Notebook: The Body beautiful

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The Independent Online
IT IS fashionable to write of Elle 'The Body' Macpherson, supermodel and Australian, that she is rather less impressive in the flesh than in the glossy. This is not true. She is, for one thing, a shade over six foot tall; and, for another, she reads Marguerite Yourcenar and Chester Himes. The Body has a Brain. And she paid for the coffee.

Ms Macpherson was going to study law, like her stepfather in Sydney, but there was this skiing trip to Colorado which led to a modelling contract in New York, which led to a French photographer husband and the cover of Elle - a pretty coincidence - and all the subsequent supermodel stuff. Now the husband has gone and Ms Macpherson is 30, but she is not about to wish it had all been different, or to confirm your tweedy beliefs that being a lawyer is somehow better than being a model.

'Lawyers and models aren't that different. You have a captive audience, you're the centre of attention, you have a message to communicate and a performance that needs to be planned.' It bothers her not whether she is condemned as a bimbo or condescended to because she reads with her mouth closed. 'I really don't give a damn whether people think I'm smart or not. I don't have to prove myself to anybody.'

Fashion is fascinating, but not to be taken too seriously: 'I certainly don't go to bed dreaming about skirt lengths.' She does not, she says, regard herself as a model 'per se'. She has her own lingerie company in Australia, designs and models for it and has plans for world expansion; she has produced her own calendar - 'It's 16 months, people feel they're getting more for their money that way' - and the pictures were taken by her ex-husband - 'I employed the person who was best for the job.'

She spends a lot of time in London now because of her relationship with Tim Jefferies, who, she gets very fed up reading, is the Green Shield Stamp heir and former husband of Koo Stark. She was very worried about coming here from Paris: 'In Paris, they think Australians are exotic; here they think they are nannies.' She's currently reading Barry Humphries' autobiography: 'All Australians love Dame Edna. We can laugh at ourselves, which is a big difference with here: the Brits take themselves so seriously.'

Isn't it a bit freakish, though, being The Body? 'My success has been that I'm approachable, women feel they could be like that. I'm not actually that unbelievably beautiful, although I'm supposed to pretend I am.' And she paid for my coffee.

(Photograph omitted)

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