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Authors: Michelle Mone

My Fight to the Top (25 page)

BOOK: My Fight to the Top
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I walked up the stairs of Sky News’s temporary live studio overlooking parliament. ‘Are you ready for the live debate?’ the producer said as she put the microphone on me.

‘No, I’m not. What are you trying to do?’ I snapped. I wasn’t going to be doing a debate.

‘It’s okay. The presenter, Adam Boulton, will interview you and then go to the other lady and then you two will have a bit of a debate,’ she said.

‘No, you will not. You will interview
her
and then you will interview me,’ I said. I stood my ground and I won. When Sky News explained to the other interviewee that there would be no debate, she went mental. She was a tiny wee woman with a very loud voice.

‘I want a debate with
her
.’ She was pointing and screaming. For pity’s sake, I thought, as I heard her mouthing off. The next thing I knew, she came charging up to me like a rhino. ‘I want them to go to you first and then interview me.’

‘I’m not going to speak to you at all,’ I said calmly. ‘I don’t even know who you are. I’m really sorry, who are you?’ So she told me who she was. ‘Good luck to you and your business,’ I said politely, ‘but I’ve never heard of you and I’m not having a debate with you.’

I had to be quick on my feet dealing with all these highly educated people. I found it really scary. I hadn’t gone to university and I don’t read about politics much. I was dying inside but I wasn’t about to give up the fight.

She then started arguing with Adam Boulton, the presenter.

‘Oh, please, shut up. I’m coming to you first,’ he said.

‘I want you to go to Michelle first,’ she screamed. It was a circus. Everyone was screaming seconds from going live. ‘I want you to go to
her
first…’

‘Welcome to Edinburgh,’ Adam said, trying to drown her out. She went first and then Adam asked me to comment on her points.

The whole time she was mouthing off in the background: ‘I don’t want her commenting on my answers.’

This was probably the most composed I’d had to be so far in the campaign. I had to be calm, collected and remember my points. I was friendly and relaxed with Adam. ‘Look, the polls open in the morning and we don’t even know what currency we are going to have yet. There’s too much deficit – it’s a massive £6 billion…’ I was stating pure business facts – just because I said ‘No’ didn’t mean I wasn’t passionate about Scotland. We were all passionate about Scotland but I knew if we became independent it would be much harder for business.

As I spoke to Adam Boulton, a demonstration was breaking out below me. SNP supporters were banging on the fences round the scaffolding that held up the temporary studio. I could hear the banging as I was trying to speak. So I said my piece and was happy with it but my opponent was still raging. ‘Good luck with your business,’ I said and tried to shake her hand.

‘Don’t touch me,’ she snarled. She needed to calm down. It wasn’t personal, it was business, and she should have known that, being a businesswoman too.

I started walking down the stairs and security came running after me. ‘Michelle, you can’t go out there,’ they said.

‘Why?’

‘There’s a demonstration out there, and they are waiting for you.’ The crowd had been watching the coverage on their mobile phones and were shouting that they wanted to get me.

Jesus
. Deep breath. The security team marched me around the whole park to where they had a car for me. It was a scary, scary moment. I’m not talking about a couple of people waiting. There were hundreds out there, banging away at the fences.

‘Get your head down,’ they said as I drove off. I was headed straight to another TV show. It was battle after battle after battle. I put myself right out there – no other businessperson was doing that. I was scared it would affect my career and people warned it could ruin me, but I couldn’t give up in what I believed in. I kept fighting the whole way.

My mum and dad helped keep me going. I thought they would tell me to stop, but instead they said, ‘You need to tell the people of Scotland what this is all about. You are an East End girl and you need to say independence is too much of a risk for our nation.’

I got death threats on Twitter and letters to my house: ‘You better stop now or you’re getting it.’ I was called a bitch, a cow and a slut but I still fought on. It took a lot out of me and I was already paranoid about safety after the carjacking. I hired a security guard to protect the house. I wouldn’t walk anywhere on my own, I wouldn’t even walk around the busy shopping area of Buchanan Street. I double-checked all the alarms and cameras before bed and I got a lock fitted on my bedroom. I had the kids chauffeured to and from school. I had an escape route from the house worked out for all of us. As with business, I believe you should always have a plan in case it goes wrong. I blocked over 350 users on Twitter who were writing abuse.

