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Fashion's new Dahling; ALL WOMAN: SOPHIE MAKES A COMEBACK WITH THREE NEW CONTRACTS AND A SEXY, SLIMMER LOOK.

SOPHIE DAHL has hit the supermodel league after landing three of the fashion world's biggest contracts.

The voluptuous blonde has been chosen as the new face of Yves Saint Laurent's Opium perfume and the body for Versace Jeans Couture.

Sophie will also star in a new advertising campaign for British designer Alexander McQueen to promote his new range of sunglasses for Givenchy.

Her agency Premier said the new campaigns confirmed Sophie as "one of the world's top models".

Sophie, 21, headed for America last autumn, tired of being treated as the big girl in British fashion.

She said: "I didn't plan to be this crusader for curvy chicks."

Her American booker Susan Quillin, of top New York modelling agency Ford, had been trying to woo her there for three years.

Susan said: "Heroin chic is out and the pretty look is in and Sophie is a sexy and gorgeous girl.

"I knew she would do well, but it hasn't been instant. When she got here, they had no idea who she was. She had to start at the beginning and now they love her."

Three weekly sessions with a fitness trainer have reduced her size from a 14 to 12 and her bust has shrunk from 38DD to 34DD.

That is still huge in modelling terms, but Sophie will now be able to command catwalk fees of more than pounds 15,000 a day.

The contract for Opium alone is in the high six figures.

Previous faces for the perfume have included Jerry Hall and superwaif Kate Moss, but the contract with Versace proves that Sophie has finally earned equal status with the stick-thin catwalk queens.

Kate Moss has also modelled their Jeans Couture range, but Donatella Versace said it was Sophie's curves that clinched the deal.

She said: "We chose Sophie because she is voluptuous and not a typical skinny jeans advertising model."

But it has been a hard slog for Sophie to win global recognition.

The move to America was a risk for Sophie, whose success in the UK was guaranteed as much because of her family as her fashion connections.

She is the granddaughter of children's author Roald Dahl and Oscar-winning actress Patricia Neal.

Her mother Tessa has been a suicidal, drug-taking bankrupt and her father Julian Holloway was a regular in the Carry On films.

All of which meant little in the star-packed States where she was greeted as "Sophie who?"

Sophie revealed: "In Britain, it all happened so quickly.

"It was quite difficult coming here and doing the whole rigmarole of go-sees and castings."

The decision to move to America came when she woke up one morning and decided she'd had enough of London.

She said: "Just as a girl knows when to ditch an affectionate but dull boyfriend, it was time to move on."

An insider at the agency said: "The publicity wasn't the kind she wanted in Britain and that is not what she wants in America.

"She doesn't want to be a pioneer for large women and she doesn't want to be famous for her family.

"Now, more than ever, she has won prestigious contracts on her merit as a beautiful model."

Sophie's early days were spent pitching her portfolio to advertising agencies.

It was a humbling experience spent standing in a line with 50 other girls as the prospective client discusses you in another room.

Sophie said: "Being rejected is awful. Someone will stand in the middle of the room, say 'these are the girls we don't want' and then call out your name, leaving you to slink out the door.

"The lingerie castings are the worst. I have only turned up to one and, after sizing up everyone else in the room, I fled.

"The other models were all pert- bosomed glamazons, no bigger than a 32B. My cleavage made me look like a Penthouse refugee."

Despite that, New York magazine recently called her the "model of the minute" and the publicity machine in America is cranking itself up for Sophie mania.

She's featured in American fashion magazines Jane, Allure and W, as well as Italian Vogue and Marie Claire.

It has been a meteoric rise since fashion editor Isabella Blow discovered her in the street in 1996 sobbing after a row with her mother.

Sarah Doukas of top modelling agency Storm, who had famously spotted Kate Moss, immediately signed her, recognising that she was a phenomenon in the making.

But she promptly turned down the flood of outsize females who were hoping Sophie had spelled the beginning of the end for the rake-thin.

Sarah said: "I've been inundated with Sophie possibles, but I'd never take on another one because, let's face it, things aren't going to change radically.

"Sophie showed you can be big and beautiful, but this industry isn't going to start designing for size 14s."

Sophie's discovery came at a time when she needed to find her own self-worth.

Her mother Tessa, a hedonistic, self-destructive woman, had never tried to give her daughter stability, dragging her across the world to 10 different schools before she was 13.

After becoming estranged from her daughter amid her battle against cocaine and alcohol addiction, Tessa is now clean and living in Sophie's former Battersea home.

Tessa, 43, said: "Sophie's been incredibly generous. I'd behaved so badly that I didn't know if I would be welcomed back, but she has been so forgiving."

Sophie intends to stay in America for the foreseeable future, where she has joined a pack of plus-sized models who are changing the country's perception of beauty.

Sophie says she now feels at her most comfortable with her body, but asked how she feels backstage at shows littered with beanpoles in G-strings, she replied: "jealous".

There is no need, according to her new boyfriend Griffin Dunne.

The film producer and actor, who is twice her age, has a young daughter and was previously married to Richard Gere's girlfriend, 007 actress Carey Lowell.

Sophie has told friends she is madly in love with Dunne, which will enhance her growing profile Stateside.

But there are still critics who say it's Sophie's big personality and big girl status that are the key to her success.

Lucy Sykes, of Allure magazine, said: "She is not the normal model. She is a vulgar pin-up girl who has managed to crack the market.

"Sophie is taken seriously as Sophie. She is not a model - she is a personality."

Her new contracts suggest otherwise.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Brown, Annie
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 3, 2000
Words:1079
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