The Woman Within
David and I were delighted to be invited to the West London home of Caprice Bourret to interview her. We discovered a charming, generous and down-to-earth woman, with a delightful serenity in her beauty – and a highly intelligent business savvy.
You say you came from a humble background. When you were a child, what was the attitude towards boys and girls/men and women?
I was born in 1971. Americans are very different to Europeans. I came out of my mother’s womb thinking I could rule the world. My mom and dad divorced when I was four, so I was raised by my mom, an interior designer who is quite a powerful human being in her own right. She is very glamorous and very empowering; being on her own she would go to work and my grandmother and great-grandmother would look after my sister and me. My grandmother was also single – I came from a line of women with a very strong backbone. I never had a male figure growing up, never. I don’t talk about my father because from the age of nine he didn’t feature in my life. My mom worked hard and brought home the bacon for her kids.
What fundamental values did your mother instil in you?
My mom always taught me that being independent is your freedom. Strive for that, work towards that, don’t ever go with a guy just for his money. I don’t ever take that for granted.
Who gave you the desire and/or confidence to leave home at such a young age?
I graduated from high school at seventeen and couldn’t afford to put myself through university, so my mom said, “Bye, good luck to you, off you go, send me a postcard!” It was tough love but it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I am what I am because of my circumstances, the way my mom raised me. She instilled in me to work hard, be independent, and never to rely on anyone.
When you left home to go to New York, was that specifically to become a model?
I left home in California and went to New York. A modelling agent found me and told me I could make a lot of money modelling. They told me there was an agency in Europe interested in me, so my agent offered me the option to go to Milan or Paris, but I chose England because they spoke English here, it was as simple as that. Within six months, everything catapulted to an entirely different level.
I was a replacement at the time for the national TV awards as somebody had backed out at the very last minute. The stylist had just two dresses: one pink Barbie doll thing, and the other one a Versace see-through dress, so naturally I picked that one. The next day I was on the cover of every single newspaper in the country – that’s where it all started.
When becoming a model, did you have any setbacks or rejections?
Throughout my career I’ve had many, many setbacks and rejections. It’s like a rollercoaster in the modelling and in the business world. It’s really, really tough. I was on my own, I had no mentor – but you cannot be the victim. I’ve never ever been a victim. You have power to create and change things within you. Only you can do it! Nobody else is interested and nobody else is going to do it for you. Only you can make that change, only you can make things happen. And this is exactly what I’m instilling in my children because it’s true.
I find that what a lot of people tend to do is to start blaming. Once you become an adult and say, “I am the way I am because of my childhood, my mom and dad did this, or that…” but you know what, we’re adults now and we can change things. Don’t blame! Don’t be the victim! You can change it.
There is always self-doubt. Life is like a rollercoaster and some days are so bad that if you need to go into your bedroom and just cry, do it! You’re not always going to have great days, that’s not the reality. There have been so many days where I’ve just felt like it’s such a struggle, I keep getting knocked down but I get up, knocked down again and I get up, and I think “When am I going to have a break?!”
If I felt like crying I would cry, but I would always say that tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow is going to be a better day, and I swear to you nine times out of ten it is. So go with it; if you’re having a bad day don’t fight it, it’s okay! Not going with it can be destructive -if you’re vulnerable, or if you’re scared or tired, go with it. Then – get back up.
Did you always have a strong sense of self-worth about your abilities?
I moved to England in 1996, having been modelling two years before that. I knew I could only model for a certain length of time and that’s why I had to think of Plan B. I didn’t have this in mind from the beginning – when you are in the fame game and the flavour of the moment you believe you’re invincible, and for a few years that was destructive. I was on the cover of a magazine every single month somewhere in the world for ten years. It was crazy! I didn’t keep myself grounded, I believed my own bullshit! I even had this fake ‘Madonna’ English accent!
My mother came to the rescue again and asked me “Who are you? You are from a humble background, you are Caprice Bourret from Hacienda Heights, ok great you got lucky, God’s been really good to you, you should appreciate that, but don’t forget where you’re from.” What my mother said resonated with me so I thought I’d better get my act together and I shut everything down. That’s when I began to think modelling is not going to be forever, the reality is that I’m going to get older, and that’s when I started to think of Plan B – ‘By Caprice Products’.
I almost replaced Pamela Anderson on Baywatch, it was between me and another girl but I rejected it. Yes, I am strong today, but back then I was a party girl, I came from nothing and was making so much money… I made my first million by the time I was twenty-five, it was a crazy time for me. I never play holier than thou, I went through a really wild stage, but I was never frivolous with money. If I made £10 I would only spend £5, I was really frugal like that. I got that from my grandma, she was so cautious, but not only that – when you’ve come from a humble background and you start to make money, you do not want to go back to that, that’s what I was so afraid of.
Yes, back then I was wild; I was not like I represent today. A lot of what I represent today is through maturing, age, going through a lot of ups and downs, and being a mom. This is who I am now. You can come from anywhere, look like anything, be anything, but you’ve got to do it. I really believe this. You can be anything you want to be, but be prepared to work.
From model to setting up in business – how did you manage the issue of being stereotyped?
