As the editor-in-chief of FLARE for eight-plus years, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some A-list celebrities – George Clooney to Bill Clinton, Gwen Stefani to Nicole Kidman. Yet I’ve always been nervous to meet the one who tops my list: Madonna. I never wanted to spoil the image I had of her. But when the Bay asked me if I’d like to attend the Toronto International Film Festival’s screening of W.E., Madonna’s directorial debut, and then have dinner with her, I very quietly freaked out.
September 12 couldn’t come fast enough. My friends at Greta Constantine loaned me a dress – I wanted to wear Canadian – while Louis Vuitton sent over a gorgeous sequined clutch. The tickets to the reception, show and dinner were on their way hours before the screening.
Tickets were tracked down – thank God!!!
My Cadillac driver, Emily (an aspiring actress from Vancouver) dropped me off at Roy Thompson Hall and I was escorted to the Green Room (where celebrities gather before their film is screened.) It was a small group that included Jeanne Beker, Derick Chetty, Bernadette Morra and Suzanne Rogers. We made a lot of mindless small talk while watching a TV showing Madonna work the red carpet outside.
Just after 6:30pm, the cast and producers of W.E. entered the Green Room. Abbie Cornish, who plays a modern day Wally Winthrop, arrived in a beaded cream Elie Saab gown. Andrea Riseborough, who plays the title role of Wallis Simpson, was electrifying in an emerald sequinned Dolce & Gabbana cocktail dress.
Taking bets on what Madonna is wearing. Guessing it’s Dolce. She’s never looked more old school Hollywood glam #tiff11
Madonna is spending time signing autographs. Will she skip the waiting reporters? Her publicist is wearing a dingle-ball head-thing 🙂
Finally Madonna came in minutes before she was due to present her film on stage. A small group of us had time for a quick snap. “Welcome to Toronto,” I managed to squeak. “Your FLARE fans across the country are thrilled that you’re here.” I wanted to say something clever but I knew that I’d get tongue-tied. And then we were sent up stairs to front row balcony seats – in the box next to Madonna’s – to watch the film.
I didn’t read any of the reviews in advance – many had been negative – and I’m glad I didn’t. I’m a brutal film critic but I LOVED W.E. It’s a fashion lovers delight – full of gorgeous imagery, amazing costumes, impeccable hair and makeup and a brilliant performance – Andrea as Wallis was luminous. My favourite scene featured her dancing flapper-esque for her King to the sounds of the Sex Pistols. That scene reminded me a bit of Sofia Coppola’s film Marie Antoinette.
We walked over to dinner at 11 Duncan Street, the Soho House. Madonna was already there and holding court at a large table. I heard her chatting with Shelley Rozenwald, Chief Beauty Adventurer at the Bay, about her new fragrance. While Shelley wanted to keep the news quiet, I gently nudged my way in. What do you expect? I’m a former beauty editor. Madonna opened her clutch, grabbed a tester and spritzed my wrist. “What do you think?” she asked of her upcoming scent, Truth or Dare. I loved its lush scent – gardenias, tuberose and musk.
The fragrance (reported by WWD today as a partnership with Coty) is just the beginning of her Truth or Dare collection. Lingerie and accessories to roll out next.
I expected Madonna to retreat to a private corner surrounded by friends but she stayed at the big table and I ended up sitting across from her.
Madonna was very engaging, direct, well-spoken and maintains eye contact. We had a long chat about the film – how Wallis’ side of the story has never been told and how poorly she was treated when the King abdicated. Madonna spent three years learning everything about Wallis, including reading her letters and tracking down a cookbook. She worked with Cartier on the film’s outstanding jewellery. I had to ask about the pugs in the film – the Royal couple owned several – and she insisted that they were easy to train. (I’ll be sending my own pug, Harley, her way!) After portraying Eva Peron and directing a film about Wallis Simpson, she talked about which strong misunderstood woman (Lady Di, I asked) she could focus on next. We also chatted about two of her kids Lola and Rocco. She’s currently working on a writing project with Lola, an aspiring actress. I had to pinch myself that I was talking about families with my idol!
Madonna left not long after dinner – she picked at a plate of pasta. With a warm handshake and genuine smile, she was surrounded by security and whisked down the club’s back stairs. I stayed long enough to say hello to Olivia Wilde who told me that she loved her December 2010 FLARE cover. After Madonna left, the crowds flooded in and I also saw Gerard Butler, Juliette Lewis and Jennifer Garner. Before I completely lost my voice – it has been a very long week – I stopped outside for a quick interview with Citytv.
When Madonna exploded as a pop star, writhing Like a Virgin on a gondola in Venice – I started wearing a hot pink tulle hair bow, a Boy Toy belt and stacks of rubber bracelets to school. My friend April wore a cone bra and tulle skirt with granny boots. I loved Madonna then, and years later, my adoration is stronger. Today, I’m inspired by her current Hollywood glam look – black eye liner, red lips and dangerously high heels. We still know how to strike a pose.