TThe old house in the countryside that Lily Allen bought, after a number of years of fame, was at the end of a long private track. Caressed by the country, in his own little valley in the Cotswolds, she felt "like the end of the line", a safe place for her and fiancéed Sam Cooper to withdraw from the chaos of the music industry and a family. found. She chose the paint colors with care, hung beautiful art on the wall and invited US Vogue for a photo shoot, where the reporter described it as a place where Ms. Tiggy-Winkle might have lived. It was also the house Allen would ever come to, in what she now describes as "torrential showers, biblical rain", to take off all her clothes, lie naked on the floor and cry. Her son, George, had just died weeks ago, while she had six months of pregnancy. "I do not even know where that came from, I found myself out there," she says softly, remembering that day. "Despair," she murmurs. "It was horrible."
Why bring this up now? Well, because Allen is about to publish a memoir, My Thoughts Exactly, and if it seems that things can not get any worse than to cry in the elements in the aftermath of her son's death, they do . It is an unwavering, unbeatable book – unless you are the mother of Allen, the film producer Alison Owen, who had to take a long break halfway through reading. (Both Allen's parents are very bad – her father, comedian Keith Allen, more.) Some of the details have already been leaked to tabloids: Allen's confession of sleeping with Liam Gallagher when he was married to Nicole Appleton, for a . Allen & # 39; s accusation of assault against an unnamed record industry, for another. And then there are times when Allen got lost and lonely and paid a woman to have sex with her, while her husband and children were on the other side of the world.
I say to Allen that after reading the book I was shocked. "Were you?" She asks while she is sitting in her open living room with its large, colorful couches and bottle-green walls, so she straightens a bunch of flowers that bother her (she was once trained as a florist). It is the same flat in London that broke her stalker in one night in October 2015, intending to cut her throat, while her little children slept in the room next to her. Security measures have been added, but the flat still feels homely and is modest in size. An assistant is at the kitchen table, a publicist at another bank, who both work quietly with other work. Allen is always calm when discussing the book. She sometimes browses her phone while we talk, answers to texts, but when she is nervous, she does not show it. She comes across as an independent unit; friendly enough, sometimes laughing, but never flowing or impressive. Like many other celebrities who have gone through the wringer, there is a certain loneliness against Allen, an energy that can mean that it stays alone in a room full of people and noise.
She seems curious and perhaps amused by my shock. "Why?" She asks.
Well, where to start? Shortly after George's death, Allen became pregnant again and she married Cooper in a hurry. Her daughter, Ethel, was born who needed surgery and could not eat well for eight months (Allen pumped breast milk without result, giving everything away). Marnie, an unscheduled second daughter, came shortly thereafter. Realizing that she had taken too many years to be a pop star and could no longer afford the crippling dream home mortgage, Allen recorded an album, Sheezus from 2014, on mixed reviews. The tour to promote it brought her far away from her husband and children, whose planned FaceTime phone calls she began to miss, because she got too little, and also because she got high. Bandmates and managers began to stop massively, and eventually Allen got so disturbed, partly due to the cocaine and diet pills, that Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin were trying to perform an intervention on a cliff in Malibu. And it does not stop there.
Why would you choose to expose yourself in this way, I ask: have you written about the pain of growing up in the glory of the tabloid spotlight – you should know very well that this book catapults you right there?
"Yes, but only for about 10 minutes," she emphasizes. "It's not going to run and run, right?" "People's concentration routes are even less than they used to be." She laughs, but I'm not sure, she admits she planned to turn off her phone and disappear during the release of the book, but in another strange twist of fate (her life is full) her latest album, No Shame, is nominated for the Mercury Prize, which is announced on the day that her book comes out So she can not, she is very happy with the Mercury and in any case, this book is not really for her, but for her two daughters, who are now five and six years old.
"So if I die dead tomorrow, and they Google me – or they'll live with their father, then who has a different version of events – I wanted something there, my story, from my perspective, and that's not to say that the mine is right or that Sam is right … this is exactly how I felt then. "Allen discusses her own death very peculiarly, as if it were something she was seriously considering." It is worth noting that ten years ago, when she was at the height of her mid-twenties celebrity, not one day would pass without the tabloids being amused with the heroics of Allen, Amy Winehouse or Peaches Geldof, it is also worth noting that Allen is the only one who survived.
When you read her book, you notice that she almost did not. The Sheezus tour in 2014 – the first after his retirement as a national, cake-baking mother – was a particularly low point. "The dichotomy between going back to work as a pop artist and mother to two very young children was not something that I could explore with some distance or objectivity," she writes. "It was exactly in me, it was my waking, everyday reality and I found it blinding."
