Like mom, Peaches was fighting demonsComment on this story
London - Shortly after six o’clock on Sunday night, Peaches Geldof shared an old family photograph with the roughly 200 000 people who followed her on Twitter. Taken in 1992, it showed a strikingly attractive young woman holding a small child. As they turn to the camera, two chaotic mops of blonde hair twinkle in the sunlight.
Peaches captioned the picture “me and my mum”. But the description wasn’t entirely necessary, given how closely she resembled her famous mother, Paula Yates. They had the same eyes; same nose; same ever-so-slightly-cautious smile.
The image was to be the last thing that 25-year-old Peaches, who like many of her generation was a prolific user of Twitter, would share on the social networking site.
For the mother and daughter it so touchingly portrayed would both – as we now know – meet tragic and untimely ends.
The shock and sadness that greeted initial reports of Peaches’s passing, when they emerged on Monday night, were eerily similar to that which surrounded Paula’s death from a heroin overdose at her London home in September 2000.
Peaches, the TV presenter’s second-eldest child, had been only 11 years old on that awful day. Indeed, she and elder sibling Fifi Trixibelle, who was 17, were celebrating their younger sister, Pixie’s tenth birthday. It would, as she often remarked, be several years until she was properly able to come to terms with the loss.
“I remember the day my mother died, and it’s still hard to talk about it,” she told Elle magazine last year. “I just blocked it out. I went to school the next day, because my father’s mentality was ‘Keep calm and carry on’. So we all went to school and tried to act as if nothing had happened.
“But it had happened. I didn’t grieve. I didn’t cry at her funeral. I couldn’t express anything because I was just numb to it all. I didn’t start grieving for my mother properly until I was maybe 16.”
In truth, Peaches always struggled to step out from the dark shadow thrown by not just her mother’s death, but also that of Paula’s boyfriend Michael Hutchence, the INXS singer, found dead in a Sydney hotel room three years earlier, in circumstances that also made headlines for months.
Teenagers can of course be very cruel, and over the ensuing years, Peaches was cruelly taunted at Queen’s College, her exclusive London day school, over the high-profile incidents. Each night, when she returned to the Chelsea home she shared with her father Bob Geldof and her three sisters, family members would do their best to cheer her up, constantly reminding her that Paula had been killed by a heroin overdose, as opposed to suicide.
The death was, they would always stress, a tragic “accident”. Paula had never, whatever school bullies might have said, intended to reject Peaches. Or indeed any of her daughters. What no one was ever really able to do, however, was protect her from the pressures of growing up in the public eye. Born Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa Geldof, in 1989, she came into the world four years after her father, a former singer with the Boomtown Rats, achieved huge fame through Live Aid.
As a child, she saw the celebrity marriage of her parents disintegrate, and then – living between their two homes – watched as Paula descended into drug addiction.
“My mother, who was amazing, who wrote books on parenting, who gave us this idyllic childhood in Kent… turned into this heartbroken shell of a woman who was just medicating to get through the day,” she said last year. “On top of that, there was my father, who was very embittered and depressed about it. And for us children, an environment that was impossible, veering between a week with my mother that was complete chaos, and then with my father, which was almost Dickensian – homework, dinner, bed – because he was trying in his own way to combat what was going on at my mother’s.”
Little wonder, then, that the bereaved Peaches would go on to have a difficult adolescence. After Paula’s death, she began drinking alcohol, often to hideous excess, and experimenting with drugs, much to her father’s horror.
“Yeah, I’ve taken drugs. Yes, I’ve had experiences, and a few of those experiences were unsavoury, not ones I want to repeat, but I was growing up,” she told an interviewer in 2011. “I wanted the experience.”
To some, and especially to Bob, she was often a little too thirsty for experience. At 15, she began a media career, writing a column for Elle magazine. At just 16, she decided to leave home, supporting herself by contributing to the Telegraph and Guardian newspapers, modelling, and presenting endless youth-oriented TV shows.
Her very early fame afforded her the chance to become a perennial fixture on the party circuit – in London and across the world - and feature of the gossip columns.
By 2008, at 19, she had married Max Drummey, a musician, during a long weekend in Las Vegas. Their union lasted just six months. By 2009, now living in Hollywood, she was claiming to be a Scientologist.
In 2010, the underwear brand Ultimo dropped her as its “face” amid allegations of drug-taking. The following year, there was more erratic behaviour, when she was reportedly caught shoplifting make-up from Boots.
The party only stopped when Peaches met, and fell in love with, Thomas Cohen, the lead singer of SCUM, a band from London.
The couple’s first son, Astala, was born in 2012, and they married in September and moved to rural Kent. A second child, Phaedra, came along last year.
Her Twitter feed, once dominated by images of dresses, handbags, and parties, turned into a rolling guide to young motherhood.
Recent updates include an image of hand-drawn Easter cards and comments about changing nappies. In a video on Instagram, she played peek-a-bo with ten-month-old Phaedra, while he took a bath.
Two months ago, Mother & Baby magazine announced that she was to be their new star columnist, completing a remarkable “mama metamorphosis” from party girl to working mother. Peaches spoke knowledgably about “attachment parenting” and said how received a great deal of help at home from Sue Cohen, her mother-in-law,
“Becoming a mother was like becoming me, finally,” she reflected. “After years of struggling to know myself, feeling lost at sea, rudderless and troubled, having babies through which to correct the multiple mistakes of my own traumatic childhood was beyond healing.
“I felt finally anchored in place, with lives that literally depend on me, and I am not about to let them down, not for anyone or anything.”
Speaking of becoming a mother, she said: “The second I held him [Astala], it was like this missing piece of my life being put into place; everything started to heal. His birth was like a rebirth for me… Even if it’s an archaic idea, I want Astala to have a mummy and Daddy together for ever.”
Sadly, as we now know, that very worthy ambition would be the one she would never live to realise. - Daily Mail