I was a well-known model at the time, and I was plagued with the stereotype, nobody took me seriously, but I just kept pushing. Some people don’t believe in pushing, even stalking corporate CEOs; everyone has their own tactic. For me, I stalked and finally they just got exhausted; eventually I could sell ice to an Eskimo. I had done a license deal, and I convinced Terry Green at Debenhams to invest a few million – boy did I stalk him! And Christos Angelides at Next.
Trust me I stalked a lot of people , and to this day I’m known as a stalker! You have to be, and it’s even harder today, as they don’t care who you are – even now I still put my pride in my back pocket. You have to have that passion; you have to get one foot in the door. I go to the very top too, I had no success at the bottom; go straight to the top because the guy at the bottom won’t bring you to the guy at the top. Just like I did with Terry Green I didn’t go to the buyer, I went to the very top. I keep on going, recently I got Next on board with my home range – I literally stalked I went to Simon Wolfson himself who owns the whole place! It didn’t matter who I was, that I was Caprice Bourret, at first they wouldn’t take me.
I didn’t care because I wanted the account; I just said okay – and three months later I hit them again, with press cuttings, with numbers, with success stories – with whatever I had – every three months. Finally, after a year and two months they took me. I was not greedy with my margins, I was very fair, I took a hit, and I didn’t care, because it’s about longevity. I’ve also done very well with TK Maxx; they know I’ve given them a good margin, it’s fair, nobody else could compete with me… again, it’s about longevity – happy days!
Did you choose to work with a business coach and mentor, or did you ‘go solo’ with a clear vision, knowing exactly what you wanted?
I had no business mentoring. I lost a lot of money, and I had a kick up the bum when I had my children. When you have children everything changes, you have a different kind of inspiration, a different kind of push. I found that after I had my kids I had more fire in me because now I have to look after two boys I want to create the future for them, and I still want to maintain a nice lifestyle. I want to put them through good schools and that’s expensive.
So I’ve got to be smarter, I’ve got to work more efficiently, and make more money. Sometimes I still have a bad day and I think “I’m working relentlessly, when am I going to see the light at the end of the tunnel?” and that’s when I just go with it, feel sorry for myself for a few days, go with the emotion, but I always tell myself it’s going to be better tomorrow.
Being stereotyped, nobody taking me seriously, has actually made me stronger, I’m used to it, and I never play the victim with anything. I’ve had some crazy stuff happen in my life, with my health, I’ve been exhausted, even the challenges with having my children, I’ve come up a lot of barriers, and you just get on with it. You have you go with the bad days but you get your little tushy back up back up and you just get on with it!
What advice would you give women to educate themselves on their real value, so that in their lives they don’t have to suffer the consequences of making poor choices?
Well let’s be real here, we all make bad choices and you know what, that’s okay; actually it’s awesome to make bad choices because you learn from those. Now boo hoo on you if you don’t learn from making those bad choices – then you have to blame yourself. Many times people blame others. No, it’s your fault, take responsibility and bring it back on board, get back up and move forward, tick that box, no it wasn’t great you had a bad outcome, but it was the most amazing lesson which makes you a better and stronger person. I see it all the time that women are confident in their business world but not confident as women – they can be bulldogs in business but disastrous in their personal life, and that’s such a shame.
We’ve been hearing about young models and actresses being preyed upon and manipulated into something they don’t want to do. How does a woman find the confidence to say, “I’m not going to do that” regardless of the consequences?
This is a tough one. I did see it in Hollywood, and everyone knew it was real. For me – my personality is such that I wouldn’t go there. I had the strength to say no and run away. Some women who are preyed upon succumbed because they were told God knows what – and they got what they wanted and they were okay with it. Everyone is individual, but if you feel uncomfortable with it you have to just say no. But I know it’s hard, a really tough one.
With all my jobs I always had my agent with me so I really wasn’t exposed to it, but we all have the power to say yes or no. In Hollywood with the predators it’s more “I’ll give you a part if you let me do something …” it’s a difficult one because I am aware of what went on and a lot of girls said yes, when if they didn’t want to they could say no. But some powerful men told girls if you don’t do this I’ll ruin your name – and they did. It’s good that for certain men their Karma is up, and what’s so nice in Hollywood is that all that stuff is going away now.
Do you find that women can be at more of a disadvantage when starting a business than men?
Yes. I think in this country it’s still a man’s world. Yes we women are supporting each other more and more – but it’s still a man’s world. There is still a stereotype that is so prevalent, but you know what guys? Again, we cannot play the victim, we just have to acknowledge it, and we just have to keep on going forwards until we get what we need. Don’t lose focus and don’t be a victim. Yeah it is a man’s world, period. So okay… next!
What do you think about how large corporations treat their female employees?
It’s really interesting and I don’t know if this is really politically incorrect, but I’m going to throw it out there… I personally have had problems with employing women and with them coming back at me with the victim card, even though I am a woman. I just don’t want women to play the victim, we know we’ve been dealt a really crappy card but we just have to support each other and to get on with it – it’s really super important that we support each other.
Did you find the transition from modelling to running a business scary?
