The large black-and-white billboard posters resembling swimwear manufacturer China movie adverts appeared on street corners throughout cities in Southern California. Emblazoned with the names ‘Pacino’ and ‘Stallone’, they might suggest they were announcing a new film release by two of the world’s biggest stars.
But a third name ‘Mone’ appeared – with wholesale swimwear equal billing – in large red lettering on the posters, giving its owner a quiet thrill as she travelled from LAX airport to her hotel in the centre of Los Angeles.
Millionaire Scots businesswoman vcxcdff358 Michelle Mone loves to rub shoulders with the famous – and, seven weeks on, she is still disconcerted by her good fortune in sharing a stage with Hollywood legends Al Pacino and Sylvester Stallone in front of 2,500 delegates at a conference for entrepreneurs.
One of the UK's most high profile wholesale swimwear business figures, Michelle Mone, opens up about her latest cancer scare which made her reassess her life to the point where she sold off the company that made her famous
Ms Mone got equal billing with screen legends Al Pacino and Sylvester Stallone in advertisements promoting a conference for entrepreneurs in California
She says: ‘I grew up with the film Rocky. I used to run up and down the steps in the east end of Glasgow, delivering papers and pretending I was Rocky Balboa. I had no idea that I would be sharing a stage with them one day and they would be listening to my story.’
In an exclusive interview with The Scottish Mail on Sunday, the woman who has become one of the UK’s most high-profile business figures is happy to talk about the new health scare that made her reassess her life, to the point where she has now sold off the company that made her a household name. RELATED ARTICLES Previous 1 2 Next Victoria's Secret Angels Sara Sampaio and Martha Hunt arrive... EXCLUSIVE: Goldsmith heir weds ex-lingerie model just two... Is Victoria's Secret filming a surprise swimsuit show?... Share this article Share
She is ready to reveal how she is coping with news of her ex-husband’s engagement to her former designer, and how she is carving out a new career for herself as a public speaker and lifestyle guru which allows her to rub shoulders with the Hollywood greats.
Ms Mone has just returned to the UK after two months of travelling around the world as a guest speaker. It’s a role she’s keen to pursue now, having just sold 80 per cent of her lingerie company following a second cancer scare.
Two years ago, she had a cancerous mole removed from her shoulder. Four months ago, a routine smear test showed up pre-cancerous cells and she panicked.
‘I thought “Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m sitting listening to this”,’ she recalls. ‘I cancelled all my meetings, told the gynaecologist I wanted anything pre-cancerous out, and had the operation within 48 hours. Maybe I over-reacted slightly, but I left a note for my eldest daughter, Rebecca, telling her where all the insurance policies were.
Ms Mone poses with her childhood hero Stallone; she has just returned returned to the UK after two months of travelling around the world as a guest speaker
Ms Mone, pictured with Pacino, has a new role developing the Utan self-tanning and beauty section which she has bought outright from Ultimo
‘I think that you do worry about your children more when you’re a single parent.’
The lingerie queen and her former business partner, Michael Mone, ended their 20-year marriage with a bitter divorce in 2011. It emerged later that he was having a relationship with one of Ms Mone’s former Ultimo bra designers, Samantha Bunn.
The pair have since become engaged, and last week Ms Mone tweeted her congratulations to them with the words: ‘Never thought I’d ever say this, congratulations to my ex-husband on his engagement to my ex-designer. No bitterness, no regrets, happiest ever.’
Her seemingly gracious tweet won her praise from many of her followers on the social media site.
But others were cynical about her intentions, claiming she had known about the engagement since September and had caused some bewilderment through her very public announcement.
But why so publicly? Why not a private message? Addressing her critics, she empathically denies there has been any maliciousness in her actions.
‘We don’t talk,’ she says bluntly. ‘We haven’t spoken since the divorce. I’ve no way of letting either of them know that’s how I feel now. I don’t care if I speak to them ever again but I honestly, sincerely, do wish them the best of luck.
‘If I’m honest, I’ve only felt that way for a few months. It took me a long, long time to get over what I saw as their betrayal. After the divorce, I became a very bitter person. But bitterness and jealousy are destructive and I didn’t like the way I felt.
‘I had to get rid of all those hurtful feelings and I managed it. Now, I don’t care if our younger daughter Bethany is a bridesmaid at their wedding.’ She reflects: ‘If I’ve one regret about my tweet, I wish I’d used their first names Michael and Sam. With hindsight, it would have been a nicer way of putting it instead of my “ex-husband” and “ex-designer” but there was nothing meant by it.
The lingerie queen and her former business partner, Michael Mone, ended their 20-year marriage with a bitter divorce in 2011. It emerged later that he was having a relationship with one of Ms Mone’s former Ultimo bra designers, Samantha Bunn. The pair have since become engaged.
‘I absolutely love my life just now. I’d like to thank Michael for that – for giving me the life I never had. I’m a very different person now and I would never have found myself, or had the courage to pursue my dreams, if this hadn’t happened to us.
‘I feel that this year has been a year of cleaning up and getting ready for 2015. Now there’s no more cleaning up to do. I’ve finally got my house in order.’
