QUEEN OF NEW YORK NIGHTLIFE, FASHION MUSE, AUTHOR AND BUSINESSWOMAN... DIANNE BRILL HAS WRITTEN THE BOOK ON LIVING GLAMOROUSLY. SHE CHATS LIPSTICKS, LEGENDS AND LIFE WITH PIPPA BROOKS
Dianne Brill is about as much woman as you could have in a single person. The first time I saw a picture of her it was like discovering Jayne Mansfield all over again. When she walked for Thierry Mugler at the height of his fame, you couldn’t have had a more perfect collision of fabric with body – the extremes of his creations were perfectly complemented by the extremes of her person. From the tip of her peroxide wig to the tip of her perfect stiletto heel, she was like a Vargas made flesh. Adel Rootstein, purveyor of the highest-end mannequins since the Fifties, highly influential in its choice of “the body” of every decade, christened Brill the “body of the 90s”. If you haven’t heard of her until now, you will have seen her many times: Agent Provocateur chose the Brill to embody its lingerie line from day one – great choice. Va-va-voom over androgyny. The rest is history.
Not just a body, however. The woman is a powerhouse – clothes designer/writer/actress/model and now producer of her own beauty line, Dianne Brill Cosmetics. When her book,Boobs, Boys and High Heels or How to Get Dressed in Just Under Six Hours came out, I was feverishly excited about getting my hands on a copy and then hugely relieved to find out the woman has a sense of humour too. It’s been on my bookshelf for 20 years. I re-read it before this interview and, with its invaluable tips on meeting GGs (great guys!), seducing, lingerie and high heels, it’s hilarious. It’s also a kind of self-help manual on “how to have a great life by taking the best of your womanhood – strength, independence, intelligence and self-esteem – and fusing it with the best of babedom”. She’s an inspiration!
Pippa: The art of seduction is such a key talent in every setting – not just the bedroom, but in business, in social settings with both sexes – and I think it is an art that you excel in and have perfected over the years. When did you first realise the power you possess to seduce? And who was your first seduction?
Dianne Brill: My first love was a surfer, Chris. It was real seduction work to get him to see me as a lover. I waited in front of doors until he opened them for me, he picked up things I dropped (quietly on purpose) and I asked him to carry stuff for me at school. I helped him to see me as “clichéd feminine” so he would stop looking at me as just a friend. One night at the beach I slipped into his arms, looked into his eyes and kissed him; things got better after that.
I’ve always met the people who would become key collaborators in business/music etc at nightclubs. I think that you are such great proof of my theory that the nightclub is better than university if you want to get ahead and meet like minds and those who could inspire you. Do you agree?
If a club is mixed with people of all types with all interests and who are genuine and authentic individuals who are happy to be there, then you are at the right party. It is funny to see people shine in a club where they feel confident when you may have passed them on the street and not noticed them. A nightclub is a place where people are usually looking to be happy and are encouraging to each other, which can bring out the best in a person. This encourages a person to be fabulous day or night. The mix is the key, and a will to communicate is essential. Why go out if you are just going to bitch about people or things? Go out to learn something about someone else – and also to show off your new look.
As a child, did you have someone you looked up to in terms of their style/image?
My half-sister Morri, my mom, my fancy aunts – who were my mother’s friends – and anyone who was in Interviewmagazine.
That Adel Rootstein chose you to be the body for its mannequin that would represent “the body of the 90s” must have been such an honour. You must have felt triumphant also that the body was your curvy one, as opposed to the traditionally androgynous model shape?
I am so honoured and excited to be such a beautiful mannequin. The whole thing is just an unforgettable experience, and she lives on in store windows around the world. Sometimes I’m dark-skinned, sometimes with red hair, sometimes dressed so glam and other times in such provincial clothing, it’s funny. The curves are what makes the DB mannequin intriguing. It is fascinating to see what window designers come up with. My personal ideal measurements will live on as long as fibreglass lasts, and I can eat all the champagne truffles I want!
You know that Agent Provocateur still uses the Dianne Brill now? I’ve often thought that your physique has contributed hugely to its success; its angle wouldn’t have been half as sexy if the brand had chosen to present its lingerie on a different body. Has that ever occurred to you?
Thank you so much; that is what Joe Corre felt, and it is his brand. What an amazing compliment.
Packaging. It’s so important. For the body – from the lingerie you choose to the accessories to finish an outfit – but I also see in your cosmetics range that you have incorporated wonderful things such as cigar boxes and lingerie touches like the fishnet pattern. Was it a dream come true to design your ultimate cosmetics line? I love how “you” it is – so much make-up these days is so clinical-looking.
I love feminine clichés and masculine clichés. The cigar stores in Europe are always a wealth of inspiration to me, and I love the secret rooms where they keep the special-edition cigars in exotic boxes. I also love quilted-moire, heart-shaped headboards, seamed stockings and soft ostrich-feather boas. It is important to me as a beauty designer to deliver a feeling. That is my goal: to give a feeling similar to when you open up a present of lingerie, jewellery or chocolates. My wish is to give a women that sensation when she is wearing my perfume, skincare or colour cosmetics. I have been focused on my brand since 2003, and producing it in France, Switzerland, Italy and Germany. I design everything, including the packaging, the scents and the complex formulations, colours and textures. I am a beauty designer who creates everything as a fashion designer does.Thierry Mugler taught me a lot about consistency in a brand, and I just can’t help it as I love what I do and there is no independent brand out there that has been able to maintain such a high quality as we do – because I mean it, and so does everyone who works with me.
One of the things I love about you is that, although you represent this image, which is the ultimate male fantasy, and believe in flirting outrageously at all times, you are very pro-women and into bringing out the “inner babeness” of us all. Is it important to you to inspire other women?
