"Watching Eddie and Patsy dash around London in their towering heels, clutching bottles of Bolly, I can’t help but smile.
The old episodes of comedy classic Absolutely Fabulous are hilarious and outrageous. My former client Jennifer Saunders is said to have partly based her outlandish PR Edina Monsoon on me.
But while I definitely recognise the champagne, celebrities and chaos, it’s a world away from my life today, running a healing centre in Wincanton, Somerset, sipping green juices and promoting sustainable lifestyles.
There’s no way I’d have succeeded if the hedonism of life back then wasn’t matched with hard work, but little did I know that my dedication to my career would lead to a life-changing burnout.
I was only 21 when I set up my agency, Lynne Franks PR, after working as a fashion journalist alongside Janet Street-Porter. It was the 1970s and an exciting time for fashion and youth culture.
I married fashion designer Paul Howie and had two children, Jessica and Joshua, in my late twenties, working round the clock to promote fashion brands or launch campaigns to make cycling cool for women.
Maternity leave didn’t exist – or working from home. I’d bounce the kids on my knee while I made calls to clients and take them to photoshoots and fashion shows – some of which they ended up in.
I worked with Mary Portas to turn Harvey Nicks from sloaney to cool, which was Eddie’s favourite store in Ab Fab, naturally.
I loved my job and socialising was a big part of it. Our parties became legendary, while everyone wanted a front row seat at our shows.
There would be Princess Diana, Annie Lennox and Boy George sat near each other – and Madonna turning up late. It was chaos, but fun chaos.
I represented Lenny Henry, who introduced me to his then wife Dawn French, her comedy partner Jennifer Saunders and their friend Ruby Wax.
We ended up becoming close and even teamed up when we holidayed in the Seychelles one year. I also introduced them to the fashion industry and the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier, which gave Jennifer plenty of character inspiration.
I got used to being surrounded by celebrities daily, but there were two people who made me starstruck – Dolly Parton and Diana Ross. Dolly was adorable and I was in awe of her, but Diana was scary.
Diana flew me out to Las Vegas for a meeting because she wanted to become more hip and put me through a gruelling interview. She also told me she wanted to meet Prince Charles. I put on a secret show for her at Brixton Academy, which made the front pages.
I led a truly amazing and privileged life, but it was exhausting. This was the era before emails and mobile phones and I was away from home for long periods of time.
I had to leave my son and daughter with an army of nannies and cleaners, which weighed me down with guilt. Something had to give and that moment came in 1991.
I’d sold my agency three years earlier but was still heading it up when I realised I was totally burnt out. I couldn’t do it any more.
In the space of a week, I quit my job, my marriage collapsed and I gave up being a Buddhist, which I’d previously been devoted to as a way to combat the craziness of daily life. I had a total meltdown.
I was 43 and my world crashed down around me. It was like falling out of a plane without a parachute. Who was I? What was my purpose? I needed to find out again.
Looking back, I think it was inevitable it would happen. So many women spend their younger lives on the treadmill of career, relationships and family, as I did, not having time to stop and think about what would make them happy. I’d worked day and night for 20 years, being the ultimate career woman, at the expense of my wellbeing.
I began to spend lots of time reading, attending workshops and just speaking to women of all ages and backgrounds, trying to understand how to make life more fulfilling for them. I became increasingly convinced that empowering women could change the world for the better.
From a young age I’d been passionate about activism and politics. While most people knew the glamorous side of my work, I’d also used my PR skills to bring issues like acid rain, HIV, sustainable shopping and violence against women to the fore.
Then in 2000, while I was living in Los Angeles, going through the menopause and embracing New Age practices and healthy eating, I wrote a book that would change my life – and I hoped that of millions of women.
The SEED Handbook (Sustainable Enterprise and Empowerment Dynamics) was my guide to creating small and sustainable businesses from the kitchen table. I knew that, like me, women would tire of the corporate world and its values and would want to look at ways to provide for their families that have a positive impact.
In the last 22 years it has grown into a movement. It has taken me all over the world, from China and Saudi Arabia to Kazakhstan and India, showing women how they can collaborate to improve their communities while making a living.
I’m 74 now, I’m a Buddhist again and have seven grandchildren, but I still have the same fire in my belly as that young woman striking out with her first business. You’re never too old to change your life and I want the older generation to reach out to those coming behind them.
I’ve had success but it came at a price, not least as a mother. I also made mistakes – like going on I’m A Celebrity in 2007, alongside Katie Hopkins and Janice Dickinson. My son warned me not to do it but I didn’t listen. It was horrible. I appeared on Celebrity Come Dine With Me too, but quickly realised reality shows were not for me.
But I’m happy for aspects of my manic old life to be fictionalised in a sitcom. I’ll admit that when Ab Fab first appeared on television 30 years ago, in November 1992, I was a bit hurt, which was ridiculous.
They even asked me to be in an episode but I refused, which is a decision I now regret. It would have been so cool to show my grandchildren.
While I haven’t seen Jennifer and Dawn for a long time, I’m still friendly with Ruby Wax.
When Eddie’s granddaughter was named Lola, like mine, or she hosted menopause circles, I’d ask Ruby if she was reporting back on me. But she wasn’t – it was a complete coincidence. Jennifer is just a genius and understood the zeitgeist.
My kids may think our life was crazy, but the reality was even funnier. If I inspired the show in any way, I am now very thrilled and grateful. It was an absolutely fabulous time – but I’m happy I’ve left it behind."
Lynne Franks is the founder of the SEED Women’s Empowerment Network. Find out more about her workshops, retreats and Power of Seven leadership coaching at lynnefranks.com and follow her on social media @lynnejfranks.
'What sex in my 40s as a divorced mum has taught me about happiness'
Joanna Lumley admits she's 'very lazy' with her appearance: 'I'm not glamorous'
'I'm a single mum of four but I'm running a food bank for my hungry neighbours’
Davina McCall says it took until her 40s to 'accept myself for who I am'
- Get exclusive celebrity stories and shoots straight to your inbox with OK!'s daily newsletter
Source: Read Full Article