At times I did think, Should I give up? I’ve got three amazing kids – am I putting them at risk? But I couldn’t give up – it isn’t in my nature.

Keep going, must keep going.

I wasn’t going to be bullied any more. I wanted to say to people, ‘This is my opinion and you may not think I’m right, but I’m entitled to have it. As everyone is.’

I did 27 live TV interviews in the final 48 hours before the polls closed. I didn’t sleep and I barely stopped for food or drink – I was running on pure adrenaline. I can’t tell you how nerve-wracking it was in those final hours because the outcome was touch and go. Better Together campaign members were sending each other text messages all through results night. ‘Damn it, they’ve won Dundee…’
Bleep bleep
– my phone went off again: ‘We’ve won Aberdeen!’ I’d been up for 46 hours by then and I was told that I would appear on ITV’s
Good Morning Britain
at 6 am to talk about the results. I felt sick from exhaustion.
Ring ring
. It was Ramsay Jones.

‘Michelle, we’ve won with 55.3 per cent,’ Ramsay announced.

‘You beauty,’ I screamed. Tears of joy and exhaustion streamed down my face.

‘Go do
Good Morning Britain
. I love you – I can’t thank you enough.’

Half of Scotland probably hate me now as a result of the campaign, but I don’t regret any of it. Scotland, after all, was the winner: it was granted more power. I learnt so much – I learnt how to keep calm and I’ve become stronger and more confident. I think I took everyone by surprise and I took myself by surprise. This is how I want to be remembered by my kids – as the mum who went out there, despite all the threats, and was part of the team that saved the union – and I hope that one day they will be proud of their mum for being part of history.

I’ve faced and won battle after battle over the years but this is a victory I’ll never forget.

EPILOGUE

My Fight to the Top

R
ocky
, starring Sylvester Stallone, was one of my favourite films when I was a kid. I was about ten or eleven, and I would dance around our tiny wee lounge in the East End to the theme song – ‘Eye of the Tiger’.

Stallone’s character – the boxer, Rocky – made me believe you only get somewhere in life if you work hard. I’m not kidding, that movie used to make me want to get out of bed in the mornings and fight. I thought I was Rocky; I would get up at the crack of dawn for my paper round and sing the ‘Eye of the Tiger’. I used to run up and down the steps by the graveyard while I was delivering all the newspapers, imagining I was training for a boxing match.

So I literally couldn’t believe it when one of the biggest motivational speakers in the USA asked if I’d like to come to one of their events in LA to tell my life story – alongside my childhood hero, as well as Al Pacino, in November 2014!

I’d never done a speech in the States before, let alone LA, the home of all the rich and famous – the home of Hollywood. Pop stars and actors always say that if you can crack America, then you’ve really made it. I saw it as a challenge – I was determined to leave a lasting impression.

I don’t think the enormity of it all hit me until I arrived at LAX airport. A chauffeur-driven car picked me up to take me to my hotel. As I was driving down the famous Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, I saw my picture everywhere alongside Pacino and Stallone.

‘Oh, my god,’ I screamed, as I stared back down the street.

How could I go from growing up in the East End, to seeing my picture with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars? It didn’t seem real.

When I arrived at the Peninsular Hotel in Beverley Hills, a butler greeted me, and took me to my room. There were flowers everywhere, and champagne, and they had made a huge welcome display out of chocolates. They had even made a picture of me from cake icing.

Bloody hell! I thought as I fell back on the enormous bed.

I was so nervous as I arrived at the event the next day – I was absolutely shitting myself. I may have been known in the UK and Europe as one of the most in-demand female motivational speakers, but the Americans didn’t have a clue who I was.

They are going to boo me off the stage, I thought. My hands started to tremble.

I was one of the first to speak, and the backstage crew were trying to clip a microphone onto my jacket, when that all too familiar feeling rose in my belly.

‘I’ve got to go now,’ I spluttered, running for the toilet.

I was sick in the toilet four times, that’s how nervous I was. I kept running and coming back, running and coming back.

