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Authors: Michelle Mone

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BOOK: My Fight to the Top
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Michael’s dad was lovely, very welcoming. His mum was a bit, hmm, she’s from the East End. We later became close and I think she respected me for working hard, but when she first met me, you could tell she was disappointed. I could see it in her eyes.

I was very polite. Give them their due, my mum and dad and my gran have brought me up with manners. I learnt that no matter where you are from, no matter what money you have got or, what education you managed to get, you use your manners to treat people with respect.

We sat down at the table – it was beautifully laid for dinner. I was admiring the whole set-up when, suddenly, my heart stopped. I actually didn’t know which piece of bread to take – should I go for the one on the left of my plate or on the right? Don’t forget, up to this point I’d only eaten dinner off my knees in front of the TV.

Oh, my god
.

I didn’t know whether to use the big knife and fork first or the smaller set that was positioned on their outside.

What do I do? What do I do?
I panicked.

So I just smiled.

I waited for everyone else to pick up their bread.

It’s to the left, it’s to the left
, I drilled in my head.

And then I watched everyone pick up their knives and forks – they started outside, working in.

Great, I’ve got that as well
.

I taught myself table manners that night. I came away from dinner knowing what a red and a white wine glass was, but I also returned home feeling even more determined about what I wanted from life. I too wanted to raise a family in a big house, in the posh part of town.

Eleven months after we first met, Michael surprised me one night by turning up at my house in a brand new Mercedes. Oh, my god, can you imagine a flash car parked outside our wee bungalow? Everyone was leaning out of their windows saying, ‘What the hell is going on?’

‘What are you doing?’ I came out of my house in my slippers.

‘Come on, it’s a surprise.’ He grinned.

I knew there and then that something was going on. It sounds cheesy but I felt like a fairy-tale princess being swept away, being rescued by her prince. Michael had borrowed the Mercedes from his neighbours, Ben and Ilene, because he wanted to impress me. He took me for dinner at a fancy restaurant and asked me to marry him. I knew that as soon as I got married I was out of the East End. That’s not why I said ‘Yes’ to Michael because I really loved him, but I knew Michael would never want to live where I grew up. I was 18. My mum and dad were happy for me because they could see I was in love. There was one small obstacle that stood in our way though.

I was part of the Church of Scotland (Protestant), and Michael was Catholic. Michael felt strongly about his religion and told me he wanted me to convert. It was a big thing in the East End to be marrying a Catholic, let alone to be changing your religion. I wanted to marry Michael so I did it for him. I went to Catholic lessons three nights a week. My mum and dad have always supported my decisions but I can imagine their friends had a few words to say about it.

We started planning the wedding and got as far as setting the date, booking the band and choosing the hotel before I found out I was pregnant. It was a ‘mistake’ but it was a good mistake and, in any case, being pregnant at 19 wasn’t young for where I grew up. I was very pleased because my dad had shared with me how it was his dream to stay alive for his grandchildren. It made me happy knowing I was doing something for him. When my mum and dad lost my wee brother, I felt they were always missing that baby and I wanted to give them a grandchild. I thought it would make them feel complete.

Both Mum and Dad were over the moon with the news. Michael’s parents were a bit displeased – or maybe ‘disappointed’ is a better word – because they were Catholics. Having sex before marriage wasn’t the right way to do things. We didn’t tell the bishop I was pregnant because I was in the process of converting to Catholicism. Instead, we brought the wedding forward six months so I wouldn’t be showing!

Both sets of parents put in what they could for the wedding although mine didn’t have much. I bought a white dress in the sale – it was really quite boring looking, but as I turned over the fabric in my hands, an idea popped into my head. I’d recently watched a film called
My Stepmother is an Alien
and I loved the backless wedding dress which had a big heart cut out in the back. So I turned to the woman in the shop. ‘The dress is a bit ugly, but it’s all I can have money-wise. This is what we are going to do,’ I said confidently. I knew exactly what I wanted. ‘Who’s your seamstress? I need a meeting with her.’ The woman disappeared into the back of the shop to get her colleague. Meanwhile, I got my sketchbook out, and I started drawing what I wanted. My fingers came alive as I drew the dress I’d seen in the film. I wanted diamante stones around the heart. I stood back and admired what I had done. I had created something beautiful and it felt amazing.

