THE SUNDAY TIMES
08 MAY 2016
MEG MATTHEWS - LIFE UNDER THE KNIFE
A founder of the Primrose Hill set, Meg Mathews at 50 is more likely to spend her Friday night with a takeaway and a box set. From her boob job to her menopause to her habit of oversharing, the former rock chick tells all.
Meg Mathews is inviting me to cop a feel of her bosoms. “No, go on,” she says, removing a pink fluorescent bra, pulling her tank top down and prodding them herself by way of encouragement.
They are indeed spectacularly soft and perky — exactly the way implants should look and feel — and the perfect foil to her washboard-flat tummy, but she’s in two minds as to whether, after 20 years , she ought to whip them out.
“That’s my look, suntanned, bleached blonde hair, big boobs,” she says, “but I would quite like not to have the boobs part, because I do live and die fashion. And, let’s face it, Céline is not for boobs, nor is Saint Laurent. In my head, I think I’m Pam Anderson and I’m going to end up living in Venice Beach, but the truth is I do think that androgynous straight-up-and-down look is quite beautiful.”
We are sitting in the living room of the London townhouse Mathews shares with Anaïs, 16, her daughter by Noel Gallagher. Anaïs, who is currently studying for her A-levels, was a presenter on CBBC’s Friday Download and is on the books of Select, but, as her mother is keen to point out, she’s not an actual model. “I mean she’s been on the cover of L’Officiel and named as one of the most influential people under 25 to follow on Instagram, but her dream is to go to New York and study film.”
In contrast to the modest boxy Primrose Hill close the house sits in, the decor is very glam, very Clockwork Orange — all white faux-leather and sheepskin and Perspex. There is even a miniature Perspex bed for Oscar, the Boston terrier, who farts throughout and keeps looking dolefully at the door. Above the wraparound sofa are two giant photos of her great mate Kate Moss when she was just 17; along the wall is a blown-up photo of Jean Shrimpton in a space suit; between them sits a huge porcelain Mickey Mouse. Mathews is in events management and party planning by trade, but she has also dipped her toe into home furnishings — at one point selling wallpaper to Liberty — so she knows what she likes.
On the gleaming kitchen counter are the remains of a cake to celebrate her 50th birthday. You may have read about it in the papers: a lunch at Mews of Mayfair attended by, among others, Sadie Frost, Fran Cutler, Tabitha Ritchie (Guy’s sister), Mathews’s latest man, Damon Williams, and her dad, Stan, a former builder. Because she is now teetotal (she quit when her mother, Christine, passed away almost two years ago), Mathews tends to do her socialising in the day rather than the evening, and says she loves nothing more than a cosy night in with a takeaway and a box set. The other night she watched her friend Anna Friel in Marcella, but fell asleep halfway through without even taking off her make-up. “Oh yeah,” she says in her raspy Pat Butcherish accent. “I can be disciplined about skincare for about two weeks, but most of the time there’ll be mascara on the sheets the next morning.”
It was hard not to have certain expectations before meeting the former Mrs Gallagher. In print she comes across as so hard-bitten, with those cowboy hats of hers and the glittering, determined eyes. In person she is quite warm and welcoming, even a little vulnerable, worrying that her habit of oversharing is going to come across in the piece. She looks a tad less “done” than she does in pictures, too, which is ironic given that the reason she is giving this interview is to publicise her latest cosmetic procedure: a Silhouette Soft thread lift. Mathews was initially encouraged to go for it after hearing rumours that Madonna had had one.
Ah, Madonna. Her idol since Mathews was a teen, Madonna ended up marrying her best friend’s brother, Guy. How thrilling that must have been. “Yeah, well,” she shrugs, “remember I was kinda married to ‘someone’ too.” Fair cop. Speaking of which, give us a little bit of the skinny on Rocco. She did, after all, post a picture of him and Anaïs on social media not too long ago with the caption: “Go away, Mum!” What could that have meant? But nope, she won’t go there: “I know. I can’t lie, there is that pic, but I can’t talk about other people’s kids. I wouldn’t want them talking about mine.” Her boyfriend — another frequent figure on her Instagram feed with his heavily tattooed back and baseball cap — is also maddeningly off limits, as is Gallagher, but then she has obviously learnt to be discreet about the latter after her very public, messy divorce in 2001.
