From Vogue star to supermarket worker? Supermodel Marie Helvin, 69, escaped unfaithful marriage to David Bailey and found love with Duchess of Cornwall’s brother – but is feeling the pinch after work fell off during Covid
- Marie Helvin, 69, was one of the original supermodels and a Vogue cover girl
- She was married to photographer David Bailey and found love with Mark Shand
- Despite maintaining her youthful good looks, Marie admits the work has dried up
- During Covid she spent her savings and is considering moving home to Hawaii
- Says the US is less ageist and she would ‘find a job in Whole Foods if she had to’
She was one of the original supermodels and has told of her encounters with famous men including Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty and cricketer turned Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan.
Yet Marie Helvin, 69, who lives in London, has now admitted that she’s struggling financially and would even consider applying for a job as a supermarket cashier.
‘I’m completely self-reliant, and I don’t know what I am going to do, because during the pandemic period, I’ve used up most of my savings now and I’m seriously thinking about going home,’ Marie, who grew up in Hawaii, told The Third Act podcast.
The runway star, who maintains her striking physique and youthful good looks, has had a glittering life packed with celebrity encounters, high profile relationships and shoots in the British, Italian and French editions of Vogue in the Seventies and Eighties.
Marie, who introduced Princess Diana to Dodi Fayed at an Aids Trust ball at Cliveden in 1989, found love with the Duchess of Cornwall’s ‘sweet’ brother, Mark Shand, and was married for 10 years to the acclaimed photographer David Bailey, whom she credits with kickstarting her career.
Ageless beauty: Marie Helvin, 69, who lives in London, has now admitted that she’s struggling financially and would even consider applying for a job as a supermarket cashier. Pictured, the model in the early 90s (left) and on the runway for JD Williams in 2016
The one who got away: Marie, who introduced Princess Diana to Dodi Fayed at an Aids Trust ball at Cliveden in 1989, found love with the Duchess of Cornwall’s ‘sweet’ brother, Mark Shand
Supermodel pals: Marie with supermodel Jerry Hall following a night out in Mayfair in 1985
Fashion power couple: Marie was married for 10 years to the acclaimed photographer David Bailey, whom she credits with kickstarting her career. Pictured, in March 2019
When she divorced Bailey, Marie, then in her early 30s, walked away with a divorce settlement of £100,000. She continued to work regularly into her 60s but admitted the work dried up with the start of the pandemic.
‘The work has been very good up until the pandemic then it completely stopped,’ she said. ‘Fashion is getting back on its feet but it’s not remembering me in any way, shape, or form.
She continued: ‘The only models [my age] that seem to work are grey-haired models. I’m either too old, or too young. I’m too fit, or too healthy.’
Now, with very little savings in the bank, Marie admits she ‘doesn’t know what she’s going to do’.
‘I’ve used up most of my savings now and I’m seriously thinking about going home [to Hawaii]. In America, they have less of a stigma about age with jobs. You can get a job in Whole Foods in your 80s.
‘Put it this way, I wouldn’t apply to work in Whole Foods here. But back home in Hawaii, if I needed to, I’d go there and work.’
Honest: Marie confessed for the first time that her youthful good looks are not entirely natural (pictured early 1990s)
A life at a supermarket checkout is difficult to imagine for the ageless glamazon.
Born in Tokyo to an American G.I. father and a Japanese mother, Marie admits she was in the ‘right place, right time’ when it came to pursuing a career in fashion.
After being scouted as a teenager, she moved to London and worked for Yves Saint Laurent, Versace and Valentino, before marrying Bailey when she was just 23.
‘The work was all his. I was just the model,’ she said modestly, of their countless collaborations that included nude shoots and magazine spreads.
‘When you’re young, you don’t know what you’re doing. It was just fun for me playing dress up, putting on the makeup and trying new things…
‘All of the pictures we did on location, all of them, I did my own makeup, my own hair. Apart from Greece, there was no one. He didn’t even have an assistant. Imagine 30, 40 years ago, the equipment he had to carry, the rolls of film he had to change, everything by himself. It was a job for him. For me, it was more fun. I didn’t mind doing my own hair, I didn’t mind doing my own makeup.’
However the relationship also had its shortcomings.
‘I didn’t have a voice because Bailey used to say to me “shut up, I don’t want to be married to one of those moaning American women who want to talk about their feelings”,’ she said.
