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Trudie Styler is more than Mrs Sting.

RUTH LA FERLA NYT SYNDICATE

DURING a visit to India to celebrate her 50th birthday, Trudie Styler consulted a seer.

Recently, she recalled the episode, highlighted by a reading of her Vedic chart, with mock incredulity. "Oh, madam, by golly, this chart is very unique,"' she was told. "By 2012, you could be asking for the Taj Mahal - and you would get it." At the time, she was unmoved. "I was thinking, 'What would I do with a mausoleum?"' she said. What indeed? Now 58, Styler is mistress not only of a spacious aerie on Central Park West, where she sat serving guests espresso last week, but also of six lavish homes scattered from London to Los Angeles; she owns a wardrobe that Eva Peron might have envied, her Versace-sheathed comings and goings tirelessly documented by a doting fashion press. And invitations to her charity balls are among the most coveted in town.

She also makes movies, sells organic produce farmed on her various estates and has raised four comely children, ages 17 to 28, the offspring of her 30-year relationship with and 20-year marriage to (but you knew this) Gordon Sumner, aka Sting, the sinewy pop idol. At 60 still a magnet to besotted fans, he is her rock: subsidising her gilt-edged life and flaunting her virtues as if by rote. "When I met her, she was beautiful," he said the other day, breezing in from their terrace, which overlooks Central Park West. "But then I figured out that she was smart, much smarter than me." And yet for Styler - who has fashioned herself as an unlikely hybrid of charity-driven social diva and, yes, brainy jill-of-all-trades - too much, it seems, is never enough. Earlier this month, she pulled off the latest of her social coups, producing her biennial benefit for the Rainforest Foundation, which she and Sting founded in the late 1980s, flexing her skills as a celebrity wrangler to persuade, among others, Meryl Streep, Elton John, James Taylor and Bruno Mars to belt out show tunes at Carnegie Hall. Afterward, at a dinner and live auction at the Pierre Hotel, Bill Clinton, Styler's guest of honour, mingled with Aretha Franklin and Tom Hanks, then ogled Jennifer Hudson, prying his eyes away just long enough to explain what had induced him to come.

"Sting and Trudie and I have been friends for a long time," Clinton said, stealing a glance at his hostess, whose clingy white Pucci gown showed the outline of her underwear. Oh, and yes, "I believe in their cause." Styler, it seems, can embrace any cause with a vengeance.

"If I'm connected to an idea, it just doesn't let me go," she said the other day. "All I have to do is catch up to the image in my head by doing the practical steps to get there." At the moment those practical steps revolve as well around shaking the perception that she is little more than the fashion plate, unregenerate gadabout and celebrity consort best known to New Yorkers as Mrs Sting.

She has engaged the high-powered publicist Matthew Hiltzik, whose clients have included Harvey Weinstein, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Katie Couric, to promote her achievements.

As a UNICEF ambassador, her official biography states, Styler helped transfer hundreds of Ecuadorean children from the dumpsites where they worked to new schools. She has also aided in the installation of water filtration tanks in the area. The rain forest event, sponsored by Revlon this year, took in some $3 million, according to Sting, much of it earmarked for the rescue of the Amazonian jungle.

A health and fitness evangelist, Styler also makes wine on her estate in Tuscany and has turned her passion for the downward dog into profit, producing six yoga DVDs, the latest one distributed in overstuffed gift bags to her guests at the Pierre.

And that is the upside. These days Styler seems just as sharply focused on exerting a little damage control. In London, Trudie-baiting has been something of a blood sport, dating roughly from the time when Styler spirited Sting away from his first wife (and her neighbour), Frances Tomelty, an actress.

Today journalists routinely take aim at her high-consumption way of life, one that encompasses not just the half-dozen homes (one of which is an 800-acre estate in Wiltshire, England) but a personal entourage including a chef, a private secretary and a hairdresser who travels with her everywhere.

A life, in short, that is glaringly at odds with her image as socially conscious Granola Lady.

