Priscilla Comes of Age
Sunday Express 26th February 1992
It is 20 years since the bouffant hairdo and the Barbie Doll wardrobe. Now the former Mrs Presley has developed her own style. By Lesley Salisbury. Main photograph by Eric Robert
In her life as a rock 'n' roll wife, Priscilla Presley had a Lolita face, beehive hairdo. Dusty Springfield eyes, pancake make-up, flabby thighs under her bell-bottoms and an upside-down diet of breakfast at teatime and dinner at dawn. Look at her now and you'll find no trace of those 12 wacky years she spent as the "plaything" and then the wife of Elvis Presley. At 46 she's a gorgeous grandmother, with a fabulous figure and an assured beauty. She's the perfect example of what women can do when they start believing in themselves and find their own identity and strength. "I was cocooned," she says. " Now I'm in control of my life." And she thinks Elvis, whom she divorced in 1973 but remained close to, would be "very proud" of the woman she is now. She has indeed metamorphosed since those crazy days.
"I was very young when I was with Elvis and I accepted his way of life as normal," she says. "When I was older I realised not everyone sat in dark rooms and had food brought to them. His sleeping habits were the opposite of everyone else's, but I had to adjust to those habits and so I acquired them ..."
Today no one tells Priscilla Presley what to do. No one calls her grandma either; she insists on Priscilla. She is the boss of Elvis Presley Enterprises, the manager and executor of the wealthy estate. She's a TV producer, actress and shrewd businesswoman who markets her own perfume with a passion and is developing a line of children's clothing. She's all business: brisk, busy, friendly but wary, close-mouthed about those weird and wonderful Elvis years and determined to prove she's no longer the King's candyfloss queen.
Nowadays she knows where to draw the line - in her looks, her clothes, her life. "When you're young you experiment with different looks. I look at all those pictures of me then and think, 'Oh God'. It's difficult for me to deal with even now. I wish somebody had told me what I looked like, but Elvis loved the way I looked and that was the only thing that mattered."
After the divorce the hairstyle was the first thing to alter. And she's changed it regularly ever since: from brunette to light brown, streaks and highlights to blonde and auburn, from frizz to sleek and Dallas bouffants to elegant bobs. Her style today is a shiny red pageboy, making her almost unrecognisable.
Her clothes have changed too. She has gone from the Barbie Doll of rock 'n' roll to a woman of style. She likes "fun", colourful clothes, many of them her own designs, and they give her a unique look at a time when so many people depend on lookalike designers.
"People try to label and categorise you," she says. "I like to throw them off. If I feel sexy, I want to look sexy, to be sexy. It's fun to change your image."
What she doesn't mention is that she changed her body too. After the divorce she put herself in the hands of Chinese-born Kim Lee, then the toughest exercise guru in Hollywood. Three days a week for four years she sweated and swore her way through his regimen of punishing physical workouts. They worked for her: she lost 2M in from the top of each thigh, developed a firm bust (which remained after her second pregnancy in her forties), trimmed her hips and narrowed her waist.
She also became a karate expert (having left Elvis for his karate coach, Mike Stone), which firmed and toned her body and she worked out a diet that she's never strayed from — except, she admits, when she was pregnant and ate like a horse.
"My motto is "less is more'," she says. Less food, less make-up. Her face is porcelain pale — she can't remember the last time she sat in the sun without protective cream and hat - and she wears the barest amount of make-up.
"I never like to look artificial," she says. "I go to an expert for the right colours - I'm totally confused by the number of different colours out there. A make-up artist can try a variety of shades on you and help you discover the colours that truly flatter you. I wear brown eyeshadow and mascara but experiment with lipstick and blusher."
She claims that she is lazy about her hair. "I have frequent trims and a conditioner, and that's about it. I should do more because I colour and highlight my hair and it does need conditioning more often, but there's always so much more to do and I feel guilty sitting in a hairdresser's for hours."
Dieting has never come easily, she says. "I have to play tricks on myself. If I don't, my body takes over and eats. What works for me is taking half of everything on my plate, eating slowly and putting the fork down. A lot! But once a week I have a dessert so I don't feel deprived..."
Priscilla Presley doesn't believe in pampering herself. "Hard work is the answer to any feelings of depression," she says. But when she has the time she'll treat herself to a facial and a massage and for a quick pick-me-up she keeps a plastic, gel-filled eye mask in the freezer and lies down with it on for about 10 minutes. "And for a headache or puffy eyes I heat it in warm water for a few minutes. It's a miracle worker."
She laughs when people call her a "natural" beauty, and one of the most beautiful women in the world. She finds that label "rather embarrassing," she says. "I have to work a lot harder on everything now, particularly exercise. When I had Lisa Marie [Elvis' daughter, now 23, who is married with a two-i year-old, Danielle] it I was easy to get back in shape. But after I had Navar [her son Navarone, now nearly five] it was a little more difficult.
"I have to work out every day, whereas before I worked out three times a week. And you know what's funny: as I get older I just don't want to exercise any more. I've got to die point where I think, 'Oh God, I really don't want to do this every day.'
"I prefer yoga and stretching techniques now. They're best for relaxation too. There's nothing better than relaxing after a strenuous day with some simple stretching and yoga, a warm bath, scented candles around the place and. an early night. I'm a great believer in sleep. And now I like to sleep at night!
"The quality of my life has changed so much. I can't begin to compare it. I feel so much fuller as a woman because I'm doing so many different things."
She's now concentrating on her own perfume, which she says took her two and a half years to develop. She insisted on being in control when it came to choosing the "bouquet" and the name. The perfume company wanted "Priscilla"; she chose "Moments" "because the name fits my own lifestyle so well. I know we all like to hold on to so many special remembrances."
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