After breaking a leg, Luciana fears she'll never look the same
Her 1.2m legs bewitched Mick Jagger and made her fortune. But after breaking one in SIX places in a ski accident, Luciana fears she’ll never look the same again
Should anyone ever compile a list of the world’s most enviable legs, the breathtaking pair belonging to model Luciana Gimenez would surely rank near the top.
They’ve captivated catwalk watchers, mesmerised men and recently followers of her social media were agog at Christmas when she stood on tiptoe, decorating her tree in a daring gold swimsuit and matching heels.
So it is little wonder that when Luciana and I begin our chat, a couple of weeks ago, we spend what might seem like a disproportionately long time talking about those legs. There are other subjects covered — her relationship with Mick Jagger (the father of her son Lucas), motherhood, ageing — but we keep returning to the subject of her legs, all 1.2 metres (3ft 11¼in) of them because, frankly, they turn out to be intrinsic to everything that has happened to her.
She tells me that her legs were once insured to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds (her breasts were too, in the days when she fronted a Wonderbra campaign, but the premiums were always higher for the legs).
Unlucky break: Luciana had a horrific accident on the ski slopes and breaks one of those never-ending legs in six places
We first got onto the subject of her legs when she was talking about body-confidence. Hers was non-existent as a young girl
She is leaving for the airport, to go skiing as we say goodbye (‘it is wonderful exercise and good for the glutes,’ she says, cheerily) and we arrange to finish our interview later.
The next day, disaster strikes. She has a horrific accident on the ski slopes and breaks one of those never-ending legs in six places. Our talk recommences with her in a hospital bed, on painkillers, showing me her legs on a Zoom call and weeping at the horror of it.
‘My lovely legs are f*cked, Jenny,’ she says. ‘I can’t believe we talked so much about them — and now look.’
It is hard to look, to be honest. Her left leg is about half as big again as the right one, swollen, bruised black and blue and has a series of still-stitched scars, some small, some larger, all over it.
She was rushed into surgery because of the severity of the fractures.
It’s even harder to hear how the injuries were acquired.
Luciana, a competent and experienced skier, had been on the slopes in Aspen, Colorado, with her children Lucas, 22, and Lorenzo, 12, (from her marriage to her ex-husband, TV presenter Marcelo de Carvalho), when she simply lost control.
Mick is ‘a great dad’ she says, generous with both time and money, and she feels part of ‘the extended family’. Pictured: Luciana (left), Lucas Jagger (middle) and Mick Jagger (right)
Road to recovery: Gimenez was pictured in a wheelchair after undergoing emergency surgery following her horror skiing accident in Aspen
‘Earlier in the day my boots had felt loose so I went back to my hotel and changed, but the new ones seemed to be a little tight.
‘It didn’t feel quite right, but it wasn’t anything I was alarmed about,’ she says. ‘I was on a blue run, not going particularly fast but I did pass my children, whereas normally I’d be the one at the back.
‘Lucas shouted “Slow down, Mum!” and then I was just aware of losing control.
‘I went down. The boot should have come out of the ski but it didn’t so my leg had stopped but my body was still moving. I felt the first break, then the next and the next.’
Her body was ricocheting backwards and forwards, bones in her leg cracking with each movement.
‘I knew immediately. In total, I broke my leg in six places and it was the most horrific thing I have ever been through. The pain was like nothing I’ve ever felt before, like hot rods.
‘People say you don’t feel anything, that adrenaline takes over. It didn’t. I felt everything. I wanted to scream and scream but my heart was racing and I was aware my children were there so my brain was saying, “Stay calm”.
‘Lucas took control. You know there are times in your life when you are so proud of your children?
‘My boys were upset but they did not panic, although we all knew this was serious.’
She was stretchered off the mountain, rushed to hospital and straight into surgery, terrified she was at risk of losing her left leg.
She’s a little apologetic about the frantic conversation she had with the orthopaedic surgeon before she went under the anaesthetic.
‘Because one of the fractures ran lengthways up the tibia the surgeon had to insert a rod to stabilise it,’ she says. ‘I know I should have been grateful that I didn’t die, or lose my leg, and I am. But I said to the surgeon: “Please make the scars as small as possible because my legs are . . . important, my living. I know that sounds vain, but it is the truth”.’
She recalls our earlier conversation about cosmetic surgery and how she was too chicken to ever go under a knife. There are tears.
‘And now I have, and I’ll probably have to have cosmetic surgery for the scars because, as wonderful as the surgeons were, their priority was to give me a functioning leg, and let me walk again.’
Luciana is now recovering in New York — ‘a good friend sent a private plane for me’ — but it will be six weeks until she will be able to put any weight on her foot, and the recovery period after that is likely to be three to six months.
