“This is myself with my best friend at the time, frying my skin," says the across-the-pond celebrity Caprice Bourret while looking at old photos, nibbling a scone at high tea at the Culver Hotel. "I used to be such a California girl. I used to fry. Hawaiian Tropic, no sunscreen at all."
This is, of course, a typical image of the "California Girl." L.A. may get a fair amount of guff, but Southern California as an entity has always been idealized, at least from a distance. Despite the ethnic and economic diversity running through this place, that image of the tan, blonde SoCal girl born with a silver beach ball persists.
And even though there are millions of SoCal kids who don't have it so great, Caprice Bourret — also known simply as Caprice in her adopted home of England, where she's so famous she only needs one name — did. Before she became a model, then actress, reality star on Bravo's Ladies of London, businesswoman and mother, she was born and raised in Hacienda Heights, living the life of the blonde bombshell beauty queen everyone imagines a California girl to be. And that's quite literal — she was crowned Miss Teen California in 1989, during her senior year at Bishop Amat High School. Caprice, now 42, was also head cheerleader and prom queen, and made the honor roll.
In short, she was a walking Beach Boys song.
“It was very all-American, middle-American, upper-middle-American. I have such fond memories of growing up," Caprice says of her SoCal childhood. "Now everyone is playing Gameboy and computers. When I was growing up we were playing baseball...It’s so different now. It’s sad. It worries me. With my kids, I want them to grow up and play soccer and play football and play basketball and handball. This is what we did.”
It sounds like utopia, but to Caprice, it was very much the reality. Her version of Southern California was "a bubble," she says. “When I was a little girl we never locked our doors, and there was no crime. That was really nice, you know?”
With this idyllic setting as a backdrop, Caprice began participating in pageants, though she said that was never her interest. "I was a bit of a tomboy," she says. "I never even wanted to do beauty pageants but I loved my mom and she loved beauty pageants. It’s a California thing!”
It's those pageants that planted the seed for her modeling career. “Somebody saw me and said, ‘You could make a lot of money modeling,’ and I said, [claps] ’Alright.’ So, I didn’t go to college, I just got on a plane to New York first, and then from New York I went to London and that’s where I stayed.” That was 1996, and she's been there ever since.
Being known as the "California girl" in England was a double-edged sword. “I think in a way they were mocking me," she says of her London circle, "and in a way they were intrigued by me. Because I was loud and proud and had the bleach-white hair and the full figure. I was something different.”
But modeling careers don't last forever."At the top of my game," she says "I thought, ‘what’s next?’ And I started By Caprice Lingerie"
It wasn't an easy road to get her now-booming lingerie business off the ground. Caprice says in England in particular, the model stigma follows you, and it’s hard to break past it. It’s hard for women in general there, she says. “You have to understand, England is very different from America. Here, regardless of what you are, even if you’re a woman, there are so many great opportunities, and you’re able to attain these opportunities. In England, it’s still a man’s world."
If that's the case, things in America may be even more ideal than she remembers.
But despite the challenges, she's built an empire in England. She's a model-turned-mogul juggling her business and her role on Ladies of London. And now with two baby boys, she seems to have accomplished the holy grail for women: having it all.
The tea portion of our high tea finally arrives and Caprice picks out a bag. Does she have tea every day in London? Caprice scrunches her face: “No," she says. "I have to say I went about 10 years doing the whole tea thing. But now I’m all about green tea.”
How perfectly California.
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