Jerry Hall: My family values

The model talks about her glamorous mother making clothes for her to take to Paris, leaving home without telling her father and working with Mick Jagger to minimise the effects of divorce on their children

My dad was in the second world war with General Patton. He won medals for bravery but he came home quite damaged so he was a handful. He told us some terrible stories and I guess you’d say he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He had to go to these refugee camps and there would be a hole with thousands of dead bodies in it, and they’d have to try to identify them and bury them. I don’t think you can ever recover from those sorts of memories. After the war, he was away quite a lot as he drove explosive chemicals cross-country, and when he came home a couple of times a week he was quite volatile.

My mother was a medical records librarian, and wonderful with us girls. She sewed a lot of our clothes – really glamorous, beautiful clothes – and I think that’s part of why I was so successful when I went off to Paris; she’d made me all these wonderful clothes to take. She gave us dancing and piano lessons and really did her best to try to provide as much education in all sorts of areas that she could.

I’m one of five sisters. I’m the younger of twins and we’re the youngest of five girls, and we’ve always been very close. We were pretty much a gang.

I take after my mother a lot in terms of personality and character. She was very positive; always looked on the bright side of things. She had a tough time of it with my dad but did her best.

My mother was asked to be a model when she was younger but my father had not let her, so she was quite keen on me becoming a model. I just went off without telling my dad. I took off to Paris and never came back, but when I became a success and started making money, he was very proud of me.

Despite the intense spotlight, Mick [Jagger] and I had a very normal family life. We did a lot of adventure family holidays. We’d go hiking in the Himalayas; Mick loved an adventure trip. We’d get away to places where nobody knew who we were. We were together 23 years and had four children – and a lot of laughs.

Even though Mick and I were divorced, we’ve tried hard to make a healthy environment for our children. Things we’ve been very strict about are good manners and thoughtfulness to others. We’ve always had meals with them, so they have always interacted with adults and people from different walks of life, so they are able to make conversation – I think that’s a great skill to teach your children.

Having famous parents was challenging for our kids. I’d come from some modelling job all made up and they’d say, “Mum, why can’t you just, like, wear jogging clothes when you pick me up from school?” But I think they picked up a strong work ethic from Mick and me.

My children are very close to Mick’s other children, my stepchildren. Mick has a son with another woman, after me, so the whole family is very, very close, and I’m close with the mothers. I think family is really, really important. It gives you a good foundation, a lot of strength. It’s really important to me that there is not conflict in the family. We have big Christmas get-togethers; with all the mums and all the children and it’s wonderful. One big blended family.

I am a step-great-grandmother because Jade has two daughters, and one of them, Assisi, had a baby girl in May. I’m really looking forward to my kids having some children, too. I wish they’d hurry up.

Jerry Hall appears in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves at Richmond theatre from 5 December 2014 to 11 January 2015,


Nick McGrath

The GuardianTramp

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