She tells me that she had never been to baby's before she had her own baby – she did not know it. "And none of my parents was particularly good at parenting, so it was not skills I had," she says. "I assumed it would all just happen naturally, and that did not happen, and I think that was the trigger for my postnatal depression, and I had dreamed my entire childhood of these two point four children living in the country – everything would just fall into place and I would be this perfect mother, and it did not happen. "She speaks very softly now. "I was very shocked and disappointed."
Only on tour, suffering from post-natal depression and suffocated sadness, Allen tried to deceive her husband with other men, tried to starve herself, but, as she writes: "Nothing seemed to reach or satisfy me. morning in those dark days woke up and thought: "Maybe it's time for heroin, because nothing else works." Instead, she hired a female sex worker at a desk that visited three or four times used to be. She writes: "She was expensive, high-class whores, I did not care, I just wanted her to help me to feel something." Was there any illumination in sex that was so transactional? Allen says that she does not think so, but then she tells in a rather astonishing way that she got the idea to employ a sex worker because she read a book about addiction and shame. She thought that you could only become addicted to drugs or drink or food, "and it planted a seed, like, & # 39; Okay, there's a whole other realm of fucked-upness that I can come in & # 39 ;, she says.
She is not ashamed of it; she is not proud either. "I was at my lowest ebb."
Does she want to be caught? "Um." She pauses. "No. I was pretty insolent with all my behavior, I guess I just did not care." She thinks a bit more. Maybe I wanted to get caught, maybe I wanted Sam to save me. I wanted him to learn more about these things and said: "Enough is enough, you come home." "
I ask her what Chris Martin said to her, because I long for him and Paltrow to have an intervention in my life. Allen bursts out laughing. She had been so drunk at a Halloween party at the home of actor Kate Hudson that she had accidentally bumped into Orlando Bloom and turned herself off. Chris Martin drove her home and invited her for lunch on Sunday. "I just went to Gwyneth's house in Malibu for lunch, and they have this amazing garden that goes from the top of the cliff to the sea." Chris was so full of energy, he grabbed me and said & # 39; Come I want to take you for a walk. "I thought & # 39; ok & # 39 ;. He is very sweet for taking time. & # 39;
During this dark period the children were at home in England. When Allen speaks about, say, emotionally neglected by her father as a child, she can shrug her shoulders with a cool detachment, such as someone who early learned to turn herself into an emotional brick wall. But when I ask for the separation of her children, her face falls. "With Ethel as ill as she was, you know … it just was not perfect from the beginning, it was really hard, to be away from her, and Marnie was not planned in the least, so it was very …"
Had there ever been time to mourn? "Well, there was a little space between George dying and Ethel being born – 13 months, I did mourn, but you do not really know when that mourning process is over. & # 39;
She and Cooper divorced, but not before he told her about any unfaithfulness, because he had to hear it all. They agreed to split up in a dark corner of their favorite Italian restaurant in the summer of 2015. As she describes it in the book: "We were both miserably sad, we were both in tears, we both felt kind of a relief." There is no doubt that their love for each other was very real: she writes about the way she talked to each other when they met, and how he promised to take care of her when she & # 39; I agree to calm down.
But in November 2015, she tried to arrange her life alone. She met a man whom, for legal reasons, she named Record Industry Executive (she wanted to give him a name, her publisher's lawyers said no). She pretended to help her clean up and drank her tequila. The next day she had a bad feeling; she no longer knew she was coming home, but decided to write it down. She met him again for work, drink was involved and she woke up to find him while she tried to have sex with her in a hotel room. Again, Allen felt compelled to write it off, but she also went to her lawyer in London and signed a sworn statement stating what was happening.
Allen explains that she was offered a performance promoted by Radio 1, where one of the performers of the executive power would have been present, "so I had to reject it, because I did not want to be with him, and I was punished by Radio 1 without airplay for my next single, Trigger Bang – I just could not tell you why I could not catch the slot machine. "She would like to emphasize that she is not the only artist who has experienced such things, saying that the music industry "full of sexual abuse".
In Hollywood, the death of the studio system, with actors who are no longer bound by restrictive deals with a single company, partially fueled the # MeToo movement – women are more free to express their views. Yet many female artists remain contractually bound by their labels: Allen is still on a deal with five albums she signed with EMI for over £ 25,000 more than ten years ago. ("Ten songs to go", she says cheerfully, desperately to release her own music and she has all rights.)
