Interview with actress and designer Sadie Frost
Sadie shares the secrets of her vegetarian lifestyle and explains why she'll never allow meat in her house
Interview by: Nick McGrath
Some vegetarians reject meat as their teenage politicisation dawns. Others abandon their flesh consumption through familial or spousal coercion, but for Sadie Frost the process was altogether more organic.
'My parents were both from Manchester and their staple diet was always meat and two veg, fish and chips or steak and kidney pie with chips. When I was a baby my mum tried to give me meat when she introduced solids and I just wouldn't eat it. She tried everything, but I became a natural vegetarian just through the fact that I simply didn't like the taste of meat.
'She told me that when I got to about three or four, that when I used to walk along the high street and there'd be a butcher's shop I'd be really upset and I'd get really emotional about it. If she went into the butcher's to get meat for herself I would start crying and shouting, "How would you like to be put in a bacon butty?"
'Looking back, it was a slight neurosis. I had really strong beliefs and I don't know where they came from at such an early age, but ever since I've never been able to be around meat. I hate going to restaurants that serve meat and I don't like meat in my house. In fact, I've always had a rule that meat can't be cooked in the house and it can't even be in the house.
'There have been a few people along the way who have come in with a Chinese takeaway with chicken in it, or something similar, and I've said, "I'm not being funny, but it's my rule and I don't really want anything dead in my house."
'I've never touched meat. I've never held it. I wouldn't even be able to put a plate that had had meat in the dishwasher and I certainly can't cook it. If I was to come into contact with it I would become physically sick. I don't like the smell. I don't like the taste and even if it came close to my mouth I'd be really ill.
'I don't want to be too militant to people about it, but in my home I'm allowed to express how I feel. I'm not religious, but this is the strongest belief that I have. I feel very passionate about it.'
'I'm not religious, but [vegetarianism]
is the strongest belief that I have.'
It's exactly the sort of unambiguous conviction that has proved to be a double-edged sword for the multi-talented 45-year-old throughout her eclectic existence, from an almost surreally liberated childhood to forty-something harmony via international tabloid infamy and personal heartache.
Sadie Liza Vaughan was the result of a capricious union between Mary Davidson – who was just 16 when she gave birth to Sadie – and celebrated psychedelic artist David Vaughan, who created visuals for The Beatles.
Born in Primrose Hill – where she lives today with her four children, Finlay, 19, from her first marriage to Spandau Ballet musician Gary Kemp, and Rafferty, 13, Iris, 9 and Rudy, 7, from her second marriage to actor Jude Law – she spent much of her childhood in Manchester following her parents' separation and describes the experience as, 'chaotic but positive'.
Her parents' various liaisons resulted in nine siblings from six different relationships and as the oldest child, Sadie's outspokenness was no surprise.
'I've always been quite an open person,' she says. 'In some ways that has served me well, but in other ways it's served me quite badly because I've put myself on the line. But I've never been able to change myself. I've always tried to hold things back or be more reserved or not say things, but I'm a very expressive person.'
Emotionally detrimental or not, Sadie's candid mindset and self-confidence led to a spell modelling as a teenager, followed by a burgeoning acting career and – through her two star-crossed marriages – ultimately won her a place at the hedonistic heart of 90s' Britpop culture and a seat at the top table of the now legendary Primrose Hill set.
But the roots of her laissez-faire attitude – and particularly her staunch vegetarianism – were sewn four decades ago as an Ashton-under-Lyne schoolgirl.
'I remember being one of probably only two vegetarians in my school during the 70s and I was treated as if I was a bit weird.
'There was no alternative at school for vegetarians. If you didn't eat meat you'd probably just end up having salad or a mashed potato roll. I'd just grab what I could get and try to get a meal out of it.
'My mum would cook me interesting food at home and was really accommodating. She'd make things like peanut goulash and lentil stew, and then when I was about 11 my mum turned vegetarian.
'I'm not sure if I persuaded her into it as a very strong-willed child or whether it was the fact that she met someone who was a vegetarian. He was a member of the Bhagwan Rajneesh cult – who were all vegetarians – and between me and him, she became vegetarian. 'There was lots and lots of really lovely vegetarian food in the house and he was very forward-thinking with regards to food. Right from that time we started having organic food, which he would go to the countryside to buy. And he would cook macrobiotic food too.'
