Sadie Frost and her mother get ready for a wedding: ‘I imagined this amazing princess life ahead of me’

The actor and her mother recreate an old photograph, and reflect on the ‘craziness’ of family life

Sadie Frost and her mother in 1988 and 2021. Later photograph: Pål Hansen/The Guardian. Styling: Andie Redman. Hair and makeup: Desmond Grundy at Terri Manduca
Sadie Frost and her mother in 1988 and 2021. Later photograph: Pål Hansen/The Guardian. Styling: Andie Redman. Hair and makeup: Desmond Grundy at Terri Manduca

A poster girl for 90s cool, Sadie Frost rose to prominence as a Vivienne Westwood model, before starring in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The daughter of Mary Davidson and psychedelic artist David Vaughan, who died in 2003, Frost began her acting career with a Jelly Tots advert in 1968. She has since ventured into fashion (with the label FrostFrench), stage performance (one-woman play Touched … Like a Virgin) and film production (Set the Thames on Fire). She makes her feature-length directorial debut with Quant, a documentary about the influence of fashion icon Mary Quant. She lives in London and has four children: Finlay with her first husband, Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp, and Rafferty, Iris and Rudy with Jude Law.

Mary Davidson

I would have been 40 when this was taken. We were in a little black and white Tudor cottage in Shropshire, getting ready in my bedroom for Sadie’s wedding to Gary. It felt so exciting – lots of bridesmaids running around. Chaos, but really fun.

I was nervous that day because the whole thing happened so fast. A few weeks before, Sadie called me from her holiday and said: “Mum, we’ve decided to get married. Can you get everything ready while we are away?” I had a few weeks to organise it all – the facilities weren’t great in the middle of the countryside, but it turned out really special. We had fireworks, and my dad led her down the aisle. He was incredibly proud. But he’s always been proud of Sadie.

I got pregnant at 16 and loved it. My parents were absolutely horrified. And rightly so. But I was madly in love with David – he was completely different to anyone else I’d met. Labour took two hours – from 10am to midday. David wasn’t allowed in for the birth because we weren’t married, but afterwards he came in, looked at her and walked out. I didn’t see him again for 10 days. David was like that. He had mental health problems which I didn’t know about at the time. I was so young and inexperienced; trying to cope with him and a tiny baby was difficult. He was my first love and it was devastating. But he gave me Sadie.

I had all sorts of jobs before she arrived. I was a magician’s assistant at one point, and was always on stage as a child. Sadie was a performer from the word go, too. As soon as she could walk, she could dance and sing. She wasn’t shy. We lived on Gloucester Avenue in Primrose Hill in north London, and she would always do performances with her friends in the street.

We didn’t have much money, so I used to make clothes for Sadie and her sister Sunshine – high-waisted velvet trousers with little braces. Sadie loved fashion. We used to visit Carnaby Street and look at the Quant shop. At school she went through a brief stage of wanting to be quite straight, to fit in with all the other kids. Then when she was 14, she went punk. Her friend chopped all her long hair off – my pride and joy, gone! I’d always said there was nothing Sadie could do to shock me, but she did her best. In her Vivienne Westwood kilts and big boots, she did look pretty good, though.

A mother-and-daughter relationship is forever changing, and you never stop worrying about them. It was difficult when her marriage with Gary didn’t work out. I loved him and always will, but that’s life. I never thought of Sadie as famous, but the paparazzi attention did get a lot. They even followed me, but I learned not to take much notice of tabloid stuff.

People say me and Sadie are similar, but I don’t see it – she has always been so strong and curious. We’ve had amazing adventures together. I got to see her perform at the Roundhouse in London with the Argentinian dance troupe Fuerzabruta in 2014. She was doing acrobatics over my head! Always doing crazy things, always something new. That’s Sadie.

Sadie Frost

This photo captures such a tender moment – the mother-daughter relationship that you often take for granted. I was 22 and getting ready to get married. I thought I knew everything, but I didn’t know what marriage was about. I imagined this amazing princess life ahead of me, but it was never going to be that easy.

I always knew our family was a bit different because my sister was called Sunshine Purple Tara Velvet and my mum dressed us in spectacular 60s clothes. Mum was still a kid; at times it felt as if she was more of a sister to me. She and Dad gave me a bohemian, traveller-like childhood. We lived on a bus which we drove from Belsize Park to Morocco. We’d pitch up everywhere from Formentera, in a house with no electricity, to the Mull of Kintyre.

When I was born, I had jet-black hair and jaundice. According to my mum, when Dad came to the hospital he looked at me and said: “That’s not my baby – she’s ugly.” He was a character, but he was also an amazing man: a lot of my creative influences come from him and his anarchy. He was successful in the 60s – Dad’s collective (Vaughan, Dudley Edwards and Douglas Binder) painted Paul McCartney’s Magic Piano and the car on the cover of the Kinks’ compilation album Sunny Afternoon. But he was schizophrenic at a time when nobody really talked about mental health. When I was about four, he got spiked with acid and never really recovered. He had a breakdown and left my mum; set fire to everything.

They were crazy times – not least because we had a family of five girls. There were never quiet moments at home. At five, I was doing mini-acting jobs and commercials, and was loving the attention. By the time I was 11, I’d got a scholarship to the Italia Conti stage school. I went from singing musicals in front of the mirror to cutting all my hair off, quitting stage school and going to the local comprehensive because I fancied the boy next door who was a punk.

I’ve been brought up to never judge anyone: Mum treats everyone the same, and as a result I’ve never heard anyone say anything negative about her. I have a spiky side from my dad. Looking back at the 90s, there was so much judgment. Women were too thin, too fat, too shy, too loud, or too drunk. I was going through a public divorce, remarried (to Jude Law) and was being spotlighted by the press. I’d get pushed into cars so it would look like I’d just stumbled into them. Of course, there were times I did stumble. But that was just 1% of the time. I wasn’t wild. I was doing the healthy stuff that I do now – I’ve always been a vegetarian, eaten organic and exercised every day. I hate cocktails, I can’t drink white wine or champagne, and would get drunk after two glasses. It was the press deciding on an angle.

When I look at this photo I see a huge umbilical cord connecting me and my mum. We’ve been through lots of children, a few divorces, and both realise we are probably better off being single. I would have hated to be a Hollywood star because I’ve wanted to be grounded, to be at home. Showing up, cooking good food and loving my family. That’s what’s important. Mum taught me that.

Contributor

Harriet Gibsone

The GuardianTramp

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