About the Author
Swedish by birth, but educated in Britain, Germany and France, Leonie Frieda speaks five languages. Her researches on Catherine de Medici has taken her to Paris, Florence and Rome, as well as the châteaux of the Loire. Her next book is a biography of the Great War soldier and letter-writer Edward Horner. She lives in London with her daughter Elisabeth and son Jake.
c/o Katie White,
Weidenfeld & Nicolson,
5 Upper St Martin's Lane,
Tel: 020 7240 3444
February 12, 2004 (Times interview)
LEONIE FRIEDA, 47, is a former model and translator who is now the maîtresse de salon of London’s literary scene and author of a biography of Catherine de Medici. She was born in Sweden, and educated in Britain, Germany and France before marrying Nigel Frieda, a music producer. Together, they built up and co-owned the Matrix recording studio — used by the Rolling Stones and Oasis. After her divorce, Frieda began researching her first book, which took her to Paris, Florence, Rome and the châteaux of the Loire. She lives in London with her daughter Elisabeth and son Jake, and is working on her second historical biography.
What’s in your make-up bag?
Bobbi Brown moisture-rich foundation and shimmer
lipsticks, Lancôme mascara, lash thickener,
brown eye pencils, clear lipgloss, BeneFit lip
pump and Dior sun blusher.
Your desert island essentials?
The Bible, books, my old shahtoosh, eight-hour
cream and Mozart’s Vesperae, ideally sung
by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.
Do you have a beauty secret?
Handing over the maintenance of my body to Tim
at Total Physique management, who is a superb
nutritionist. Nothing is better than a person
who looks healthy. You glow.
Expose a beauty/fashion myth.
You can be too thin.
Are you high-maintenance?
I like to look as though I run on rocket fuel
when in fact I secretly run on two-stroke.
Who does your hair?
In Paris, Christophe colours it. Otherwise, Sarah
at Neville in Pont Street. Davey Roussell, another
Parisian, cuts it.
Do you put your face on before you go
If I am rested and healthy, then perhaps just
a little eye pencil and lipgloss. I like to keep
it as natural as possible.
Leonie Frieda never leaves home without?
Define your style.
Simple but high-quality, well-cut clothes. I wear
a lot of jackets and trouser suits by YSL, Ralph
Lauren, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana.
What do you wear to work?
Jeans and T-shirt — I work at home.
Hot date: what do you wear?
Again, simple is sexy, so classic clothes with
a twist — groomed but natural-looking.
What do you wear to bed?
Short silk slips. I must have at least 50.
You are the fashion police. What do you
VPLs, white shoes and too much tacky label gear.
When was your last sartorial embarrassment?
Friends say embarrassment is not an emotion with
which I have been blessed.
How old is too old for a micro-mini?
It depends on the opaqueness of the tights and
the legs wearing them.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Trips to Dr Irene Papiero, my dermatologist in
Paris, for fantastic face-feeding treatments with
Leonie Frieda wouldn’t be caught
What quality do you most admire in a
Can you judge a book by its cover?
I hope so — my publishers did such a lovely
job with mine.
Who is the most beautiful woman?
Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly or Lauren Hutton (at
What are your guilty pleasures?
Playing tennis when I should be working.
And your dirty habits?
Name a cheap thrill.
At my age, the words “cheap thrill”
are fast becoming an oxymoron.
The best advice you have ever been given?
Seek harmony in all things.
Your idea of bliss?
Phones off, lying in bed watching tennis or football
(preferably Chelsea) on TV, eating Muller rice
Where do you go on holiday?
Holidays with my very generous boyfriend include
skiing in Lech or Zermatt, or summers spent in
Do you read the glossies?
When I have time I look at Vogue, Tatler, Harper’s
What are you most and least proud of?
Most proud of my children; least proud of smoking.
Your most recent purchase?
A short YSL black jacket with ruffles down the
As whom would you like to come back in
your next life?
Me. I love my life, so far, and apart from a few
knocks I’ve had a wonderful adventure.
Do you have any regrets?
I don’t believe in regret.
Where do men get it wrong in the style
Older men wearing ludicrously young fashions and
Your thoughts on plastic surgery?
Techniques are so advanced now that I think on
the whole it can be great, as long as people stay
looking like themselves and not too weird.
What part of your body would you change?
Nothing, not because I am perfect but because
I like being me.
What is your motto?
I have adopted the British Army motto. When things
don't quite go according to plan I just say “Fido”,
which stands for “F**k it! Drive on”.
How good-looking are you on a scale of
1 to 10?
Rested and well fed I can scrub up OK, so how
about six on a good day?
Interview by Carolyn Asome for
Catherine de Medici: A Biography by Leonie Frieda
(Weidenfeld & Nicholson, £20)
'Catherine de Medici' will
be published by Fourth Estate in the USA in autumn
2004, and in Swedish translation by Prisma Publishing
Photos of Leonie Frieda by Bolla Denehy