About a year ago, Styler agreed to be guest editor of The Big Issue, a British publication that champions and is sold by the homeless. The well-meaning gesture backfired.

"Publications for the homeless really shouldn't be edited by someone with six homes," and for whom Harvey Nichols "is probably a spiritual seventh," Barbara Ellen chided in The London Observer.

"She carries a sense of entitlement that can stick in the craw," Richard Price wrote in the online edition of The Mail. Styler had worn a large diamond pendant to a public appearance, a jewel that Price noted "would pay for an awful lot of clean drinking water." Nor did it help that in 2007, Sting and Styler were compelled by a British court to pay damages for having unfairly dismissed their pregnant chef, who was ruled in a unanimous verdict to have been the victim of sex discrimination.

Reporters gleefully chronicled the case. At the time Styler called the judgment "a travesty" and vowed to appeal.

Such attacks, Styler mused, may well have been prompted by class envy. She is not inclined to apologise. "I'm not an unkind person," she said, "but by the same token, I'm not a people-pleaser." Does she feel compelled to reconcile the charitable Trudie with the profligate Trudie, who thinks nothing of parting with more than $1,200 for a pair of 7-inch Louboutin heels.

"Not one iota," Styler said flatly. "I enjoy the riches of life." At home earlier that week, dressed in pale Celine sweater and jeans so new they stained her hands indigo, Styler exuded serenity and a practiced candour. The middle of three daughters of a school-cafeteria lunch lady and a farmer turned factory worker in the English Midlands, Styler was beset early on, she said, by a desire to be someone. "I could only imagine myself being successful," she said.

When she was 2, she was knocked down by a truck and dragged several yards along the street, leaving one side of her face florid and gravel-pocked.

Her schoolmates were cruel about the disfigurement.

"I was bullied quite a lot," she said evenly. "I got named Scarface." While those scars today are scarcely visible, minimised by collagen treatments, Styler said, and masked by a liberal sweep of foundation, the experience left her with a sense of compassion, she said, for "people who've been humiliated. Sad people, sick kids, all that haunts me." It also left her, she said, with a reservoir of rage and a seriously fragile self-image. "Until I was about 18, I didn't think I was appealing in any way, shape or form." Over the objections of her father, to whom "actress" and "strumpet" carried about the same value, she sought out the theatre, joining the Bristol Old Vic and eventually the Royal Shakespeare Company. She was unsure of herself, she recalled. "But I was sure of other peoples' voices. So I said to myself, 'I'll take on this or that character."' Recently Styler returned to those theatrical roots. She appeared last year at the Edinburgh Festival as Hester Thrale, the rather shady intimate of Samuel Johnson, in A Dish of Tea With Dr Johnson, a play directed by Max Stafford-Clark. And a year ago, with the producer Celine Rattray (The Kids Are All Right), she founded Maven Pictures. They have two films in post-production: Imogene, a comedy with Annette Bening and Matt Dillon, and Filth, with James McAvoy as a bipolar, drug-addled police officer.

"So contagious is her enthusiasm," Rattray said of her colleague, that she "manages without being pushy or forceful to get people to do what she wants them to do without ever having been asked." That enthusiasm and a penchant for role-playing extend to her daily life. She can, when it suits, inveigh against the rapacious oil giants who lay waste to the jungle or play the dutiful mom, whose daughters, Coco, a singer-songwriter, and Mickey, and sons Jake, a model, and Giacomo, were brought up to mind their manners, she said, and stay grounded. "No one's sitting around waiting for the trust fund to kick in, because there isn't one," Sting once joked. "I told them, 'There's no money left, Forget it."' From time to time, Styler has been asked to imagine what her life would have been had she not married Sting. "I have no idea," she said, then added after a beat, "For sure, I would have had a life in which I would be in the driving seat."

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Publication:Qatar Tribune (Doha, Qatar)
Date:May 1, 2012
Words:1516
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