‘I can’t do that,’ the seamstress said, shaking her head. ‘How’s the dress going to hold up?’

‘Of course you can do it,’ I insisted. My can-do attitude took hold. ‘Just put a clip here at the top and a clip here at the bottom and put that inside my dress to help support my boobs,’ I said as I drew pads and an underwire. I built a bra into my wedding dress. It was the first time I’d designed a bra. The seamstress thought I was nuts. But it worked. The outfit started out as the most ugly and plain dress you can imagine and I transformed it.

I was proud of my creation and couldn’t wait to show my mum. I was heading to the dress fitting when I got the horrible news – my mum had gone into hospital. She’d slipped a disc in her back and could barely walk. She was going to be okay but I was so upset that she wouldn’t see my dress. She was my mum, I wanted to share those moments with her. The day before my wedding my mum was still at the Royal hospital and it looked like she wouldn’t be able to see me walk down the aisle. I was getting upset and anxious because I needed her there. Obviously, I was more emotional than normal because I was five months pregnant and my hormones were going crazy.

On the night before my wedding I was crying in my room. My mum was still in hospital and I didn’t know what was happening. I was young and I felt scared. Suddenly I heard the front door open and then my mum’s voice. I ran out to see her hobbling into the lounge. ‘I wasn’t going to miss your wedding, was I?’ my mum said, carefully lowering herself onto a chair. I burst into tears. My mum and dad meant the world to me.

‘I’m pregnant, I’m scared, I don’t know what’s going to happen,’ I cried.

‘Try not to upset yourself,’ my dad reassured me. My dad was always upbeat no matter what pain he was suffering himself. The truth was, I was afraid to leave my parents’ side. I’d stayed every night with my mum and dad since I was young. I hadn’t even spent the night at a friend’s house. I was thinking, Who is going to look after my mum and dad? What happens if my dad gets sick again?

‘This is not going to be my room any more.’ I sniffed, as my mum tucked me into bed.

‘It will always be your room,’ she comforted me. I tried to get to sleep but my brain was going at a hundred miles an hour. I was finally about to leave the East End but I felt like I was abandoning my mum and dad. I heard them go to bed and then I sneaked back to their bedroom.

‘Can I sleep here tonight?’ I asked sheepishly. I wanted to be a kid again.

‘Aye, come on then,’ Dad laughed. So I jumped in the bed.

‘Right, go in the middle.’ My mum nudged me.

I rolled between my mum and dad and I fell asleep feeling safe and loved.

4
IF YOU PUT IN MORE, YOU GET TEN TIMES BACK

To be successful, the first thing to do is fall in love with your work.


I
want to go home,’ I sobbed.

‘You can’t go home because you’re married now,’ Michael reminded me.

The poor guy – I spent our wedding night crying that I didn’t want to be married. We went away to a hotel on a golf course in Turnberry for our second night and I was crying the whole time there. We went to Florida for our honeymoon and I was crying the whole time there too. Michael was very sweet and just tried to reassure me that it was all going to be okay but I was pregnant, emotional and scared about our new life together.

One thing I was happy about was that I wouldn’t be going back to the East End. We had bought a tiny flat in Shawlands for £38,000 just before we’d got married. There was only one bedroom, a tiny lounge and a kitchen but what mattered most was that it was in an upmarket part of Glasgow. The houses were old and grand, just like the area in which Michael grew up. There was a beautiful park nearby where you could walk without worrying about being mugged.

We had no money whatsoever, so while we were on our honeymoon in Florida Dad put a roller on a stick, and painted all the walls and the high ceilings from his wheelchair. He never let his disability get the better of him. My mum had made all the curtains and stitched together all the bedding. It was an incredible surprise when we walked through the door.

We had only just settled in and then Rebecca was born on 8 August 1992. She weighed 8 lbs 3 oz. She was so chubby and had jet-black hair. Today she looks like my double but back then she didn’t look anything like me. People used to joke she had been muddled up at the hospital. She was the best baby ever, so easy, but I was very young at 20; I just didn’t know what to do. I didn’t feel an instant connection. Of course I loved her but I felt helpless to know how to cope. My world had changed. Michael went to work at his pensions company and I was left alone with this baby, thinking, Is this going to be my life? I can’t do this.