If that wasn’t bad enough, I was about to be called on stage, when disaster struck. I still can’t believe what happened next. All the pictures I use to help prompt me – pictures of the East End, pictures of the Launch of Ultimo – all 45 sheets of paper slipped out of my hands and scattered across the stairs.

Oh, my god. Why is this happening?

I never really use them, but they are reference points if I ever get stuck. If my mind was to ever draw a blank they were my safety net.

Someone was dashing around, desperately trying to pick them up while my name was being called out.

‘Just leave it, leave it,’ I told the woman. I’d run out of time.

I walked up on stage shaking like a leaf. There were 2,000 sets of eyes staring, and a spotlight beaming down on me. I felt like a rabbit caught in headlights.
What the hell am I going to do?

So what did I do? I smiled. Just like every other time I’d felt out of my depth, whether that be my first dinner with Michael’s parents, or speaking live on TV about the Referendum.

‘Hi,’ I said to the massive audience.

On the outside I was smiling, but on the inside, I was dying. The words were caught in my throat; my mouth was as dry as a desert.

And then something in me just suddenly snapped. The fighter in me burst out.

Michelle – why do you take these pictures with you everywhere, all around the world, but you never bloody look at them?

I always have this voice in my head telling me to fight harder. It often speaks to me in the morning when I’m really tired, telling me to get my arse out of bed and get in the shower.

Michelle - get yourself together and get on with it.

I was having a conversation with myself in front of 2,000 people!

I took a deep breath; I focused on a few people in the front of the audience, and started to tell my story:

‘I’ve always wanted to be in business, I wasn’t the kind of teenager who had Madonna on my bedroom wall, I had a picture of Richard Branson above my bed,’ I began.

‘I decided to start up a business when I was ten-years-old. What I did have was passion, determination, and a can-do attitude, because if you’ve got those ingredients, then nothing will stop you,’ I told the audience. I told them about the highs and the lows, how Ultimo nearly went bankrupt, and how we were saved in the eleventh hour. I revealed my struggles, just like I’ve told all of you reading this book.

Half an hour had passed. I was wrapping up, when the guy with the clipboard on the right of the stage signalled at me to keep going.

Oh Jesus. Deep breath.

I talked for an hour and 20 minutes in the end – that is the longest I’ve ever been on stage. I felt really nervous because no one had made a sound throughout the whole time I’d been up there. Normally the audience would be laughing, or clapping, but this lot had been so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.

‘So thank you for taking your time to listen to my story,’ I finished.

Silence. Oh Jesus this is embarrassing, I thought.

And then, I’m not kidding, the whole audience rose to their feet, clapping and cheering. They began cheering my name too, while hundreds of women came running up to the stage – it was really crazy, almost unreal.

I did it! What started out a disaster turned into one of the best speeches of my life. It was unreal, something like 1,000 people paid to have their picture taken with me. I swear I thought the queue would never end.

Looking back, I have to say that dropping those papers was the best thing that could have happened to me. I was so deep in the shit that I had to fight my way out of it. I always perform best when I’m in trouble, when I’m under the most amounts of stress and pressure.

Dropping those papers forced me to tell my story straight from the heart, to give an honest account of how I have got to where I am today – my fight to the top.

After the event, we all went to a restaurant to celebrate.

Back when I was growing up, mum and dad used to get so excited when a new film of Al Pacino’s came out.

Bleep bleep.

It was a text message from my mum:

‘You better come home with Al Pacino’s autograph or I’m not watching your kids again,’ she threatened. It made me laugh, as it was almost identical to what she had said when I’d had high tea with Prince Charles.

That was my cue – I approached Al Pacino.

‘Al, my mum’s at home watching my kids, could you sign this for her?’ I smiled.

‘Yeah, sure,’ he said in his gravelly American voice. He was really friendly and down to earth for a Hollywood superstar.

I love Al Pacino’s films,
The Godfather
and all the rest of them, but Stallone’s
Rocky
was one of my all-time favourite movies. It was an inspiration for me, in terms of training and determination to win. I’ve never forgotten that movie. I was too embarrassed to say any of that when I met Stallone afterwards though.

BOOK: My Fight to the Top
12.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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