"I do not know how much money I made, I do not know how many albums I have sold," she tells me. I find this odd – she seems clinically well informed about other areas of life. She explains: "When I think of money, I get that feeling that I used to get with parking tickets – fear in my stomach." She does not spend like before: "but I think my expenses in the past were part of my addictive tendency, so I tried to avoid myself:" No, I'm not Lily – I'm the kind of person that's 10 million can spend on a ring! & # 39; "
Allen was born in 1985 with Alison Owen, a bookish and daring woman who became a successful film producer, and Keith Allen, a comedian who became good at wasting the Groucho Club in Soho, mostly with his friends Damien Hirst and Alex James. They were young, chaotic parents, and Keith left when Allen was four; there were other women, but the main impression you get from the book is that he left them behind for the Groucho. Allen and her brother, Alfie, sometimes spent the night in the club's rooms.
In the meantime, their mother had her own problems. When Allen was about eight she found Owen in her bedroom with empty vodka and pill bottles around her as she crawled over the floor and said, "The house is screaming at me to get out." Rehab followed quickly and she cleaned her act.
Keith, however, continued, resulting in a cocaine-related heart attack at Glastonbury festival when Allen was 14 and loosely in his care. She visited him in an impromptu hospital bed – and the next day in his caravan on the property, where he again snorts cocaine with his comrades.
Allen attended several schools and left without a GCSE. In the book she protests that her famous family has not brought her where she is today ("That is what happened to me: this assumption that I had it easy, that I just crept through the door"). But not everyone succeeds in getting an early job in a TV company run by their meter, Henrietta Conrad. She admits that she got her first, very early record deal through her father, but it was a disaster: they tried a few folky songs that did not really fit her, before London Records threatened to prosecute her, writes Allen, for a dizzying £ 3.6 m for breach of contract. She was 17.
At the age of 21 Allen was signed to EMI, but because they felt that they were too busy with Gorillaz and Coldplay, she built her own followers on MySpace, with songs like Smile, LDN and Nan You & # 39; re A Window- Shopper. I remember vividly that I met her there, this little pigtail punk sitting on a bicycle in a sun dress and writing blog posts that were funny and vulnerable and riotous. The songs were catchy as everything, rude but also sweet, and sounded like London in the 21st century.
Fame came quickly, because Pop needed her very much. Two years later I interviewed Allen for another newspaper: a meeting that would normally last an hour, except that she was so busy that we only got nine minutes. The editor still put her on the front page. I wonder now how this sudden stardom nourished her addictive personality.
"I think one of my biggest problems getting famous in my early twenties," she says, "was that there was constant comment that told me who I was, so for someone who had no self-esteem, who desperately tried to find out who they were, to get people talking, & # 39; You are this and you are worthless and you are a piece of shit & … believe it. "
She regretted some of the media beef that she was stirring, and says that her public feud with Cheryl Cole – the couple swapping for several years of insults in the playground – was fed by nothing more than sexual frustration. "Sorry, Cheryl," she writes in the book before she throws a curve ball – "I was angry because I had not come yet" – and recommended her favorite vibrators. So let me understand this, I say: when you sang all those songs about relationships and bad sex, because you were emblazoned for your frankness, did not you even stabbed your own pants?
"Oh, I was done," she says. "But I felt weird about it, it's like I said about not having a sense of self – when I started, I had to say:" You deserve this, this is OK. " an attempt to reach that point. & # 39;
Of course, Allen is Allen, just in time for the new book she has a new feud – with Nicole Appleton of All Saints, who was married to Liam Gallagher at the time of their one-night stand on a flight to Tokyo.
Earlier this year, Appleton tweeted a warning: "One day cross our paths @lilyallen! " Is Allen worried? "Yes, I am terrified," she deadpans, rolling her eyes. (You can understand why Harry Enfield, Allen's stepfather, for a few years, allegedly based Kevin's teen on Allen and her siblings.)
However, the book is really frightening when it comes to her stalker, a man named Alex Gray, who has been detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act. Allen writes in some detail about her struggle for justice after he broke into her apartment; she says the police wanted to make it a burglary, although Gray clearly said in their interview that he was planning to put a knife through her face. She did the research, realized that he was the same man who had stalked her both online and offline, and hired a lawyer. "There were six months between him and the trial, so if he had only been found guilty of burglary, he would have been released, he would have come straight here and he would have killed me." There are no two ways – that was his intent, 100%, I saw him in court [behind a screen] when he got up and started throwing the damned glass. & # 39;
It was her boyfriend, a grime MC named Meridian Dan, who got Gray from Allen's apartment. After a roller coaster era she ended up in a very happy, healthy relationship. She agrees. Then it is very different from her husband, who went to the Harrow school and hangs out with aristocrats: he grew up in a municipal district in Tottenham. "And it feels pretty normal, maybe we go to boxing or sometimes go out for dinner, but we do not go out at all, and we're both musicians."