An intense relationship with food
It was at this point that Sadie's vegetarianism – under her stepfather's guidance – began to take a distinctly leftfield turn.
'He made me very aware of things, like you shouldn't eat too much food that's related to belladonna, the poisonous plant known as deadly nightshade. He was quite anti anything that was red, so we weren't really supposed to eat any tomatoes or things like that, as he thought they weren't very good for you. So I became very aware of my diet and being a vegetarian.'
Hyper-awareness of food at such a young age can be a recipe for an eating disorder and despite talking publicly about her issues with food during her early career, Sadie is keen to set the record straight.
'I don't think it was an eating disorder. I just think that over the 20 years that I've been interviewed I've had different relationships with food and there are times when you have a better appetite than others.
'I didn't have an out-of-control eating disorder but I think sometimes I was highly aware of what I should eat, like when I had postnatal depression and my diet was hugely affected. But I've always had a very healthy approach to food and if it's ever become slightly more unhealthy because of what's going on in my life, I've addressed it quickly and done something about it.'
'I've always had a very
healthy approach to food'
The occasions when her strong vegetarian beliefs might have tipped over into conflict – with her partners and children, for instance – have so far failed to materialise.
'When I was married to Gary and Jude they were both vegetarian through their own choice, so I haven't ever had to be put in a position where a partner has said, "I want to have meat in the house", or "Can you cook it for me?" because they've all decided they want to be vegetarian and most of my friends are vegetarian, so it hasn't ever been a problem really.'
And as for Sadie's children, so far so good.
'I didn't want them to have any complexes about it, so I've allowed them to have their own views. Finlay has recently tried chicken and wants to continue eating it, so I've said, "Okay, that's fine, but if you do, be careful with the kind of chicken you eat and you know how I feel about it."
'I think my kids have the right to express what they want to eat as well and as a mother I've got to encourage them not to eat junk food and that's one thing that they haven't eaten.
'My son Rafferty has been very loyal to me. He just says, "I want to be vegetarian", but he might change. He's starting to go through his teenage years and he might feel this peer pressure to go and have a steak or some chicken, so again, I've just said, "Whatever you want."
'My daughter Iris feels very comfortable being vegetarian, but the youngest one, Rudy, will eat chicken when he's with his father because he actually doesn't really like vegetables, so I can't say to him he must eat something he doesn't really like. I don't feel uncomfortable with that because everyone is different and I wouldn't want to dictate to them too much.'
Life feels good
Only time will tell whether Sadie's children's views on food remain in sync with hers, but she's adamant that as a personal lifestyle choice it's been resoundingly positive.
'I like the way I feel most of the time. I never feel full up and I never have any digestive problems. I eat little and often, not because I'm told that's what you're supposed to do but that's what feels natural to me. I feel quite clean and pure physically because of the food I've eaten. If I was to sit and eat loads of M&Ms all day and crisps and just junk and hamburgers and milkshakes, I'd feel pretty toxic.
'There are times when you're travelling and you do eat rubbish and then you feel awful, but I think that putting good stuff into your body is where a healthy lifestyle needs to start.'
Sadie's vegetarianism features sporadically in her forthcoming autobiography, Crazy Days, but the bulk of the memoir charts her unresolved relationship with her schizophrenic father, with the failure of her two marriages and her celebrity lifestyle very much playing second fiddle.
'I tried to not concentrate on that at all, because that to me is the least important part of my life.
'I got a bit waylaid and a little bit seduced by certain things – the fashion and modelling worlds did seem very exciting at the time. I felt like I had to prove a lot to myself and I was just very driven. I don't regret any of those things because that's why you experience life and you do the things that you do, but now I don't feel that I have anything to prove to myself.
'In some ways, I was completely broken by everything that happened, but you just get stronger. You just have to. I've had to come to terms with a lot of things and writing the book has been an emotional journey, but also a healthy thing for me to do. It's been a very healing process for me.
'But what is important to me now is my health and my relationships and my kids. I don't need anybody else. My life with my children is so complete that I don't need to be defined through anybody else.'
• Crazy Days (£19.99) is published by John Blake Publishing on 6 September. Sixteen flavours of Lipton's revitalising Herbal Tea (www.lipton.com) are now available at the Tea Boutique in Sadie Frost's London store (www.frostfrench.com).