‘Life is comedy and tragedy’: Daphne Guinness on her outstanding journey from muse to musician

People have some wild concepts about Daphne Guinness, however the oddest one she’s ever seen, on Wikipedia, acknowledged that she was in league with the satan. The proof? The unusual, hoof shapes of her favoured platform footwear that she wears all over the place. “However they’d additionally managed to discover a image of me consuming tomato juice, in order that they claimed that it was the blood of youngsters and that I used to be in QAnon and had two secret QAnon youngsters,” she says, amused however baffled by the lengths folks will go to. She’s talking over Zoom from the Caribbean the place she’s brighter and smilier than I had anticipated from the frosty trend images that exist of her. “I imply, significantly, Individuals are fairly bizarre,” she provides.

Nonetheless, it’s not as if anybody must invent tales about her. A part of the Guinness brewing dynasty, but in addition the Mitfords, a household of English aristocrats, Daphne grew up not realising her beloved granny, Diana Mosley, had been married to this nation’s main fascist, and as soon as acquired into hassle in school after fortunately figuring out him as a relative on TV. (She has since decried his politics completely.) Her father, Jonathan Guinness, a British peer, had units of youngsters by three completely different ladies. One lot was a shock to Daphne, although they’re all pals now, she says. When he was married to Daphne’s mom, Suzanne, Jonathan purchased a former monastery up a mud observe on a Spanish mountain, close to to the house of Salvador Dalí, who stored lobsters in his swimming pool. The Guinnesses spent a number of months a 12 months there, with no electrical energy and no automobile. Daphne’s mattress was beside the monastery’s altar. She spent a variety of time in caves, taking part in with hornets, or getting recommendation from Dalí, her mom’s nice pal, on how you can be naughty.

That was till she was “married off,” as she has put it, in 1987 at 19, to the Greek delivery magnate Spyros Niarchos. She gave beginning to the primary of their three youngsters in 1989, and divorced in 1999. Launched from the function of society spouse, she turned a fixture on the planet of London trend, changing into nice pals with Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow, modelling for them each, later designing garments and jewelry herself. Each McQueen and Blow died of suicide, Blow in 2007, McQueen three years later. Her brother, Jasper, died of most cancers in 2011. Their deaths affected Guinness deeply. She doesn’t imagine in psychiatry and suspects remedy typically made issues worse, “significantly with Isabella,” and says she herself is “gratefully post-suicide, I feel. I imply, , fingers crossed, as a result of there have been moments post-McQueen, after I simply… I felt I had a goal on my again, because it had been. Only a form of expectation. Somebody really got here as much as me and stated, ‘What are you continue to doing right here?’ or phrases to that impact.”

‘There’s always a bigger picture. It’s not all about me.’
‘There’s all the time an even bigger image. It’s not all about me.’ {Photograph}: Danielle Levitt/The Observer

If this sounds odd, loss of life has hung over Guinness since she was 5 years outdated, when a household pal tried to homicide her. But it is just now she is de facto beginning to make sense of the expertise, doing so via music. “I’ve expelled a ghost,” she says, in regards to the technique of writing a track known as Solitaire, which she performs on her newest and sixth album.

Solitaire accommodates the lyrics: “She cried to the heavens / She wept to the sky / She wept for each psychopath / Who had come into her life.” Guinness explains: “How that track took place is that I used to be with my aunt, about 4 years in the past, and he or she stated, ‘Did anybody ever discuss to you about that point?’ I used to be like, ‘Phew, somebody has spoken up, finally, haha. Lastly!’ That form of gave me permission to… Properly, not permission… You already know, shit occurs if you’re little. However I do know I’ve had a really, very unusual life. I imply, it was a type of – it was simply survival, on a regular basis. There was no break, no time for being a woman or something. You simply needed to battle to your survival each single day. However I imply, it’s the identical for everyone. I’ve by no means felt like I used to be a sufferer or something like that.”

In 1972, a household pal known as Tony Baekeland turned up on the Guinness home in Kensington searching for his mom, who was out having lunch with Guinness’s mom. He was let into the home by the workers and located Daphne in her nursery, the place shesays she was happy to see a well-recognized face, considering he had maybe come to learn her a narrative. “And since there was nobody ever taking care of me,” she says, “it simply took a really massive flip for the more serious.”

Although it hadn’t been made clear, Baekeland, then 25, was schizophrenic and violent. He arrived with a knife, and introduced he wished to kill all ladies, beginning with this youngster. He took Guinness hostage. “I keep in mind being marched via this home with a knife at my neck, bleeding and reduce,” she says. “I imply, the issues I used to be instructed that day are most likely not match for print. I ended up exterior the home in Kensington Sq., nonetheless being held at knifepoint. I used to be saved by my mother and father’ housekeeper, who was making an attempt to cease him from killing me. He had me subsequent to the railings with the knife, saying, ‘Demise to all ladies, loss of life to…’” She tails off. The 2 moms arrived in a taxi and Baekeland escaped via the home, out the again. He killed his mom the subsequent day, after she had assured everybody all the things could be high-quality. After serving time in Broadmoor he travelled to the US, the place he stabbed his grandmother, who survived.