I love women and need women close to me in my life. My best friend and I can have fun doing nothing, because just being around her makes everything interesting and bright. I think women can be muses for each other and not really know how it works. To speak about our feelings, our power, even our new shoes, in a relaxed, supportive way makes me so glad I was born a girl.
It occurs to me that you’ve made a career out of the things you love. From clothes design to nightclub hosting, from acting to cosmetics. Do you think that is the secret to happiness?
Yes I do. I tried other ways and they just don’t work. I have to believe. Believing in something makes it happen. And it is an unusual satisfaction to push ahead for something you believe in, and it feels so good when it works! Only you can gauge whether or not it is a success for you. It is something personal, something you feel.
You still look incredible as you get older, but then you have always been about the ritual of creating the perfect you in “under six hours”. Do you find it gets harder – it doesn’t look like it in recent pictures? How do you do keep looking so incredible?
Hey, that is so nice of you to say that. I like to look like me. A unique look is important to me, and I am dressed every day to feel great. If I have a small hole in a sweater, or my taps on my heels have to be fixed, I don’t like it. On others, it doesn’t bother me at all, but I just have to feel well polished. I like to look like me, whatever that means, at different times in my life. Not all my looks have been great, but they have always been true and authentic. I hope to stay that way always, authentic Dianne Brill.
Do you have an Andy Warhol story you want to tell us? We are voraciously obsessed with Warhol/Studio 54/Andy Warhol’s TV – any exclusive stories or just a snippet you want to share would make us very happy indeed! If he were still making movies in the Eighties I’m sure you would have been one of his Superstars!
I was in his cable TV shows and videos, which was what he worked on in those times. He was very good to me and did everything he could to support me and be part of each other’s parade. He was the kind of person who needed and wanted to be part of what was happening, and if it was you who was happening he gladly traded his support to be part of that. Andy liked to poke at my curves under the table at dinners. So we could be at a glam dinner and I’d be speaking to the person across from me and I would catch Andy poking his finger into my hip slowly – and kind of hard – under the table. I’d always laugh and stop him, but I couldn’t figure out why he was doing this. Until I realised he thought I was wearing padded hips and boobs and was determined to prove it. So funny! Very Andy.
Do you still go out nightclubbing in New York? You were Queen of the Night at such a pivotal time, partying with the likes of Grace Jones, Keith Haring, Warhol… Does it still give you the same buzz?
I love everything Susanne Bartsch does and I am thrilled to go to all of her events. There are new glam people called The Zand Collective, who are just gorgeous men and women with great style. Everywhere they are you will have a great time.
Your collaboration with Mugler was such a pinnacle for you both, I think. You were the pneumatic embodiment of his perfect woman. Are you two still close? And what is your favourite memory of those times?
Thierry has a new life and a new name, Manfred. Thierry Mugler has reinvented himself and has made his body a work of art. I haven’t seen him in forever. Being one of his muses during all those dazzling years when he was designing full time, whether it was on the runway or just on his arm, I feel he really brought out the best in me, inside and out. I hope I did the same for him. There were some real heart-stopping moments for me on the runway in Paris. I was in an hourglass intense corset dress (that, funnily enough, had padded hips – Andy would have loved to catch me in that!). I was presented in blue light, high on a platform above the catwalk with a shining star behind me. All I could do was just have my Evita moment above the crowd and work my proportions. So I took one hand and snaked it up my body from thigh to breast and then in the air, and then did the same with the other hand, tracing the outline of my shape. And there I stood, hands in the air, looking over the crowd. I have never felt more absolutely beautiful. I am grateful to be part of his legendary world.
THE WYLDE QUESTIONNAIRE:
YOU€'RE ONLY ALLOWED ONE ITEM OF MAKE-UP. WHAT WOULD IT BE?
FAVOURITE NIGHTCLUB OF ALL TIME?
Danceteria and Area.
WHO IS YOUR ULTIMATE PIN-UP?
WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU DO IN THE MORNING?
Kiss my lover.
FAVOURITE FASHION DESIGNER?
Thierry Mugler forever.
WHAT BOOK WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Mine, of course! "Boobs, Boys and High Heels or How to Get Dressed in Just Under Six Hours".
FIRST RECORD YOU EVER BOUGHT?
"Superstition" by Stevie Wonder.
FAVOURITE MAINSTREAM MOVIE?
WHO IS YOUR HERO?
WHERE/WHEN ARE/WERE YOU HAPPIEST?
Right now in my bubble bath.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST TREASURED POSSESSION?
WHAT€S YOUR FAVOURITE ANIMAL?
My Flat-Coated Retriever, Chilli.
HAVE YOU EVER BROKEN THE LAW?
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR PERFECT HOLIDAY?
Everyone I love coming from everywhere to meet me in the big house on the island of Mustique. (We would be all gratis, of course – now that’s perfect.)
DO YOU COLLECT ANYTHING?
My photo and flash drive collection – stuffed in a suitcase ready to come with me in case of flood or fire.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE RECREATIONAL DRUG?
WHO WAS YOUR FIRST CRUSH?
Robert Bremmen in the fourth grade. RB and DB – it sounded good.
WHAT ARE YOU WEARING RIGHT NOW?
My birthday suit.
WOULD YOU GO ON A CELEBRITY REALITY SHOW?
No way in hell.
DO YOU HATE ANYONE?
Hating is like loving but without the good parts. So no.
HOW MANY TIMES A DAY DO YOU LOOK IN THE MIRROR?
As often as I can; it improves my posture.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST EXTRAVAGANCE?
Dianne Brill beauty products – three warehouses full.
DO YOU HAVE MORE FEMALE OR MALE FRIENDS?
Female, at the moment.