Before joining Dan, her video for the single Hard Out Here was challenged for racism, for the way it portrayed, clothed and presided over her almost naked black and Asian background dancers. Her memoirs are full of scores in people – she has so many bones to pick that it is a miracle that the book does not rattle – but on this issue she now takes full responsibility. "After I was called racist, I started to read a lot of black feminists online and I learned about intersectional feminism, realizing how bad it is for other people, I've been working on it for a long time." She thanks the internet, without which she admits : "I probably would not have seen any reaction from those black women to the video, I would just continue and I'm grateful for it."
In recent years she has spoken for Jeremy Corbyn ("I only know that aid organizations are not interested in helping someone else than to make themselves richer"), and the Grenfell victims (she endorses the theory that the real death toll is put in the cover up). Concerning her BBC news issue in the refugee camps in Calais, in which she told the migrants tears: "I apologize on behalf of my country", she feels that the BBC has set her up, because she was in such a time in such & # 39; mess wrong, and apologizes in the book for crying on TV. I tell her that I do not understand why she has to. "I know, but that's the power of the press and Twitter and bots – they let you start to censor yourself and guess yourself."
Then also has a young child from a previous relationship, and she says that he is brilliant with all children, with the natural skills she did not have. Moreover, he never touched drugs. "I say to Dan very often, because he is not an addict – if you put your face down to do the first line of an evening, you're not like it," Yes, in nine o'clock I'm still chatting here shit! "You are not like, & # 39; This is going to be great." You do the first because you run away from yourself, and the reason you get up fourteen hours later is because you know that you are right behind you. So I'm going on because she's there, she's coming for me. & # 39;
As for protecting her children from the modern world, Allen does not have the answers. "My daughters are too worried about the way they look, their clothes, it's just a matter of … hours before they ask for Wonderbras for their Instagram accounts – that shit scares me. Kardashians appreciate it in some way because they are the first example of women who have taken ownership of and benefited from their bodies, which is the real reason many men hate them. & # 39;
But the Kardashians make other women so obsessed with their bodies, I say. What would you do if you found diet pills in your daughter's bag?
& # 39; That depends on the diet pills, & # 39; says Allen, after which he explodes with a smile. "I would be like," do these works, honey? Do you want mom on the way home from school? "Oh, I do not know – fuck knows, I do not have a share answer, it depends on who they are and in what state of mind they are, who their friends are and what they read, I do not think that one size fits all. "
At a time when Instagram is full of delicious mummies showing their forged, sponsored lives, it is remarkable to hear a mother say she does not know what to do and that she has done it wrong. Exposing yourself as a work-in-progress seems courageous; All is recovering from different things, and the fantasy of perfection is one of them.
Nowadays she is drug-free, although NA meetings did not work for her, but she does drink. She got rid of antidepressants a few months ago. She says that she has had so many diagnoses that she is not sure what kind of psychological problems are hers. "Posttraumatic stress disorder, postnatal depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, adhesion disorder.You say it, I've had it all.Are all symptoms of one thing? It looks a bit like religion, it gives you something to believe in." She still sees "the same psychiatrist as when George died", and he really helps – in fact he has read the book and says it is the best image of co-. dependence (Lily with men, other relationships within her family) that he has read, what she loves. I ask if her father will be pissed. "Welcome to the club", she says, which means that he can join her in the land of the annoyed. (Recently he told the Telegraph that he had not read the book and added that he was very proud of her, but that father and daughter are both "compresses." We bring out poison. ")
The opinion of her mother about the book, she says, is: "It is your truth, darling." But they are still in the neighborhood and live five blocks from each other. Alfie, an actor who was in Game Of Thrones, is almost not in the book, although I enjoyed meeting Princess Diana as a child and telling her that his willy was in his zipper. But the two brothers and sisters have a pact not to discuss each other in public.
Some family traditions remain strong: Allen is proud that her daughters are bookworms, just like their grandmother. "They absolutely love reading," she says. Ethel is pretty good, but Marnie just looks at the pictures and makes up the words. It is very sweet. She will probably be a very good songwriter. We go to the park and then they say: & can we go to the library? & # 39; I say: & # 39; Yes, of course! & # 39; They just want to immerse themselves in books and sit on the beanbags. & # 39;
Her own current favorite book is Matt Haig's Notes On A Nervous Planet, about fear. After she had read it, she removed her once-busy Twitter account. Since then it has been reactivated for an assistant who tweeted a bit of promotional news, but it is not Allen and the trolls can not reach her. For now. But every minute that the book comes out, and the whole crazy cycle of attention will start again. I feel that she will enjoy it.
• My Thoughts Exactly, by Lily Allen, will be published next week by Blink Publishing for £ 20. To order a copy for £ 16.99, go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Lily Allen will talk about it book at a Guardian Live event in London on Thursday 27 September; go to theguardian.com/guardianlive for details.
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