My Secret Life: Maia Norman

Creative director, 47
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The Independent Online

The home I grew up in ... was light and futuristic. Family life was turbulent, to say the least – but we had some fun times.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... able to wear thigh-high boots like Cher.

My greatest inspiration ... was when I discovered contemporary art at the age of 17. It opened up a world of ideas that seemed so optimistically infinite. And so funny, too.

The moment that changed me for ever ... was realising that all of my friends were going to go to art school but that I didn't have the money or the grades. I was devastated.

I drive/ride ... a 7'2" Fish (that's my surfboard), a Yamaha 250 YZ, a 90hp rigid inflatable boat, a 24ft Thames cruiser, an '89 Citroen CX, a '56 Chevy Bel Air, an Audi estate, and a Mercedes van. Only one thing at a time though.

If I could change one thing about myself ... I'd have a quicker wit when it comes to irony. I suffer from Earnest Syndrome.

At night I dream of ... searching for an amazing wave.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... is very different to what I imagine in my head. I try not to think too much about what I look like – hopefully a smile can explain all.

My style icon ... Interesting people I meet. I'm more inspired by personality than looks.

The shop I can't walk past ... is Selfridges Food Hall.

A book that changed me ... I read Ayn Rand's 'The Fountainhead' when I was 19 and it changed the way I thought of altruism. I'm still overly generous but I think first.

The last album I bought ... was by West African Highlife – I was getting souped up for my surf trip to Ghana.

The person who really makes me laugh ... is Damien. It's endless.

It's not fashionable but I like ... skinny, fine stripes on the smoothest cotton shirting – I think it's a part of my obsessive-compulsive side. Pin tucks, pleats, a waffle Jacquard: it's all about order. Doesn't mean I wear them, though.

My favourite work of art ... 'A Thousand Years' by Damien Hirst – the cow's head with flies, maggots and 'insectocutor'. It's amazing to watch and so simple and devastatingly complex at the same time.

My favourite item of clothing ... My multi-coloured Fendi pony-skin coat. It speaks a thousand words.

You may not know it but I'm very good at ... fixing mechanical things. Give me a good toolbox and something to fix and I'm happy.

You may not know it but I'm no good at ... cooking. Damien is so much better than me. I'm much better at playing the dad role.

My real-life villain ... is my own impatience – I always want to rush into things.

If I have time to myself ... I love to sit in a hot bath with a copy of 'The Week'.

My house is ... very lived-in. Damien has taught me to stop stressing about the burn marks or the cat-scratched sofa; our house is clean but tatty round the edges. It makes for a relaxed home.

My most valuable possession is ... my health and my family.

My favourite building ... The Capitol Records building in Hollywood. It symbolises the Californian Dream, for all its faults. It's also just like a stack of records.

Movie heaven ... Our recent favourite viewing is 'Air Crash Investigation' where they dissect an air crash and find out the source.

Best invention ever ... Wheels on suitcases.

In 10 years' time, I hope to be ... surfing harder and better, and to still have my crazy unbridled enthusiasm.

My greatest regret ... I don't do regrets.

My life in six words ... eclectic, amused, sunny, hard-working, optimistic, blessed.

A life in brief

Maia Norman was born in Orange County, California, in 1962. She and her partner, the artist Damien Hirst, have three children together. Maia splits her time between her family home in north Devon, a houseboat in London and a beach house in Mexico. Her clothing label, Mother of Pearl, will be available from Liberty from August (