‘Oh, I’m really, really, really good friends now’: marrying Spyros Niarchos in 1987.
‘Oh, I’m actually, actually, actually good pals now’: marrying Spyros Niarchos in 1987. {Photograph}: Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Photos

Guinness was taken again into the home, “however nobody ever really debriefed me, because it had been.” She provides, sounding maybe barely ashamed, that “after I finally heard that he had killed himself, in Rikers Island jail, years later, I used to be extraordinarily relieved.” I feel, how might she have been the rest? Baekeland had made good on his different loss of life threats; for a very long time she felt he was nonetheless coming for her. (In 2007, Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne made a movie about his case, Savage Grace. His household had been heirs to the Bakelite fortune.) “Life is comedy and tragedy in equal components,” Guinness goes on. “And the primary factor is to attempt to decide your self up and to create one thing that’s worthwhile out of it.”

The extra we discuss, the extra I’m wondering if Guinness makes use of her eccentricity as a tool, as a spot the place a lady in her place can safely retreat from violence and energy methods. Although she comes from nice wealth and materials privilege, and although her surname is a ticket to freedom on many ranges, her childhood was additionally violent and chilly, and one thing she is lastly making an attempt to make sense of now, at 55. Guinness has been many issues, however whereas we discuss I’m unsure she has ever felt secure.

“I’ve lived a backwards form of life,” she says. “It’s been a really unusual expertise, this lifetime of mine.”

In accordance with some stories, Guinness was rescued from her marriage to Niarchos, it having grow to be one thing of a gilded jail. She has stated the divorce settlement concerned her having restricted contact along with her personal youngsters, who went to dwell with their father, after which Guinness would spend Christmases alone. In the course of the marriage, she was solely given “a few days off” after every beginning, she says, earlier than being anticipated to be “again within the routine” of being a magnate’s spouse. Press curiosity centered on the $39m settlement she acquired, along with different Guinness cash she may need, however I’m wondering in regards to the cruelty.

After I ask her about her ex-husband, she is eager to current a united entrance. “Oh, I’m actually, actually, actually good pals now with…” she begins, when requested about her ex-husband. “I imply, the entire of my life has been form of making an attempt to type of make… What I need is happiness for my household. However, , that was all a very long time in the past. We’re tremendously good pals at this level.”

‘With each album, I’ve ended up in hospital. I almost die with these.’
‘With every album, I’ve ended up in hospital. I nearly die with these.’ {Photograph}: Danielle Levitt/The Observer

It appears beneficiant to not be consumed by bitterness. “There’s all the time an even bigger image,” she says. “It’s actually not all about me. It isn’t. There are wider ramifications to all the things.” Her face glows when she mentions her grown-up youngsters, two sons and a daughter, all of whom have had the training she missed out on when she married younger. “They’re so sensible, my youngsters,” she says. “Oh my God, they’re so fantastic! They usually’re such beautiful folks as properly. Which, I imply, that’s all you would want for.”

Guinness and I are assembly to debate her music, which she has been making, quietly and fruitfully, since 2016. Her music-making routine is fascinating. On each album, she says she overworks herself to the purpose of significant sickness, however she solely will get sick when she stops working, so it’s higher if she doesn’t cease. “With every album, from album two onwards, I’ve ended up in hospital. I all the time nearly die with these!”

When she accomplished her newest album, she contracted pneumonia, and has solely not too long ago recovered, “although I had a form of relapse”. She was ordered to the Caribbean, she says, for relaxation. Subsequent she is off to Los Angeles “to deal with some medical issues.” Her working days start with contemporary mint in sizzling water (“I don’t drink espresso,” she says, “and I don’t even drink regular tea. I do know, it’s actually pathetic”) and “some vitamin” – that is how she says it: “some vitamin” – earlier than going “straight to the gymnasium” after which working intensely on her music.

“Don’t you eat something?” I ask.

Guinness bursts out laughing.

“No!” she roars. “In no way. I really can’t work if I’ve eaten.”

“Nothing?” I say. “I form of typically eat a tiny banana or one thing,” she says. “After which at 5pm I’m like a baby, I’ve fish fingers and a few mashed potatoes.”

