Michelle Mone: Poverty of childhood left me with ‘balls of steel’
MICHELLE Mone has revealed she slept in a cupboard, did not own a bath and that her mother gambled with her birthday money during her poverty-stricken childhood.
The lingerie tycoon claims her tough Glasgow upbringing made her develop “balls of steel” and fuelled her determination to build a better life for herself.
In Carnegie’s Call, a new book profiling Scottish entrepreneurs, the Ultimo boss also admits she “punishes” herself by taking on a gruelling work schedule, putting her company’s needs ahead of her own.
The 40-year-old, who grew up in a tenement in Glasgow’s East End, claims her childhood shaped her into the hard-edged businesswoman she is today.
The former Whitehill Secondary pupil recalled: “The flat had no bath. I thought it was normal to go to the local swimming baths to get a wash two or three times a week.”
The entrepreneur, who now rubs shoulders with supermodels and top politicians, bathed with her mother at the municipal pool or was scrubbed clean in a steel tub in the middle of her living room floor.
She shared her parent’s bedroom for many years before her printer father converted a broom cupboard into a tiny bedroom – sawing the end off her bed so it fitted into the cramped space.
The mother-of-three said: “The room was tiny, but it was mine. We covered the ceiling with star stickers, I just loved it.”
The businesswoman, whose younger brother died of spina bifida aged nine, said their modest home became a social hub at weekends
“Dad used to come in from the pub most nights and Friday night was singalong night. My mum would make them all a piece and fried egg to go along with their cans of lager.”
After leaving school with no qualifications, aged 15, Ms Mone worked as a model and for a beer company before deciding to launch her own underwear firm.
The fledgling company came close to folding before Ultimo shot to fame when Julia Roberts wore one of their push-up bras in the film Erin Brockovich.
Remembering the early years she said: “It was like being locked up for three years and being used as a punch bag. It was horrific.”
The owner of MJM International, who split from her husband Michael last Christmas, claimed her challenging early years turned her into a formidable businesswoman.
She said: “I’ve been beaten up and taken it like a man. I’m not frightened about taking challenges on. I’ve got balls of steel.”
Ms Mone, who has a £2 million flat in London and a five-bedroom mansion in Lanarkshire, admits being unable to detach herself from work, stating: “Everyone comes before me. It’s like I’m punishing myself.”
Carnegie’s Call by Michael Malone is published by Argyll.
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