Elizabeth Hurley on her childhood and growing up in Basingstoke
- Credit: Archant
She’s famous throughout the world but for Elizabeth Hurley, some of her fondest memories are of growing up in Basingstoke
There was never really a hint that Liz Hurley was going to become such an international star although as a girl she was definitely her own person.
“I learned a lot in my early childhood,” she said. “My father was an Army officer and we were a happy family with my older sister and my brothers. A lot of my friends had divorced parents but nothing like that happened in our family, I am glad to say. We all got on pretty well.
“Hampshire is a lovely county and I have good memories of Basingstoke. I went to Kempshott Infant School followed by Kempshott Junior School and then the Harriet Costello School, which sounds frightfully grand.
“My school days were a little odd I think because I wanted to be like other people but some thought that I talked posh because my parents had insisted on us learning to speak properly. I had friends, but somehow I didn’t quite fit in with the way most people were. I suppose I became a bit of a rebel.”
That rebellion was not a malicious one, Liz simply embraced the punk scene of the time and adopted the fashion and the music. She dyed her hair pink and got her nose pierced. For a while she joined a punk band called Vestel Virgins and was totally into punk music which was itself quite anarchic
“I used to hang out with the local punks. They were a mixed crowd, mostly unemployed or labourers and we were banned from most of the pubs in the area, mostly because of the way we looked. How we looked was quite deliberate though, as far as I was concerned. The look was a rebellion in itself. I found that many men took an interest in me and at that age it got on my nerves so I made myself look as awful as possible.
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“We used to go to London and other major towns for music festivals and clubs and sometimes we would miss the last train home and spend the night sleeping at a railway station. That was a fun thing and quite daring to us but when I look back on it, well it wasn’t very exciting really and we were always glad inside when we arrived back in Basingstoke.
“I think your home town is always a source of comfort unless you have had a really bad childhood, which I didn’t. Basingstoke has always had the best of both worlds; it has all the shops you could wish for but it is never far from the countryside and at the same time it is not difficult to travel to London if you want a fun day or night out.
“At one point during my punk years my mother said that if I removed my nose ring, she would buy me driving lessons. That was a bit of a mistake on both sides. Her offer was well meant but only brought out the rebellious bit and for me, I was too into what I was doing to realise I was being offered something worthwhile.
“I did keep up my studies though and carried on to A-levels in England, psychology and sociology. So the rebellion was not total. I took ballet classes as well when I was younger but I didn’t complete it. Everything seemed to go well for the first couple of years but then I seemed to fall out of favour and the boys were mostly gay so I kind of fell away.
“I was sensible at heart but my rebellion was an outer show and it did take me some time to come out of it. I went on holiday once and forgot to tell the school. When I went back I had to go and see the principal and she basically told me that I was no longer welcome at the school. I didn’t resist it, I just took the opportunity to change my life and moved to London.
“I thought it would be fun living in London but getting a job was not easy and all the more difficult because of the nose-ring and the hair. I recognised that it was time to change. So, I did. My Mum was very happy about that and probably, I was too really.”
Liz had always had an interest in the worlds of music, dance and drama and she finally landed a job touring in the Far East in a play starring Derek Nimmo.
“It was great! There was a reception after every performance and we stayed in the best hotels. I put on a nice dress for each reception and found that the flattery was not so bad after all.”
What happened after that is well-known. She became an award-winning actress, starring in many great films, owns her own swim-suit company, is a tireless supporter of many charities and is in great demand for appearances.
She is still a very down-to-earth lady who enjoys life, loves animals and has never lost a sense of humour in which she is often her own target.
“I don’t take myself too seriously,” she admitted. “I know my failings and I do make fun of myself.
“I know I have to keep myself fit but I don’t believe in being a martyr to it. I walk my dogs every day and jog a bit but nothing too strenuous. I don’t over-eat either. I have what I need and often that is one main meal in a day. I also believe in the value of proper sleep. Getting as much sleep as possible and not eating for the sake of it will always make you feel better and less stressed about life. Getting stressed is easy, we all lead busy lives and it is not easy to keep control. We just have to try.
“I live in the country which also helps. When I go out somewhere even if it is just to the shops for walking the dogs I always wear make-up and try to make myself look presentable. I’ve never seen the point of looking less than your best.”
Nobody could argue with that. Whenever Liz attends a reception and sometimes when she is just walking the dogs, the cameras are never far away.
“It goes with the job,” she said. “Sometimes it is intrusive but mostly you get used to it and I don’t really mind if someone wants a photo or to speak to me.”
Elizabeth Hurley has never forgotten her days in Basingstoke and still has family and friends there so if you see someone out shopping who looks like Liz Hurley, dresses like Liz Hurley and speaks like Liz Hurley, there is a very good chance that you have just seen Elizabeth Hurley, international superstar who still loves Hampshire.
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