When it comes to herself, however, it seems Mathews has nothing to hide. And that very much includes all the cosmetic procedures she’s had over the years. First came the lip-plumping in 1997, the year she married Gallagher in Las Vegas. “I think I wanted to look like Patsy [Kensit, her then sister-in-law] and what’s-her-name ... Liz Hurley, because that was the look in the late 1990s, but unfortunately I didn’t get the sexy look, I got the Daffy Duck look.” At 30, she had her first set of implants (“I was completely flat before, and when I got pregnant soon after they were ginormous”). Five years later she started getting Botox, then came the medical face peels, the mesotherapy and a stint of Thermage, a radiofrequency skin treatment to offset all the tanning and the laissez-faire attitude to sun protection. This, she says, was the most painful thing she has ever experienced, including childbirth: “I wanted to throw up, I couldn’t finish the course.”
With the thread lift, however, she didn’t feel it at all and was rather amazed when she watched the how-to video in bed with Williams to find out what it actually entailed. She thinks of the thread lift as a reward to herself, having had such a foul start to the year.
“The honest truth of it is that I got the menopause, and I was like, what the f***? All these things happen when the oestrogen goes. For example, the blood flow to your vulva is reduced and all that kind of thing. For six weeks it was pure hell, and I was, like, ‘This is the end of your life, Meg. See you later.’ Then, in the middle of February, suddenly all the gels and creams and pills I’d been prescribed started working and the hormones that I’d been depleted of for three years kicked in. The anxiety disappeared and I felt fantastic. When I heard about the thread lift, I thought, what a great way to treat myself as I enter my fifties.”
An only child, born in Guernsey to Stan and Christine, and brought up for a few years in South Africa, Mathews admits she was never happy with her appearance. “I always felt uncomfortable in my own skin, always wanted to be the other girl at school.” But she was obviously quite the little toughie too, looking rather baffled when I ask her if she got homesick when she went to boarding school at the age of 11. “Homesick? Why?”
It was while boarding at Sibford School, in Oxfordshire, that she met and immediately bonded with “Tabi-cat” and Guy Ritchie and realised there was a whole other world out there. “They had this flat in Redcliffe Gardens with a sauna, and we’d walk down the King’s Road. I was just overwhelmed by their Chelsea life. That was when I went, ‘Right, I’m going to work here,’ and I did, as a cashier at Joseph, living in a Brixton squat on beans and toast in order to afford the Azzedine Alaïa.”
Nearly 35 years later, she’s a darn sight more comfortable in her skin, she says, though not exactly by being unconscious of it. “You’ve got to work on yourself to keep grounded,” she says. “It’s like going to the gym. So I’ve got my therapist, my acupuncturist, my healer from Honolulu who I speak to over the phone, my homeopathic tinctures. I don’t want to leave anything out in case I upset the apple cart.”
She’s not kidding, meanwhile, about moving to LA, to which end she’s rented a cute little clapboard house in Venice Beach for a month in the summer, at a 10th of the price of the villa she rented in Mykonos last August. “Once Anaïs is off, why not? I could rent this place out, there’s always Skype, and it’s only a flight away, isn’t it?” Won’t she miss the Primrose Hill scene she created along with Sadie and Fran and Kate et al back in the late 1990s? “Well,” she says, pausing for a second to consider this, “I don’t really see my friends every day any more. I don’t have to speak to them every day, all day the way I used to. I don’t get Fomo the way I used to. In my forties I had to be out and about. Having an events company was a big part of my life, and I felt Meg Mathews as a product had to be current. Now I’m 50, I can say no. I don’t know how that happened, but if I’m not invited to this party or that dinner, it’s not the be-all and end-all. It doesn’t have to mess up my whole day.
“Now I’m older, I have to feel good about myself. What I often say is, ‘If Meg’s not feeling it, then Meg’s not feeling it.’ Nowadays Meg comes first.”