I became quite low. I would stare at her pram and think what am I going to do with her? Other days I would cry constantly, and spend hours on the phone to my mum. It was the first time I turned to food as comfort. Rebecca was asleep one day and I thought, What shall I do? I know, I might as well go and eat. So I ordered the biggest pizza you could imagine from the Italian up the road, Di Maggio’s. It was a vicious circle: the more I ate, the bigger I got and the more down I felt. All my friends were going to Ibiza and I was pushing a pram up the street to go to Di Maggio’s. I had the baby blues. It’s a normal, natural thing to have but at the time I didn’t know what was wrong with me and how to deal with it. Eventually, Michael told me I needed to see the doctor. I didn’t tell my mum and dad I was going. I felt ashamed to admit I needed help. I remember sitting in the doctor’s surgery with Rebecca and feeling so alone.

‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I can’t stop crying,’ I confessed to the doctor. ‘I don’t know what to do with her.’ I could feel the tears building. ‘I don’t feel I’m a good mum. I don’t know how to be a mum.’ I broke down.

The doctor told me I had postnatal depression and prescribed Prozac. I didn’t instantly feel better but the depression lifted after five or six months. I stopped the medication, I lost a couple of stone in weight and I started to enjoy being a mum.

I think the moment I first felt that bond with Rebecca was when she fell ill with an infection. She had a raging temperature and I had to rush her up to Yorkhill children’s hospital. My heart was in my mouth; I was so worried about her. The thought that I might lose Rebecca made me realise how much I loved her. It was the moment when I felt the connection. I grew up a bit after that. These were happy times with Michael, who was a great dad to Rebecca, and I think he felt good being the breadwinner – he was the boss of the family.

As I started to feel better in myself, I remembered why I had moved out of the East End – why we were struggling with money just so we could live in a nice part of town. I couldn’t afford to be a stay-at-home mum, but I didn’t want to be either. It was my goal to have a job and have a salary. ‘You know you don’t need to work,’ Michael tried reassuring me.

‘I am desperate to get a job, I am desperate to learn business and I am desperate to work for a big organisation,’ I told him. I’d pulled myself out of a dark place, and I now wanted to shine.

Just after my 21st birthday I saw a job at Labatt Brewery advertised in
The Grocer.
It said I had to have a minimum of three O-levels to be an admin girl to support the sales team. So I lied. I didn’t have the qualifications but I knew I was bloody good at selling. I thought, If I can just start at the bottom and show these people, I’ll be very successful.

I managed to get an interview. I remember feeling so determined when I turned up that day. I knew what I wanted. I pleaded to the guy interviewing me: ‘I really, really want this job. I’ll work my ass off, please just give me a chance.’ I spoke from the heart. If you speak from the heart and you mean it, you will win people over.

I remember a letter arriving on my doorstep a few days later. I screamed so loudly, the neighbours probably thought, What the hell is going on? I picked up the phone and called Michael. ‘I’ve got the job!’ I shrieked. I was going to earn £12k.

‘Well done,’ he congratulated.

‘I’m getting a company car too,’ I went on. I was getting all these perks that I’d only ever dreamed of. ‘Oh, my god, now I’ve got a salary we can move house. We can move out of this tiny flat. Let’s talk to the bank.’

‘Hang on, let’s just...’ Michael started.

‘Michael, can you talk to the bank now and see how much we can get?’ I pushed. Once I got on that ladder, once I’d got a taste of it, there was nothing stopping me. I was so ambitious with Michael, it was scary: ‘No… we need to move here... No, we need to stretch… We have to, we have to work harder...’ That’s all I ever did with him – stretch, stretch, stretch.

We moved to another posh area called Mansfield before I’d even got my first pay cheque. We were moving up in the world – we had gone from a flat to almost-a-house. It was a conversion and we had the basement and the ground floor.

When I started supporting the sales force at Labatt I quickly made a name for myself for working above and beyond the hours asked of me. The job was 9 am to 5.30 pm but I spent many nights driving up and down to Aberdeen for promotions. I always believe if you put in more, you get ten times back. I was soon exhausted but I was driven by success – I wanted to get to the top. I kept a book in my bag that I filled with notes of what I wanted to achieve within business and my personal life.
I want a better car… I want a bigger house… I want to take my mum and dad away on holiday.
My thoughts would come to me all the time from first thing in the morning to the nights when I couldn’t sleep.

BOOK: My Fight to the Top
2.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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