It was only scary because at that time my ego was the size of England! I was earning a fortune; there I was at the top of my game, when I said okay let’s do something different. It was a really risky and brave move to make, but I knew I had to make it when I was at the top of my game in one field to really make it work in a different one. A lot of people would keep riding that wave until they fell off, then it’s much harder to get back on that wave again. I was completely out of my comfort zone and scared to death. But I had a plan and I really knew it could work. Being at the top of my game gave me power, so I had to make the move right then – and I did it.
How do you keep a balance between work life and being a mum?
When I had to have IVF I didn’t think I failed, I thought, “Oh my god I want to have children and I can’t. Oh my god.” But it’s really hard for us as women because at twenty-two we are little chickens, just learning, trying to figure out what we want to do with our lives. In our thirties we start figuring it out, and in our forties we start to make money. Having children is expensive, it’s a massive responsibility, it’s just not something we can do lightly.
In my speeches I always say that I found my prince charming when I was thirty-nine, and the smartest thing I did was that I did not compromise. Trust me I kissed a lot of boys, a lot of bad boys too, boys who weren’t right for me. But I would not compromise. However at thirty-nine it’s a lot harder to have kids. But I had my career, I had saved a chunk of money, I was mature in myself to take this next move; I was ready. With having my children it was a crazy road but we did get there in the end.
With a previous background in modelling, how did you handle body changes during and after pregnancy?
I didn’t care! My children are the biggest joys in my life right now. Everything I do, everything I am is for my kids and it brings me pleasure to do that. If I have time while they’re at school I’ll go to boot camp but nine times out of ten, no. Are my hips bigger, do I have cellulite? Yeah, but I don’t care. I just don’t care.
How do you feel about images in the media being so retouched and airbrushed that they’re actually a lie?
I am very candid about this. At the end of the day it’s tried and tested. I have done a shoot for my lingerie line where I didn’t retouch and my sales dropped. You know, with lingerie it’s all the same stuff; different colour, different lace, but its all the same kind of stuff. I promise you my sales dropped by 23%. So I’m very candid – on my commercial pictures I airbrush. It just sells more, so commercially it’s difficult.
On my Instagram do I airbrush? I don’t know how to! I change the lighting with filters but I don’t know how to airbrush on my social media so do I do it? No, I don’t, I’m very real in that respect. Commercially I can’t afford not to – with my margins, and we’re taking a big hit with the exchange rate because I buy all my stuff in dollars and I get paid in sterling, so we’re getting crushed and I need to do everything to make our stuff look more desirable. But I am candid and I do say yes I airbrush – and you can tell that I do.
Given that your ethos for your lingerie range is to “empower women, making them feel pampered and beautiful” how much involvement do you have over the actual design of your lingerie range?
They are my designs. I’m self-taught. I have a technician who helps me with all the technicalities because I’m not really interested in that. I’m very commercial, I look at sales, I look at my targets, I go to all the shows, and I look at the trends. With my bedding ‘By Caprice Home’ which I love, I do have a designer, but I’m learning more and more. I listen to my customers and I design according to them.
I’m always looking at expansion. I’ve done ‘By Caprice Glam’, ‘Swim’, and then I saw there was a niche in the market for glamorous home wear. That’s what I am, everyone knows me for being a glamorous person, everything I do is glam, everything I represent is glam; I mean look at me I look like a Christmas tree! So I saw a niche in the market, I launched ‘By Caprice Home’ and it was a massive hit, and right now it’s my biggest income earner.
How important is it for a woman to dress in beautiful lingerie all the time? For many of us, thongs are a no-no, comfort is all!
Oh hunny I hate that string up my bum! I can’t do it! We need to feel comfortable as well as wear beautiful lingerie; why can’t we have both? You have to cater to everyone. Everyone is individual. For some women – even if they’re uncomfortable, if they look sexy they feel sexy and this empowers them and we have to support that.
Now you and I are different, we need comfort and when I make my lingerie, when I make the backs they are full-full – they cover your entire bum. I don’t like any underwear to go up my bum and it has to stay there, it can’t move, I don’t want to keep picking it out!
I believe we should wear beautiful sensual lingerie for ourselves but I also believe that everyone is different, and if some feel they want to look good for their boyfriends or husbands and it makes them feel good that’s great – whatever you need to do to make yourself feel good and empower yourself.
Do you feel at home here in England?
England is my home, I love living between The Cotswolds and London so much – it’s given me opportunity, it’s been good to me and I’m giving as much as I can back. I believe in community, I’m very strong like that, so for the last six years I’ve been supporting Woman’s Trust, a charity for the women and children of Westminster.
What we’ve done for women and children in our local community is amazing. We have to start with the parents, because it’s the parents who instil the values. The charity was going to be shut down and I said over my dead body you’re doing that! I’m really proud to be supporting the charity and the changes that we’ve made in these local women’s lives – women who have been beaten and abused, are just drastic, really empowering.
I thanked Caprice Bourret for her wise words – to which her response was “I don’t know if they’re wise, but they are real.” And that was truly evident.
An enormous thank you from Cotswold Allure Magazine to Caprice Bourret, for warmly welcoming us into her wonderful London home, to share with our readers an inspirational insight into her life experiences.