top of page

The important life lesson I learnt from Jackie Collins

It was mid-August 2015, I was heavily pregnant with my second child, under slept and straight off the 11-hour flight from London to Los Angeles, but I was not going to miss this opportunity to meet one of my heroines. HELLO! magazine, which I was then editing, had been invited to photograph Jackie Collins at her home in Beverly Hills.

Rosie posing with Jackie Collins

The author was on a publicity drive for her latest novel The Santangelo’s – her 32nd novel and a thrilling, final instalment of a nine-book series. I had devoured it on the plane, laughing out loud in parts, enthralled by her pacey, powerful, sexy world of business moguls and glamorous players.

From the moment she opened the front door, Jackie did not disappoint. She was high-gloss personified in her trademark black trouser suit, Hollywood hair and a mega-watt smile; she was full of warmth, energy and laughter, as she took me on a tour of her palatial home.

The sprawling art deco-inspired building was every inch a home fit for the prolific multimillion-selling author of novels such as The Stud, Lovers and Gamblers and Hollywood Wives – her monumentally successful 1983 novel. A true pro, she even wrote four pages of her new novel while the HELLO! photographer clicked away.

Not much more than a month later, on September 19th, I woke up to the shocking news that Jackie had quietly passed away in Los Angeles, aged 77, after waging a six-and-a-half-year battle with stage four breast cancer. I dropped my phone onto the bed when the text came through from America, very early that morning. Our at-home photoshoot was still on the newsstand. It felt like another of Jackie’s storylines rather than real life.

Jackie had only told her famous older sister, Dame Joan Collins, of her condition a fortnight earlier. None of us on the shoot had any idea that she was so gravely unwell. Although it did, perhaps, explain why she was so keen to give me armfuls of memorabilia – books, notepads, even an apron – as I left the house.

But instead of feeling duped, I felt enormous respect. In an age where social media encourages us to share our stories, our highs and loves, and to seek solace in the virtual arms of strangers, Jackie’s decision displayed remarkable stoicism. Instead of sharing her pain, she just put on her make-up, kept on smiling and went out in a blaze of publicity for the thing she loved best – her writing.

During the interview I had asked Jackie how she dealt with grief, as she had experienced more than her fair share of it having lost her mother Elsa to cancer in her fifties, and then her husband Oscar Lerman who passed away in1992, and her last relationship with Los Angeles businessman Frank Calcagnini which ended when he died of a brain tumour before they could marry in 1998. What was her coping mechanism?

“I think you should celebrate people’s lives,” she told me, “because we’re all going to go sometime.”

I felt so honoured to have been one of the last journalists to interview Jackie and that she decided to give a day to HELLO!, when her hours were more precious than ever.

It served as a reminder that we never know how much time we will have with the people we love, so spend time celebrating those close to you – today might be all you have.


bottom of page