life but that time was really quite wonderful. Real adventures.

What's changed now?

I'm more focused on my work again.

Before that you were very driven. Were you motivated by money?

Not at all. I've never been motivated by money. But I was earning a very comfortable living and I enjoyed it. I enjoy the better things of life.

What did motivate you?

I really enjoyed what I did. I had a lot of young people working for me and we had fun, even though I sort of did burn out in the end. I got caught up in the whole thing. It was a very creative environment, the constant stimulus of something new.

What does money mean to you?

A means to an end. Energy, a way to have freedom, a way to buy business class if not first-class tickets when you travel long distances - in fact, that's its main purpose for me.

Is it security?

Yes. I come from a long line of insecure Jewish immigrants. There's definitely a security aspect to it.

How would you feel if you had no money now?

I have no money now.

Come on, has there been a time when you've been really skint?

I started off with no money. No one's ever given me any money. I've always worked hard. I have a nice home now but I don't have huge amounts in the bank. I was brought up by my mother to work for what I needed so I have that ethos. It wouldn't scare me to have no money because I'd earn some. Having a lot of money is not of any concern to me but having enough money is.

What's enough?

Good question - there's never enough is there? About 100K a year?

Do you think money can make you happy?

Of course not. I had an enormous house and all the material possessions that I thought I could ever want and I wasn't happy at all. I was stressed out in my mind. I wasn't happily married. It was crazy. There were no boundaries because it was just spend spend spend.

So money was actually destructive?

It was for me. I think I need to be a bit hungry - it keeps me more disciplined because I can be very extravagant at times. I went on a sort of princess route when I had a lot of money which I then backed down from and learnt to have a much nicer life.

So what's life like now?

I have a little car that I drive around in happily. I cater for my needs; I live simply. As long as I've got enough organic food to fill my fridge so I can feed all my friends and family when they come and have enough money to buy beautiful fresh flowers...

You talk in your book about the insecurities that follow the break-up of a marriage. Have you got to the other side of that?

I certainly don't feel needy; that has passed. I feel open that one day I might meet someone who would be a true live-in or live-out partner. But like many women my age, we get a way of life that we really enjoy and incorporating someone else fully in your life when you're not looking to nest and have babies is a big, big decision. It's going to have to be somebody very special.

You have a sex life?

Yes! The old myth that you have the menopause and you lose it - you absolutely don't. But you get more selective with your time. The one-night stands are over because what's the point? But for me sex gets better and better. I know myself better, know my body better, I know who I want to be with better. It becomes much more sensual, tactile, loving - no desperation, no nervousness, not looking for a husband or baby, just enjoying it.

You meditate with a celibate order - are you ever tempted to go all the way?

I am tempted. I go through stages when I spend a lot of time with them and we have such fun and there's no sexual friction which makes it so relaxing. But the other times I want that sexual friction.

How do you feel about Edina from Ab Fab now?

I don't really have any feelings one way or another.

Did it get on your nerves?

No, I found it very funny. I get tired of it now, though. Jennifer Saunders says constantly that it's not based on me and I know it isn't. I'm open and enthusiastic and very honest about my life and people can turn that against you and make out you're nuts. But I'm not thought of as quirky as I used to be because a lot of the stuff I get involved in becomes mainstream. Things I advocated 10 years ago, like organic food and herbal teas, doing yoga and meditating. I had the first non-smoking office in London.

What's your worst vice?

Being too extravagant. Not taking money seriously enough. I do love shopping. I do shopping meditation. I walk in and go into a trance.

What's your weakness?

Food. I walk into Fresh and Wild and go into a trance. That's where I relate to Ab Fab.

'Grow: The Modern Woman's Handbook' is published by Hay House, £14.99.