Guinness began making music on the recommendation of David Bowie, whom she misses dearly. (He introduced his producer, Tony Visconti, on board to provide her.) “Bowie was my nice champion,” she says. “He primarily shadow produced my first album. I keep in mind Tony known as me up simply earlier than we began and requested, ‘Do you thoughts if David will get a reduce of every single day?’ And I used to be, like: ‘Completely!’ He was so good. I imply, we had been into the identical issues. You already know, it might be by likelihood, we’d each have been studying the identical books, the identical scores.”

Woman in red: with actor Tom Hollander.
Girl in crimson: with actor Tom Hollander. {Photograph}: Richard Younger/Shutterstock

They cherished Wagner’s Ring Cycle: “We’d sit there studying Götterdämmerung collectively. You already know, in my different form of life, I’m Brunhilde. You nearly must be pickled in Wagner. You fall asleep, underneath the covers, get up, it seeps into your pores and skin.”

In comparison with all the things I’ve examine and seen of Daphne Guinness, which suggests this other-worldly, fantasy circus grasp, the individual on Zoom in entrance of me appears tender and giggly, a superb conversationalist, properly knowledgeable. She is commonly seen at events, however insists she struggles to make small discuss: she’s higher on the massive. She by some means is aware of all about how a lot cash Elon Musk spent shopping for Twitter, and plans for the King’s upcoming coronation. She is indignant in regards to the state of classical music, given how badly she sees the jobbing musicians she works with being handled. “Frankly, the coronation ought to be silent,” she says. “I imply, , I don’t actually perceive how they will count on the tradition to exist if it’s not funded ultimately.” As for Musk, she doesn’t know him, however says, “You do have to offer folks an opportunity. And an opportunity to fuck up as properly.” She wonders about that world. “Energy is a really unusual factor,” she says. “Folks need it after which they don’t know what to do with it. It’s really terrifying, particularly in America, particularly within the web age.” She has not too long ago been drawn in direction of changing into “a neo-Luddite” and thinks smartphones have most likely ruined all the things, although she makes use of social media and has all the time been deeply enthusiastic about tech.

Guinness has all the time moved around the globe quite a bit. She not too long ago rented a home in London, regardless of saying she’d by no means transfer again, although she has “primarily been dwelling in resorts”. She offered a Manhattan residence for $10m after the downstairs neighbours complained that her baths stored overflowing and ruining their ceiling. She brings up a interval she spent dwelling in New York within the Nineteen Nineties, “after I was having youngsters, however in my spare time I used to be doing issues like determining the web. And going to computing lessons with all these Wall Road stockbrokers, me sitting there, doing the operate keys.” All she remembers the web having on it “was AP and Reuters and a Santa Claus in Lapland, for some motive, which was very humorous”. The primary time she tried to save lots of an image “it took a few day and a half to obtain it. And that sound! Like a form of spluttering espresso machine.”

‘I have lived a backwards sort of life’: at the funeral of Alexander Lee McQueen in 2010.
‘I’ve lived a backwards form of life’: on the funeral of Alexander Lee McQueen in 2010. {Photograph}: Gavin Rodgers/Rex/Shutterstock

I say she should have discovered to run instructions in DOS mode, (pronounced doss), the old-school computing interface that predated Home windows. “Sure!” she says, with some delight, “I used to be in DOS mode on sixth Avenue,” which is the form of quote you need printed on a T-shirt.

“I keep in mind sitting at this banquet, saying, ‘Properly, I’ve been form of logging on by way of Cern with my pc and there’s a factor known as the web, which goes to vary all the things’ …and, in fact, there was an evergreen thought that I used to be fully bananas. I stated, ‘Pay attention, simply , neglect telexes, neglect faxes, that is the longer term.’”

Due to her standing as a longtime trend fixture and her high-profile divorce, Guinness’s relationships are sometimes lined within the media. Within the noughties she briefly dated the actor Tom Hollander. Extra not too long ago she had a protracted on-and-off relationship with Bernard-Henri Lévy, the French mental, who remained married to his spouse all through. Guinness has described herself as a hopeless romantic, that Lévy was the love of her life, and that you just recover from being known as a scarlet girl after some time. Although issues have seemingly gone bitter between them.

I ask if she’s going to ever get married once more.

“Goodness gracious!” she says, genuinely shocked. She thinks about it. “I don’t suppose anyone would ask me,” she muses. “I imagine in artwork. And that’s actually the one factor that hasn’t ever let me down.”

Daphne Guinness’s new single, Hip Neck Backbone, from her forthcoming fourth studio album, Sleep, shall be launched in Might by way of Agent Anonyme Recordings (daphneguinness.com)

All clothes Daphne Guinness’s personal; hair by Larry McDaniel utilizing Oribe; make-up by Anthony H Nguyen for KVD Magnificence; set design by Jeremy Reimnitz; styling assistant Michy Foster; picture assistants Bryan Lynn and Bono Melendrez; digital tech by Ramond Alva; manufacturing by Kylie Govinchuck; shot at Hype Studios

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