‘I did want to talk about my feelings but I also wanted to make sure he was happy so I didn’t want to be one of those women. But he should have allowed me to think and feel more, rather than following his lead. I very rarely said the opposite of what he said. His decree, would be the decree, and I would follow it.’
The marriage started to break down after Marie, then just in her 20s, lost her younger sister in a tragic accident.
‘That was my first experience of death,’ Marie continued. That was devastating. I was just in my 20s. She was my middle sister, very beautiful.
‘She lived the hippie lifestyle and followed the hippie trail. She and her boyfriend moved between Goa and Jamaica. I think she was stoned, riding her bike too close to the cliffs in Negril [Jamaica] and slipped, fell off the cliff. They didn’t find her for hours, by which time she was already braindead.’
She continued: ‘In a strange way, it was the beginning of the end of my relationship. I think it was when Suzon died that I started to slowly get more strength and started wanting to be more independent and wanting to do something because I wanted to do it, not to please my husband.’
Marie admitted they were both unfaithful in the relationship but that she had come to accept the situation.
‘I did start to wander,’ she said. I did want to travel on my own, I did want to see other people. I knew for many, many years that he was fooling around left, right and centre.
‘In a strange way, I accepted it. I thought so long as it doesn’t affect me personally, that it doesn’t encroach on my relationship, if it’s just him and his model, I can deal with it. An “out of sight, out of mind” attitude.’
After her divorce, she enjoyed a four-year relationship with the Duchess of Cornwall’s conservationist brother, Mark Shand, who died after an accident in 2014 aged 62. Marie remembers Mark as the ‘sweetest’ man she has ever dated.
‘Mark was the sweetest, kindest, most loving person,’ she said. ‘I was so stupid and foolish and I didn’t realise that at the time, as you rarely do.’
Marie admitted family pressure and a desire to be her own woman led to their relationship ending.
Alternative plan: Marie Helvin, 69, has now admitted that she’s broke and considering applying for a job as a supermarket cashier (pictured 2016)
‘The idea of getting locked into marriage. I was very much in love with Mark but the pressure of it, he and his family, particularly his mom,’ she explained.
‘The pressure of getting married, the pressure of having a baby. No one seemed to understand I just wanted to breathe.
‘I didn’t want to see anybody else, I was very happy with Mark, but I just wanted to breathe and explore and enjoy our time together rather than locking it into this relationship.
‘It was just me wanting to explore being a free spirit after being locked away in a birdcage for so long [with Bailey].’
She continued: ‘I found too much [independence], which is what destroyed my relationship with Mark… He was really genuine. What he gave was what he wanted to offer. There was nothing behind it.
‘I think I tortured him a bit with my insistence of my independence. All he wanted to do was take care of me and look after me. That was the last thing that I wanted. I just wanted us to be equal.’
While Marie’s work offers might have dwindled, she keeps herself in pristine condition and maintains a youthful glow.
‘I am really lucky, I am incredibly healthy,’ she said. I think it’s genetic. My mom died in her 80s, my father died at 90.’ She also has Botox twice a year and dyes her hair every few months.
She continued: ‘[During the pandemic] I became even more of a fanatic about the gym. I’m a little bit slimmer than usual at the moment.
‘I work out four days a week for an hour and a half each time. I work out with weights, I also use the rowing machine. I’m dedicated.’
Marie’s father died in 2014, aged 90, after living out his final days in a Las Vegas hotel because he ‘couldn’t find a care home he liked’. It meant he left no inheritance to his children.
Financial stability would be one benefit in finding love again, she admits.
‘When you get to my age, you’ve kind of been there, done that. I’ve had excitement. I’ve had the sexual highs. I’m going to be 70 next year. I’ve got 10 more years of really good living.
‘I’m willing to change if I meet somebody. I think the kind of man, who if I am lucky enough to meet, at this stage in life, will be someone who is older and divorced or widowed, I mean, I don’t want to go out with some young kid.
‘I think “wouldn’t that be nice to do things together”. What would be nice would be to have help as I get older, to be able to share the expenses of getting older.’
Now, the model is happy to give up the excitement of her youth for the simplicity of the good life.
‘There was a lot of excitement, a lot of spontaneity in my life,’ she said. ‘As I get older, I just really long for that ultimate goal of a simple life. Simple things are what pleases me these days. Simple acts of kindness that I hope I share with others.
‘Kindness that I hope I radiate because that’s what makes you feel and look beautiful.’