Bernie and Slavica Ecclestone’s elder daughter has inherited some good genes and the spirited self-contained defiance of her Slav ancestry. Sitting legs akimbo on her drawing room sofa and with not a trace of make-up, she looks implausibly beautiful in a soft and almost vulnerable way – a far cry from the glamour shots one sees of her in the popular press.
I have not prepared any questions because I want to get a sense of what she is like, rather than prompt her through the standard examination of her personal life or that of her iconic figure of a father.
He looms large in her life – how could he not?! – and she credits him and her mother frequently with giving her the life she’s had and still has.
She has indeed drawn a fantastically lucky draw at birth – ‘her daddy’s rich and her mama’s good looking’, both in vast proportions. This has exposed her to the politics of envy from an early age, something the Tamara Ecclestones of this world learn to navigate or else squirrel their bruised egos behind the tall walls wealth can and does build around itself.
She has gamely chosen the former.
She has modeled (and still does) – with a figure and a face like hers, this was an inevitability – presented a TV show and built herself into a bit of a brand which she is now parlaying into launching a hair care line.
The formula, she says, contains a secret ingredient that would give hair a big bouncy look without the high cost maintenance. The product has been 3 years in the making and she is excited because it is finally launching in January 2013.
Was there any pressure at home, I ask, any expectations of her to follow in her father’s entrepreneurial footsteps?
She says that her father is hugely supportive of her new venture but above all, her parents want her to be happy. It is, of course, every parent’s ‘shopping list’. Her mother still offers to cook for her and lest anyone finds it hard to imagine the statuesque Slavica slaving over the stove, Tamara assures me she’s always cooked for the family.
Tamara is a personality, so gets asked to open ice rinks, model for calendars, pose for magazine photoshoots…
It is easy to forget that for all of that she puts a considerable amount of time and effort towards brightening the lives of Great Ormond Street’s young patients.
It is easy to forget that she doesn’t have to.
She hosts a pre-Formula 1 fundraising gala, she auctions off parts of her wardrobe, but perhaps most importantly, she takes sick children to the Silverstone race course and gives them a break from what must be a gruesome reality.
Why Great Ormond Street, I ask.
‘Because my sister and I know we are privileged. Because we don’t take privilege for granted… Because I want my parents to be proud of what I do…’
For her detractors she can never do well enough. Does public perception matter to her?
‘I’ve grown some thick skin’, says Tamara. She’s had to. In some ways, being an heiress is a grand old life, but the pressure to please everyone yet remain your own person could crush those with a confidence deficit.
I remark on the photography art on her walls and a single white sculpture in her drawing room.
The sculpture was a gift from her mother who helped her decorate the house. The art photography reflects her own taste.
What does she treasure the most? Her answer is instant and unequivocal: ‘Love and family matter the most.’
So she is a regular girl, after all.
Well, almost… When I meet her by accident on my way out of Cipriani’s the following night, she says hello but doesn’t really recognize me. Her hourglass figure poured into an Herve Leger dress, she is flanked by ‘satellites’ who seem happy enough to bask in her light. I don’t especially mind – she is a popular girl and we are going different ways.
The main thing is, for all the glitz, or even in spite of it, Tamara has a destination.