‘There is going to be muscle wastage and, let’s face it, my legs are never going to be the same again. But I’ve given myself enough time to feel sorry for myself. Now I have to just get on with it, because I don’t want to just walk. I want to dance.’
Doubtless she will, again, because this is one lady who is as gutsy as she is glamorous.
That she’s been defined by the men in her life (after her legs) is perhaps unfortunate, but the positive thing is that her exes have rallied to help.
‘Oh, yes, Mick was in touch immediately, asking if he could do anything to help, did I need anything,’ she says. ‘So too was his girlfriend Mel (ballerina Melanie Hamrick, mother of Jagger’s youngest child Deveraux).’
Luciana’s ex-husband arrived to take care of her younger son Lorenzo. Her current boyfriend, economist Renato Breia, with whom she has been in a relationship for 18 months, flew from Brazil and is now acting as a nurse and learning to push her wheelchair.
It is a learning experience for them both.
‘I hate it! I’m such an independent person. I hate having to rely on other people like this, but Renato has been amazing. I know I am lucky having people like this around me.’
And to think that only a few weeks ago, Luciana admitted to me that she worried how long she could sustain her modelling figure — even with her daily gym workouts, dedication to exercise and diet and good genes.
‘Nobody likes getting older. I definitely don’t,’ she’d told me. ‘But what I do think is it is unfair when men get older, everyone thinks they are great!
Horrible accident: Luciana shared video which appeared to capture the moment she was rescued from the slopes
‘They are still regarded as being charismatic and charming. Women at the same age? They are past it.’
Was she talking about Mick — 80 this year! — when she referenced men getting older?
‘Well there’s Mick yes, but also let’s talk about George Clooney, about Bradley Cooper,’ she said. ‘There are so many men in the (entertainment) industry. They have like a club, whereas it’s hard for women to get roles when they are older, or to come back into the workplace after having kids.
‘I mean, I would never have said I was a big feminist, but it IS double standards.
‘Not that you can blame the men for it. We girls are to blame for it, too. Why can’t we be more like them — happy with our grey hair, lines and little bellies.
‘We should celebrate ourselves more. Women are great. We are mothers, we work, we multi task. Because men, let’s be real here, men can only do one thing at a time.’
We first got onto the subject of her legs when she was talking about body-confidence. Hers was non-existent as a young girl.
‘I was bullied so much. I was the tallest person in the class and always at the end of the line, they lined us up in order of height, but my legs grew before my body did. I had 1m 20cm of leg which is great now, but at the time the bullies would call me Flamingo or Olive Oyl, from Popeye.
‘I’d go home and cry to my mother. I remember wearing jogging trousers under my jeans, to try and disguise the fact my legs were so skinny.
‘I think a part of that always stays with you. It’s why I say to my sons now “Do not comment on how someone looks unless you can say something positive”.’
By the time the bullies realised she was beautiful, rather than a freak, she had been signed by a modelling agency, and plunged into a different sort of scrutiny.
I asked if her height (she can top 7ft when she has heels and one of those feathered carnival head-dresses on) intimidates men. ‘Oh yes, they won’t approach me — or the ones that do are the crazy ones!
‘If I’m at a party, men won’t come up to me, I guess because I’m so visible, if they are rejected it will be noticeable.’
Obviously, not all men are terrified. When she interviewed Donald Trump on her TV show (she’s met him several times, both before and after he was President, ‘and he is very charismatic and cheeky’) he was smitten by her.
He invited her to dinner afterwards. ‘I was married at the time, and politely declined.’
Jagger wasn’t afraid of her either and she famously didn’t decline him (yes, they met at a party and he was said to be as impressed by the fact she can speak four languages as he was by her legs).
Interestingly, every man she has been with — until Renato — has been shorter than her.
‘He’s 6ft 3in, so he’s the only one who is taller than I am and I have to say I love it. It is nice to look up.’
Does she reckon she will get married again, settle down with Renato who’s shown himself to be such a caring partner following the accident? Her reply has a certain sadness to it.
‘I have thought about this. I think as you get older it would be nice to be with someone, to be married or in a long-term relationship. It’s not that you could let yourself go, but you could be more secure and relaxed about ageing alongside someone.’
Mick is ‘a great dad’ she says, generous with both time and money, and she feels part of ‘the extended family’.
She isn’t in touch with all the other Jagger women, but all eight Jagger children do seem to have intertwining lives.
‘They really do love each other and they are all very sweet and it works,’ she says.
‘Other people read about our lives and think it sounds like a soap opera. I get that and it’s based on truth but it’s not the whole truth.’
Obviously the latest episode in the soap opera has been a dramatic — and perhaps life-changing — one, but at the end of our conversation she manages a laugh about how one of her previous ambitions was to do Strictly Come Dancing.
She looks down at her battered legs. ‘That means we are going to have some work to do.’
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