Selling the majority share in her lingerie company was something she could never have imagined doing a year ago, but she confesses it became the obvious thing to do a couple of months ago when she realised she’d become ‘jaded’ after 15 years at the head of the company she’d created.
‘There’s been no fall-out,’ she says. I will love Ultimo until the day I die but I’ve moved on from lingerie. I woke up one day earlier this year and realised that something was missing in my life and I didn’t want to be designing bras for the rest of my life.
‘I wouldn’t say I’m bored with it – I still retain 20 per cent of the company – but I’m not involved in the day-to-day running of the business any more. I’m still involved in the design five days a month, and sign off on the marketing. It’s just that I’m interested in developing other areas now, and I suppose you could say I’ve hung up my bra.’
Last week Ms Mone tweeted her congratulations to them saying she had 'no bitterness' or 'regrets'
Her new life will involve developing the Utan self-tanning and beauty section which she has bought outright from Ultimo. She confides: ‘I take it over officially in March next year. I’ve just signed a major deal with Boots and the QVC shopping channel to promote it, and I’m going to be designing jewellery and homeware.
‘But, as well as Ultimo, I’m really enjoying developing a career in public speaking and mentoring people. It’s become a huge part of who I am and what I do now.
‘I love the buzz from telling people my story, how I had dreams, how I built on them, how to run a business, and how to lead from the top, as well as all the horrible times where I nearly went bust and how I got out of those dark horrible corners and came back from it.
‘I left school at 15, launched my own business, built it up into a global brand, lost eight and a half stone to get to the size I am now and saved the Ultimo brand from going under after my divorce. I’m not an expert, I’m not a coach, but I get so much out of it mentoring other people and letting them see what’s possible. I love the buzz from telling people my story, how I had dreams, how I built on them, how to run a business
‘Recently I’ve been taking Skype calls from all over the world. I know pretty much from A to Z about running a business, developing ideas, manufacturing, shipping, warehousing and public relations and technical aspects.’
She has also been offered 24 positions with company boards but is ‘keeping her options open’ and has been in talks for a major television series that could rival BBC’s The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den.
She says: ‘Apart from those two shows for aspiring business people, if you don’t want to sing or dance, what opportunities are there out there to inspire people on the street to change their lives? I’d love to do a show that gives people the tools to do that.’
Today, she’s dressed in Lycra sportswear, fresh from a session in the gym that morning, having spent weeks trying to get into shape for a new challenge. In the New Year, she plans to become an ambassador for running, with world marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe.
But she laughs off any comparison: ‘I’m not even going to pretend I’m in the same league as Paula, but I hope my running will help inspire others, too. The fitter you are, the better you feel, and it’s certainly made a difference to me.’
One of the life lessons she admits she’s learned recently is not to take herself too seriously.
Ms Mone meets with Camilla and Prince Charles at the Palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh in June 2005
Hearteningly for her 834,000 Twitter followers, who look forward to her lifestyle and health eating tips, she’s eating a large slice of cake, edged with lashings of icing and coconut as we talk. When I point out she’s supposed to be in training, she laughs: ‘It’s Friday. I let myself eat cake on a Friday.’
It remains to be seen if old wounds are re-opened by the publication on March 5 of her autobiography, My Fight to the Top, which promises to be ‘explosive’ – particularly about her marriage and the subsequent break-up. She says: ‘Obviously, Michael features in it. We were married for a long time, have three children and built up the business together. It would have been hard to keep him out of it.
‘But writing the book has helped me to come to terms with what happened to us. I finished it a few days ago, and I now feel finally at peace and can move on with the next chapter of my life.’
Having heard about her ex’s engagement a couple of months ago, she confesses she has only felt able to comment on it now that she’d exorcised all her demons through the book. She says: ‘I decided to tweet because I genuinely wanted to wish them well and, with travelling and writing the book, I hadn’t had the time to acknowledge it before.
She has also been offered 24 positions with company boards but is ‘keeping her options open’ and has been in talks for a major television series that could rival BBC’s The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den
‘Some cynical people think there was an ulterior motive but there wasn’t. I’ve grown up a lot and I’ve come to terms with what happened and moved on.’
She hesitates slightly, then adds: ‘I recently met them both for the first time in a restaurant in Glasgow. We didn’t talk, but “looks” were exchanged. It was the first time I’d actually seen them together since she sat in my office and told me she wasn’t having a relationship with Michael.
‘For a long time, I’d worried about how I’d react when the day finally came to see them. I’m not a violent person and I would never have done anything of that sort but you do worry sometimes that it could happen if emotions are running high.
‘But in the end, amazingly, it was all very civilised. I paid the bill and left without a backward glance.’
For a woman whose mantra is ‘keep busy’, she is emphatic there’s no time in her life at present for any new romance of her own: ‘I’ve had a few dates but nothing serious.
‘I need to “click” with someone on a number of levels, and that hasn’t happened. I now realise I don’t have to have a man in my life.
‘Of course, I hope one day I will fall in love and find a soul mate. But if it doesn’t happen, it won’t be the end of the world. I’m happy with my life and I don’t need a guy for money.
‘Companionship would be nice, but that’s it. I’m not interested in having someone for the sake of having someone any more.’