Another sting to her bow


Another sting to her bow

THE E-MAIL finally put paid to any hopes of a reconciliation. “My daughter is nearly 30. That part of my life is well and truly over.” With a catch in her voice, violin virtuoso Vanessa-Mae reads aloud the cutting rebuttal from her mother.

By (Daily Mail)

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Sun 10 Aug 2008, 9:08 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 2:50 PM

Once the driving force behind her daughter’s glitteringly successful career, the pair have not spoken since Vanessa sacked Pamela as her manager eight years ago.

The stark statement stunned a TV crew hoping to enlist Pamela’s help in a documentary which investigated whether the violinist’s extraordinary talent - and international fame - as a child prodigy was due to nature or nurture. Vanessa’s success is breathtaking.

She started playing the piano at the College Of Music, where she was seven years younger than most of her peers. Pamela managed everything from her bank accounts to choosing her clothes, make-up and, inevitably, that provocative cover of her first single.

Vanessa wasn’t even allowed to slice bread in case she cut her hand. She was forced to drop every one of her school friends because they were considered a distraction. Stardom beckoned and the millions rolled in. But just before her 21st birthday Vanessa finally snapped.

Sick of her mother’s domineering influence, she fired her as her manager, desperately hoping they could have a normal mother/daughter relationship. It was not to be. They severed all normal contact and studiously avoided each other at family occasions.

Nature or nurture

When Vanessa tried to reestablish their relationship by involving Pamela in the BBC1 documentary, she had hoped that by inviting her mother to help explore the root of her talent, she would discover whether she was born with her musical ability, or whether it was cultivated by her mother’s determination for her to succeed.

But Pamela was having none of it - as the terse email the team behind the science programme ‘The Making Of Me’ received in response showed only too clearly.

“My mother is, and always has been, an extremely driven person and has an unquenchable thirst for success, and that is something that can be very difficult to understand when you are a child or a teenager,” says Vanessa. “Doing the documentary was very cathartic.

In my case it is a matter of both nature and nurture which has helped me achieve what I have, and whatever way you look at it, my mother is a big part of that.” Whether it is her approaching 30th birthday or the fact that she has for the past nine years been happily settled with her French boyfriend Lionel Catelan, 38, a wine dealer, Vanessa says her thoughts have inevitably turned to becoming a mother herself.

But she confesses: “I am petrified of having children of my own because I know that whatever you say or do to a child affects them deeply. “Once, as a teenager, I remember being sick before a show - I think I had some kind of bug - and the look my mother gave me because I couldn’t give 100 per cent was chilling.

“She’d tell me I’d only get a good husband if I was successful, and she condoned the fact that my music tutors would slap me across the face if I wasn’t putting everything I had into my playing.” “She wanted me to give up skiing, which I’m passionate about, because she thought it was too dangerous for my career.”

Solo debut

Vanessa-Mae made her solo debut at the age of ten, and mastered Beethoven and Tchaikovsky at 13. But her mother’s terse rejection of an olive branch eight years after her daughter fired her proved a bitter lesson in the price of fame at three and the violin at five. Aged just ten, she made her solo debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London at the Royal Festival Hall.

She was the youngest soloist ever to record the demanding Beethoven and Tchaikovsky violin concertos when she was 13. She was the girl who bridged the classical/popular music divide and became an overnight sensation when pictures of her rising provocatively out of the sea, her diaphanous dress clinging to her wet body, were used on the cover of her first single. Her record sales have reached ten million copies worldwide.

And in 2006, the Sunday Times rich list ranked her as the wealthiest entertainer aged under 30, with an estimated fortune of £32 million. Today her wealth is nearer £40 million.

Yet the price she has paid appears almost too much for her to bear, for it shattered her relationship with the mother who drove her to such heights. Vanessa claims that Pamela, a talented pianist in her own right, was never happy simply to have a daughter - she wanted to bring up a star. Her mother, she says, used to tell her: “I love you because you are my daughter, but you’ll never be special to me unless you play the violin.”

Today Vanessa says: “Reading that e-mail from my mother, I just felt numb. I guess it confirms something I’ve secretly believed for many years now: just being my mother is simply not enough for her.”

Push comes to shove

Vanessa says her mother didn’t believe she should have a life outside music. Born in Singapore, Vanessa moved to London at the age of three and her mother began marshalling her daughter’s musical talents from the moment they arrived in Britain.

At the age of eight, Vanessa was taken out of school for half of each day to concentrate on her violin. By the age of 11, she was admitted to the Royal career. Vanessa seems determined not to repeat her mother’s mistakes and has particularly strong views on parenting.

“I believe that when you have children there’s a certain point when you have to let go and stop pushing. I hope and pray that if I have children of my own I will know when that point is.” Ironically, although she doesn’t have contact with her natural parents (Pamela separated from Vanessa’s Thai father when their daughter was only four years old), Vanessa is very close to her stepfather Gavin Nicholson - Pamela’s second husband, from whom she is now divorced. “He has always given me absolutely unconditional love and support,” says Vanessa.

“He helped pay for my private music lessons but he didn’t, and couldn’t, interfere in my career as I was growing up - if he did, he’d get his head bitten off!” Chatty and upbeat, despite the high price she paid for her freedom, Vanessa now works at her own pace.

There are plans for another album and an autobiography, and during the winter she indulges her passion for skiing. It is with a sense of irony that she admits the perfectionism, which she rebelled against has become a strong trait in her adult life, not least in the renovation of her Kensington home which has taken the best part of eight years.

“I have become more demanding of people as I’ve got older, but what is so wrong in striving to have something done properly? “Lionel and I have been living in a flat in Kensington and have only camped at the house a couple of times, which is madness considering I bought it when I was 22. But at least I’ve been able to take my baby grand piano out of storage now and can go to the house to play it. I hope that I’ll be able to move in by the end of the year, by which time I’ll be 30.”

Landmark year

AS to reaching this landmark year, she admits: “I am still waiting for my first grey hair! “What is tragic is that I don’t feel 30. I want to understand the gravity of it because it is such a big number, but I felt older at 12 than I do now. “At that age I did a recording of Tchaikovsky, but my mother was disappointed because she thought I should have done it younger. So I was made to feel old at such a young age.”

As to marriage, she adds: “My boyfriend comes from a very long and happy marriage whereas my mother has been divorced twice, so it doesn’t carry as much meaning for me. It is maybe something that I will do - certainly, Lionel would like to - and perhaps if we have children, who knows?”

She refuses to condemn her mother outright, believing that the blood, sweat and tears of her childhood have to count for something. “I would not be here today without my mother and she has helped me have a career that I love and to follow a vocation.

I am sad that it has been at the expense of my relationship with her.” Asked if she misses her mother, she adds: “She has not been around for me to talk to for so many years now. But I carry the e-mail she sent to the BBC around with me, and if I ever have any pangs about what our relationship might have been like, I read that and realise it is never going to be.”

More news from